I have confronted death from many perspectives. As a five year old, I experienced the loss of my mother to rheumatic fever. The little I remember of this early life event remains veiled behind tears and grief. My loving father and family helped me through this tragedy. It was an experience that formed my character and planted the reality in my heart and mind that death was a final event.
In school, I learned about God, who loved the world so much that He sent His son to die on a cross to give us all victory over death. I learned of a place called Heaven. I knew this was my only hope of ever seeing my mother again and I embraced it. I had little understanding of the mechanics of God’s solution and the reasons for death in the first place, but I felt it was worth the effort to try to understand.
My Uncle Roland passed away when I was around ten years old. I remember my dad’s brother as a gentle and loving, humorous, balding man who smoked cigars. I loved him as much as any in my family and found myself grieving once more. My family’s basic response to the many questions I had concerning his death was that “Uncle Roland is in heaven with your Mother”.
Later in my teens I watched Dad grow sick from heart failure. He was taken out of our house in a stretcher one day and on his way out he looked over and gave me a wink. I was devastated, this was my Father, the man I had always wanted to be like. He never failed to provide love and comfort and laughter for all of us. I knew it was the last time I would ever see him alive. He died that day, in the hospital.
Shortly after I was married I received news that my younger brother had been diagnosed with Lymphoma. For the year after we prayed that somehow he would be cured. He was 27 when he died. More than ever I was angry at death. Even knowing that somehow my faith in God was real and that there would be a reunion in heaven, I was angry. Life for me had become a waiting line for the inevitable burial in the ground.
My wife’s mother, our children’s Nana, became ill a few years later and died in the hospital. My wife and I comforted each other and realized that we would have to explain to our five growing children the reality of death.
We were so proud of our children, studying and preparing for college, following the footsteps of our oldest son. The Friday morning after Christmas, my wife received a call from the hospital. Ray, our 23 year old son had been in an accident during the early morning commute into town. An ambulance on route to a house call drove through a red light at 35 mph and hit the driver’s side of his car. At the hospital we both looked at our lifeless first born and fell speechless into the arms of God.
Today our hope, our faith, our life is in Christ Jesus, because there is no other way that death is defeated. Our victory is to see the enemy of all mankind destroyed and the life reunion in Heaven.
This inscription is on Ray’s memorial stone. Jesus said to her, “I am the resurrection and the life; he who believes in Me will live even if he dies, and everyone who lives and believes in Me will never die. Do you believe this?” John 11:25