Yesterday morning on my way to worship, I flipped on the MLB Network. The first thing I heard from the program host was about the passing of Jose Fernandez. My mind immediately raced to figure out which Jose Fernandez this might be. I just knew it couldn’t be the twenty-four-year-old standout pitcher for the Miami Marlins.
I reasoned that Jose Fernandez has to be a common Hispanic name and that it had to be another Jose Fernandez. It couldn’t be the young man who had finally and successfully fled Cuba on his fourth try as a teenager. It couldn’t be the kid who was shot at and who jumped into shark infested waters to save his mother from drowning when she fell off the small boat that was carrying them to asylum. It couldn’t be the young baseball phenom who rose to stardom in his very first year in the major leagues.
It couldn’t be… But it was. “Say it ain’t so, Joe!”
The King is dead…
Hours later when I was climbing into bed, my lovely bride asked me if I’d heard that Arnie Palmer had died. I didn’t have to do a reality check on that one. Arnie was eighty-seven years old. And though he was known as the “King of Golf,” even kings die eventually. That news was a mild surprise, but not a shocker.
People die all the time, but we don’t know most of them. I didn’t actually know Jose or Arnie either. They were both heroes of sorts—certainly so in the world of sports. As such, many in the world will mourn their passing.
I can’t help thinking, though, that this happens every day. Every day, at least one twenty-something dies in a tragic accident, and at least one elderly person crosses the bar. It certainly has to be a common occurrence. Yet, on this day, it’s a standout.
I remember the day I heard about the death of Hall of Famer Roberto Clemente (thirty-seven-year-old baseball star of the Pittsburgh Pirates). I was twenty-one years old. He was one of my heroes as I grew up. I couldn’t believe he was gone. Sometimes, I still have a hard time believing it. I guess death is like that.
“It all seems like a dream.”
To this day, I have a hard time believing my Mom and Dad are gone too. There are times when it all seems like a dream. If I could only wake up, they would be here. But I can’t wake up, and they’re not around anymore.
That’s one reason, I guess, that our faith is so important to us. There is, in faith, that overarching understanding that death is not the end. There is an afterlife, and there is a reunion. The folks we have lost are not lost at all. They’re simply in another place—a place where we can follow.
Jesus once said, “Whoever believes in the Son has eternal life…” (John 3:36) In Christ, we’ll see them again. Thanks be to God.
[Dave Zuchelli is a graduate of Pittsburgh Theological Seminary and is currently the pastor of Smith Chapel, in Great Falls, VA.]