Wednesday, April 23, 2008

Death and Life After Life After Death

Sheryl and I had plans last night to go out to dinner with some friends and then go and hear one of my favorite theologians, NT Wright, speak here in Nashville. Our friend, Tiffany, had come over to watch the kids for us and as we were getting ready to walk out, the phone rang. I answered and my mom spoke with her voice breaking into sobs that my grandmother had died.

Clora Eileen Brooks was 84 years old and honestly, she'd been going downhill for a long, long time. Her body was failing and so was her mind, so her death wasn't a surprise, but it was unexpected. When someone hangs on as long as Grandma had, in some ways you keep expecting them to hang on. My mom and dad, both being nurses, had committed that they would keep her at their house to make her as comfortable as possible and not put her in a nursing or convalescence home. And I appreciate that. It allowed Kinsey and Connor to see her and to be honest, I know that seeing her three grandkids (my sister has a daughter as well) and being able to watch the Price is Right gave her great amounts of joy. I wouldn't say her whole face lit up, but she got this pleasant little half smile when Kinsey, Katie, and Connor would give her hugs.

Sheryl and I debated on going to dinner and the talk. It was something we both wanted to do, but this was an extraordinary circumstance. So we drove over to Mom and Dad's house where Grandma had died. We went down to the basement where Grandma had lived for the last couple of years. She was happy down there, able to turn the TV up to the level where she could hear it. Mom was on the phone, arranging for hospice and transfer of the body back up to Michigan where the funeral and burial will be. Sheryl and I went into Grandma's room, which looked as normal as the last time I'd seen it. Her hearing aid was on the chest along with all her prescriptions. There was a half-drunk cup of water with a bendy straw in it, and except for the pallor of her skin, she looked for all the world like she was just asleep. I gave her cool cheek a kiss, and stepped back out of the room.

We waited with Mom while the arrangements were made and when she asked us what our plans for the night had been, we told her of going to hear the Bishop and she urged us to go, and so we did. My dad was there with her and she was doing well, considering all.

Hearing Bishop Wright was very odd in light of Grandma's passing. He talked about his new book, Surprised by Hope, and his theology of the resurrection (both Jesus' and ours). He made statements that I've heard in his talks saved online about heaven being important, but it's not the end of the world, and that there is life after death, but what the Bible is really concerned with is Life After Life After Death. I was very glad to see such a full house at West End United Methodist. Wright has kind of become the theologian-in-chief for much of the Emergent/Post-Modern/Third Way Christian, that I didn't really know how many people would be there, but the sanctuary was definitely full. It was also great to see Thomas+ (my favorite Anglican), Gavin, Justin, a big crew from Otter Creek (we probably had 20 people there), some people from Lipscomb, and Joey Reed, a high school buddy of mine who is now a Methodist pastor in Memphis.

I got to ask Bishop Wright a question about how this theology of the resurrection relates to environmentalism and creation care, and he gave a great answer. Someone else asked him about his theology of the church superceding Israel in God's eyes, which was out of the scope of the talk, but Wright answered him anyway. After the talk, I do something I rarely do, but I paid full price for Surprised By Hope and Evil and the Justice of God and had Bishop Wright sign them. I wish I could say that I was able to talk to him for a few minutes, but it was literally, "It's to Phil. And thanks very much."

On our way out, Sheryl and I were holding hands and talking about what we heard, and I said, "I really hope all this is true." And I do. Am I always sure/100% positive? No, because you can't be. You can have faith that what we believe has support behind it, but you can't REALLY know. That's why it's called faith.

Back in the summer of 1983, my brother, sister, and I went up to Flint, Michigan, to spend June with my grandma and grandpa. I knew what the reason was. My mom and dad didn't want us around during the divorce proceedings, but we got to spend time with aunts and uncles and cousins, as well as the grandparents. In 1994, my grandfather died and we traveled up to be there for his service, and so this weekend, we'll travel up again to the dying industrial city of Flint, Michigan. There, where my grandfather traded in farming for manufacturing and brought his wife and 9 children to change from sharecroppers to factory workers, we'll bury Grandma. We'll be there as her legacy, as her memory. And we'll thank God for her life, and await the answers of time when we pray that we will see her and see the Lord.

10 comments:

Adam said...

Phil,
This is one of the most beautiful things that you have ever posted on here (in my opinion). Our prayers are with your family. I am extremely blessed by our friendship.
AE
P.S. I hope it's true too.

Ben said...

I'm sorry to hear about the loss of your Grandmother, but I am glad that you were still able to hear Wright speak.

Knowing your Grandma watched the Price is Right makes me smile. It's a tradition our kids may have a hard time understanding one day.

God bless!

preacherman said...

Interesting post.
I want you to know I love reading your blog and plan on commenting more.
I hope you had a great earth day!
Kinney Mabry

livelaughlove95 said...

So what did she think of Drew Carey taking over for Bob Barker?

And what was Wright's answer to your question?

(And I agree, this was wonderful post!)

Malia

Phil said...

Malia, I'm not sure she knew that Bob Barker had left.

And Wright referred to the idea that we're continuing Adam's call to care for God's creation and that the work that we do here is not done in vain that it's working for the Kingdom.

judy thomas said...

So sorry about your grandmother, Phil. Grandmothers are special cause I am one.

Tender mercies and safe travels!

Blessings,

Miss Judy

TCS said...

Phil, sorry about your grandmother. And I am officially jealous about hearing Wright first hand.

jonmower said...

Phil,

I'm about an hour from Flint. Let me know if I can do anything to help.

Thomas+ said...

It was great to see you there, and I was glad for your question.

What a surreal experience, to come from a literal place of death and enter into that joyful talk of life better later. Wow.

I am, also, sorry for your loss, and am hoping that our hope is true.

Marie said...

My Gramma watched the Price is Right too.... Truly it is a loss and I share your pain. My children lost both their grandmothers... and I my mother. Rest assured of my prayers. I would also like to recommend a book by Melissa Van Rossum. Her book entitled Their Way Home may be of help to you in connecting with your Grandma. God Bless-

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