Looking for what’s about to come
Sometime during the night of Jan. 31 – Febr. 1 a man died. In one sense his death was sad. He died alone in his trailer in Wilmer. He chose not to call 911 when he could no longer breathe. He was ready to go anyway.
I doubt any of you would know him. He wasn’t the kind of company most of us keep. He didn’t get out much anyway. The chemo treatments for his throat cancer robbed him of his voice and most of his strength. I knew him only because his sister (who lives in Michigan) called a former pastor of hers (who lives in Houston) who looked up other Presbyterian pastors on the Internet and found I was the closest one.
The man, who I’ll simply call M, made some unwise decisions in his life. Part of the reason he ended up where he did was from his own doing. He reached this senior age and had little of the world’s goods to show for it. Now, I don’t believe for a minute that an abundance of stuff is the strongest foundation for peace, joy, happiness, and self-fulfillment. Some of the happiest people I know are among the poorest I know as well.
I visited with M multiple times through texting and a handful of times face-to-face. He had been homeless for a number of years. He had struggled with alcoholism and addiction. He had been out of touch with his two sons for decades.
It is a humbling thing to be at the end of one’s life and wonder what might have been. What would have happened if I would have said “Yes” instead of “No”, or the other way around? What would have happened if I would have studied harder, taken the risk instead of playing it safe, or lifted my voice instead of remaining silent?
I have a few of those moments myself. I could have spent a summer working on the Alaskan pipeline, another summer running a restaurant in Yosemite National Park, the one after that in Yellowstone. I would like to be able to go back and take advantage of just one of those opportunities. Granted, it’s not only about opportunities like that. There are other types of missed moments as well.
M had hope, no, not the kind of hope that he would be made well. He knew all along his days were short. You see, recently he became a Christian. I wish I could say it was through my witness, but it wasn’t. Someone else had the honor of hearing him profess faith in Christ. His hope was no longer in accumulating the things of this world. It wasn’t even about being made well. It was all about finishing well. His hope was in the world to come. He spent Christmas celebrating his advent. He knew that the recent holiday season would be his last. So, he reconnected with his two sons. He took off for Michigan to visit his sister one last time. He spread cheer and hope everywhere he went. He lifted my spirits and ministered to me every time we “talked”. There was no gloom of death around him. There were no unspoken words or deeds left undone.
My friend did not mourn the life he could have, maybe even should have, had. You see, he was more excited about the life that was coming, the time when he really becomes the creature God created him to be, one with no room for regrets, one who has moved from the anticipation of advent to the realization of Christ alive and the bringing of life in its fullest! When he left this world I know he left with the one assurance, other than his salvation, most of us long for – the assurance of a life finished well!
Pastor Craig Krueger