In Him we have redemption through His blood, the forgiveness of sins, in accordance with the riches of God’s grace that He lavished on us. — Ephesians 1:7-8 NIV
I pray that the eyes of your heart may be enlightened in order that you may know the hope to which He has called you, the riches of His glorious inheritance in His holy people, and His incomparably great power for us who believe. That power is the same as the mighty strength He exerted when He raised Christ from the dead and seated Him at His right hand in the heavenly realms, far above all rule and authority, power and dominion, and every name that is invoked, not only in the present age but also in the one to come. — Ephesians 1:18-21 NIV
Frank’s daughter Vicki was in the throes of a painful divorce from her husband, Michael Kennedy in 1997. We invited Vicki and the kids to join us at our home in Colorado over the holidays, and while they were staying with us, Michael was with the whole Kennedy clan that regularly descended on Aspen for the holidays. Michael called Vicki to ask that the children be allowed to join him for the New Year’s festivities. She reluctantly agreed because, while at that point there was virtually no hope for their devastated marriage, she truly desired to save her children’s relationship with their father.
Late in the afternoon on New Year’s Eve we received a phone call telling us that Michael had been skiing backward down a steep slope tossing a football back and forth to other skiers. He had hit a tree and was now hanging on to life in the emergency room at the Aspen hospital.
Vicki, understandably, was in shock. Frank drove and I sat in the back seat with her. As we were trying to navigate the icy mountain highway, I talked softly to her and prayed intermittently. We were about halfway to Aspen when we got the news that Michael had been declared brain dead. Vicki heaved heartbroken tears. She had loved Michael since she was fifteen years old, and although he had betrayed her and left her emotionally destroyed, she had never wished him harm. She would always love him.
Vicki and Frank entered the hospital. I stayed in the car with a phone in case the children called. Eventually I had to use the bathroom, so I quietly walked in to find one — that coincidentally ended up being directly across from the room where Frank and Vicki were with Michael’s body. As I came out of the ladies’ room I found myself standing directly across from Ethel Kennedy, still in her ski suit but disheveled, with her jacket hanging from her waist. The look on her face was one of utter and total shock. I wish I could erase it from my memory, but I can’t. I quietly walked over to her and embraced her and whispered how sorry I was. She had always been very candid that Michael was her favorite child of the eleven she had borne. And now, he was gone.
When I got the call from Vicki’s children, I whispered into Vicki’s ear that someone had sent a car for her, and she left immediately. That left Frank and me alone with Ethel and Michael’s body on a table. For more than an hour Ethel did not move from his side. She did not say a word, she did not cry a tear, but she did refuse to leave her son’s lifeless body, shaking her head adamantly when anyone came in to try to convince her to depart.
I prayed silently, Dear God, please comfort this poor woman. Dear God… and then I leaned over to her and gently whispered, “It’s okay, Ethel. You can leave him. Michael’s not there, he’s not there. He’s with God.” She didn’t move or respond, as if she hadn’t heard a word I’d said. That’s when I added, “To be absent from the body is to be present with the Lord.”
Suddenly, she turned her head toward me. “What did you say?”
Again I said, “To be absent from the body is to be present with the Lord.”
She was stunned. “Where did you hear that?”
“It’s from the Bible, Ethel, in Second Corinthians five” (see 2 Corinthians 5:8, author paraphrase).
“I never heard that,” she said simply.
Frank signaled to me that I should leave so he could be there with her when she finally said goodbye to her cherished son for the last time.
I gently squeezed her arm and left the room, marveling yet again at God and how He works through His Word. All I had done was quote from the Scriptures — God’s Word. The Bible says that His Word never returns void (see Isaiah 55:11). It is alive and active, and it penetrates deep down into our souls, way beyond the joints and marrow of our bodies (see Hebrews 4:12). Ethel had gone to Mass every day of her life, including that morning before she went to ski with her family. But she had never heard those words before — the only words that could comfort her heart long enough to give her the strength to move away from her beloved son.
Vicki never married again, but all three of her children did, and she now has five beautiful grandchildren she cherishes. We see how God is faithful and how God redeems what was broken. It’s never too late to let go and trust God to make all things new. The same power that raised Jesus from the dead is available to redeem and comfort us. All we need is to trust in God’s love for us.
Thank You Jesus for Your love demonstrated on the Cross and through Your resurrection. Thank You for Your “God-breathed” Word and the power of the Holy Spirit to bring healing and life to our days, no matter how difficult our circumstances may be. You, truly, are our hope! Amen.
Excerpted with permission from It’s Never Too Late by Kathie Lee Gifford, copyright Kathie Lee Gifford.
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No matter what you are struggling with or suffering today, the Lord is with you. The words of holy Scripture are for our guidance, instruction, hope, comfort, and so much more. Cling to Him! ~ Devotionals Daily