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This week, on March 22nd, it will be three years since my wife Joice died and went to heaven. It seemed unbearable at the time, although I was assured that “it will get better.”

The memory and event are in one sense improved: I don’t cry very often and am not reduced to sobbing like I was for the first year. That, of course, does not mean that I miss her less. It means that I am not “the mess” (to use my daughter’s words) that I once was. I can talk about her willingly and without depression, even as I long to meet her again.

There are thousands of people who lose loved ones each day, and each person will respond to the loss personally and differently. In terms of grief and loss, I am no different than any other person, but I am unique in terms of the relationship I had with my wife. Out of the millions of people on the earth, I alone had the privilege of being married to her just short of 65 years.

I believe that God determines how long we will live and that although prescriptions and supplements may add to the length of my days on earth, they will not better equip me for heaven. 

However, God has told us that our body is like a temple for the Holy Spirit (1 Corinthians 6.19) and that we have been bought at the price by Jesus’s death and resurrection (1 Corinthians 7.23). It follows that we should take care of our “temple,” even if Paul has also compared it to a tent or house, or even a clay pot, all of which do not last forever.

I take the few pills prescribed to me by my doctors, and I try to eat and exercise properly. This makes me feel better while I remain on earth, but it won’t give me a better body in heaven. I will get a brand new one.

What will prepare me for heaven? Rather, who will prepare me for heaven? Can I get there by obeying the Ten Commandments, reciting the Lord’s Prayer, and Apostle’s Creed regularly? St. Paul said that there are no works that can get me to heaven, even “works of righteousness.” He made it very clear: “God saved you by his grace when you believed. And you can’t take credit for this; it is a gift from God. Salvation is not a reward for the good things we have done, so none of us can boast about it. For we are God’s masterpiece. He has created us anew in Christ Jesus, so we can do the good things he planned for us long ago” (Ephesians 2.8-10).

What makes me sure that Joice is in heaven and that I will see her there?

Answer: my faith, which “is being sure of what you hope for and being confident of what you cannot see” (Hebrews 12.1. When we have “assurance” about something, it is “real” to us. Faith gives us assurance and confidence and is the substance of all we live for as Christians.

Of course, although I have the hope to see Joice, I have not seen her yet. If I did and as Paul explains elsewhere, it would no longer be a hope—it would be reality and I would no longer need to hope.

On the Mount of Transfiguration, Peter, James, and John were with Jesus when Moses and Elijah suddenly appeared. Wait a minute, where had they been? Moses died about 1200 years earlier, and Elijah also about 800 years before Christ. Were the disciples seeing a vision? Apparently not. Peter wanted to build a temporary lean-to for them, and they were visiting with Jesus. It seems clear to me that they came down from heaven. The disciples who saw them, and I read about them, understand them as physical and real people.

That, I believe, is what heaven consists of: real people, not disembodied souls floating around on clouds playing harps (or guitars). I imagine Joice in heaven as a real person, with others, and being able to sing again and talk to Jesus. She has seen him as he is.

I have not seen heaven, but I have read a lot about the place. As a friend of mine, a man who had cancer for 25 years, once said to me, “It doesn’t sound like such a bad place.” Jesus assured us that there would be a “place” for us in heaven. My wife has found her place, her home, in heaven. I also have that promise by virtue of my faith, also given to me by God. I will have a “place” for me in the Kingdom of Heaven.

I will “celebrate” this third anniversary by viewing her memorial service again (it is on YouTube), reading her plaque at the Bell Tower, and visiting her memorial tree. I will also look at some of our photos and I may read some things she has written.

My family will help me celebrate, as will my friends and colleagues, but there will be memories unique to me, given by God in his mercy.

Thanks be to God.

Karl Franklin


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