Because of Whose we are, death is a time to party.
by Kathleen R. Ruckman
Stars didn’t sparkle in the night, and a limousine didn’t pick us up, but Eileen and I were dressed as though we were on our way to the Academy Awards!
It all began earlier that day when we had planned a visit to the hospital. Our close friend, Nina, was in final stages of cancer, and we found strength in visiting her together.
As I got myself ready for the visit, the phone rang. “Let’s get all dressed up!” Eileen said. “I’m going to get out my crystal goblets from Germany and bring some sparkling cider. Let’s go celebrate Nina’s healing. Let’s go celebrate her royal inheritance!”
My broken heart didn’t feel like celebrating. But Eileen, spontaneous and bright, had something in mind — and I understood the meaning of what she was saying. I tried to prepare myself to visit a friend who was as close as a sister, but losing her battle for life.
I had been teaching a women’s Bible study for several years, and my first thought was to look up Bible verses I could share, especially since Nina loved the Word of God.
I found verses to encourage Nina about her eternal life and ultimate healing, and about God being her king. I watched from my front porch as Eileen pulled up in her car. Eileen, a registered nurse off-duty that day, normally wore her uniform to the hospital.
But when I got into her car, I was stunned. I looked over at her dangling Victorian earrings, purple velvet dress, fur wrap, and high-heeled shoes. Her hair was fixed in a sophisticated upsweep, and she was ready to celebrate! I looked down at my clothes and knew I wasn’t dressed for a party.
We were four blocks away from my house when I said, “Turn around. Take me back.” I ran into my house and grabbed my navy blue velvet dress off the hanger. Trimmed with gold sparkles, this was a dress for the holidays or for when I attended the Performing Arts Center. I clasped the strand of real pearls around my neck, and a strange anticipation filled my heart as I ran out the door.
Heads turned and people stared when we arrived at the hospital and walked down the hall. Eileen and I looked like ladies going to the Grand Ball Room. But instead, we stood outside the door of a hospital room.
“We’ve come to celebrate your healing,” Eileen told Nina.
I’ll never forget Nina’s surprised but pleased expression. Her husband kept watch by her bedside, amused too, but inspired as two brokenhearted friends tried to bring a ray of sunshine into the room.
Nina, sitting up in a chair at the time, hugged us with delight while we prepared for the party.
“You’re a daughter of the King, Nina,” I told her. “That makes you a princess, and that’s a reason to celebrate!”
I placed my Bible on my lap and read scriptures about God our king and the gift of eternal life, as well as a couple of psalms about entering His courts with praise.
This came easy because Nina and I had shared the Bible together many times at our Mom’s In Touch prayer meetings, women’s Bible studies, and lunch. I was always inspired by her memorized verses and deep faith.
I ended with the scripture that Nina and I had prayed since her cancer was first diagnosed four years earlier, when we believed for her physical healing. The verse affirms that God is able to do exceedingly abundantly above all that we ask or think (Ephesians 3:20).
Toast and prayer
“This verse is still true,” I told Nina, thinking about her eternal life. I fought back tears, blinking one away, and looked out the window at the gray winter sky. Eileen poured sparkling cider into etched crystal goblets, and we made a “toast” — in a hospital room designed for the terminally ill.
“Here’s to your healing, Nina. Here’s to your royal inheritance!” Eileen said.
We raised our goblets, touching each other’s glass with the sound of celebration. Even Nina, weak and on oxygen, held her glass up for the toast. We sensed the truth of it all in that holy moment — that Nina would be healed, if not on earth, then in her eternal home.
After the toast, we prayed, one by one. Nina ended the prayer, and for the first time I heard her pray these words: “Thy will be done” and “Thank You, Jesus, for my eternal home, where there is no sickness or pain.”
When Nina finished her prayer, she looked up at me. When her eyes met mine, we both knew God was planning a greater healing.
A few weeks after our visit to the hospital, the King came for Nina, and she went to her royal inheritance. When I thought about Nina’s homecoming, forever with her Savior, I was reminded that things seen are temporary, but things not seen are eternal.
Our “royal visit” that day helped us look forward, from a distance, to something beyond the sufferings of today — a place that seemed far off yet very near. Velvet dresses, pearls, and dangling earrings? Some would have thought us crazy.
But great hope broke through that day, when we made a toast to our dear friend’s true healing and resurrection.
“Your eyes will see the King in His beauty; they will see the land that is very far off” (Isaiah 33:17, NKJV).
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