A friend recently asked how I’m doing. Nanci’s absence in my life is profound, but I think under the circumstances, I am doing well. My grieving is probably nine parts joy for every one part sorrow, but that is mainly because Nanci and I spent so much time talking about the world to come, and she would walk me through her afterlife bucket list. We would talk of adventures together on God’s New Earth, and that is all still ahead of us. So her death is a heartbreaking interruption to be followed by an everlasting reunion in a world without sin and suffering and grief, where happiness will be the air we breathe.
Had Nanci died suddenly, without warning, it would’ve been much tougher. There were years of grieving for what she had already lost, anticipatory grief as with a broken heart I realized nearly a year ago she would never be able to walk her beloved dog again in this life. I remember when I knew that unless God chose to heal her, we would not go out to a restaurant together or to Maui, her happy place. When we had to cancel going to a football game to sit with the family of a beloved quarterback friend, I knew we would not go to another football game together, and there would be no more of our grandsons’ basketball games and tennis matches at their high school that their mother and aunt attended and that I attended, just a mile from our home. That final family gathering where she spoke into the lives of all of us, including her daughters and grandsons, was like a perfect frame around her life, for which I am deeply grateful to God.
When I read the grief books, I don’t struggle with anger or resentment or regrets, but my heart overflows with gratitude. So the grief is very real, but already it pales in comparison to the joy of the eternal life Jesus purchased for us with His blood. I have no doubts where Nanci is and whether we will be together again. And that makes the pain far more bearable. There is an overwhelming sense of joy that Nanci has been delivered from her suffering of those last 4 1/2 years.
Jesus is Nanci’s best friend and my best friend. She is there with Him, and He is here with me. So Jesus is the bridge that keeps us connected until we live in that new world, with new bodies and minds, that He is preparing for us. The connection I feel to her through Him is profound.
As I wrote another friendly recently, God gets our pain and holds us close. That is a great combo. Many people believe in a God who is distant and understands only in the sense that He is omniscient, not that He has actually entered into our suffering in Jesus (Hebrews 2 and 4). That makes all the difference. I’ve been enjoying and clinging to the promise of Jesus that He no longer calls us servants, but friends (John 15). Of course, we still are servants, but for Him to call us a friend is encouraging beyond measure. And that He is not just a good-time friend, but a friend in our suffering is the best of all worlds.
A few weeks ago I was on the Chris Fabry show, sharing about Nanci and life since her homegoing. I always enjoy talking to Chris—he’s a good brother I’ve known for many years (many have listened to my big Heaven book on audio, and they hear the voice of Chris Fabry when they do). I was honored when he asked me on his program to talk about Nanci.
You can listen to the whole interview here.