A dear friend to so many passed away on Tuesday.  Denise Clifton, beloved mom and wife, and teacher to so many left this world at the age of 44 to be with her Heavenly Father. If you did not have a privilege of knowing Denise, I wrote an article about her a few months ago when she first starting fighting her battle against cancer.  You can read that here.  

There will be many tears in the days to come because we are selfish. Even though we know we should be celebrating the glorious day that she gets to hold the hand and see the face of Jesus, we still want more time to talk to Denise, laugh with her, feel  the warmth of a hug from her.  Usually being selfish is considered a negative, but in this case, we are selfish because of our deep and profound love for Denise…and there’s certainly nothing wrong with that.

A pastor once shared a true story with me and I think back to this whenever I’m trying to find peace and relief when a friend dies.  If you don’t mind, I’d like to share a paraphrased version with you.

An elderly bishop was living the last days of his life at his home.  He was bedridden and being cared for by a nurse.  The young nurse asked him, “How do you feel”. She was just hoping to find out if there was something she could do to ease his pain and to make him more comfortable.  But his response was profound.
“I feel  like a school child counting down the hours until I’m released for Christmas vacation.”

Even though it’s been decades since I’ve been in school, I can remember the days before Christmas break vividly.  Can you?

There was a sense of unbridled enthusiasm and anticipation for what was to come.  You knew you would be entering weeks of fun, joy, relaxation, and happiness.  There was the sense of exuberant uncertainty.  You knew that there would be gifts for you on Christmas Day, but you just weren't sure what they would be.

"I feel like a school child counting down the hours until I'm released for Christmas vacation."

And now Denise is enjoying the joy, happiness, and love of an eternal vacation in the arms of Jesus.  The exuberant uncertainty and anticipation of what to expect once crossing over into Heaven has now been realized.  The love that so many of us have for Denise can not even compare to the love that she is now experiencing.

Thank you, dear Lord, for sharing one of your brightest creations with us.  Please take care of the angel that you have now gained.  And please extend your hands of comfort and understanding to Neecy's friends and family.