Just as I thought that I was going to give in to helplessness and grief, God gave me my train ticket...
When I was in my early teens, my life was profoundly influenced by the story of Corrie Ten Boom and her family. They had lived in The Netherlands for generations, but when Corrie and her siblings were in their fifties and their father Casper was in his seventies, the Nazis occupied their country. Using their unusual home, a hiding place was created and utilized to protect what is estimated to be eight hundred lives from the evil of fascism. Corrie and her sister and father were sent to a concentration camp in Germany for this activity. Corrie alone survived.
In Corrie's book "The Hiding Place" published in 1971, she details this remarkable time in her life and her work with the Dutch resistance. There are also many wonderful stories of her childhood in a home in which the parents were deeply faithful, loving and kind. One of these stories has stayed with me across the decades of my life. It is the story of the train ticket.
It seems that when Corrie was a young girl a baby in their neighborhood died. As was the custom of the day, the little body was laid in a casket in the family's living room for two days while neighbors, friends, and family came to visit and grieve with the young parents. Corrie accompanied her mother and older sister to visit the family, and was struck with fear as the reality of death was imprinted on her in that moment.
When her father came to tuck her in her bed, she cried that she did not want any of her loved ones to die. Her father's response was beautiful. Casper reminded Corrie that whenever they took the train together he got their tickets right before they boarded the train. Not too early, not too late. He then told her that our Heavenly Father gives us what we needed in the same manner. Just at the moment that we need strength is when He gives it. Not too far in advance, but just in time.
This past week I once again experienced Corrie's train ticket as I stood alone at midnight at the bedside of my precious mother in law while she drew her last breaths. It was agonizing. I was helpless to do anything to ease her struggle to breathe. For so long I had been her caregiver and carried that responsibility as a sacred trust, but suddenly there was nothing more I could do. Just as I thought that I was going to give in to helplessness and grief, God gave me my train ticket.
Suddenly I was given an amazing supernatural strength far beyond my understanding. I was able to stand there alone, get into the bed with her, and remind her that she left nothing undone, nothing unsaid and that she had loved so many so well that she could go to the arms of the Lord. I told her of the deep and abiding love that she had shared and how grateful we all were for all she had given us. I told her of how we loved her and that she was free to go from us.
Wanting to spare my husband the distressing sound of those final rasping breaths, I stayed in the room with her for another hour knowing full well that I was not alone. I knew that the God who had given me a train ticket when my younger brother was dying and then again when my son was deployed to a war zone, was standing beside me with yet another train ticket. He had again provided me with all I needed to complete the task He set before me. So many times the Lord has been faithful to give me the strength to do what I could not do. I am strong because He gives me strength. I take His strength into myself and use it for His glory.
I was calm in my heart and soul until her breathing grew faint and quiet. At that point I called my husband and we were together as Frances transitioned to her eternal home. We held her hands for several minutes and my precious husband, a faithful pastor, joined hands with me and prayed a beautiful prayer of release for his mother. Only then did we begin to make the necessary phone calls. It was the train ticket that allowed me to speak clearly and calmly the words, "She is gone." to the Hospice nurse on duty at midnight. It was the train ticket that allowed my husband to call his sisters and the children with the same message.
You see, that night God did not give a train ticket only to me; God gave a train ticket to my husband, to that precious Hospice nurse who came in the wee hours of the morning to wash and dress my mother in law, to the funeral home transportation workers who came just before the break of dawn. Of course, He also gave one to my mother in law herself who saw the lights of heaven waiting as she peacefully, courageously, and joyfully went toward them.
God will never fail you nor forsake you nor forget you. He gives you whatever you need to do the work He has laid out for you. There is work that only you can accomplish, and God will never ask you to do it without giving you all you need. The only abilities God really asks us to bring to Him are these: availability and adaptability. Offer Him these and trust Him for the rest.