Over the years, I’ve learned that untimely phone calls are usually either wrong numbers (rare) or bad news (not so rare). I took such a call shortly before 5:00 am this morning. The ringer blasted me back to reality and filled me with a sense of dread. A lady from our church called and told me to pray, that a good friend of mine had been taken to the hospital after his heart had stopped. He was in his early 50’s and apparently healthy – and suddenly, the whole world seemed nothing but a blur of surreality.
I dressed quickly and went the short distance to the emergency room. As soon as I arrived, I was told my friend was gone. Now, 5 hours later, I still can't seem to shake off the shock, and I fade in and out of it. I would gladly have traded places with my friend, but I wasn’t given the choice.
I’m no stranger to sudden death. In a former career I saw a lot of it, but I don’t remember ever feeling so helpless. At the hospital I was able to view my friend’s body. I spoke to him (it), and said, “Now would be a really good time for you to wake up.” There was no response. And now, I’m trying to find some kind of island, or high ground away from the loss and confusion that has engulfed me all morning.
Later, I struggled to find something to be able to say to his friends and family members. I really needed some way to honor my friend – I needed something to say that would help, and I needed something to do. After arriving home from the hospital, I realized I needed something to say to my wife as she was also grieving. I needed something to say to my friend’s friend, a man I dearly love and respect. He appeared badly shattered when I saw him in the hospital, and my heart broke as he held onto me. Another man at the hospital said through tears, “This is really hard – I have no idea how unbelievers get through this.” I don’t either.
What I told my wife, and I think I will tell others who are grieving is the title of this letter: All Are Alive To Him! What hope!
And I guess the crux of the matter is how much I really believe in the resurrection of Jesus Christ. . Hope alone is not good enough – I have to really believe with all my heart. The more firm my belief that Jesus actually rose from the dead, the easier it is for me to know my friend is as alive to Jesus – RIGHT NOW – as I am. Jesus Christ and my friend are both ALIVE!
I can't talk to my friend anymore while I live here, and in fact, scripture would admonish me not to try – but I can talk to Jesus, and perhaps He can talk to my friend. He is, after all, God and mediator.
Maybe Jesus can tell him how much I loved him and how I’ll think of him a lot for the rest of my life.
Maybe Jesus can tell him that his life mattered so much to so many, and we were all so profoundly honored to have known him at all.
Maybe Jesus can tell him that although this will devastate our church for awhile, we will eventually pick ourselves up out of the ashes of loss and enter the bright light of praise for a God who gave up so much only to die an ugly death on this dark planet – and did it so we could be alive to Him forever.
I can't answer the “why” questions any better than anyone else, but I am 100% sure of this: I am alive to Jesus now and forever, and if He’s your savior and elder brother, you are too.
I know my friend is with Jesus and I’ll be joined to him again, sooner or later. And I’m deeply grateful to God that He caused our paths to cross, if only for a little while.
I want to tell Jesus this: I have decided to trust You to be true to your word always, and I trust You to be with my friend, and indeed, other friends and family members, until it is my turn to come home to You. Thank you for the life that ended here this morning. More than that, thank you that all of your children are always and forever, Alive To You.