She was a vibrant 58 years old, attended a party at our subdivision Clubhouse on January 20, 2018, helped set up the hors d’oeuvres and made sure everyone there had whatever beverage or goodie they wanted to eat as the crowd settled into conversations and watched the UK/Florida game on the TV. She was a beloved wife and mother of two successful adult children, active as a swimmer and attended the Racket Club in Lexington, the picture of a healthy maturing adult woman. Yet, on Monday, January 29, when her husband could not reach her by phone, he called a dear friend and neighbor and asked her to go tell his wife to turn on her phone. But her lifeless body was found in the living room, having died suddenly. No suggestion of any villainy or criminal act; no complaints about illness or pain. Just suddenly gone from this earth, the autopsy revealing the cause of death. Gone. Though I did not know the woman very well, she was the best friend to someone who is dear to me, and it hit her very hard, to be the one to discover the body of a friend who was closer than many sisters.
Another dear friend was just told two weeks ago about his recurrent cancer. He is taking chemo and probably radiation to reduce the tumors, but there is no talk about a “cure” or removing tumors that are in his liver. He and his wife are taking one day at a time but expect there may come a time when they will have to weigh how severe the side effects will have to be before they say, “Enough; we know where he is going after this is over.” Many of you reading this will recognize your beloved friend and helper, one who is always ready to serve young people and his church.
My favorite professor in college walked across campus, telling his secretary that he felt a little indigestion. Ten minutes later a security guard saw him collapse and tried to administer CPR until paramedics arrived, to no avail. Dr. Donald F. Johns was gone at 52 years old.
A dear 24-year-old Afghan friend walked out of a café in his hometown and the coffee shop he just left exploded in fire behind him, temporarily deafening him as the force slammed him into the pavement. He was fortunate; had he stayed for another cup of joe he would have been at the center of the blast.
In 2015, the most recent year for the statistics, 2,333 teenagers, 16 to 19 years old, died in auto accidents in the U.S. The more general stat about total traffic deaths reports 40,000+ deaths on our highways in 2016.
I have blogged before about death (December 6, 2015, April 10, 2016, and May 15, 2016 (among others). And sometimes it comes so close to you, you can almost feel the Specter with his dark hood and scythe breathing cold air against your neck.
Something about life on earth beguiles us into thinking it will not end. No one leaves his/her home in the morning thinking the spouse will be gone by the time he/she returns. No one drives up Nicholasville Road expecting some fool to plow through his red light and terminate your time here before you even leave your car. Very few make careful plans about what will happen if the jet they are boarding today does not make its destination. Rarely does one go to the doctor expecting a terminal prognosis.
The story was told about a young man in his 20s whose little sister of 19 was in hospice, dying with no expectation of further treatment. She was a Christ-follower whom Jesus had chosen not to heal, and it was only a matter of days before disease would take her. Yet her jubilance and delight in talking with staff and friends who would visit would have made you think she was going to leave for home the next day. When the visiting brother was silent for such a long time, she finally asked him, “What’s the matter?” With pain in his eyes and voice, he said, “I don’t understand what it must be like to realize you are going to die.” With a look of love on her face, she replied, “I don’t understand what it must be like to pretend you will not.” So she was going Home in a few days, just not to bricks and drywall.
Some people become very uncomfortable even mentioning the possibility of death, as though one might cause a jinx that would end one’s life. But Scripture is very clear: “Your eyes saw my unformed substance; in your book were written, every one of them, the days that were formed for me, when as yet there was none of them.” (Psalm 139:16) Talking about when you will die will not change God’s design on your life. Rather, we should be clear and open: it is not whether or not we will die, but if we will be ready when that time comes.
“O Lord, make me know my end
and what is the measure of my days;
let me know how fleeting I am!
Behold, you have made my days a few handbreadths,
and my lifetime is as nothing before you.
Surely all mankind stands as a mere breath!” Psalm 39:4-5
You can know with certainty what will happen when you die. Not the means of death, nor its timing, but what will happen after the moment that this heart of flesh stops beating. There is nothing more important in life than knowing THIS! To discover what your destiny is read the Gospel of John and his letters along with some of the other titles inside the mini-library that is the Bible (April 6, 2015 and January 10, 2016). Spend time in prayer to The God Who Is There and who has revealed Himself most clearly in Jesus Christ.
My mother used to say, “Heaven is just a breath away. You breath out one breath here and the next moment you breath in the Fresh Air.” I look forward to seeing her again when we share that Fresh Air before the throne of our Lord, Jesus.