Edge of Heaven

by John Fischer
Rod Mayer has been the youth pastor at Capo Beach Calvary in Capistrano Beach, Calif., for 15 years, and many in the church credit he and his wife Janet for being an instrumental tool in their children’s faith journeys. Through Janet’s recent three-year struggle with cancer, she kept a positive outlook and was often the one who cheered others who were saddened by her condition.

The Sunday after she died, the church was treated with stories of how Rod and Janet, knowing the end was near, had spent a beautiful week together in Hawaii. We also heard how Rod had taken their two children’s favorite toys and put them in a paper bag out of sight. He told them that although they couldn’t touch their toys or play with them, they knew where they were, and it was going to be the same with their Mommy. They wouldn’t be able to touch her or play with her, but they would know she was in heaven.

Two days later, with Janet in heaven, a memorial service was held at the church. There was not enough room for everyone who came. There were stories about Janet from those who were closest to her. Some tried to laugh and bring lightness to the heavy emotions by recalling her sunny disposition. I imagined Rod on the front row, choked up by all this. I wondered if he might speak, but then, if it were me, I surmised I would not be able to.

Suddenly, Rod was up on the platform speaking. He told us how in her last few moments Janet stood up in bed, reached her hands up to heaven and spoke. When he asked her who she was talking to, she said, “Angels.” And then he and a friend laid her back down on the bed, and she died.

I thought it was pretty courageous of him to do this—to tell us these things—given his situation and the frailty of human emotions. But I was soon to be even more surprised when he strapped on a guitar and began leading us in songs of praise & worship. Let me tell you, that was an experience like no other. It was the closest I’ve ever come to worshiping with the saints in glory. Solid. True. There was such a sense of reality in knowing that Rod could not do this if he wasn’t looking out over the edge of heaven right then as he sang. This was not drummed-up praise. This was exuberant, from-the-bottom-of my-shoes praise. There was no lie in it.

Rod’s voice carried over everyone else’s, and there was something about it that was different. It had a strength and confidence that was mystical, if not eerie. It was almost as if he stepped over the edge of heaven for a moment and sang to us from there. I swear I heard a glorified voice.

And then, if that weren’t enough, he had us all bow our heads and he gave an invitation. Yep. I’m not making this up. He told everyone at his wife’s funeral that this would be a really good time to make sure they were ready to die, and then he told them what they needed to do to receive Christ. From the edge of heaven, he welcomed a number of people into the family of God.

Rod is not a big man. He’s not a tall man. He is slight in build and usually a little nervous around people. But let me tell you something: Rod is a huge man now in my eyes. Bigger than anyone I’ve ever met. I’m sure he will go through some long, lonely days. By the time you read this, they may be his longest ever. I don’t know, but I hear it’s the little things you miss—the coffee ready, the toothpaste squeezed in the middle, the sniffle during a touching scene on television, or simply turning around and forgetting for a split second, that there is no one there. Not to mention all the support you had the first few days that is now gone. Not anybody’s fault; it’s just that way. They have to get back to their lives, and you have to go back to yours, except yours will never be the same.

I know after that service I’ll never be the same, and I hope you won’t either, even just from reading this. And you know what else? If you don’t know what’s going to happen to you when you die, Rod would want you to do something about that. Right now. He would want you to make his loneliness worthwhile by meeting him someday, at the end of days, on the edge of heaven. You can do it right now.

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