We gathered together, the children of Herb and Jeannette Armao. There are nine of us. We live all over the USA and my oldest brother said if we had to choose between a visit now or for his funeral please come now. So we came knowing we were saying goodbye. We filed in, a somber bunch and stood grouped around his bed. He was very ill and struggled to express himself but his words came out clearly enough and with emphasis.
It’s my time.
Savior, holding me, going home.
I’m going to see Mom and Dad.
It’s my time.
He gestured at each one of us and wanted to know about our families. He listened with true interest and focus.
And then he reached out his arms and beckoned to us one by one. We each went over for an embrace, a last hug, an I love you. It felt like a soft blessing. When it was my turn, all I could say in his ear was, I love you, I love you, I love you. I knew he understood and loved me back.
Tired, he closed his eyes.
And we began intuitively doing what we did in our old house (dubbed Crestfallen Manor) on the hill, at the little country church we attended and even in the car as we grew up. We sang together. Our brother had not much air in his lungs but his lips moved and he remembered the words.
Amazing grace, how sweet the sound that saved a wretch like me.
I once was lost but now am found, was blind but now I see.
Then completely tired, he closed his eyes and smiled as we sang the old favorites.
Page 8 in the old hymnal, said one of us. I serve a risen Savior.
Page 61, called out another. My Anchor Holds.
We sang, tears falling freely down our faces.
How Great Thou Art and our father’s favorite, I come to the Garden Alone, were in the mix.
My very sick brother at times became agitated. My youngest brother knelt beside him, gently held him and quietly prayed and sang until he calmed down. (My sister whispered to me, Mom and Dad would be so pleased to see this; perhaps they did.)
We sang on -now the song our mom had requested for her own funeral.
When peace like a river attendeth my way
When sorrows like sea billows roll.
Whatever my lot Thou hast taught me to say,
It is well, it is well with my soul.
We sang through tears; sorrow, love and thanksgiving for each other all mingled together. Our lot, for sure has been good. As children we did not have much in the way of worldly posessions but we had an abundance of – well, siblings and togetherness, strong familial love and faith in Jesus Christ. We thank God for the legacy of love,truth and grace that runs deep and wide in our family.
We said good bye to our brother that day and with the strength learned from our parents we sang;
And Lord haste the day when our faith shall be sight,
the clouds be rolled back like a scroll;
The trump shall resound and the lord shall descend.
Even so it is well with my soul.
Somehow sorrow makes very clear the things in life that matter. I think all nine of us siblings would agree with Psalm 16:6
The lines are fallen unto me in pleasant places; yea, I have a beautiful inheritance.