Death

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April 22

Monday, April 22nd, 2024

“Thanks for the memories.”

A lot can be said when you see the eyes close or the last breath taken as I did when my mother passed. Or a friend. While I did not actually see this happen, I was there within 5 minutes of it. Last Thursday, my friend of 30+ years-my cycling buddy, my laughing buddy, my friend-finally lost his 14 year battle with cancer. But those 14 years were full!

Jim was diagnosed with cancer and was put through the ringer. Surgery. Chemicals. Chemo (which is chemicals). Holistic approach. More chemo. But those 14 years-as were the year before-were filled with skiing, boating, scuba diving, cycling, hunting, fishing-the list seems endless. He once took a whole winter and worked two jobs. One as a paper salesman which he could do remotely, and the other as a hot tub “fixer” in Utah. That allowed him to ski almost daily. 🙂 Jim truly lived life to the max. It was 2-3 short months ago the cancer specialist told him there was nothing more they could do because while on chemo he still developed spots on his liver. It was literally all through him. Even then he lived bravely.  I was able to drive the 150 miles to visit him every other week for 8 weeks. Last Thursday, which I figured would probably be my last visit, Jo and I were 5 minutes away from his home when Tina, his wife, called to say Jim had just passed away. 5 minutes! But now my reason to visit changed. It changed from reminiscing and encouraging my friend to consoling a hurting wife.

Jim would have wanted it that way. His cremains will be spread outdoors because, again, it was a picture of his life. The late Tim Hansel wrote a book called You Gotta Keep Dancin’ (@1985). Tim also live life to the fullest even after a mountain climbing accident led to a lifetime of excruciating pain. He closed out his book with this little ditty:

There is no box made by God nor us but that sides can be flattened out and the top blown off to make a dance floor on which to celebrate life.  (Kenneth Caraway)

Jim danced. Jim is dancing. He knew Jesus. “Thanks for the memories my friend.”

And now to you. What kind of memories will you leave behind?

October 16

Monday, October 16th, 2023

“While there is breath, there is hope.”

I read that this morning. How appropriate. This past weekend we (Jo, Tami and I) traveled to Ohio to see our daughter/sister, Janna, and our grandson/nephew, Braden. While there we received a call (Thursday) from the dialysis center that Jo’s sister, who is in a nursing home with diabetes, dementia, and other maladies, had suffered what they thought was angonal breathing (Google it). They took her to the ER and admitted her. From that point we were 2+ hours away. From our home in Indiana we are 6-7+ hours away. Long story short, they believe she actually had some type of seizure and then admitted her that night to the ICU with another one. We received word yesterday afternoon (Sunday) they were releasing her to the nursing home.

“While there is still breath, there is hope.”

Vicki has lived a long life (74 years). Not so a 5 year old boy named John (named changed). John has had a glioblastoma since sometime in 2022. (Sorry the exact date escapes me). Long past the expected lifespan, John continues to fight as do his parents and doctors. As do I. Only my fight is the prayer version. I will pray until John breathes his last breath…or me. It would thrill me if my last breath was before his.

What a testimony it would be if John was healed. Only God knows, of course. Only God decides when each of us will die. He does not heal everyone, least not physically here on earth. But He has promised a great retirement plan for those who love Him, and especially children. Psalm 139:16 says, “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.” (ESV). Our days are known only to Him.

“While there is breath, there is hope.”

Thank you to Lori Hatcher. That statement was from her book Refresh Your Hope published by Our Daily Bread.

September 25

Monday, September 25th, 2023

Bryan Johnson is sad.

Not sad as in “Boo-hoo” sad. Not the “cry-me-a-river” type of sad.

But sad as in the “clueless” department.

So you might be wondering, “Who in the world is Bryan Johnson?”  (No, I am not talking about the lead singer of AC/DC. Besides, he spells his name with an “i.”)  You can Google his name or you can take my word for it in my short synopsis. Bryan was a tech millionaire who sold his BioHacking company to PayPal for $800million.  Yeah, you read that right. That’s not a bad thing. I don’t begrudge that at all. More power to him.

Here’s what is sad. Bryan Johnson is on a quest for immortality. You read that right: I.M.M.O.R.T.A.L.I.T.Y.  To accomplish that he has some strange habits.  He takes 111 pills a day.  He goes to bed every night at 8:30 and is up by 6:00.  There is nothing in his bedroom besides his bed, except a laser face shield that shoots collagen into his face, and one unmentionable item I’ll let you research. He avoids the sun. He doesn’t go out at night.  He drives 16 mph (He would be one who would put me in an early grave if I was following him). He has multiple other habits.

I’ve seen stickers on trucks that say, “Silly boy.Trucks are for girls!” I want to say to Bryan, “Silly Bryan. Immortality is for One.” He believes at age 46 (which he is as I write this) that he has a heart of a 37 year old and the bones of a 30 year old. His goal is to be 18…and to live forever.

Sadly, he is moving in the area of F.U.T.I.L.I.T.Y. There is only ONE who has conquered death and it isn’t and won’t be Bryan.

I hope Bryan learns soon enough, i.e. sooner than later, that he is wasting his time and $2million/year for nothing. Envious? Not a bit. One half of what he is spending is more than I’ll make my entire lifetime.  Personally, I hope he learns the lesson of the rich man that Jesus taught about in Luke 12. It says the land of the rich man produced plentifully so he thought to himself, “What shall I do? I know. I’ll build bigger barns. You know…eat, drink and be merry.” But that night God said to him, “You fool! This night your soul is required of you.”  What good was his money then?

I sincerely hope Bryan learns sooner than later that one thing is certain: we all die.  He won’t cheat that. His money will not get him out of the one date we all will keep. No concoction will save him. There will come a day when Bryan will go the way of all of us. I just hope he finds out before it is too late.

To die in his lost condition? Now that would be sad.

August 23

Wednesday, August 23rd, 2023

Today is an interesting day. I have some things planned that will make for a busy day But it is also a day of nostalgia.

First, it is my youngest daughter’s birthday. I won’t tell you how old she is because that would give you a hint of how old I am. 🙂 (For the record: 70).  I also will NOT give her age since I was always taught you never ask or volunteer a woman’s age. She doesn’t read this so I could say anything I wanted and she would never know! However, I won’t do that because you all would be like, “Oh man, cut the syrupy, ‘I’m-so-proud-of-her’ stuff.” I mean, just because she has survived and is a great mom to my favorite grandson and that I am so proud of the lady she has become, why should you have to weave through all of that? Right? Happy Birthday to my #2 daughter (in age since I love them both equally).

Second, Jo and I attended the second funeral visitation in a week. This time it was probably the first friend Jo had (and they remained that for 13 years) when we moved to Terre Haute until we moved away in 2000. However, when we were able to see them, it was like we were never gone for the two ladies. Myrna was a godly woman whose love for God, her husband, two children and multiple grandchildren never waned. Even after Alzheimer’s hit her 3 years ago. We stood in line for close to 2 1/2 hours to see Randy, Ryan, and Cassidy (Janna’s first best friend in TH).

Pastor Greg Laurie wrote in his devotion book, Everyday with Jesus, about the word “depart” found in Philippians 1:23. The Apostle Paul wrote, “My desire is to depart and be with Jesus, for that is far better.” The word depart has some interesting pictures.

  • One it means “to strike the tent” or “to break camp.”  It’s like wilderness camping (which I have never done) and you can’t wait to get a shower. 🙂  (Now you know why I have never camped that way. MacGyver I’m not).
  • Two, a prisoner being released from chains. Myrna is no longer chained to a failing body or mind.
  • Three, it was used to used to describe untying a boat from its moorings prior to setting sail.

I don’t need to apply those. You can do that. Heaven is better by far. Those words lead to that conclusion.

An interesting day of nostalgia for sure. The high of a daughter’s birthday. The sense of loss but the “high” of a friend’s homegoing and release from this body of death.  That is better by far.

August 15

Tuesday, August 15th, 2023

I heard about the death of a friend yesterday afternoon. This is my tribute; these are my thoughts.

As a pastor or over 50 years, I have had a lot of people cross my path and go in and out of my life. Most were of the pastor/sheep variety. Very few dropped the pastor/sheep moniker and became “friend.” I’ve had a few who reached that status; a few I would trust with my life; a few I would trust with personal information.

Ron was one of them. 12 years my senior, we became friends. He and Joyce “adopted” me and Jo and we spent a lot of time together. It would take pages to list all the things we did together as couples, and he and I as friends. I would need a getaway and the 4 of us would go to a hotel in Owensboro, KY for the weekend. One Friday night I ate so much I could not eat a bite until Saturday evening. One weekend we happened to be there when The Lettermen (Google them) entertained with a great concert. Ron was a diehard Cardinal fan and I a Pirate fan (but I didn’t hold that against him). The four of us traveled to St. Louis as well as Pittsburgh to watch ballgames. He loved to eat so he and I would often go out for lunch to simply laugh and eat. We golfed together. Let me rephrase that: he golfed; I chased my ball around the course. 🙂

One of the first funerals I performed as the pastor of the church was his mother’s. I also performed several weddings of his children.

Ron was deeply in love with Joyce. The last time the four of us were together was at a Cheddars restaurant and I knew something wasn’t right. Shortly after, Joyce was diagnosed with Alzheimer’s and Ron lovingly cared for her until he could no more. But every day-even when she no longer knew him-he faithfully visited her in the facility. She eventually went to be with Jesus. He was lost without her and life was never the same.

Now it is his turn. He loved and served Jesus with his whole heart. Now he gets to hear the “Well done, good and faithful servant” that his wife of 42 years heard a few years ago. He is reunited with Joyce, his mother and father, and others who preceded him. What a great cloud of witnesses there had to have been!

I’ll pay my respects on Thursday at his visitation and funeral. I’ll tell his sons and daughter how much he meant to me. And I’ll tell him “See you later my friend.”  Never goodbye.

April 3

Monday, April 3rd, 2023

I’m writing this Sunday morning. The reason for that is found at the end.

April 1st is typically called April Fool’s Day.  That usually gives people the “oomph” to do something or some things silly to trick someone else. Sort of like “You have won a million dollars!” but not really.  Well, April 1 turned out to be not so much of a joke in my neck of the woods. Extreme weather passed through our area and at 10:30 Friday night (March 31) the sirens went off indicating a tornado had been spotted and was headed our way.  Jo and I were already asleep when Tami came into our room to wake us up (she hates storms so was still up. Plus she stays up way later than her old parents).  🙂  Anyway, she came in to wake me up and so we all sat in the living room ready to head to the bathroom in case of a tornado. Very soon all power went out and it was dark as midnight without any moon or stars shining. We were able to see by flashlight and the lights on our phones.  As I sat there it suddenly got deathly quiet and then it sounded like a freight train was going over us. One man said he went outside and could see the tornado in the clouds. Fortunately, it passed over our town. The damage to town was plenty of uprooted trees and some damage to houses (roof, siding, and some tree damage to roofs), but they were not so fortunate at McCormick’s Creek State Park (state park just outside the town of Spencer).  The campground in the park took a major hit that sheered trees, uprooted many (and I’m talking huge trees), turning over campers and destroying property.  As chaplain for the Owen County Sheriff Department, I was called to the park Saturday night where there were two confirmed deaths. (The family said they were Christians. If so, death is victory, but no easier to take when it is sudden).

I have ridden my bike through the park several times. Tall majestic trees brought a natural beauty to the park. The campground-for both glamping and roughing it-was a wonderful place to spend a weekend or a week. Lots of shade and peaceful visits with family and friends. Not any more.  It looked like someone has taken a saw and cut down tree after tree and broke off the tops like one would with a toothpick.

I stood in awe and “fear” of the power of nature and the power of the storm. But I also could not help but reflect on the creative power of God. There will be people questioning-always has been and always will be-why God did not stop the tornado from the park. Yes, He could have. Without a doubt. But He didn’t. Not this time. But that does not mean He isn’t God. He is still the God of the storm and wind and rain and sun. “The heavens declare the glory of God and the earth shows His handiwork” is the way the psalmist put it in Psalm 19:1.  Genesis 1:1 tells us “In the beginning God created the heaven and the earth.” It is all His design.

The trees will eventually come back. Many will be leveled. Many new ones will be planted. My heart breaks, not for the park, but for the folks who lost loved ones.  As I texted several people who had minimal damage to their property: things can be replaced; people can’t.

Last night I wore a badge to be part of the “bad news” club. I knew it was a possibility when I became chaplain. Chaplain or pastor it is never easy, especially when you don’t know the people and can offer comfort but know they won’t take it from a stranger. So pray for the family (I don’t know their name but God does), and pray for the first responders who had to find, work to get them out from a collapsed camper, and for those who witnessed it.

The God who made the heavens and the earth and the storms also knows who they are. Thanks.

Jo and I left Sunday afternoon for a real short visit to Ohio. Her sister is now on kidney dialysis and her birthday is also tomorrow (Tuesday). We will be staying in Columbus where our daughter and grandson live, then head up to see her (she will probably not remember who we are) on Monday. Prayers for a safe trip are much appreciated.  Unless something major “inspires” me, I will not be posting tomorrow.

January 12

Wednesday, January 12th, 2022

My mind is not here right now. Oh…it is in my Encounter Time and it has been a good “learning” morning. But as I read my mind was also on what I need to do later today and I was seeking advice and solace. Strength. Wisdom. Guidance.

I have a funeral today. No, not mine that I know of. 🙂 A good man named Kirby went to be with Jesus last week. We are laying to rest a man who fought long and hard. There is so much to say. He was the epitome of a family man and a man of grace-one who made everyone feel important.  He wasn’t into tooting his own horn. Diagnosed with MS in 2005, I never knew until years later when I saw him walking unsteadily one Sunday afternoon at a restaurant. I asked one of his children about it and he said, “Oh, that was his MS.” “MS? I didn’t even know.” I’m not sure they will ever be able to figure out what he died of. He had been in the hospital for close to two months (mostly ICU). He did get COVID but that is not what took his life (no matter what they may say). Complications set in each time he looked forward to getting to rehab. I think his body finally said, “Enough.”

It was a shock. Still is. I simply cannot imagine the pain his bride of close to 30 is going through. They have been together since Jr. High.  I can’t imagine the emptiness she feels, nor what the two young 20s son and daughter are feeling.

I’m praying for grace. Strength. Wisdom. He was a Christ-follower so that makes it somewhat easier, but the heart know what the heart wants (in this case).

Would you mind praying for his family today? Ronda. McKenzie. Hunter. And multiple other family and friends. I suspect it will be a packed house today. And please say a prayer for me and the other pastor (their former pastor who retired). Words are often forgotten but some stick with you. I’m praying I eulogize him but lift up the name of Jesus.

Thanks.

LOVE GOD DEEPER…WORSHIP HIM MORE

August 30

Monday, August 30th, 2021

It is Friday morning as I write this. In a few hours I will be having the funeral for a friend, a man who a vital part of OVCF, the church I pastor. It is strange it should come to be this morning to write this. I went to the office yesterday (Thursday) to work on the funeral and after working on memories of the family, I hit a wall. Nothing I thought of seemed to work. So…here I am. Writing this and about to head back up to the church office on my day off to try and get my head straight.

Over the past nine months or so, I have lost two men who were unique in their own way, but special to me.

The first, Jim, went to be with Jesus around Christmas. He was in his ’70s and had battled health issues for years. He and his wife had only been attending OVCF for a couple of years. They came from a very legalistic church and actually followed their daughter and son-in-law, who had come to OVCF probably 6 months or so earlier. Jim wasn’t fond of our music…because he didn’t know it. He was used to more traditional hymns. But when asked why they stayed at OVCF he said, “For the sermon!” He has no idea how much that meant to me. He was quiet, unassuming, but always supportive. I miss his gentle but encouraging spirit.

The second, Lynn, is Diana’s dad. She is the church secretary and we started at OVCF at the same time. Her dad, Lynn, was an out-going car salesman (“transportation consultant” as he called himself). He loved to joke, laugh, and hand out those round red-n-white hard candies. He is the ONLY one I let call me “Billy” because he loved to give people names and that was mine. It could have been worse, I guess. 🙂 Lynn was 84 and had been fairly healthy all his life. He despised going to a doctor, so yes, he could be stubborn. He will be missed at the front door of the church building-opening the door, greeting and handing out bulletins, laughing, and joking with all who came in, especially a group of guys who loved bantering back and forth. 

I loved both of those men, but I also know I will see them again. Sadness but no sorrow. Joy comes in the morning.

August 19

Thursday, August 19th, 2021

I went to a funeral visitation of a friend last night.

A brief bit of background:

I was the pastor of a church in Terre Haute, IN from 1987-2000. During my time there I performed a lot of weddings and funerals. With that amount of time in one place, one is bound to do weddings and funerals that overlap. Moms, dads, brothers, sisters, aunts, uncles. This family was one of them. This was a big family and I was trying to calculate how many. I gave up. I was even asked back once, after moving to Spencer, to perform a funeral for the family.

The lady I honored last night was one of the 4 or 5 sisters. She had been divorced for several years when I first met her and she had met a man who captured her. Their marriage was a dream one for her, when one morning about a year after the wedding she woke up to him making a loud noise in the bathroom. Dropping things and just making all kinds of racket. He had suffered a stroke that totally affected his right side. No more speech. No more use of his right arm.  A metal brace on his right leg, knee to ankle. But she stayed with him. I’d visit and although he could not communicate verbally, he talked with his eyes or shook his head. She loved him well. Sometime after I left she had no choice but to put him in a home. She could no longer take care of him.

She died having dementia. I spoke with her daughter as we stood at the casket. I married she and her husband in 2000, and then as he put it: “You hi-tailed it out of town.” Not really, of course. Like me he is a pastor and loves to joke. That sounds like I was John Dillinger-rob a bank and then get out of Dodge. 🙂   Her then 9-ear old daughter is now 30, married with a child of her own. Sheesh! Am I that old?  Well, yes. I have been gone for 21 years this past June.

Her daughter captured it right: “I am sad for me, but not for mom. She’s having a big reunion, a big party in heaven.” That captures my sentiments. Paul wrote, “O death, where is your sting? O death, where is your victory?” The answer? For the follower of Christ the answer is ZERO.

When it comes to Linda, death you lost. When it came to my mom, you lost. When it comes to me, you will lose again.

“Father, thank you for salvation. Thank you for the promise of heaven and eternal life with you.”

June 2

Wednesday, June 2nd, 2021

Have you ever noticed how easy it is to get resentful? It doesn’t start out that way.

You have a friend/neighbor/acquaintance who has something good happen.

You are happy for them. But then as you maybe see more good stuff happening, you being to sense some resentment.

Why him? Why her? Why not me?

It’s easy to have that happen. It gets particularly bad when that other person is not a Christ-follower. Take a look around. You see a Marxist-someone who is supposedly opposed to capitalism-getting rich off people and spending gobs of money on houses, land, possessions, etc. All while decrying the rich.

Then there is the atheist- vitriolic toward God and His people- being honored for their godlessness and all the while drawing others into their godlessness.

Psalm 53 speaks to that attitude.

First, he says that only a fool says, “There is no God.”

Second, he says they are “corrupt, and their actions are evil.”

Third, they will find out soon enough that all is not right in their world. Verse 5 is rather explicit: “Terror will grip them, terror like they have never known before. God will scatter the bones of your enemies. You will put them to shame, for God has rejected them.” (NLT)

Here on earth. Stand in judgment before God. Either way they lose. My thought is this is “prophetic” speaking of their end. They may seem to have it all here, but in the end, it is worthless chaff. And they will find out that the God they denied existed…does.

Ooooops. Or is that uh-oh?

“Father, help me not to get resentful or jealous of what others have. Ultimately, it is nothing But let me rejoice in You.”