Recently, I have posted about the Home-going of pastor friend, Tom Craig, from Oak Ridge, TN. One of his faithful church members and a former college classmate of mine, Brad Zockoll, has written some excellent posts on his own blog, zockollthoughts, that are a must share. Today, here’s a post that is a true illustration of Psalm116:15, and as for me, eclipses some of the recent books that have been written. Thanks, Brad, for sharing your heart and being intimate with all of us about something so precious, yet teaching us so much about the precious side of a believer’s death.
I had a conversation with Kim Craig, Tom’s wife, about the last days of our dear pastor’s life. She had mentioned that he saw some wonderful things, and I received her permission to write about it and share it with you:
It was the last week of Tom’s life. He would be gone by Wednesday evening.
The hospital room was quiet. Tom, alone with his wife Kim, lay quietly gazing at the ceiling, fighting the pain and weakness brought on by the crush of pancreatic cancer.
1dHe was tired. His energy was gone. But he was alert… and Kim noticed that his eyes were fixed on a scene…
Tom stared at the ceiling, looking intently at something.
Kim, seated on the bed beside him, stroked his hair, “What is it, Tom? What do you see?”
His voice was weak but audible. “Angels.”
Kim leaned closer. Her heart skipped a beat. “Angels?”
He nodded his head. Yes.
“How many of them are there?”
Tom moved his lips quietly as he lifted his two hands, counting his fingers softly. He turned and gave a definitive answer: “Twelve.”
Kim leaned in closer. “What do they look like?” “Do they look like female angels?”
Tom, unable to talk freely, shook his head no.
“Are they male angels?”
He clearly nodded his head yes, then lay back exhausted, but enthusiastic. Kim realized his fatigue, but was struck by his determination in what he was witnessing. No doubt about it; Tom knew he was seeing angels.
He lay quiet for a time, perking up upon greeting numerous friends and family as they stopped by, occasionally attempting to converse, but growing frustrated that he did not have the energy to utter more than a few words at a time. However, he didn’t give up; three words he was able communicate: “I love you.”
Later on, Kim and daughter Allie told me, he grew excited and animated. When they leaned in to hear, he exclaimed that he saw something new. Something almost indescribable. He saw colors. New colors. Incredible hues and shades. Colors not realized on this earth. Possibly the colors of heaven? Tom was adamant that they were unseen by him before. Kim and the family pondered this.
He spent his last day with family around him, quietly adding a word here and there as he was able. But then he’d stop and look at the ceiling. His eyes were open, gazing above the group. It was a different kind of look, as if … well, as if he were listening for something. It became apparent that he was indeed hearing something, and he let them know through gesturing that this was something different …
“Do you hear … music?” Kim asked, drawing near as he nodded his head yes.
“What kind of music, Tom?”
“Beautiful,” he whispered.
“Are you familiar with it? Do you recognize the song?” Kim asked quietly.
“No,” he replied.
“You’ve never heard it before? Is it a new song?”
“Yes,” he replied firmly.
And then another visit by the angels…
Tom saw the angels, as family members stood about him. “How many do you see, Tom?” He was weaker but he was determined to let them know. Once again he counted with his fingers, One, two, three…
Five, he told them.
This got us all to considering what was occurring to Tom, aligning this with a Biblical account of Heavenly messengers. When Jesus related the story of Lazarus, He made mention that when the beggar died, he was carried into glory by angels. Think of it.
Stop and ponder this truth. It was Tom’s time to have his load carried for him.
Pastor Tom had indeed been carrying a lot of burdens in his ministry, numerous responsibilities that would test the strength of any pastor. His compassion loaded him with the responsibility of seeing folks who were in physical need. His desire to show Jesus charged him with preparing messages saturated with Biblical truth. His oversight of the church weighed on him the financial responsibility of the assembly. His outreach vision added the burden of making sure missionaries were being supplied with their necessities. Visiting, counseling, leading, speaking, praying, exhorting … being available 24 hours a day.
Tom carried a load.
Now it was time for the angels to carry him to the Father.
“It was so precious,” said Kim. “The way he described it, well… I wanted to go myself!”
Precious in the sight of the LORD is the death of his faithful servants…
I used to get puzzled about that Psalm. I mean, death is precious?
Yes, it is to the one who is heading to the Heavenly Reception. The Portals of Real Life. The Grand Celebration with the Author of Life.
The family told me that, one of the last words they heard escape from his lips was “Wow.”
I get the feeling that’s what we’ll all be saying as the angels come down to escort us to the Heavenly realm.
—Written October 11, 2014