|Becca, with her brother Dillon, July 2000.|
For Becca, For Us All
"It happened one afternoon in AD 34, when Jesus died on the cross."--Karl Barth, in answer to the question, "When were you saved?"
"Do you think she went to heaven?" a friend asked me the other day when I told her of my husband's 20 year old cousin who had died unexpectedly.
I'm not sure if I hid very well the mixture of shock and revulsion that took over me when she asked it but I about choked on my coffee. (I don't know this friend well but we had a standing coffee date set up and I wanted her to know why I had to make it quick. My in-laws were in town, this tragic thing had happened and they had to get back to Pittsburgh. Kurt would be traveling along with them so there was a lot to get done before I was left alone with the kids.) As I stumbled for anything to say in my surprise, she went on to clarify that when her 26-year old sister-in-law had died a few years back from bulimia and addiction, they were comforted by the knowledge that she was in heaven.
I don't think she meant the question to sound as it did. Still, I am fairly certain not even I would ask such a question, with all its implications, to someone whose family had experienced loss and I have certainly been known to say the most ridiculous things in tough circumstances. I am also fairly certain that nothing short of having Becca back would comfort her grieving family right now.
At any rate, it did give me great pause. I have many friends whose biggest concern would be the question of theirs or their beloved's salvation. I know many whose churches would tell them that someone like Becca, whose life knew plenty of troubles, may not have gone to heaven because "perhaps she was too removed from her faith journey. Perhaps her sins were too great and she hadn't repented. Perhaps she was never truly saved...."
I have a word or two (or five) for them however: ALL OF US FALL SHORT!
That is the point. One of the things Jesus came to tell us was that all of our you-know-what smells, not just those more obvious of trespasses. He made it clear that he did not come to call the righteous, he came for the sinners. And guess what? That includes ALL OF US! He mocked the so-called righteous of the time and exposed them for what they were: kidding themselves. Must we continue to miss the mark so terribly?
I must admit, I burn with frustration over how frequently Christians so overly focus on other people's salvation. As Karl Barth so eloquently stated: "It happened one afternoon in AD 34....." Move on, people. You don't own it, you did not do it, it is only yours by way of a gift from God.
Because if you can honestly tell me that God is not big enough to offer this salvation to even the most broken of people or to those who die perhaps without having made amends, or having said their last confession, or having repented recently for being so darn human, well, that is not the loving and merciful God I know. And you had better hope you are wrong because chances are you won't be "perfect" when you take your dying breath either. Just a hunch.
Becca's passing leaves a huge, sorrowful hole in the heart of her family and friends. Perhaps that is where the focus needs to go: on those who mourn her loss. On all those who mourn. Perhaps instead of worrying about where she is now, we need to pull together to minister to those still here. To all those who suffer. Perhaps Jesus's intention was not for us to get so caught up in the nitty gritty details of the "thereafter" and instead, put the emphasis on the right syllable: to focus on doing God's will by responding in love through service to others; to focus on loving one another, here and now.
Becca was a beautiful girl who, like so many of us, struggled in this life and like many, didn't intend to go when she did. And whether or not she said a final prayer in her last breath, I do not know, nor do I believe God's love is so shallow as to exclude her from His everlasting peace and presence. As humans, we are that shallow apparently, but God? No, God is not.
So to answer the question adequately: yes, Becca is with God, whatever that may mean. She may or may not have found peace in this world, but with God, all things are possible. God's love is big enough. God's peace is big enough. And while for me personally she will forever be that sweet, little flower girl, with her sweet, crooked smile; with God, she is made whole again and surrounded by everlasting love. I only wish we could have seen her life unfold more fully and shine more brightly while she was here among us.
Rest in peace, Becca.