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By Synthia Esther

December 4, 2004 my parents celebrated their 50th wedding anniversary renewing their vows in the church they founded in 1988. Watching the service that afternoon, I felt a deep sense of gratitude for the example of Christs love and faithful sovereignty that their lives together exemplified. I found myself reminiscing of their past. My father, his sister and brother never knew the kind of love they so freely give. They were very young children when their parents divorced and gave them-up to be raised by their elderly grand-parents on a rural farm in Alabama during the depression. Work was hard and school at times a luxury. Seldom were they shown outward affection or told the words, "I love you", yet they grew up thankful and not bitter that they were raised by family and taught by example the principals of honesty and hard work.

Mother grew up in New York with a twin sister, as well as nine other siblings. Life was filled with love, nurtured and taught by parents who demonstrated a steadfast belief in God despite sometimes painful circumstances. The death of two of their children and the effects of Scarlett fever leaving one of their daughters disabled never wavered their faith. They boldly proclaimed the gospel of Jesus Christ as missionaries, pioneering many Churches.

When the young man from Alabama met the beautiful young lady from New York, love grew, sparks flew, they married and became the proud parents of my brother and I. "But as for me and my house we will serve the lord," sums up best how our family lived. I married, had two sons and moved to Atlanta,Georgia. My life was filled with activity to avoid the realities of an abusive, deceptive and addictive prone alcoholic husband. I was angry and bitter about my circumstances. My brother was happily married to a wife he loved and cherished. They had three sons and at last a long awaited daughter.

July 3rd,1994 our lives changed suddenly and drastically. I remember as if it were only yesterday. My aunt telephoned me as I was preparing dinner. She spoke slowly, her words few..."Gene has been in an accident at work, he's badly burned...they are flying him by emergency helicopter to Birmingham's Trauma Center Hospital. They do not expect him to live." We drove immediately to Birmingham. Arriving at the hospital I walked in a trance like state to the room where my brother lay. Long off white divider room curtains were left partially opened. I approached his bed scarcely recognizing his swollen, grossly distorted face and body. He suffered internal steam burns in over 85 percent of his body. He literally had been cooked alive. His wife sat in shock, motionless by his bedside while doctors watched her vital signs. Monitors hooked up to my brother's body beeped in steady rhythm as if on cue, his strong young heart still beating. I bowed my head in disbelief, starring lifelessly as I watched his blood drip from white towels stuffed between his bed mattress and metal guard rails, onto the tile floor forming small puddles of blood.

My parents arrived with more wails of crying like a wave of grief. I held my mother who had collapsed into my arms like a baby clinging to his mother. I heard my father whispering prayers to God over his unconscious dying son. Grief permeated the room like nothing I have ever experienced in my entire life. The atmospheric pressure so heavy it felt like added weight upon your body. I knew I was watching death and its process. Brother died July 4th,1994, in what many would say was the prime of his life. That night I saw and heard fireworks in the distant sky and felt Satan was celebrating. Distraught and in sorrow I cried," Why God? Why? I am the one with the bad marriage. I am the one who has felt like dying my life is so messed up! It doesn't seem fair. Why didn't you take me instead? I just do not understand. Sometime latter, I remembered my mother saying in tears, "As hard as it is to lose my son I am glad it was him and not you. He is at peace and ready to meet God, I do not know if you would have been." My family speak their mind and tell it like it is, but her honest words pierced my heart for I knew she was right.

It rained the day of the funeral. The rain felt like tears from heaven and seemed to match the tears that ran down our faces. What good is it for a man to gain the whole world yet forfeit his soul, is etched in stone on brother's grave side plac. Even unto death his spiritual witness speaks. Brother worked for one of the largest companies in the world. It is ironic his death was caused by a new company supervisor, who trying to impress management made a call against safety precautions in an effort to show more profit under his leadership. An investigation by Osha ensued with the company being fined for close to 20 safety precautions of negligence. Like a lot of situations in life, power and greed were at the core of company leadership and responsibility, instead of law, safety and the sanctity of human life.

My parents never questioned God's sovereignty, grace or mercy. They thanked God for their son and the years they were blessed by his life and his presence. Ecclesiastes 7:1, "A good name is better than fine perfume, and the day of death better than the day of birth." They also freely forgave the wrongs that caused their son's death. My parents attitude and witness epitomized Psalm 46, "God is our refuge and strength, a very present help in trouble". Instead of asking God why, they asked only when? Like the hymn we sang together as a family sitting on hard wooden pews in the church we attended..."When we all get to heaven, what a day of rejoicing it will be, when we all see Jesus we'll sing and shout the victory"! * Their faith in Christ spoke of victory in Jesus, the sacrificial lamb who shed his blood on the cross of Calvary defeating sin and death by his resurrection on the third day.

We as Christians have eternal life as his promise and the reassurance we will see our spiritually saved loved ones who have passed once again. We live in a fallen world. Our lives on earth are not free from trials and tribulation. The Tsunami tragedy in Southeast Asia, the Katrina hurricane in Louisiana, victims of the present war in Iraq, a collapsed bridge in Minneapolis, Mn (Aug. 2007), miners (Oct. 2003), in Shakhty, Russia who were flooded by water in Russia's Rostov Region, coal miners trapped in Utah, United States (Aug. 2007), are just a few of the many tragedy's claiming innocent lives. Some may ask, "Where were you God when I needed you? Where were you when my child lay dying?" I feel his reply would be, at the same place I was when my son was dying. God has always had His hearts eye on earth and its occupants for we are his children. He never leaves us or forsakes us and in loving patience waits for our acceptance. Then he continues to nurture us in the finishing school of life, which last from the birth cradle to the grave drawing us ever closer. Our spiritual faith in painful circumstances brings us the growth and maturity necessary to develop a walk towards Christ's fullness of spirit.

Through my life's journey, armed with the power of the Holy Spirit and the anointed word of God, I too have learned from my trials and tribulations. Now happily divorced, I have come to realize a simple faith like that of my parents, "God is my refuge and strength, a very present help in trouble." He makes my crooked paths straight and ordains my victory (Proverbs 3:5-6). Victory over worry, pain, suffering, strife, hardship, disabilities, ailing heath, depression, poverty, debt, abuse, torture, addictions, and yes... even over death. With a heart of thanksgiving and praise, I celebrate my victories. I know my God is coming soon, reigning as King of kings and Lord of lords. With confident assurance, I too now ask.... "When God? When?"



The moment the monitors hooked up to my brother's body flat lined into a straight line indicating he had died, my mother related a whooshing sound was felt and heard. She explained the experience, "As his spirit exited his body it could literally be felt as it hovered over me and then your father. When I looked up at the monitor I saw it had flat lined."

In my mothers words, "The spirit presence that exited his body was so strong and palpable I reached out in the air thinking I could touch him. But I couldn't because he was in his spiritual form." After hovering over my parents for a few brief moments, my mother stated that brother's spirit crossed over the bed where his physical body laid and hovered for a longer while in front of his wife.

After which, his spirit was felt ascending up-ward. This after death experience reaffirmed their faith in God and life after death. As Christians we believe those who have accepted Jesus Christ as their Lord and Savior, when their spirit departs from the physical body it goes into another spiritual dimension referred to as Heaven.

1st Corinthians 15: 44, " it is sown a natural body, it is raised a spiritual body.

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