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“It is the Lord’s Day; my wish is fulfilled. I have always desired to die on a Sunday.” General Stonewall Jackson, Confederate Leader

Stonewall Jackson was accidently wounded by his own men at the battle of Chancellorsville in 1863. He suffered for a few days before he died. He was told by his doctor on Sunday, May 10, that he would probably not last the day. Later that day General Pendleton stopped by to tell him that all his troops were praying for him. That was when Jackson, in a sense, said that his prayer was already answered, for he had “always desired to die on a Sunday.”

Josefina Maceda, my mother-in-law, my Madre, died this last Sunday at the children’s home in Oaxaca, Mexico. I don’t know if it was a desire of hers to die on the Lord’s Day, but I wouldn’t be surprised. She loved the Lord’s Day. She loved going to the House of God to worship her Savior. It’s comforting to know that she is enjoying God eternally in His celestial House.

Saturday morning, as is my want, I read a chapter from Proverbs. It was chapter 28. I read a couple of verses that were at first comforting, and then disturbing, and then encouraging once again.

Verse 20 says, “A faithful person will be richly blessed…”

Verse 25 says, “those who trust in the Lord will prosper.”

I have always liked those verses and highlighted them in my Bible many years ago.  But this time, I doubted.  I know of few people who faithfully trusted in the Lord like Madre. Yet she didn’t seem to be richly blessed and prospering. She had been bed ridden for at least a week. In pain. Skin and bones. Every breath a groan.

I thought if that is what it means to be richly blessed and prospering, then I’ll pass, thank you very much!

I took my doubts to God. God reminded me of Romans 12:1-2, especially the part where Paul writes, ” Do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind.” 

God was telling me that faithful people who trust in the Lord have renewed minds. They don’t think like the world does. They have different definitions for things like blessings and what it means to prosper.  The world thinks money, power and health are what prospering is all about. God says we prosper and are blessed when we love others deeply and are loved deeply by others and have a hope that will never fade away. Madre had all those.

That put a new light on things, and I saw that even in the midst of her suffering, she was truly blessed and prospering. She was surrounded by family that she deeply loved and who deeply loved her. She had deeply loved and blessed people from all over the world – United States, Canada, Germany and Japan, to name just a few. These people have been showing their deep love for her ever since she received the cancer diagnosis by supporting her with financial help and prayers. One neighbor came the last month of her life, almost everyday for at least an hour to pray with her, for her, and to sing to her, even though Madre couldn’t respond most of the time during her last days.

Looking at the situation from that Godly, renewed mind-point of view, I came to the realization that she was indeed richly blessed and prospering beyond all measure. I will take that blessing everyday and twice on Sunday!

Right before General Stonewall Jackson breathed his last, his doctor recorded that “Presently a smile of ineffable sweetness spread itself over his pale face.”

I had never been with someone when they died before. I’m glad to say I got to be with Madre. And I was glad to see that just before she went home to the Father, she too smiled a smile of ineffable sweetness. It was as if she saw the Lord, like Stephen did in Acts 7, welcoming her into his eternal Kingdom with outstretched arms.

These last few days I have been thinking a lot about what Paul wrote to the Romans in chapter eight, verses 18 and 23.

“I consider that our present sufferings are not worthy to be compared with the glory that will be revealed in us…We who have the firstfruits of the Spirit groan inwardly as we wait eagerly for our adoption to sonship, the redemption of our bodies.”

If only we all had that attitude and perspective. What a way to live! What a way to die!

Jesus said to his disciples, “Let us go over to the other side of the lake.” Leaving the crowd behind, they took him along, just as he was, in the boat. There were also other boats with him. A furious squall came up, and the waves broke over the boat, so that it was nearly swamped. Mark 4:35-37

My mother-in-law is dying of stomach cancer. I call her Madre. She was diagnosed about three years ago, underwent almost a year of treatment, seemed to get better, but now it’s back with a vengeance and the doctors say there is not much they can do about it. She is ok with that. She is in the boat with Jesus.

She had a very difficult life when she was younger. She married when she was a teenager. Her and her husband lived with his mother. By all accounts his mother was very demanding and made life impossible for Madre. They were all poor. This was Mexico forty years ago.

My father-in-law and Madre moved to the outskirts of town and built a place to live, or at least to exist. Their walls were bamboo sticks and their floor dirt. She had six children. Three daughters died of various ailments before they were ten years old. The youngest son was born with down syndrome. They all had a hard life, especially her.

But then, she got in the boat with Jesus. She was working for some missionaries, who shared the Good News of God’s love with her, and she became a follower. Soon, the whole family was following Jesus. While outward circumstances didn’t change a whole lot, at first, their soul’s were now full of peace and joy.

After some time, the oldest son began working with the missionaries, recording indigenous people reading the Bible. Then he became pastor of a small church. After that he started a Christian radio station. Their daughter married a missionary, me, and she joined me in working at a home for needy children.

Madre always had a big smile and an encouraging word for everyone. She was always generous with her time, talents and treasure. Probably too generous. She never took a day off. Working Monday thru Saturday, and then busy with church commitments from dawn to dusk on Sunday. She never took time off for herself. Perhaps that contributed to her cancer. Who knows? I know that the only time she had significant time to rest was when she was going through her treatments and was living with us here at the children’s home. For the first time in her life she was being taken care of the way she was used to taking care of others. She was the focus of attention. She still is.

I like to think that God has considered all that Madre has gone through, and all that she has given to others and to the work of the Kingdom, He is saying, “Well done, good and faithful servant! Enter into your rest.” And she sails across the lake, almost to the other side, with Jesus in the boat, enduring her last storm until she arrives safely Home.

Jesus got up, rebuked the wind and said to the waves, “Quiet! Be still!” Then the wind died down and it was completely calm.

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