By WALTER ALBRITTON
As family and friends gathered with me last Saturday to celebrate my wife’s life, it occurred to me that there can be no Christian celebration without music. With Corine Free at the keyboard, my soul was dancing as song after song was used to give thanks for Dean’s life of service to her Lord Jesus. I closed my eyes and I am pretty sure I saw Dean dancing in a beautiful white robe.
The celebration began with Corine playing Bach’s inspiring “Jesu, Joy of Man’s Desiring.” The audience did not know why this enduring piece was requested. Years ago, when our first son David was suffering and dying with leukemia, Dean and I played that song night after night on a 33 1/3 record. The English text, attributed to Robert Bridges, contains these awesome words:
Through the way where hope is guiding,
Hark, what peaceful music rings;
Where the flock, in Thee confiding,
Drink of joy from deathless springs.
Thus, last Saturday, I was drinking the joy of God’s deathless springs as we sang the praises of the life Christ had enabled Dean to live. When the Christ we loved and served together died upon the Cross and rose from the dead, He conquered death and hell. The result of that mighty deed was God’s gift of eternal life to all who embrace the living Christ as Lord of life. That glorious truth is one of the deathless springs flowing from the love of our God.
In his original chorale containing “Jesu,” Bach had drawn upon an earlier hymn composed by Martin Jahn in 1661, the text of which contains these awe-inspiring words:
Well for me that I have Jesus,
O how tightly I hold him
That he might refresh my heart,
When I’m sick and sad.
Jesus I have, who loves me
And gives himself to me,
Ah, therefore I will not leave Jesus,
Even if I feel my heart is breaking.
Now you know why that hymn was so dear to Dean and me. In our sickness and sadness, we were holding tightly to Jesus as he gave himself to us, determined never to leave him even when our hearts were breaking. And in the grief imposed on me by the death of Dean’s body, that same Jesus continues to refresh my heart and give me hope. I will go to him one day, as Dean did, but I will never, ever leave him!
When the Saint James Sanctuary Choir was singing the chorus of “Power in the Blood,” I was thanking Jesus for all that Dean was able to do for Him because her life was pulsating with “the wonder-working power in the blood of the Lamb.” I know it was real. I saw it happening. It was the power of Christ that made possible Dean’s life of service to others. Little wonder that she often cried, “O Christ, I cannot do without Thee, I cannot stand alone; I have no strength, no goodness nor wisdom of my own!” But because of His power, she had all she needed!
As Vaughn Stafford was singing “Sweet Beulah Land,” I thought of the many times he had sung that song as we stood beside the bed of friends who were suffering, dying or mourning. Dean has crossed that river and knows now the joy of that eternal home, Sweet Beulah Land. For me, as the song says, “there’s just a few more days to labor and then I will take my heavenly flight.” And sweet Beulah Land, where “no sad goodbyes will there be spoken,” will be all the sweeter because I will be reunited with Dean.
The hymn, “Because He Lives,” was chosen to sing for one reason. I wanted my family and friends, all of whom struggle as I do with suffering and death, to affirm once again that because Christ lives, we can face tomorrow without fear, knowing that “He holds the future, and life is worth the living because He lives.” Truly, that says it all!
As we left the Worship Center, Corine was playing “When We All Get to Heaven,” a song of victory and rejoicing. The song invites those of us who are still here to “be true and faithful, trusting, serving every day; just one glimpse of Him in glory will the toils of life repay.” O Yes! When, by faith, we get to heaven, and see Jesus, it will indeed be “a day of rejoicing as we sing and shout the victory!”
How wonderful that both here, and there, music will help us celebrate the love of God as we drink forever the joy of deathless springs! Glory!
Is all the above the fanciful imagination of an old sentimental preacher? No, dear reader, it is not that. It is instead a trustworthy picture of spiritual reality, based on the living Word of God, the God who created the heavens and the earth, the Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who has the power to “keep you from falling, and to present you faultless before the presence of his glory with exceeding joy, to the only wise God our Savior, be glory and majesty, dominion and power, both now and forever.” And as Jude said, Amen!