A comment placed to an old post reminded me again of this poor blog sitting here neglected. Perhaps it is time for an update. Much has been happening. Too many trips to funeral homes lately.
One close friend’s older brother died tragically in a motorcycle crash. His life-long dream had been to own a Harley. He finally bought one late last year, after Thanksgiving. He and his girlfriend / fiancee’ picked it out, signed the papers for it, and trailered it home from Georgia. He was not yet ready to ride it. Some friends suggested he take a riding course from a local police department, and he had plans to do that early in January. Then another buddy of his said he could teach him to ride. They made plans, got together early one morning, had breakfast together at their favorite diner, and made their way out on the road.
Just a few miles away, the road curved left, and my friend’s brother didn’t follow the curve. He wasn’t speeding, but from what the sheriff’s deputy told us, he got off the pavement into some soft dirt and gravel on the edge of the road, overcorrected, and was thrown over the handlebars as the bike tumbled off to the right. He would have probably lived through it with bumps and bruises, maybe a broken bone or two, but for the fencepost that interrupted his tumbling path. He hit it squarely on the back of his neck. He was dead instantly in all likelihood.
What followed was nearly a month of working with my friend as we had time or days off to clean out his brother’s tiny travel trailer that he rented to live in, along with a much larger storage unit in which he kept his bike and most of the equipment, tools, and parts for his fledgling dental repair business. It was painful to go through all the papers and pieces of a life fairly poorly lived. He had a renewed interest in things of God and had been attending church regularly with his fiancee’, yet the detritus of his life portrayed a man clinging to solvency, prone to giving in to baser desires, and entertained by the worldly, the popular, and the vulgar.
Then as that calamity drew to a close, a sudden urgent email came in last Thursday afternoon from another close friend: “Please pray for me. I have a difficult task ahead. More later.” Prayers were offered, then as details emerged it became clear his father, a Godly man who usually sat in the pew behind us every Sunday, with whom I shook hands regularly, who always asked how my mother was doing, had left the business he owned in a beat-up van, driven somewhere north of town, pulled off the road, and shot himself with a shotgun.
He left no note, no farewell. He gave no indication of any form of depression, of terrible medical news recently received, of financial struggles too great to continue to face, of personal conflict or some secret sin about to be uncovered. He simply chose, at 69, to end his life in a violent manner sure to inflict great grief, pain, and unanswerable questions on his family and friends.
The last week has been full of organizing a group of guys our age to go over and visit with my friend, his bereaved mother, and his family; of communicating funeral plans to our group of friends; of calling him and talking to him, trying to lift his load, praying with him, still unable to really see or hear his inner condition. His condition is definitely pressurized and stressed: the care of his 78-year-old mother, the disposition of her house, too big and empty for just her now, finishing construction of his family’s new home, taking on full responsibility for his father’s business even though his father “just handled it” when it came to the accounting and many of the leadership decisions of the company.
Then there’s stress personally from the ongoing, probably 2-3 year process of dovetailing two companies and all their data together at work. We’ve crossed the first hurdle but there are probably 30 more to go, and they each get higher and wider.
And yet, something another friend mentioned at the most recent funeral stopped me in my tracks. His wife had “the more somber duty” that day–they have two sons, one of whom is autistic, and through a support group for parents of autistic children they knew a couple whose son was having to have a feeding tube put in that day. He is uncommunicative, trapped in a body that cannot express what his mind can perceive, with cancer attacking his still-growing body. Another child recently described to me, just a six month old baby, has cancerous tumors attacking his eyes. He is certain to be blind in one eye, and doctors are struggling to save the other.
So much pain and sadness pervades this world. So many questions without answers. While God has mercifully spared me the pains and sufferings I speak about above, am I faithless to wonder what calamity he is preparing me to face? Certainly we have faced calamity in the past, but God’s hand has spared us, for lack of better terms, permanent damage. I have watched many in my family die, I have seen my wife very nearly taken from me by Guillain-Barre’ syndrome 13 years ago, one month after our wedding, but God returned her to me some six months later with no trace of that horrible syndrome lingering in her body. I have held a 7 week premature son with breathing problems who spent 12 days in the NICU, and watched him grow into a fine, strong 10 year old athlete who wins medal after medal in track events and is developing a lighthouse Christian character undimmed by societal pressures.
So Lord, please make me your instrument to minister grace, peace, compassion, kindness, and love to all these surrounding me. Help me to draw their gaze toward heaven. May they see some tiny flicker in me of the Holy Flame, the Refiner’s Fire, that warms, soothes, and makes them long to draw close to its Source.