Have you been to the Upper Room?

I remember when Justin had been in the hospital those eight long awful days. We were exhausted, looking for a miracle and praying for mercy. We simply wanted to wake up and find ourselves free of the nightmare that engulfed our lives. But, on that Tuesday morning, we awoke instead to the reality that my son was indeed slipping into eternity and leaving this world behind.

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I sat with him until they came to take him down for the final tests. The radioactive dye was injected into his veins. I walked over to his bedside and kissed his forehead, “When you get back you’ll glow in the dark.”
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I sat in that room for a while hoping he would come back very soon. Then I ventured out to the waiting area where friends and family were solemnly sitting. Some worked crossword puzzles while others stared out the window. We could not speak any words. We waited. Then, a little after noon, the desk clerk called our name. We went to her and she reported the doctors were prepared to speak with us. We all assembled in that little room just outside the ICU. The room marked “Family.” We had hoped for a miracle. We expected a death sentence. We received the news we expected. Justin was gone. His body continued to live with the vitality of medicine and machines, but his soul and his spirit had made the ascent. Devestated.
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We went to his room and gathered around his bed. My father asked to pray. “Dear Lord, We are asking, if You will,… To use Your mighty power… To bring Justin back to us. In Jesus Name… AMEN.”
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I knelt with my hands splayed across Justin’s broad chest. Weeping. My heart ached as my father’s quivering and broken voice echoed through the room. I could not believe we were living this nightmare. Then, like an answer to my father’s prayer, the doctor walks into the room and says, “I’m sorry. We have to take him for another test. The radiologist saw something on the last test that he wants to confirm before we can go any further.”
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They wheeled him out again. Another two hours. I made the trek from his room to the waiting area every fifteen to twenty minutes looking to spend just a little more time with him. Just to be close to him. That last walk felt like miles. I came around the corner and saw his bed and his body lying there as he had been for eight days.
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I walked up and checked his monitor screen. His brain pressure had been over 100 most of the day and now read 16. I had just a moment to look at the warm, tanned face of my oldest child and think… Could it be true? “God, either a miracle has happened here or he is really gone. Would you show me, please, what has happened?”
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I turned to go back and retrieve my family from the waiting area when his nurse walked in with the hospital chaplain. “We believe his brain hemmoraghed some time after we concluded the last test and when we got him back up here. I’m so sorry.”
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“So, he really is gone.”
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There was only a silent nod from the nurse as she fought back tears. My heart burst as much in relief as in pain. The waiting over. I did go out and gather my family. We returned to the room one last time. The machines were turned off. We watched his face turn blue. His mouth went slack within seconds. He was gone. Not a trace of life was left in him. I walked around and lay my head upon his chest listening for him to take one more breath. I had hoped to feel that faint heartbeat that promised life and a mistaken diagnosis.
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Nothing.
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He was gone. I continued to weep. The gutwrenching, pain-filled sobs of death erupted from deep within my being. They filled the room as the exhaustion of eight days of waiting, hoping and praying spilled forth from my heart and an overflow of sorrow washed out of my soul. He was gone.
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The next few days were difficult. News broke and we got calls inquiring if we had read the latest. The funeral plans had to be made. We sat around and talked about his life, how unreal our situation seemed and then we just cried. We did all these things together. We rarely slept. We just sat together and waited until we could bid him our final goodbye.
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We visited his body on the third day after his death. I remember walking in at five o’clock in the afternoon and seeing his lifeless body in that casket. I held his hand a moment and a chill ran through my body. He was cold. So cold.
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I slipped the small metal case that held his Bible beneath his hand. Patted it one time for good measure and stared long and hard at every inch of him.
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I sat down on the small couch in his state room and began to write. I wrote out his eulogy. I would deliver it to a room full of friends and family at the funeral. I sat there for what seemed like forever. The next day was more of the same. Sitting with his body, waiting and praying.
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As I read the account of Jesus’ death, my mind ventures and my imagination paints a picture of the scene. The disciples are wondering what happened to Judas. They wonder why he betrayed Jesus. They’re angry and unsettled about the events of the last 24 hours.
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Can you hear John telling his account of what he saw? “I followed them to the house of the high priest. I knew the guard at the door. Peter came with me. He and I ran after them. My eyes never left him. I thought I saw Judas in the crowd… I think he had been crying…”
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Can you see Peter sulking in the corner? He has been reviewing his behavior. His disbelief in the death of his savior and friend must have been palpable. He had been the one who believed from the first moment. The one who walked in faith with Christ the entire time. Peter was willing to kill and die for the Messiah, for Jesus. He had been willing to follow Jesus to death just hours before… But, in town with all those people who had watched Jesus being drug into the high Jewish court in chains… He choked. He ran. He denied.
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Can you see Mary? She is laying on the cot in the back of the room. She is exhausted as she revisits those scenes on the cross over and over again. There are no more tears. She has cried and wept bitterly over her firstborn. Mary Magdalene sits on the floor beside her cot weeping and stroking His mother’s back. She murmurs words of comfort and sympathy. She buries her head and cries. Mary remembers her firstborn. He didn’t even get a proper burial or funeral. He died a criminal. Her good, patient and loving son. God’s Son.
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The other disciples begin to talk and the questions begin to float around the room. An argument breaks out in one conversation over who saw and did what… and when. Someone says, “Do you think he was really the Messiah now?”
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Have you been to the upper room? The hours of waiting, wondering what would come next. The waiting for the tap on the door and the soldiers to come and take them all to be tried. Their Savior was dead.
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Have you been to the Upper Room?

4 thoughts on “Have you been to the Upper Room?

  1. I am so very, very sorry for your loss. I am in awe of your bravery in sharing your story. I have been to the upper room for loved ones but never a spouse or a child. And I am so glad taht we know ahead of time what the disciples didn’t know. It’s Friday…but Sunday is coming. What a day it will be to be reunited with your son. I know you would rather have him here longer too…at least as Christian we have that assurance! Blessings to you this Easter. May the grace of God and the peace of Christ wrap itself around your spirit. Where O death is your victory? Where O death is your sting? For we have the victory through Jesus Christ our Lord!

  2. Leslie,

    I don’t write the account of my “upper room” moments with Justin to remind anyone of my pain. It has long been soothed by the Comforter. I write it because in the deepest moments of despair we have a God who so relates to what we have been going through. So vividly. To remind them God does not miss a moment of our agony and that He even allowed those who walked closest to Him in the flesh to experience the surreal and utter dismay at the onset of death when one is so loved. So senseless… The loss so profound.

    All our losses are gain and the message of Easter is that He’s Alive. Thank you for your sweet words and the reminders of His promise. One still alive more than 2,000 years after that fateful day.

    Blessings.

  3. Thank you for your honesty and vulnerability in sharing about the death of your first born son! I too lost my first born son when he was 24. It has been 13 years but your words brought back those grim days of grief. I also remember how much my sweet Savior comforted me and gave me hope that some day life would be full of joy again. I was not disappointed!! I too look forward to the day I will see my son again but in the mean time it has helped me to know that he sits at the feet of his Savior and mine.

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