By Holly Culhane
Most of us have received a call or a text – or read the notice in a newspaper – that someone we’ve known, someone we’ve thought “had their whole life ahead of them,” had moved into eternity. Without warning. Without an “I love you” or an “I’ll miss you”. Without even a “goodbye,” a “so long,” or a “see ya later,” this friend, loved one, or colleague had passed into eternity. They were gone without a terminal diagnosis, without an accident they’d almost survived, without a hint their life on this planet was nearly over.
Our responses to such situations range from shock and anger to disbelief and denial. The grief is demonstrated by gasps, sobs, prayers, phone calls, memories, casseroles, and conversations.
And, possibly, by reflection.
Reflection certainly on our shared experiences, the times spent together, and plans we’d made. But, potentially, also on last words spoken, calls unmade, unnecessary disagreements, and gatherings never realized.
It was April 21, 2021, when I last encountered this experience. It was the completely unexpected death of a 29-year-old career woman who slipped and fell in the shower getting ready for work that morning. Eleven months earlier it had been a dear friend, a 72-year-old man who, feeling fine, had laid down for a quick nap – and woke up in the arms of Jesus. Ten years before it had been a 15-year-old boy who, in his physical education class, died of sudden cardiac death. All unpredicted. All unforeseen. All unimagined.
…and all a reminder that we are not in control of life and death, that we do not know what tomorrow – or even the remainder of today – will hold, and that we must keep our hearts right, our accounts short, and our eyes on The Good Shepherd.
And let us run with endurance the race God has set before us. We do this by keeping our eyes on Jesus, the champion who initiates and perfects our faith… So take a new grip with your tired hands and strengthen your weak knees. Mark out a straight path for your feet so that those who are weak and lame will not fall but become strong…
Do all that you can to live in peace with everyone.
Romans 12:1b, 2a, 12-13, 18
Let this not be an obituary or a eulogy, but a sober reminder that every breath is a gift by the God of the universe and that we, as His under-shepherds, should live accordingly.