Remember the old song "Lonely days and lonely nights?"
Well, I can’t say that I’m lonely! The last few days have been busy. Funeral preparation. A 2 1/2 hour trip to be with our local area pastors. A board meeting. Recording a guitar.
All things that are quite enjoyable. In many ways I feel refreshed.
Tomorrow is the funeral for John Graham. The viewing was tonight. John’s sister is in palliative care and there will probably be another funeral in the coming week.
And life goes on . . . but for some it stops. At least on "this side of the golden shore."
That’s where a periscope that could look beyond the border of mortal death would be inviting. Perhaps we have already got a glimpse. I call it the picture Bible — read pages like the last part of Revelations. And glimpses in I Corinthians 15 and 2 Thessalonians 4. And of course John 14 — I still like the idea of a mansion.
All in all, I’ll take a final end that never ends!!
John was 94. Born in 1912 — the same year his homesteading family built their home of wood (which stood until into the latter part of the century). Gentleness, persevering, fair, . . . and many more words describe this man who as a father, brother, mentor, treasurer, farmer . . . But I suppose the statement — He was a man of God — is the one that John would have most appreciated.
The funeral is at 2:00 at the Alliance church in Kindersley. You are invited to join us!
Monday morning at 8:30 our time, John Graham, at 94 years of age, passed away. He is in a better place — but the rest of us left behind do miss him.
As my father said, John was a unique individual. He was even tempered and fair. This past while he had learned I was to have double knee replacement surgery. He went out and bought me some shark cartilage to see if that would help the pain and soreness. The bottle sits on our table and as I take the capsules, I’m reminded of John — a Christian man who now sees Jesus in a whole new light!!
If you’ve been reading this blog, you know that life and death continue on. They are inevitable. Only one will be erased.
For most of those around you, the answer would be – life! We are a nation of pracitising existentialists. That merely means that we believe that existence is what counts. Physical, present, tangible existence. When this existence is done – when life is erased, we are erased. I find that one hard to live with! Where is hope? Where is justice, joy, peace, love . . . and a myriad of other human emotions and life giving feelings?
So, I like the other alternative. Death will be erased! My life is worth something here and past here. Those around me are worth something here and past here. As people die, they actually step from one phase of life to the next. The continuationof life brings rewards of justice, joy in the moment and eternity, peace in settledness that life is more than here and now. And the sense of love overwhelming us.
That is, if you have a basis of life that is rooted first of all in Jesus.
Time spent with those closing in on the next phase of life causes reflection.
Here is a comparison I have been thinking about:
Whether in hospital, hospice or home — we can be in a "death watch" or "health care" mode. And, you can switch modes in a short period of time. Death care deals with pain management, health care with revitalizing nutrition. Death care has in mind "death preparation", health care "death reflection."
Six years ago, we were on a death watch with Jill. Well, perhaps it was more on the borderline. Jill had surgery planned so there was hope. But as the surgeon’s notes read — she was in such deteriorated shape she probably should not have survived the surgery.
Prior to the surgery, we were in the mode of death preparation. Amazing how priorities are clarified. "I’m not doing that" became an understandable and not infrequent statement. We sold a house to get one that was more appropriate. We reexamined our wills. We spent time together.
We are now in health care mode. We will often reflect on death, but the grip is not quite as strong.
Sometimes I wonder if there is a greater reality in death watch! Certainly there is a sense of the important. For a Christian there is no fear (OK, pain does bring pause!) and a heightened sense of God’s presence. Oh, that we could maintain that grasp in our hectic, daily lives.
Imagine one year in fifty. 6 billion people.
The odds of bumping into someone. Someone who lived in the same place at the same time. Without knowing it.
So, here’s the story.
I’m sitting at our Lenten Lunch today. We are eating sandwiches and consuming soup. One of the lady pastors at the United Church is next to me. I ask her church background.
In the midst of the telling she mentions Unionville, Ontario. The only place she ever attended an Alliance church. My interest is piqued. I lived in Unionville. From 1968-1969.
Same years as Chris (Wallace) Ewing. She repeated the years. Yes, they were the same. And the church was the same.
We both took the names of our parents. I phoned mine tonight. Mom said the name may be familiar.
Now, wouldn’t that be unusual. Both of us pastors in the same town! With a chance meeting 40 years ago!!
I was singing today.
At the hospital.
Went to visit John Graham. He has not been well. In the midst of struggles for breath he has been thinking. About songs and scriptures. He has memorized a number of songs. But, you can’t always remember every verse in the midst of catching your breath!
He was thinking of the song, "How Great Thou Art". I started singing and he lay back. Closed his eyes. Lay back and listened. Someone else came in for a moment — they had just come to visit . As I finished he opened his eyes with a slight smile on his lips.
I hope when I reach his age (I’m planning on living to 100 or dying in the attempt — John is 94) I’ll be able to sit back and listen to the songs of faith.
God is good, all the time. And all the time, God is good.
I sat with John today.
He is struggling to breathe. Fluid has built up on his lungs. He works to live.
We take breathing for granted. Each breath is called a respiration. We have many during a minute’s time. In the usual hour, most of us glance at a beautiful sunset, remain focused while driving, or force ourselves to relax. Seldom do we have to remain mentally alert, focusing ourselves to breathe.
But, when someone is asthmatic, or has a cold or fluid on the lungs they work. And work hard. What would normally be focused on the events of the day is now consumed with one event — the next breath. When your breath is more laboured than usual, panic sets in. You drown in your attempts to breathe. The implored statement from panicked onlookers — "breathe" — would be heeded if somewhere in the depths of your soul you could pull back from the precipice just long enough to put your feet on solid ground.
Those who have been around death know the stutter breathing of the last moments. That final sign that the precipice is winning. Then there is peace.
At that point, for Christians, the statement — "for me to live is Christ and to die is gain" — becomes a reality. Thank God for another realm, whose depths we can barely understand in this restless, transitory and panting earth!
Yesterday I had my blog entry all set to go.
It was marvelous (since you’ll never see it!).
Then my computer froze up. I had to reboot. And I lost all the data stored in memory.
Not a total loss. I shut down the computer and spent the rest of the evening relaxing. Phoned my parents. Talked to my wife. All in all a great way to end a day of rest!
Our community ministerial holds weekly Lenten lunches, every Friday.
Today was our church’s responsibility. The lunch was great. Our ladies had four soups. A number were tomato based, along hamburger, vegetables and other additions. Then one was butternut soup. I’m awaiting the recipe via an email from Marilyn! Sandwiches were delectable.
The short service/devotional time led us into prayer for family and friends. I think too often we forget those closest to us. They are taken for granted. Right when they need our prayers the most.
So, think of two names right now. Pray for them that the would know Jesus more, have protection throughout this day, and that joy may flood their lives.