One thing have I desired of the LORD, that I will seek after; that I may dwell in the house of the LORD all the days of my life, to behold the beauty of the LORD and to inquire in His temple.
January 11, 2011 my step father went to be with the Lord. He had been ill for a while. In August he fell and broke his hip. His health rapidly declined after that. He went back and forth from the hospital to the rehab facility, only coming home for a few hours at Christmas. Thursday, the doctors finally sent him home and around 10:40 Saturday night, he took his last breath. His life story, written by the very hand of the Creator, is so fascinating to me that I wanted to share it with everyone.
Jeffery David Freeman was born August 9, 1945 in Brooklyn, New York to Leo and Lillian Freemen. Leo and Lillian met flying airplanes during WWII. From what I understand, Leo was a fighter pilot and I believe Lillian was a WASP. (The hopeless romantic in me LOVES that part!)They settled in Brooklyn where Leo opened a creative art studio and Lillian was happy to start raising a family. In May of 1947, Lillian received word that her mother suffered a severe stroke. The couple made arrangements to fly to Cleveland as quickly as possible; leaving Jeff, not quite two years old, in the care of a nursemaid. As the airplane raced down the runway at New York’s La Guardia Airport, a change in wind prevented the four engine plane from leaving the ground. According to one newspaper article, the DC-4 skidded 1000 feet before it lost control and eventually crashed. 35 people perished including Leo and Lillian Freeman.
Imagine losing both parents before real memories could even be branded on your heart.
Jeff was placed with an aunt and uncle who cared more about their wealth than they did about raising this precious little lost soul; a soul that would remain lost for many years. Jeff shared stories of his childhood that continue to break my heart. Stories of fending for himself, feeling alone, being alone. Stories of flying his uncle’s airplane while his uncle entertained in the back of the plane. Jeff was only twelve years old. Not only does my heart break for that little boy but as a mother, my heart breaks for Lillian. I couldn’t imagine my child having to live such a life.
As he grew older, he graduated from an elite military school and went on receive several degrees including a law degree from Emory University. He married and became a step father to a son. Not ever knowing a father’s love himself, Jeff didn’t take an active role in this young man’s life. Unfortunately, neither did the boys mother. So, the boy grew to be a man in school far away while Jeff and his wife lived an adventurous life riding motorcycles across the country, taking trips around the world, and doing what he loved most which was flying airplanes. He loved his toys! Cars, motorcycles, airplanes, and I think he even purchased a boat although I hear he wasn’t a very good sailor.
Jeff met my mother in 2006, three years after his wife passed away. She knew that Jeff wasn’t a “believer” but that didn’t stop this patron saint of lost causes! She loved him enough to NOT give up on him. He showered her with lavish gifts (which she gladly accepted) but he couldn’t understand that a stolen kiss was worth more to her than a thousand diamonds. Jeff grew up believing that money and the stuff money buys determines your happiness as well as your worth. My mother was raised (and my family believes) that happiness is equated to how much you love and that our worth was sealed by an empty tomb. This was just too much for his analytical and unbelieving mind to comprehend.
In January of 2009, Jeff had a cancerous kidney removed. With a history of diabetes, his remaining kidney was almost non-functioning and so dialysis began and slowly his health declined. Jeff was part of our family now and I my heart ached thinking of him leaving this earth a lost soul. I was ready and willing to give him my own kidney. I prayed, “God, please let me be a match! Don’t let him die without knowing you!”
That April, God answered my prayers and He did it without using my kidney. Jeff’s blood sugar dropped deathly low and he was rushed to the hospital. My mother said she kept telling him to hang on. “Just hang on Jeff! Hang on!” Not too many people know this but Jeff actually died that day. He came back with a truth that left us all speechless. He described holding on to a stone wall inside of a well. He was adamant that this was NO dream. He told me, “it was as real as you standing before me now”. At the bottom of the well was a person he knew (a person who did not know Christ), calling his name to join her. He said he held on to that wall as tight as he could. He didn’t know why but something was telling him to “hold on” and he knew that whatever was at the bottom of that deep, dark well was evil. He said he knew beyond any doubt that that there is a God in heaven and he asked Christ to become Lord of his life.
From that day until last Saturday the Lord worked in Jeff’s life. He revealed things to Jeff that he couldn’t see before. Jeff even asked his step son to forgive him. In Christ, there truly is grace, forgiveness, mercy and healing.
His final moments on this earth were so peaceful. Everyone had gone home and the room was quiet. The room glowed with the light from the fireplace. I was on one side of Jeff and Mom was on the other. I played music to help him relax. All of the sudden he tried to speak. Although I couldn’t understand his words, it was obvious that he knew what he was saying and in graceful elegance, my mother became an angel as she answered every one of his questions. She eased his mind of all worries and concerns then, with tears streaming down her face, she told him that if he sees the light to go to it because this time it was okay. Jesus would be waiting for him. She told him to run into the arms of Jesus. With those words he stopped talked and his body relaxed. I watched as his face saw a world I have only read about. As the music played, “So take me to a place where I can see You face to face. All I want to do is worship you, Lord”, he smiled bigger and brighter than my simple words can describe and we watched as his soul left with his final breath. In my 36 years of life, I have never felt as close to touching Heaven as I did in that precious moment. What a priceless gift I was given!
I will never look at death the same way again. I know that when I lose someone who knows Christ, I won’t be able to grieve as I once did. A new understanding of joy has been revealed to me. However, with that joy came a new level of sorrow. My heart grieves so much deeper for those who refuse to believe and accept salvation.
Jeff’s story is a beautiful picture of forgiveness and redemption. A man who started his life without a father began his eternal life in the arms of his Heavenly Father. An orphaned son who was never taught to be father, sought forgiveness from his own broken son. The impossible not only becomes possible, it becomes Love’s true miracle in the scars of Jesus.
The Lord never said this life would be easy but He does promise that with Him you will NOT go through it alone. And He will be waiting with open arms when it’s your time to go home just as He was waiting when Jeff ran into His arms.
This mortal life is so short. Why waste one second?! Steal as many kisses as you can! Laugh till your cheeks hurt! Be a father to the fatherless! Be a mother to a broken soul! Love with all you have! Reconcile so that you may have peace! Forgive so that you may heal! Accept GRACE and FORGIVENESS so that you can begin to prepare for a life that is eternal!
The song that was playing as Jeff entered Heaven:
This is an article about the airplane crash: