By Jon Yeager
“By the waters of Babylon, there we sat down and wept, when we remembered Zion.” Psalm 137:1
Her breathing was shallow. Her lungs were filling up with fluid. Her time had come. This was, in ways, expected since my grandmother was 92 years old, and in these last few years her health had diminished. My grandmother lived a beautiful life submitted to our Lord, loyal to him, his church, her husband, her sons, and her grandsons. However, the life she lived and the hope we have did not diminish the painful realities of death’s grip. I saw her shallow breathing, I heard the fluid in her lungs, and I knew her time had come. And so we sat by her side struggling to hold back tears. It was as if we were sitting by the waters of Babylon, a foreign land, a destructive power that holds captive. So we must sing and not forget.
“How shall we sing the LORD’s song in a foreign land?
If I forget you, O Jerusalem, let my right hand forget its skill!
Let my tongue stick to the roof of my mouth, if I do not remember you,
If I do not set Jerusalem above my highest joy!” Psalm 137:4-6
I did not grow up with the Van Trapp family, so I’m lucky to have a wife with a gifted singing ability and a desire to serve others with it. So she sang some hymns while grandma and I hummed along. Ellie even chimed in and sang her Easter song, “Alive, alive, my Jesus is alive! Sing, ‘Hallelujah!’” Again, my grandmother hummed along followed by a joyful smile. Ah yes, it is good to remember the name of the Lord who delivers.
“We must obey God rather than men. The God of our fathers raised Jesus, whom you killed by hanging him on a tree. God exalted him at his right hand as Leader and Savior, to give repentance to Israel and forgiveness of sins. And we are witness to these things, and so is the Holy Spirit, whom God has given to those who obey him.” Acts 5:29-32
Celebrating my grandmother’s life is easy. Her life was defined by the life, death, resurrection, and exaltation of Jesus as Lord. She sought to order her joys and even though she didn’t have everything, or an easy lot, she was not easily distressed. Quite the opposite, actually: her character was marked by hospitality, generosity, and contentment. I believe she was this way because she set Christ and his kingdom above as her highest joy. She saw his conquering reign of life through the love of her family, her marriage of 66 years, the opportunities to share their home, and the simple things like cutting an apple or sending a birthday card.
Obeying God rather than man is a simple task when he rightly sits above our highest joys. Everything else falls in its rightful and intended place. Death loses its grip and the life of Christ comes flooding through all things. In light of my grandmother’s life and shared life with Christ, we continue to sing.