Blackbird Has Spoken: The Final Chapter
From Blackbird Has Spoken: Part 20
After Thomas' miraculous recovery the celebration of life for Cloe came and Ivy included Murray Stricklen in the service. After Cloe's eulogy, Thomas gave one for his troubled but saved friend in heaven.
"One last thing, I want to thank Ivy Ledbetter for inviting and including Murray in this celebration of life. As Cloe is now in heaven, she knows Murray Stricklen as a beloved and redeemed brother in the Lord. Therefore it seems fitting that we include him in this service. We must also see Murray as our beloved, redeemed brother in the Lord. Why? Because God deems him as His beloved and redeemed child, cleansed by the blood of His own Dear Son. What a glorious Savior we have." He pointed to heaven. "Glory to God."
Much to Thomas' surprise the people came to their feet with loud and long applause, giving glory to God for Murray's salvation, and God's great grace that He extends to all who call upon His name to be saved.
After much thought and prayer, Ivy decided that rather than bury Cloe's ashes, it would be more true to her spirit to scatter her ashes in the ocean. Ivy planned the sunrise event two days after the memorial service. It was to be a small, private gathering. Once again she extended an invitation for Thomas to join with Murray's remains. In turn, Thomas had offered for them to use Murray's yacht. Murray and Thomas had done a lot of sailing on it, engaging in activities that were very sinful, thus the bold, defiant name of the boat - Den of Iniquity.
It was pre-dawn and Ivy, James, Aunt Gwen, Chaplain Bob, Dr. Wong and Shihong, plus Thomas and Linda boarded the yacht. They huddled together in the lit up cabin and coffee was served. It was quite chilly. There was a spirit of joy and peace. Chaplain Bob said a prayer for protection on their excursion and that God's peace would continue in their hearts. Thomas started up the boat and they were on their way. After a few moments, a light-heartedness surfaced and things got a bit silly.
"You know, Thomas," Bob called out, "you really ought to rename this boat before it's sold."
"I may look into buying it, but either way, you're right. It needs a new name. In all good conscience I couldn't sail it or sell it with that name. Anyone have any ideas for a new name?"
"I think we ought to make it something spiritual or biblical," said Aunt Gwen, ever the voice of reason.
"Good idea," Shihong said.
It grew quiet. Everyone was thinking, then all of sudden they were throwing things out rapid fire.
"Manna from heaven."
"All have sinned." This brought a round of laughter.
"Thorn in the Flesh."
"Tower of Babel."
"Streams of Mercy."
"Saved by grace."
"Deep calls out to deep."
"Grace for Grace, or maybe just Grace."
The ideas petered out and it grew quiet for a few moments. Aunt Gwen offered one more attempt.
"How about The Redeemed," she said. Her idea was met with loud assents.
"The Redeemed it is then," Thomas said. "It makes perfect sense since it's called the Den of Iniquity. I think Murray would be pleased. And since you came up with the name Gwen, when I put on the new name you will be the one to christen it."
"Oh, how fun. I've never christened anything before. Oh, look," Aunt Gwen said, gazing out to the water. "It's coming."
Into the sunrise
Voices quieted and everyone stepped out onto the deck. Thomas dropped anchor. There was a brilliant line of light on the horizon. No one made a sound, just watched and waited. Within minutes the sun errupted red, pink, yellow and purple. Ooo's and aah's whispered. All trace of amusement was gone, replaced by awe. It was time.
James picked up Cloe's urn and gave it to Ivy. Thomas held Murray's.
Bob shared a Scripture. "From John 11:25 Jesus said, 'I am the resurrection and the life. He who believes in Me, though he may die, he shall live.'"
Ivy was next. "From 1 Peter 1:3-5: Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who according to His abundant mercy has begotten us again to a living hope through the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead, to an inheritance incorruptible and undefiled and that does not fade away, reserved in heaven for you, who are kept by the power of God through faith for salvation ready to be revealed in the last time."
"Father," Bob prayed, "we thank you for the death and resurrection of Your Son, our Savior Jesus Christ. And we thank you, Father that one day we will also be resurrected. We will see Cloe again and more importantly we will see You for time and eternity. In Your name, Amen."
With tears of joy and sorrow, Ivy set Cloe's ashes into the wind and the blazing sunrise which seemed to be lingering for them all.
Thomas stood forward ready also.
Bob read again. "John 14:1-4 'Let not your heart be troubled; you believe in God, believe also in Me. In My Father’s house are many mansions; if it were not so, I would have told you. I go to prepare a place for you. And if I go and prepare a place for you, I will come again and receive you to Myself; that where I am, there you may be also.'"
Thomas could not speak for the tears. Never in his wildest dreams did he ever expect to be standing on a boat in the ocean sending Murray's ashes with a sense of hope and gratitude that they would meet again in glory. Linda read for him.
"1 Thessalonians 4:13-18: 'But I do not want you to be ignorant, brethren, concerning those who have fallen asleep, lest you sorrow as others who have no hope. For if we believe that Jesus died and rose again, even so God will bring with Him those who sleep in Jesus.
For this we say to you by the word of the Lord, that we who are alive and remain until the coming of the Lord will by no means precede those who are asleep. For the Lord Himself will descend from heaven with a shout, with the voice of an archangel, and with the trumpet of God. And the dead in Christ will rise first. Then we who are alive and remain shall be caught up together with them in the clouds to meet the Lord in the air. And thus we shall always be with the Lord. Therefore comfort one another with these words.'"
Once again Chaplain Bob prayed. "Lord, Thank you that Your hand is not too short that it cannot save. We thank You for saving our friend, Murray Stricklen and that he is now in heaven with You and with Cloe. We look unto You with glad hope that we will see them again. Amen."
With no dry eyes on the boat, Thomas also sent Murray into the molten sunrise. A sense of peace and joy filled him like he'd never experienced before except the day he'd given his heart to Jesus and reunited with Linda. He had never been a man of tears but they poured copiously. All the years he'd been friends with Murray, he had never thought about loving him. Most men didn't think that way. In fact, he never really liked Murray but always sought to win his favor. But now in this moment all he could think of was how much he loved Murray and how vast and deep his gratitude that the Lord had brought him to himself in his last breath. Linda took his hand.
"You know Thomas," she whispered to him, "I despised Murray ever since the day I first met him. I resented him for all the influence he had over you and for his utter disregard and loathing for people, especially women. I softened some when I heard he accepted Christ, but in this moment I love him and am rejoicing with you at the miracle of his salvation. One day we will meet and we will all be clean before the Lord and have a sacred friendship of nothing but love, joy, and peace."
Thomas kissed her hair but could not speak.
The little group stood silent in their thoughts and prayers. The song that had brought Ivy and Cloe together came to her lips. It seemed fitting they should sing it as they watched morning breaking. Their voices spread out across the water and no doubt up to heaven. Ivy hoped Cloe was listening.
Jesus, Murray, and Cloe stood together looking down on the scene of their friends scattering their remains into the sea. They all had smiles of rejoicing on their faces.
"Lord," Murray said, "I have no words. Because you forgave me and accepted me, they have been healed of all the hurt I caused them. They..." He choked up and could not go on, so deep was his gratitude.
"Yes," said Cloe. "Thank you for redeeming us, for healing us, and for bringing my brother Murray and I together in You. And thank you for revealing your redeeming love to those we left behind."
The brother and sister looked up into the Lord's face. He wrapped one arm around Cloe and the other around Murray and drew them close to Himself. His love pierced so deep into their hearts they could do nothing but hold on and bask in it.
"No words," said Murray again.
"Oh Lord, we love you so much," said Cloe.
"I love you too," the Lord said. "From everlasting to everlasting."
They took one last look down on their friends who were on their way back to the harbor to face life.
"Lord, they will face more hardships won't they?"
"They will indeed, Cloe."
"But you will never leave them nor forsake them," Murray said.
"No, I never will," said Jesus. "They have many great and joyous times ahead, but they will also have many adversities and sufferings. But the adversities they will face will be light and momentary compared with the eternal weight of glory they will experience when they arrive here one day."
"And they can do all things through You who strengthens them," whispered Cloe.
"What I did for both of you is an ongoing testimony to those that knew you," said the Lord. "Our friends will pass on that testimony to others. And they will have their own testimonies to come, and My Kingdom will reap a harvest. One day each one will cross over and I will say to each of them, as I did to you, 'Well done good and faithful servant. Enter into the joy of your Master."
Cloe fell to her knees and kissed His nail scarred hand. "Master, in Your presence is fullness of joy." Her tears splashed onto His sacred feet.
Murray knelt and kissed His other hand. "Master, at Your right hand are pleasures forevermore."
Jesus raised them to standing. He held each of their faces in His hands and swiped the tears off their cheeks with His thumbs and kissed their foreheads. His love penetrated their souls. There were no words. None were needed.
© 2017 Lori Colbo