Over 25 years have passed, but it seems like yesterday.
I was a seminary student when I received the word that my dad had terminal cancer. It would be my first experience with death of someone that close to me. For two months, my wife, little boys, and I traveled the 1,200 miles roundtrip to south Alabama every weekend to be with my father. On the day before we were to leave again for the weekend, my mom called. “Thom,” she began softly, “you probably should pack for a few extra days and bring clothes for a funeral. It doesn’t look like your dad will make it through the weekend. It is time.”
At the young age of sixty-two, it was his time.
So brief. So very brief was his time.
I knew it was coming. But still the emotions of the moment overcame me. I was losing my dad, my best friend, and my hero. My theology told me that it was best for him, but my selfish nature did not want to let go.
But it was time.
My brother and mother asked me to preach the funeral message. I had never done a funeral, and my first one would be for my father. I wasn’t sure I could do it. I knew I couldn’t do it in my own strength.
I went into a bedroom to pray. As I prayed, I began crying. I did not notice at first the little person standing in the doorway. It was my oldest son, Sam. He was named for my father. He and his brothers were the legacy for my dad, whom they called “Daddy Man.”
My little four-year old walked up to where I was kneeling by the bedside. He put his little hand on my shoulder. “Don’t cry Daddy,” he told me. “Daddy Man is in heaven. You will see him again.”
No, the grief did not go away. I still miss him to this day. But a little four-year-old boy reminded me that I did not grieve without hope. Indeed, I would see my father again. That is the promise of the resurrection. That is the victory over death for those who have placed their faith in Jesus.
The funeral took place during the Easter season on a small hillside in the cemetery. There were simply too many people for a church to be able to hold all those who came to tell dad goodbye. My text for the funeral message had really been chosen by my young son: “Death has been swallowed in victory. O Death where is your victory? O Death, where is your sting?” (1 Corinthians 15:54b-55, HCSB).
An Easter over 25 years ago reminded me of an Easter some 2,000 years earlier. I had hope because of the resurrection. I had hope because Christ had defeated death.
Though I cannot presume upon God’s providence, I really hope to precede my sons and wife in death. And though I do not know how my life will end, it is possible that Nellie Jo will make a call to Sam, Art, and Jess and say, “It is time.”
I hope I will make the transition with Christlike strength. I pray that I can be an example for my sons and grandchildren one last time. And I pray that I will demonstrate to them the hope and the power of the resurrection in my own death.
Life is so brief.
Soon and very soon it will be time.
“But thanks be to God who gives us victory through our Lord Jesus Christ” (1 Corinthians 15:57).
Thank God for the resurrection.