On Saturday, September 22, 2018, at the age of 92, my mother, Arlene Peck, went home to heaven to be with her Lord and Savior and all the saints, including numerous family members, who have gone on before.
About a month before Mom went home to heaven, when she had lost her appetite and mostly quit eating (except for ice cream that is), the phrase “precious is the death of His saints” kept coming to me (I realize that’s not an exact quote of the scripture, but it’s what was in my head). Knowing that I was facing the final chapter in this story and that my mind was not fully grasping how to deal with the sense of impending loss, or the appearance of death winning, I went aside to pray and seek God. As I prayed, I found myself asking the Lord for His perspective on the matter, that is, how He sees it and/or wants me to see it.
However, before I discuss the answer that God gave me, I need to share my mother’s story. Yes, my mother was kind, good, and respected by all who knew her, but I want everyone to know what went into making the person they knew and loved.
A Brief Biography
My mother was born September 5, 1926, in St Paul, Minnesota where my grandfather worked at a lumber yard, as he continued to do throughout his life. Mom proudly referred to herself as “a lumberman’s daughter” as she went about sawing up lumber to build her own furniture and bookshelves.
Mom spent her childhood years in the North Woods town of Radisson, Wisconsin, a town with a church, a Post Office, a lumber yard (which my grandfather ran), a hotel and, well, I don’t know how many taverns. It was from these fond childhood memories that Mom regaled me with stories of the family taking their weekly bath in a tub in the kitchen, everyone (including the school and the hotel) having an outhouse, and kids riding to school in sub-zero temperatures in a covered horse-drawn sled heated by a pot belly stove. Being one of the more well-to-do families in town, my grandmother actually had a hand pump right on the kitchen counter so she didn’t have to go outside to fetch water. There was even a town medical system called “Mrs. Potter,” a nurse who, in cases of emergency, would come over to your house, set your kid up on the kitchen table, and stitch up their wounds. Yes, Mom did love to reminisce about “the good-old-days.”
In 1937, my grandfather took a position at a lumber yard in the town of Pittsville, Wisconsin, a much larger community that even had “a” police officer. It was at Pittsville High School that Mom met my Dad and immediately knew that “he was the one.”
However, before Mom and Dad could be married, World War II came along. Dad joined the Navy and ended up at Pensacola, Florida, and Mom’s family moved to Los Angeles, California. Dad used his leaves to travel cross-country and continue the courtship. Then, in 1945, Mom boarded a train (steam locomotive) and traveled cross country by herself for several days and nights to Pensacola to be married in the chapel on the Navy base.
After the war, Mom’s family moved north to the small town of Calpella, California where my grandfather bought his own lumber yard.
Mom never liked California – it just wasn’t Wisconsin. However, Dad liked the idea of living near Mom’s family and was soon established in a career in the neighboring larger town of Ukiah, so, Mom, being a faithful and dutiful wife, settled into life in California for the next 40 years.
When Dad died in 1986, the month after his retirement, Mom found herself freed from California and not long after put the house up for sale. Mom and I prayed together about where to go and all paths seemed to lead to Spokane, Washington, a place with the four-season climate that Mom remembered from Wisconsin and the mountains that I had grown accustomed to in California.
Mom had always been intrigued by real estate and thought it would be a good investment, so, together with my help and encouragement, she invested her and Dad’s retirement savings in rental properties in Spokane Valley and that has been our livelihood ever since. While I did the maintenance, repair, and remodeling work, Mom continued to scrub, clean, and paint until she was over 85. Mom never lost her excitement over, or appreciation for, the property and prosperity that God has blessed us with.
One of Mom’s fondest memories that she shared with me was that of watching her father reading his Bible when she was a young child. She asked what he was doing and what the book was. My grandfather explained to her about God and salvation, summing up the matter with the statement, “you have to love Jesus so much that you would die for him.” After pausing to consider the seriousness of the matter, my mother prayed and made Jesus her Lord and Savior. Throughout her life, my mother remained as devoted to Jesus as what her father had described to her.
My grandmother was lead to Christ by Evangelical Free Church missionaries who knocked on the door one day. From that time on, Mom had memories of a home filled with music as my grandmother would go around the house singing hymns and rejoicing in her new-found salvation.
Mom followed in her father’s footsteps by going through Lutheran confirmation and as a teenager even played the organ in the local Lutheran church.
Despite Mom’s personal dislike for California, it was there that her spiritual life realized its greatest heights.
In the 1950s, Mom and Dad served as youth leaders in the Baptist church. In the 1960s, I was being raised in the Lutheran Sunday school.
Then, sometime in the early 1970s, through her sister, Mom was introduced to the baptism in the Holy Spirit and praying in other tongues. Once she received her “prayer language,” Mom was on fire for God. Soon after, Mom became friends with a lady who shared her reel-to-reel tape recordings of faith and healing messages with Mom. After that, there was no stopping Mom – she was a spiritual dynamo.
I spent my teenage years being dragged to every Full Gospel Businessmen meeting and faith and healing type event around the town and around the state. Yes, I agreed with the teachings and the faith message, and I even received the baptism in the Holy Spirit like Mom, though reluctantly, after all, I was a teenager, I would have rather been out hunting.
In the late 1970s, during the Charismatic renewal, Mom was leading the adult Sunday school class at the Lutheran church. During that time, the Lord gave Mom several simple little courses that she played on her guitar as she led the Sunday school worship. Mom even found some other Spirit-filled ladies and together they started holding Holy Ghost prayer meetings in the Lutheran church supply closet.
From the 1970s until just a few years ago, when Mom started to slow down and quit driving, she was almost constantly involved in some women’s prayer group, leading a home Bible study, serving in the local chapter of the Women’s Aglow Fellowship, or hosting after meeting fellowship and refreshments in our home for Full Gospel Businessmen speakers who were in town. Whenever anyone was in trouble, Mom was always ready to grab her Bible and head out to pray with them.
Faith for Healing
My mother was especially strong in faith for healing. She could tell many stories about the results of her group of ladies praying for people. Though I wasn’t as interested in such things at that time, I can attest to the effectiveness of Mom’s prayers and faith. Many a time she would lay hands on me and pray over me when I was sick.
When I had an attack of appendicitis, sometime in my early 40s, I was in too much pain and uncontrollable shivering to do anything for myself. Mom knelt down beside the couch that I was laying on, laid hands on me, and prayed in the spirit all night long. During the night, the symptoms subsided and by morning I was perfectly well and have never had a relapse.
There are genuine healing ministries out there and faith-filled preachers who will pray for you, but if you were ever sick, I would have recommended Mom as your first call to make.
Mom was so strong in faith for healing, and in her confession for the same, that she built up a strong-hold of healing in her life to the degree that in my entire adult life, to the day Mom died, she never had more than the very rare common cold, never went to a doctor, was on no medication of any kind, and I can’t even remember seeing her take an aspirin. The people that I turned to for help in caring for Mom in her last few weeks were almost dumbfounded at the idea of a person of her age not being under a doctor’s care and not taking any medication.
Nevertheless, by Mom’s last night on earth, she had grown too weak to communicate and had become agitated. So, being prompted in my spirit with the memory of what Mom had so often done for me, I pulled the recliner chair up next to her bed, held her hand, and prayed in the spirit until calm came upon her and we both drifted off to sleep. We had now come full circle and this would be Mom’s last conscious memory on earth.
Why My Mother Was Special
Everyone who knew Mom will agree how special she was. But then, we’re all special – we’re all unique individuals who are special in God’s sight. So, what was so special about Mom?
The Apostle Paul said, “For I know that in me (that is, in my flesh,) dwelleth no good thing” (Romans 7:18). My mother was special, but not so special as to be an exception to this rule.
If you saw something good in my mother, something pleasant, desirable, or favorable; if you saw love in my mother, or received love from her; if you saw anything in my mother worthy of praise, then you were seeing and receiving from the goodness of God that was in her and which was flowing out through her unique individual personality in direct proportion to her life of devotion to Him and of yieldeding to His indwelling Holy Spirit.
Yes, my mother was special, but no more so than what any of us can be if we will yield to, have faith in, and wholeheartedly pursue after the same Lord and Savior whose Spirit, power, and goodness made my mother special in such a wonderful way. It’s available to “whosoever shall call upon the name of the Lord.” (Romans 10:13)
Precious Is the Death of His Saints
A few days after the “precious is the death of His saints” phrase started ringing in my ears, without my having mentioned it to anyone, a minister friend included the scripture reference in an email to me. Until then, I wasn’t a hundred percent sure whether it was actually in the Bible or just one of those things that Christians repeat until we convince ourselves it’s scripture. The full text of that verse is:
Precious in the sight of the LORD Is the death of His saints. (Psalm 116:15)
In our modern culture, we tend to use the word “precious” as a sort of mindless, emotional catch-phrase, like “oh look, the baby smeared banana pudding all over his face, isn’t that precious.” That’s why I could never relate to people comforting each other about death by repeating the slogan “precious is the death of His saints.” What, is God sitting there watching people die and thinking to Himself “ah, isn’t that cute.”
However, when I looked up Psalm 116:15, then read Albert Barnes’ commentary on it, I discovered the word “precious” is translated from a Hebrew word used to express value, for example, “costly, as precious stones,” and “beloved, as relatives and friends.” God was now beginning to answer my earlier inquiry as to His perspective on physical death.
As my minister friend helped point out to me, heaven and earth look at things from different vantage points. When it comes to physical death and a believer going home to heaven, both heaven and earth see the same transaction taking place between them, but from opposite ends of the equation.
Earth sees a soul leaving, but heaven sees a soul arriving. Earth sees loss, but heaven sees gain. Earth sees a treasured soul taken from us, but heaven sees a precious gem added to its treasury of souls. Earth sees a body overcome by death, but heaven sees a soul set free from the body of death (Romans 7:24).
When a loved one departs their body of flesh and leaves this physical realm, we experience a sense of loss, much like when a beloved family member leaves a family gathering to go back to their home far away. We experience a sweet sadness, knowing how much we love them and how long it will be until we see them again.
However, on the other end of the equation, heaven is rejoicing over its great gain. From the perspective of God and the folks in heaven, it’s like when we’re getting ready for Thanksgiving dinner and hear the joyous news that our favorite uncle, or beloved cousin, is coming from far away. We await their arrival with great anticipation as they make the long and arduous journey over mountains, across rivers, and through storms. Oh the joy and great gain when we finally see their face and our family is reunited once again. That’s how it looks from heaven’s vantage point.
Notice that Psalm 116:15 says that the death of the Lord’s saints is precious in “His” sight, not necessarily ours. Our loved one’s departure is not prized and treasured by us as we have suffered loss.
However, the Lord is looking at a beloved soul who has tread through a treacherous world full of hazards, sorrows, and snares and who has now finished their journey and arrived home safely, having escaped this world and the sin that is in it. They have been released from the death-doomed mortal body which, for the believer, is the last vestige of sin’s work that we will ever know. His precious, prized, and treasured child has arrived in His presence where they will now know only fullness of joy and pleasures for evermore (Psalm 16:11).
Yes, in the sight of the Lord, the death of his saints is as treasured as the receipt of a rare gem, and as prized as the long-awaited arrival of a beloved family member. Precious indeed is the death of His saints. Prized and treasured in heaven is the homecoming of my mother.