My Aunt, Barbara Eva Price, was born on March 30th, 1929, in Moonee Ponds, Victoria. Her parents, Reginald and Ruby Price, were both Salvation Army officers. Barbara (pictured with the author Bruce Reekie) and her sister Olive (my mother), were raised in a God-fearing environment, and from an early age learned the importance of prayer, Bible reading, and church attendance.
While the girls were still young, Reginald made a decision that was to shape the destiny of his family for generations to come. He heard about a Pentecostal church that was meeting at the old picture theatre at 343 Bridge Road, Richmond. The church was called ‘Richmond Temple’, and the pastor’s name was C. L. Greenwood. After a few tentative visits, Reginald was convinced that this church, and the movement that it represented, held the key to his heart’s desire for more of the power and presence of the Holy Spirit in his life. And so, Reginald moved his family to Richmond Temple, where in time, the girls would come to faith in Christ, be baptized in water and in the Holy Spirit, and make life-long friends in the service of the Lord.
I remember visiting my Grandfather as a young boy and listening to him recount the many miracles that he observed in the early days of the Pentecostal movement. It must have been a wonderful environment of faith in which to raise two teenage girls! I think that Aunty Barbara always looked back on that period as the golden era of her Christian life, and I can understand why. God was moving powerfully by His Spirit in a way that we rarely see today, our technological expertise and marketing prowess notwithstanding.
In 1962 the Price family moved from Essendon to Doncaster. Ruby went home to be with the Lord in December, 1975, and Reginald in October, 1986. About 16 years ago, my late Grandfather spoke to me in a dream and said, “Will you look after Barbara?” I remember it as clearly as if it was yesterday. Without a moment’s hesitation, I lifted my hand and said to my Grandfather, “Yes, I will.” I realized that I was making a solemn commitment, a covenantal promise if you will, akin to a marriage vow.
We used to include the words “For better or worse, for richer or poorer, in sickness and in health, till death do us part” in our marriage vows, but that seems to have gone by the board now, even in Christian weddings. Perhaps it’s because people don’t like to contemplate the possibility that life may not work out according to their plans and expectations. The point is, however, that we are making a commitment to stick with that person, that life partner, in good times and bad, no matter what the future holds. And such was the nature of my commitment to my Grandfather.
One of Aunty Barbara’s closest friends told me on the day of her funeral that my Grandfather had worried about what would happen to Barbara when he was no longer on the scene. And in typical style he prayed and prayed until one day he felt the Lord say, “You don’t need to pray anymore; I will take care of her.” And from that moment on he rested in faith, knowing that God would provide for Barbara’s needs. This same friend also told me that one day, about 16 years earlier, she had agreed in prayer with my Aunty and asked the Lord to give her a family to live with in the closing stages of her life.
This must have been around the same time that my Grandfather spoke to me in the dream. However, I knew nothing of either of these occurrences until the day of Aunty Barbara’s funeral — December 7th, 2018.
And so my wife, Heather, and I invited Aunty Barbara to come and live with us in Mornington. At the time I didn’t know that she would be with us for almost 15 years, and that in the last few years of her life she would become increasingly dependent, to the point of needing assistance with the most basic of natural functions. However, a promise is a promise, and no matter how difficult the task, I just couldn’t contemplate the prospect of putting her in an aged care facility.
Although they were sisters, Barbara and Olive had contrasting personalities. Olive, my mother, was gregarious and adventurous; she was an initiator and a risk-taker; a natural leader. Barbara, on the other hand, was quiet and cautious; the quintessential follower. Olive talked much about going to Heaven; Barbara didn’t talk much about going anywhere! And when Olive went home to be with the Lord 3 ½ years ago, Barbara seemed to lose both her rudder and her outboard motor. A friend said to me once, “Maybe your mother is going to have to come and get her!”
But during the last few months, things started to happen in the spiritual realm over Barbara’s life. One morning, she called Heather and I into her room and said to us, “The Lord called me last night, and said that He is going to take me home. I don’t exactly when, but I know it will be soon. In the meantime, He told me to keep on doing what I am doing.” On another occasion she said to us, “There were 2 people in my room last night; they wanted me to go with them, but I said ‘No’.”
The week before Aunty Barbara went home to be with the Lord, my son and I were standing in the lounge room adjacent to her bedroom. It was about 10pm and she had retired for the night about 2 hours earlier. All of a sudden, in a clear, strong and unusually loud voice she exclaimed: “It’s so good to see you!” And with that she broke out in song, “Hallelujah, Hallelujah.” I looked at my son and he looked at me. I have to tell you, the hair was standing up on the back of my neck. I didn’t know what was going on in there, but I could feel the presence of something holy, something heavenly, something supernatural. It sounded like she was having a visitation from heaven, and was being caught up into the worship of the throne-room. The night before she passed, Aunty Barbara said to us, “Maybe the Lord will take me in my sleep. I know of 2 other people that died that way.”
Looking back, I realize that in the last few weeks of Aunty Barbara’s life our house was like Bethel, the house of God and the gate of heaven. A portal had been opened in heaven. A ladder had been set up between heaven and earth. There were comings and goings in the spiritual realm as the Lord prepared to gather Barbara to Himself. At times one could feel a presence, as though there were unseen visitors from another realm. All the while, Barbara was just sitting peacefully in her chair, sitting in God’s waiting room, waiting for Him to call her name.
And on Saturday, November 24th, at approximately 11pm, the Lord came down to deliver Barbara from this mortal realm, and to bring her up to a good land, a heavenly land flowing with milk and honey, to the place that He had prepared for her in His Father’s house. Heather was walking through the lounge room at about 11pm when, out of the corner of her eye, she noticed out a flash of coloured light shoot across Aunty Barbara’s door. She thought to herself, “What is that? Maybe I’m imagining things.”
I suggest that what Heather saw was the sweet chariot of heaven, swinging low, coming forth to carry Barbara home. And upon her arrival at the heavenly city, she would have no doubt been greeted with these words, “Well done, good and faithful servant. Enter into the joy of your Lord.”
Truly, as the Scripture says, “Our eyes have not seen, our ears have not heard, our minds have not imagined the things that God has prepared for those who love Him” (1 Cor 2.9). Barbara, whose eyes were dim toward the end of her life on earth, can now see clearly — not just the glories of heaven, but better still, the face of her blessed Redeemer.
A connection between heaven and earth
If the events of the last few weeks have taught me anything, it is the fact that there is a connection between heaven and earth. The patriarch Jacob described it as a ‘ladder’ (Gen 28.10-19); the prophet John described it as a ‘door’ (Rev 4.1). Whatever the terminology we choose to use, it is clear that a connection exists between the visible and the invisible, and that Christ is Lord over all (Col 1.16; Matt 28.18). Moreover, there are seasons when heaven bends low, as it were, and kisses the earth; when eternity overlaps with time; when the things that are normally hidden from our senses are suddenly revealed.
It is in moments like these that we exclaim, “The Lord is in this place and I didn’t even realize it!” (Gen 28.16). Or, “Didn’t our hearts burn within us when He talked with us and opened the Scriptures to us!” (Luke 24.32). What a surprise it is to discover that we are not alone after all! Indeed, heaven is a lot closer than we think.
As New Covenant people, we are called to walk in the Spirit, or as the Amplified Bible puts it, “walk and live habitually in the Holy Spirit — responsive to and controlled and guided by the Spirit” (Gal 5.16). Whatever place we find ourselves in at any given moment can potentially become the ‘house of God’ and the ‘gate of heaven’. As Jesus showed the Samaritan woman, worshiping the Father — accessing the heavenly realm — is not limited to time and space (John 4.21,23). God is not a remote object or an occasional experience, for we live, move, and have our very existence in His presence (Acts 17.28).
Through the home-call of my beloved Aunty, I have heard the call of the Lord to “Come up here” — in other words, to rise to a new level of spiritual awareness and a new level of spiritual expectation; to be like Enoch and to walk with God in time, and to keep on walking with Him right into eternity!