My mom called Friday. Mom’s old school. No email. No Facebook. No texts. She doesn’t have a computer, but she does have a cell phone. But even when she calls I think in her mind it’s still “long distance”, so the conversations are brief and to the point. And for some reason, at this stage of her life, when I look at my ringing phone and see “Mom”, I wonder what bad news might be coming.
The night before my dad’s oldest lifelong friend was taken to the hospital by his wife. He complained that his head felt like it was about to explode. I’ve known this man, I guess since infancy. He and dad were boyhood friends. They played together, joined the Marines together and it seemed like they competed to see which one could produce the most offspring. Dad lost. He only had five.
Eventually they both wound up in Viet Nam, and then came home to finish out their military careers and move on to other ventures. For many years they somehow lost touch. But in mid-life they “found” each other again, and what they found made their friendship even better and deeper, for they discovered they were no longer simply best friends, they were brothers.
Let me explain. They were not physically related. But in their post-Viet Nam years they had both, unbeknown to one another, committed their lives to Jesus Christ. And as it often happens, their families followed dad’s example and became Christians as well. Then, when again they connected and began to talk about their lives they were overjoyed to hear of their own separate but similar faith journeys.
Now Dad’s best buddy is dying. The doctors give him no hope. And after all, he’s pushing 80 years old. There’s not much his body can do to rebound from a massive brain hemorrhage.
I’ve tried to get some updates by checking his Facebook page. (Yes, he does Facebook and has tried without success to get my dad into the 21st Century.) Here are some of the most recent comments posted to his page that I’ve found.
“So you are going to sneak out of here and let the rest of us here to deal with all the junk that's going on...”. (He was very vocal about social and political issues.)
“Love you granddad going to miss you, but I know I will see you again. We are praying for everyone.”
“We are going to miss you.”
One grandson posted a poem he wrote, titled “Poppa’s Love”.
What I didn’t find was silence, as if they were afraid to address the inevitable truth: our dad/grandfather is dying. I didn't see fear of the unknown. In fact I read comments that made his death sound more like a transfer to a new duty post than an end. I read peace.
But that’s how Christians respond to death. We don’t “grieve like the rest, who have no hope” as though all is lost and gone. That’s because when a man or woman puts their faith and hope in Christ, it is faith and hope for eternal life. Death is only a change of location, and while we do grieve, it is not a hopeless feeling. Because of Jesus’ resurrection our hope is that the grave will not hold us either.
The old Gospel song we sang said, "Blessed assurance! Jesus is mine. O, what a foretaste of glory divine. Heir of salvation. Purchased of God. Born of His Spirit, washed in His blood. This is my story, this is my song."
When the end comes there can be peace if that is your song. Life without Jesus means death without Him, too. Choose Jesus. Choose peace.
[UPDATE:His oldest son posted this on Facebook this morning, 8/21/14]
"No words will ever express the debt I owe you. There is no way to fill the void. You are my hero, and I want to be just like you when I grow up; I always have. Enjoy His presence; see you soon. Love you."