Thursday, January 05, 2012

Glimpses of Eternity - Eleanor Shepherd

At this time of year, we read a lot about the newsmakers of the year, or the favourite albums of the year or the most popular movies of the year as we look back on 2011.  When I reflect on what has been important to me this past year, my list would include the 2011 glimpses of eternity that I have had. You might want to think of the ones you have had that touched you deeply. 
            The most significant for me was the birth of our granddaughter, Sanna, born on a day that I felt appropriate, Thanksgiving Sunday.  To me her birth proves once again that God has not given up on the human race, even with all of our failures and shortcomings.  He still values us and sends new life into our world with the births of our children and grandchildren.  I cannot express the joy I feel as I hold this little one in my arms.  I am overcome with the sacredness of the gift of life.  As she begins to grow and develop and as she interacts with us, I feel like a miracle is taking place before my eyes.  Her arrival has given me a unique glimpse of eternity, in that I know that she will be here long after I have gone and I want to leave a legacy that will enrich her life.
            While I am aware that we have been blessed with a healthy baby girl who is growing and thriving, at the same time I am conscious of the child of close friends of our children. She also received the gift of life, but for her it looks very different.  She struggles with a number of health concerns that accompanied her arrival and I see the pain and anguish etched by fear on the faces of her parents and grandparents.  I know they are grateful for the gift of her life.  Yet, they wonder anxiously what life will hold for her and how long they will be able to enjoy this precious gift.  For them the glimpse of eternity is at every corner.  With each crisis she survives, they know that they have been close to the veil between this world and the next and experience all of the emotions present in that place.  Their courage and constant care for this helpless little one inspire me and give me a glimpse of the immediacy of eternity with the awareness that it is often just a breathe away.
             A radically different view of the eternal was provided for me by a trip that I was able to take in 2011 to some of the barrios in Colombia.  There I was awed as I saw the courage of people who had faced hardship and challenges that I could never image just eking out a living.  With the help of the microloans provided by the organization where I was employed at the time, these people were working their way out of poverty and building a new life for themselves and their families.  What overwhelmed me was their gratitude.  They knew that we were partners in their businesses and that gave them dignity and hope.  These characteristics of dignity and hope call forth from us the best.  They are the hallmarks of the Eternal One and when we offer them to others, we honour Him. 
            Upon my return from Colombia, I had another glimpse of eternity that awaited me.  My father had returned from the hospital to his Long Term Care Facility for the final days of  his life.  My prayer was that he would remain alive until I returned.  That prayer was answered.  I arrived in Toronto on Thursday evening and was able to spend the night on a cot in his room.  Early Friday morning, he awoke.  He could no longer swallow, so he could not speak.  He lifted up his head and looked at me.  I knew what to say.  I assured him that I was back and that my brother was on the way.  I affirmed that I knew that he loved me and he knew that I loved him.  All was well.  With that, he relaxed and lay back on his pillow.  A few hours later, he entered into eternity and I knew that those last words would remain with me always.  Although he and my mother are on one side of the veil, and I am on the other, the love we have for one another still unites us.  Because it is anchored in a deeper love, we have the hope of seeing one another again.
            There have been many other times during this year when I have had glimpses of eternity in unusual moments. 
            When I received the Word Guild Award in the Christian Leadership category for my book More Questions than Answers, Sharing Faith by Listening, I sensed the approval of the One I serve for the efforts that I make to try to help others to find ways to be authentic about faith.  This event made me feel His smile upon me. 
            When I was offered the opportunity to talk about both my work and my book in interviews on 100 Huntley Street this year, I felt that I was being invited to open up parts of my life that are usually kept closed except when I am in my prayer closet.  From these places, I was given a sacred space to talk about the ways in which the eternal ministered to me during some very dark days of my life through people and circumstances and the presence of God Himself.
            There are more times that I could tell you about when God has come so close to me during this past year like losing my employment, discovering the joy of chaplaincy and visiting a place that evoked tender memories of family.  No doubt, you too have had these moments.  I would love to hear about them, so feel free to comment if you wish.  
More Questions than Answers,
Sharing Faith by Listening
Winner of 2011 Word Guild Award  

"Living  Outside our Comfort Zones"
                    Hot  Apple Cider                                
                                                                   Award of Merit  2009  


Peter Black said...

Thank you Eleanor for sharing these intimate moments and thoughtful reflections. In response to your invitation to share:
One of my 2011 "close to eternity" moments occurred in October. My wife and I and longterm friends parted at the door of the church after we'd cleared up, following a funeral lunch.
An hour or so later Ron had a massive heart attack, from which he never regained consciousness. He died the following morning. (He'd appeared to be in good health.)
I was asked to sing The Lord's Prayer at his memorial service. The last time I'd sung that piece in a public venue was at his son's wedding, twenty years before.
We and hundreds more were touched deeply. Like your dear dad, Ron loved God and people -- and it showed!

Eleanor Shepherd said...

Thanks, Peter for sharing such a beautiful moment. I have been remembering you in prayer as requested. You are always such an encouragement to me and to others.

Peter Black said...

Thank you Eleanor,
I had a Drs. appt today, and am now on on a medication regime for a month's trial.
Take care, and blessings to you and your growing extended family.

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