A Time To Die
Everybody has these weeks sometime in their lives. As a minister in a congregation with over 1300 members, it happens more often than anyone would like: a week where there are several deaths. It is as if God has hit the reset button, takes some people from us, and makes those of us who remain start thinking of deeper things.
We lost two of the Greatest Generation. Ed Sadurski was wounded in WW2 and came home to live a life of quiet Christian service. He is now with the Lord. Bob Utley left high school when he was 17 to join the Marines. Within months he was fighting in the South Pacific. He was there when the flag was raised over Iwo Jima. He came home, married his sweetheart, and lived a large life -- creating a sucessful business and helping to found the Rochester congregation where I serve today. He and some other brave souls saw the need and pitched in with all they had and we are living off their generosity and heroism today. Bob is now with Jesus.
Ian and Carly Henson are two wonderful young people. They work tirelessly with our youth even though they aren't long out of that group themselves! They were told by their doctor that their child, their first baby, would be born with Down's Syndrome. They said they would have the baby and love it anyway. They armored up fully and waited for the day. It came two days ago, but it wasn't what they expected. Their sweet baby died on the day it was to be born. Instead of a celebration we will have a memorial service tomorrow for the baby we never got to know. For some reason, God decided to raise this baby Himself.
We have several others on the edge, balancing there between this life and the next. My own parents are not well this week and are constantly in my prayers.
Am I down about all this? Morose? Not really. We are all on a journey and we know how it ends on the physical plane. It's an easy statistic to remember: one out of one dies. While we mourn the loss of all those who we have buried and remembered in the last two weeks, our mourning is because we have lost someone precious to us. We do NOT mourn because something tragic has happened. Tragic to us, yes, but not tragic to those who died in the Lord. If they could bring us any message, it would be one of joy and hope and anticipation.
I remember many years ago another funeral under a tent that flapped and cracked in the harsh February wind. Snow flitted in under the tent and slapped at us and the tiny casket in front of me; white with little pretty flowers in gold. This little girl, like the Hensons' child, died during birth. I didn't know what I could say to help the young couple, both in their early twenties, as we stood ready to bury their first child. The young man, barely a high school graduate, not known for saying much, stepped forward and spoke about his baby girl in a way I have never forgotten. He said that this was a gift to his daughter. She would never be hungry, or fear war, or be harmed by an evil man. She would never face temptation or be led astray by friends. She would never lay awake at night and worry about paying bills or what might happen to her at work or how to deal with a cranky neighbor. God loved her so much, her earthly father said, that He took her home to live with Him and make sure she never, ever suffered.
Remember Enoch? He pleased God so much God took him and he walked with God. Being taken was not a punishment, but a blessing.
The temporary nature of our lives is a gift. That which is limited is valuable. I treasure the calls from my daughter, the hugs from my son, and the smiles I get from my wife because there will be a last time. So.... kiss your wife goodbye today and every day as if it were your last day, your last kiss. Rejoice in today as if this were the last day you were ever going to see. Soak in the experiences of life and thank God that He has given you all this... and that He won't leave you here forever. Life and death are tough issues, but when we examine them we see that God designed it all perfectly. Again.