Wednesday, March 08, 2006

Bad Week To Be 44

The post title doesn't have anything to do with the fact that I haven't posted anything of substance in almost a week. It's not an excuse that I haven't finished outlining and started posting my series on "What's Wrong With Church" -- that's something I'll get posted very soon. But going through the weekend with access to the news, I was struck by the passing of two very different people. In fact, if not for the entertainment culture in this country you would never see these two people's pictures posted together.

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The picture on the left is labelled for you. He's Minnesota Twins slugger Kirby Puckett, who died after suffering a stroke this past weekend. The picture on the right is Dana Reeve, widow of Superman actor Christopher Reeve. Reeve died after a battle with lung cancer, contracted despite the fact that she never smoked. Puckett was 45. Reeve was either 44 or 45, depending on the report. I am 44.

I've never been worried about my own mortality. I'm going to die sometime. Who isn't?

In the past, I was amused by older folks who get the local newspaper to check the obituaries. I would always ask, "So, have you made the paper?" Nobody ever hit me. A couple of times I think it crossed their minds though!

Today I am the one checking obituaries, but it's not so I can see if my classmates or even if I made the paper. These days I check it as part of my job as a pastor -- to see if anyone's relatives are listed. I see the occasional infant and the almost-commonplace suicides, but for the most part the obituaries don't hit home for me. The deaths of Puckett and Reeve last weekend didn't really make me struggle, but my wife did look at me funny for most of an afternoon as if checking me for terminal symptoms.

Death still ranks as one of the biggest fears of most human beings. I talk to many people who are facing life and death challenges. Surgery, cancer, diabetes and just plain old age cause different reactions in people. Some are genuinely scared, but most people facing death have a certain determination. Whether a believer or not, each person makes his or her own peace with the Grim Reaper. Faith is placed in something. We know that faith in anything besides Christ Jesus isn't going to save, but that doesn't keep many from having faith in the illusions of good works or a God grading on a curve.

I don't fear death, but at the same time I'm not out looking to invite it to dinner either. First, God has given me a life and He expects me to do something with it. Second, if I died today there would be many headaches and sorrows for the ones who don't come with me. That's the real agony for most people who are dying. We hate to cause people pain. So, we try to make things as easy on our loved ones as possible. We don't buy life insurance for our own benefit, but for our beneficiaries -- usually our families. We write wills, pre-plan funerals, set up trust funds and perform countless other details so that our loved ones won't have financial difficulties after our passing.

However the most important preparatory detail we can perform is the way we live our lives and how we prepare others for eternity, not simply for the temporary. I want my kids, my wife, my friends, my acquaintances, my blog readers, and even those who just stumble upon my obituary to know that my trust is in Christ -- not just for after death, but before death as well. So even if death comes at age 45, I have provided not just the economic groundwork, but a spiritual foundation built upon the rock of Christ Jesus. After all, I want them with me in heaven too. Death is only swallowed up in victory with the Lord.

I offer my prayers for the families of Kirby Puckett and Dana Reeve. I pray for all those affected by their lives and their actions. And I pray that their passing may spur on a few other 44 and 45 year olds (and anyone else) to provide not only financially, but eternally as well.


Mel said...

My husband was born in 1961, too. It's odd to read of such young deaths.

My dad died when he was 47 and I've always been hyperaware of the shortness of life, no matter now many years you are granted.

Kim said...

I was just amazed that Dana Reeve succumbed to lung cancer despite never having smoked. It just seemed to cruel.

I'm not afraid so much of death, but the suffering that often accompanies it.

A Human Bean said...

I have always been amazed by people who say things like, "Come Quickly Lord" or even that they are ready to go because they will be with God (I am talking about younger people who say this.) I am not afraid of death, but I feel like God has so much for me to do. I guess if I go early that just proves I was wrong on this one, but I just don't see a reason to want to die any time soon. I love God, but would rather be here serving him than be with him quite yet.

Dan Edelen said...

A few months apart, two famous football players died at 43 (my age)--Reggie Roby and Reggie White. Bad time to be a Reggie, too. White died of sleep apnea, while they never did figure out what Roby died of.

When we lived in CA, our first Sunday at the church we elected to make our home, we met a man who was very kind to us and prayed for us for almost a half hour. We decided that if the whole church was like him, it would be a good place. Our next week there, we didn't see him, only to later learn during announcements that he had suffered sudden cardiac death while jogging just a few days before. He was 39. We couldn't believe it. He'd been a long-time runner, he'd told us, and was in great shape.

I didn't really become aware of my own mortality until just a few years ago when an antibiotic I was prescribed caused my heart to skip beats. Suddenly, I started reading all these obits where the person was my age and had died from some hidden cause, usually a congenital defect. You always think you're going to be here, but then....

That's a problem for a guy like me whose mental image of himself is stuck at 22 years old.

Jennifer said...


John B said...

Great post Ed,

I heard someone say that the most important job of a preacher is to help people face their own morality. You did that in a compassionate way.