Death Of An Unbelieving Loved One

Tomorrow will be the 6th anniversary of my mom’s death. I’m not sure if I’ll see her in heaven. I struggled with that for a couple of weeks after she died. I asked God: Did she make it to heaven? Please, LORD, I need to know! His answer was something I did not expect at all.

She was a beautiful woman and only eighteen years old when she married my dad. Life was very hard for her at times. My parents fought a lot and my mom had suicidal thoughts and plans to leave my dad. She had a rough life and I often wondered what would have been different, if she would have been brought up in a true Christian home.

She always had some problems with her bones and nerves and in her sixties her body became increasingly weaker and weaker. For a long time the doctors struggled to come up with a diagnosis. They treated her symptoms with all kinds of medication and intravenous infusions but it did not help. In fact, every time she came back from the hospital, her body seemed to be weaker than before.

One day they diagnosed her as having ALS (amyotrophic lateral sclerosis). But they didn’t tell her much about the course of her disease. The only thing she knew was that it will get worse in time. It started with her losing control over her legs, just part of one leg, then the whole leg, then the other. The muscular system of ALS patients will eventually fail. Their speech might become blurred, they might have trouble to eat and swallow food and as the disease worsens there will be a paralysis of their respiration muscles.

My mom died six years ago. She grew up in a traditional Christian home — where traditions counted more than faith in Jesus and reading the Word of God. My parents preferred to live a worldly oriented life. They weren’t asking much about God, going only to church when there was a wedding, infant baptism, confirmation or funeral. My mom always wondered about my Christian faith and asked that I pray for her, saying, “Because I can’t anymore.”

The truth is that I have never seen her longing to be with Jesus some day. She was baptized as a child, had confirmation in the Lutheran Church when she was a teenager, got married in church — but that’s about it. Taking just these facts, I wouldn’t think she would have died and gone to heaven!

But she was my mom and I loved her so I struggled with that a lot after she’d died. I walked at a nearby shore many, many times and wrestled with God about this. One day He answered me and said: “It is not for you to know! If you would know she is in heaven now you would be in danger of pride, thinking it’s because of what you did. If you would know she is in hell now how would you be able to continue life knowing that?”

Later on I stumbled across the story of the two thieves that were crucified next to Jesus on the cross (Luke 23:39-43). Remember what Jesus said to the one who rebuked the other? Verily I say unto thee, To day shalt thou be with me in paradise. And I was comforted by the thought that this thief got saved while he was in his last breath. So why couldn’t my mom have been saved within her last few days, hours, minutes — while she was in the hospital?

It’s not up to us to know. Not now! Sometimes we do not get an answer until much later, perhaps even just after we died and gone to heaven. Don’t dwell on nagging thoughts about whereto your “unbelieving” friend or relative has gone. Dwell on the memory of him/her spending time with you on earth. Make Jesus the center of your own life and know where you will spend eternity. God’s timing is always perfect and according to His purpose and plan!


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