The following was written by Harvard-educated philosopher, Bible student, and seriously Christian writer Leroy Garrett. I greatly admire Leroy’s constancy through the decades and have greatly benefited from the spiritual commitment of his writings. He once stayed in my home during a special series of presentations to my church in Delaware, and I stayed in his home in TX once, as well.
Leroy’s wife of more than 60 years died a week ago, and the essay below shows his devotion to her while expressing an eternal truth about, well … eternity!
May more people read this than typically read my own words, and may we all be moved toward a deeper, stronger faith that the unseen God will bring our unseen souls into an unseen world of bliss. Marana tha.
“THEY ARE NOT HERE”
This affirmation out of the life of Alexander Campbell was especially meaningful to me as I had my cheek next to Ouida’s, and holding her hand , as she breathed her last. I told those in the room that she was gone, in a moment’s time. that she had just transferred from being part of the family of God on earth to being part of the family of God in heaven, to use Paul’s way of putting it in Ephesians 3:15. I had whispered to her sometime before that it was time for her to go, and that she was about to embark upon life’s greatest adventure. She labored to reply, her last word to me, Yes, affirming her faith.
I have been telling friends that our relationship began with a yes, when she agreed to take on the risk of marrying the likes of me, and it ended 66 years later with a yes to our separation for the sake of her homegoing. There were numerous affirmations in between, even amidst tragedy and sorrow , in which we said yes to God’s sovereign will, even when we did not understand.
The Campbell story goes back to 1847, the year his eleven-year old Wycliffe drowned in a mill-pond on the family farm. The reformer was in Scotland when the tragedy occurred, and came home to a grief-stricken family. The boy’s mother was inconsolable, to the point of being a problem to the family. One evening when she could not be found bout the house, her husband supposed he might find her at the family burial plot, where not only Wycliffe lay buried but other loved ones as well. He found her standing before the graves weeping. He stood behind her and whispered, “My dear, they are not here,” and gently led her back to the house.
That story touches my mind as well as heart, for it defines the essence of faith. If the believer is not captured by the grave, but lives on in the Great Beyond, we have a living hope. When we believe such affirmations as “to live is Christ, to die is gain” and “to be absent from the body is to be present with the Lord,” to quote the great apostle, the victory is ours, with “exceeding great joy.”
Campbell’s profound expression of faith, “They are not here,” gave me strength when the van arrived from the medical college to take the body away. I had said my farewells while she yet breathed, and now I was there when they reverently wrapped the body, covered it with a blanket, and secured it tight to the gurney. As the body was taken down the hall, I followed close behind, accompanied by elders from our congregation and several close friends. It was important to me that I could say, “They are not taking my sweetheart wife away, only the body in which she lived.” And yet the body in which she lived was precious to us, and we were releasing it to the medical school with prayer and dedication.
We paused at the entrance way. The elders read Scripture and prayed, and one of them, referring to Romans 12:1, mentioned how Ouida in life had presented her body a “living sacrifice,” and in her demise she donated her body as a “dead sacrifice” for the good of medical education
I had prepared this prayer for the occasion, which one of the elders read.
May this body, donated by our dear sister to the Southwestern Medical College, be, used by student doctors and nurses and their professors to the glory of God. May it be treated with dignity and respect, and may those who make use of it realize that it is not only the creation of God, but that it once served as a temple of God in which the Spirit of God dwelt. Bless her who made this priceless gift, and bless those who make use of it to the enhancement of medical science.
I stood by as the attendants eased the body into the van and made it secure. I thanked them for the dignity and reverence they had shown. We all watched in silence until the van disappeared out of sight into the night. The body will be used for medical study and research, perhaps for a time, then cremated and interred anonymously in the memorial garden at the medical school.
As we went through this emotional ordeal of “telling Ouida goodbye,” as it could have been seen, we might have heard the reassuring whisper of Alexander Campbell in our ears, “She is not here.”