Priscilla Van Der Hart - Omaha, Nebraska

Priscilla Van Der HartNot Afraid To Die

It’s a normal workday.  I’m sitting at my desk and the phone rings, I answer with the standard business greeting for the automotive facility where I work, and the voice on the other end says “Hi, this is the Sheriff’s office, and we need a tow truck dispatched to an accident scene.”  I ask the location of the accident, get the necessary details, and tell them that we can dispatch a truck immediately.  The voice on the other end thanks me, pauses for a moment, and then says “by the way, this accident was fatal.”  Instantly I’m reminded how fragile life is, and how glad I am that I’m ready to die. 

I haven’t always been ready to face death.  As the oldest child in my family, I enjoy the company of many sisters and brothers.  But I can remember a time when there was only two of us children; one sister just one year younger than me. And then I have this vague memory of there being only me again, and no younger sister.  My younger sister had leukemia, a blood disease, and when she was just 11 months old, she died.  That was my first experience with death.  And even while very very young, I knew in my heart that death was real, and that it could come at any age.  Another early memory I have, is of one Sunday morning meeting, sitting and observing my parents and other Christians remember the Lord.  As the meeting came to an end, a hymn was given out, and a brief message was spoken.  The hymn was one that had been sung at my little sister’s funeral, and I well remember sitting there that Sunday morning, crying, and knowing in my heart that death could come, but I was not ready to die.  After the meeting, my grandmother came up to me, and asked me what was wrong.  I told her that I wanted to see my little sister again someday, and she wisely told me that I needed to get ready, so that someday I could see my sister again.  I knew what she meant when she said “get ready”.  I had been taught from infancy that I was a sinner.  And if I was a sinner, then that meant that I had done wrong things against God.  I knew that God was in heaven, and that there is no sin in heaven.  And I knew that if I ever wanted to be in heaven someday, then I had to have my sin taken care of, because with my sin, I could never be in heaven.  When Grandma told me that I needed to get ready, she meant that I needed to have that sin removed, so that when it was my time to die, there would be nothing keeping me out of heaven. 

It is one thing to know you need to prepare for something.  It’s another thing entirely to actually prepare.  I was young, and had plenty to occupy my mind.  Occasionally I would think of death, and missing my chance to be in heaven.  I believed I was a sinner.  I believed I needed to have my sins forgiven, needed to be saved.  I believed that Jesus could do this for me, that He could save me.  But I couldn’t quite get it.  One summer night while a thunderstorm pounded the outdoors, I remember lying in my bed, doing my very best to “believe”.  I couldn’t figure out how to believe.  I couldn’t believe enough, or believe the right way, no matter how hard I tried.  Every Sunday night I would sit and listen to men tell how I could prepare for life after death, how I could have my sin taken care of.  How the Lord Jesus took all my sins away so I could be in heaven someday.  All I had to do was believe it.  Trust in Him to save me from death.  I knew what they said was true, because it came from the Bible, God’s word.  I wanted to be ready for death.  I wanted to have my sins removed.  I wanted God’s salvation.  But I couldn’t figure it out, and so I didn’t accept it.  The solution for my problem was available, but I had to accept it in order for it to be effective.

In January of 1991, when I was 8 years old, I decided it would be a good idea to get God’s salvation when my birthday came in February, so that I would never have any problem remembering the date when God saved me.  About a week before my 9th birthday, I was in a car accident.  The car rolled onto its top, and lay there in the ditch by the road.  I remember getting out of that car, looking back at it as we walked to a nearby home to call for help, and thinking in my mind “Priscilla, if you had died in that car wreck, you would NOT be in heaven.”  I knew God was giving me another chance to trust Him, but I still put it off.  My birthday came and went, and in the excitement of gifts, and cake, and everything that a birthday holds, I hardly thought about my biggest need.

At the beginning of March, that same year, we received news that a friend of ours had died.  I knew him very well; he was the father of some of my very own friends.  Again, I was faced with the huge reality that death can come at any age, and I needed to be ready!  His funeral was in a different state, several hours from my home in Nebraska.  I remember traveling during the night, looking out into the darkness, as we drove to that funeral, and thinking about the seriousness and finality of death.  I vividly remember looking into that coffin, and knowing that it was only his body there.  His soul was in heaven.  And if I ever hoped to see him or my little sister again, I had to make sure I was going to heaven.  When we got back home to Nebraska, I once again tried and tried to get saved.  Tried to believe.  Tried, and waited for the right feeling, so that I would know I was ready for heaven.  That feeling never came.  I knew I was no closer to being ready then I had ever been before.  Finally, one night as I lay in bed, having tried again to believe, I told myself “I can’t get it.  I can’t figure it out.  I don’t know how to believe.  I can’t go to heaven”.  And then, after I had given up on all my own efforts, God in His awesome way quietly reminded my heart that I didn’t have to do anything.  His son Jesus had done it all so many years ago when He died on a cross.  When He hung there, He was taking the punishment that I deserved for sins I had done.  He died, so I didn’t have to.  I couldn’t do anything to help my situation.  That’s why He came.  To provide me with a way to have my sins forgiven.  To give me the opportunity to be in heaven.  When I understood that, I was saved.  I was ready for heaven, just by simply accepting what Jesus had done for me.  That night was March 11th, 1991

Everyday, I see people ignore death, play with death, mock death, fear death.  Sometimes, when they least expect it, death knocks on their door, and there is no avoiding it.  That’s why I’m so thankful to be ready.  I don’t really want to die, but I know that no matter when, or where, or how death comes for me, I am ready to die.  I know I will be in heaven.  God promises that nothing can separate us from His love.  Not even death.

Even now I can think of several people who meant a lot to me at one time, but now they’re gone.  They were all ages.  From a few days old, to nearly a century old, it didn’t matter; death claimed them.  People I once knew, living, breathing, laughing, loving people; gone.  I’m separated from them, for now at least.  But the ones who were ready, the ones who believed God when He said His son Jesus had died to take away sins, they are in heaven now, and I will see them again.  Nothing compares to knowing without a doubt that when it is my turn to leave life as I know it, I’m ready, and heaven is waiting for me. 

-My helplessness-
-God’s provision-
Romans 5:8 
But God commendeth his love toward us, in that, while we were yet sinners, Christ died for us.

-My hardships-
-God’s power-
Romans 8:35,38,39
Who shall separate us from the love of Christ? shall tribulation, or distress, or persecution, or famine, or nakedness, or peril, or sword?
For I am persuaded, that neither death, nor life, nor angels, nor principalities, nor powers, nor things present, nor things to come,
Nor height, nor depth, nor any other creature, shall be able to separate us from the love of God, which is in Christ Jesus our Lord.

-My hope-
-God’s promise-
Revelation 21:4
And God shall wipe away all tears from their eyes; and there shall be no more death, neither sorrow, nor crying, neither shall there be any more pain: for the former things are passed away.