Call The Roll by Larry W Peebles July 1, 2016 16.24
My dad passed last week. He was 97, fighting numerous health issues, so this was not unexpected. I had rushed out from Georgia to Texas to see him two weeks earlier. He was in the hospital, and not doing well. When I saw him, I knew it would not be long. After he returned to the nursing home, the call came two weeks later that he was failing. A few hours later another call came with the news that he had passed. I was told he was comfortable and peaceful the whole time.
On that last visit to see him in the hospital, we had some precious moments. Though he suffered from Alzheimer’s, we connected for a while that Saturday evening. Sensing that he had only a short time left on this earth, I talked with him about Heaven. I assured him he could go see Jesus, and be reunited with mom, who preceded him in death by about two years. They were married seventy two years when she died. I reminded him of a dream he shared with me when he had triple bypass surgery at age 82. He told me he went to a place that was immensely light and bright. He said he saw long flowing white linens blowing in a cool breeze. In his own words, it was the most peaceful place he had ever been. I told him it sounded to me like Heaven.
In the process of reminding him of Jesus and Heaven, his dream, and going to see mom again, he appeared to be very intrigued. He could not speak, but he could not take his eyes off me. He could not relax. I knew that in spite of the condition of his mind and his speech, we had connected. We could not dialogue, so I whispered a quick prayer, asking for wisdom on what to do next. My dad always sang, and played the guitar and the harmonica. I felt I should sing to him in that hospital room. Two songs quickly came to mind—Amazing Grace, and Jesus Loves Me. Dad sang those songs to me when I was a child. I would sit at his feet and listen to him sing and play, working his way through his songbook. Anytime, when no one in particular was listening, he would pull a harmonica out of his shirt pocket and play those songs. When I began to play the guitar, those were some of the first songs I learned. In fifteen years of leading worship for our ministry group in the juvenile justice system, those two songs were the songs most requested by the young men and women we met with in maximum security lock-up. Unplanned and unrehearsed, he played Amazing Grace on his harmonica at mom’s funeral. Those two songs carry a powerful anointing that transcends time, troubles, and eternity.
As I sang those two songs to him over and over in the hospital room that Saturday night, his whole countenance began to change. He relaxed. I saw peace overcome whatever was troubling him. He had an assurance of where he was going after this life. I watched his eyes begin to get heavy, until he dozed off. I sang my father to sleep. It was a deep and peaceful sleep. He was no longer afraid of what lay ahead. Neither was I.
After his passing, my daughter found a very precious video. It was taken at dad’s 90th birthday party. Dad and his younger brother, age 85, were playing a harmonica duet and singing “When the Roll is Called Up Yonder”. They often did that at family gatherings. His brother, my uncle, later told me that the last time he visited dad at the nursing home they could not connect until my uncle pulled out his harmonica and began to play. Dad had not said a word during the visit, and may not have even known his brother, but when the music finally started dad reached in his shirt pocket, pulled out his harmonica, and began to play along.
Dad told me stories of answering roll call during basic training in the Army during WWII. After the morning trumpet sounded, answering roll call with a sharp “here” or “yo” gave the soldier a sense of belonging to a unit of men called to a purpose. It meant the soldier was present and accounted for, ready to face the day. It signified a soldier who was prompt, and could be counted on for any duty that might arise. The roll contained the name of every soldier of that unit who was supposed to be present. Dad answered heaven’s roll call when he passed. When the roll is called in Heaven, he’ll be there.
Revelation 21:27 speaks of Heaven and those who enter it will be “only those whose names are written in the Lamb’s book of life.” This book contains the names of every person who should enter Heaven at the end of their life on this earth. The Bible says (Romans 10: 9, 10) “If you confess with your mouth ‘Jesus is Lord’, and believe in your heart that God raised him from the dead, you will be saved. For it is with your heart that you believe and are justified, and it is with your mouth that you confess and are saved.” Those are the simple yet vitally important requirements to have one’s name written in the Lamb’s book of life. We are to believe that Jesus is the Son of God who died on the cross as the ultimate perfect sacrifice to forgive and destroy our sin. If we confess that belief before God and man, we can be spared the consequences of a sinful life. We can be forgiven and justified, and spend our eternal life with God in Heaven where there is no more of the brokenness associated with a fallen world such as pain, sorrow, sickness or poverty. This simple action taken during this life will lead to our name being written in the book of life, and our name being called on Heaven’s roll when this life on earth is over.
This simple action also leads to a more victorious life today. The apostle Paul wrote in 1 Corinthians 15: 54, 55 “When the perishable has been clothed with the imperishable, and the mortal with immortality, then the saying that is written will come true: ‘Death has been swallowed up in victory. Where, O death, is your victory? Where, O death, is your sting?’” Our whole approach to our current life then changes. With this belief and confession, our fear of death is mitigated. If death, the unbeliever’s worst possible outcome, has no hold on the believer, neither does any other of the world’s so-called calamities. We can truly live a victorious life free from all fears because we are holding on to Jesus.
I am sad my father is gone from this life. I will surely miss him. I rejoice, however, that he is in Heaven today. His pain and suffering from sickness and disease is over. He is rejoicing with the saints in the presence of Jesus, and has been reunited with loved ones who passed before him. He answered the final roll call, and went out a winner. 1 Corinthians 15:57 says “Thanks be to God. He gives us the victory through our Lord Jesus Christ.”