I read this passage out loud after telling my kids that their only living great grandparent (my Mam Mam) went home to be with Jesus today. My 4 year old, Mary Grace, said of the verse, "Momma, dat means dat if we die, we will be wiff God, and if we don't die, den we will still be wiff God." True comfort, indeed.
Thinking about the loss of my last living grandparent has naturally caused a flood of memories in my head. Most of those memories having me sitting at her kitchen table as she busied herself with fixing coffee, frying potatoes (in leftover bacon grease), watering the violets on the window sill, welcoming and caring for the loads of company that came through that kitchen, loving my Pap, always working, never complaining, and yet always giving of her time and attention. When I want to go to 'a safe place' in my mind, I picture myself right there in that kitchen.
Thinking about memories calls to mind one of my favorite passages from The Fellowship of the Ring. The Fellowship has just left Lothlorien and Gimli the dwarf is openly grieving, having to leave behind the peace and beauty of such a place. Legolas tries in vain to comfort Gimli with the words, "...the least reward that you shall have is that the memory of Lothlorien shall remain ever clear and unstained in your heart, and shall neither fade nor grow stale." Gimli replies, "Maybe...and I thank you for your words. True words doubtless; yet all such comfort is cold. Memory is not what the heart desires."
As much as I treasure the memories I have in my grandmother's kitchen, I find even now that those memories come with an ache rather than a comfort. Memory is not what the heart desires. Our hearts desire reality. And so I find true comfort in the verse above and in my 4 year old's interpretation of it. I also find great comfort in the words of Jesus in Revelation 21, "Behold, I am making all things new," ...even memories that ache.