Recently an old acquaintance of mine passed away. I use the word, acquaintance, very loosely because I didn’t really know him well. We were only together on a few occasions, and never spent a lot of time together. We were separated by distance, time, and circumstances for much of our lives.
Yet I knew who he was. I knew his name well. I knew his reputation even better. We had many mutual friends and relationships including some of his relatives. He was, by all accounts, one of the good guys.
A Chance Encounter… Shortly after his death, I had a chance encounter with his sister. When I passed along my condolences, she began to tell me about his last days.
I had been watching the family’s Facebook postings and had been given a heads up concerning his physical condition. What I noticed seemed a little unusual, and his sister’s story made sense of it all.
What I saw was a man who was enjoying his life, his friends, and his family. Among other things, I saw several videos of him making music with other musician friends of his. He seemed to be really enjoying himself in many ways, despite the diagnosis that hovered over him.
His sister confirmed all of that. She relayed the message that he was the glue that held them together. He joked and made them laugh when laughter was undoubtedly the last thing on their minds and in their hearts. In other words, his last few days here on this earth were quite incredible.
I once read a piece by Rev. Billy Graham where he stated the belief that many people receive a special grace as they die. If I remember correctly, he also added that only the dying receive the grace to die. That sounds a bit simplistic, but I certainly can’t argue the point.
As a pastor, I’ve had the privilege from time to be with various people as they die—in some cases in their dying moments. I have seen that grace in action. It is, indeed, a gift as every grace is.
A Gift to the Living… However, it’s not merely a gift to the dying. It seems to be a gift that someone like Ron can receive and share with the rest of us. Someone in that position can give a gift that no one else can give.
When we experience the end of a person’s life with them, it can frequently be excruciating. The surrounding circumstances can seem unbearable. But every so often, we receive a gracious gift that reminds us we are not alone. We receive a gift from the one who is preparing to depart that puts an exclamation point on life and prepares us for our own death.
When we are there to receive such a gift, we are blessed. We are graced with a knowledge that is otherwise unknowable. Death is not the end. It is merely a new beginning.
Thanks be to God!