Death May Come When You Least Expect It
It was a typical Monday morning in the church office. I was sipping a cup of coffee, reviewing my schedule for the week when my secretary buzzed. "You have an emergency call from the hospital," she said. As she transferred the call, I was concerned that it might involve an injury or illness of one our elderly members" but it didn't at all.
"Are you the pastor of Mickey Wilson?" the male voice asked. "Yes, I am" I replied. "Reverend, I am the emergency room physician at the community hospital. Moments ago Mr. Wilson was brought in by ambulance from his place of employment, and we need you here as soon as you can arrive."
I was taken back by this news, and especially at the patient's name. I had to doublecheck. "Are you sure you're referring to 'Mickey,' a tall, young athletic man in his late 20's?" I asked. "Yes sir, we're sure" was the response.
The call was abrupt and to the point and I departed immediately driving as hastily as I could through the congested bay area traffic. I was alarmed by the call, but found it difficult to imagine anything worse than an accidental fall, a broken arm, or some recoverable work-related injury. Mickey was youthful, physically fit, and had in fact been a championship swimmer in High School.
As I drove I quietly prayed for both Mickey and his wife, Lauren, whom I had only recently married and in fact were just one day shy of their first wedding anniversary. Their courtship and wedding was of the storybook variety... a cute young couple that most everyone thought were perfect for each other. Lauren and her little boy from a previous marriage had attended the church for several years, while Mickey had joined later. They both loved the Lord and he had just started singing with the choir and playing keyboards.
"They turned their eyes toward me as I entered, and then I looked down on the table. There was Mickey's ashen face and lifeless body. To my shock, he was already gone."
Upon my arrival at the hospital attendants led me immediately to one of the adjacent ER treatment rooms. I was anxious to see Mickey, to encourage and pray for him, but was unprepared for what I found. I saw a medical exam table surrounded by a few nurses and doctors standing passively and talking. They turned their eyes toward me as I entered, and then I looked down on the table. There was Mickey's ashen face and lifeless body. To my shock, he was already gone. He apparently collapsed unexpectedly at work and never revived. Later I was told that the cause of death occured from a life-long heart defect he never knew he had.
My senses were numbed by this unexpected scene and I felt the swelling of tears, but had no time to grieve for this friend as his young wife had just arrived and knew nothing more than I had. As her pastor and friend I needed to intercept her and find God's strength to convey this dreadful news with as much grace and consolation as I possibly could. As she walked in the doors, I cleared my throat and took a deep breath. I could see that she was carrying her Bible and as soon as she saw me, before I had a chance to say anything, she began expressing optimism. "I know he's going to be okay, pastor. I prayed all the way here and I'm standing on God's Word like we've always heard you preach."
My heart was torn for her and I fought back tears. To look into her hope-filled eyes, knowing I was about to fill them with such sorrow was more than I could bear. I was silent for a brief moment, realizing I was the sole insulator of devastating news that would forever change her life, but despite my personal anguish, I had to tell her. "Lauren," I said somberly and gently. "Mickey's with Jesus. He's in Heaven with his Savior." "He died?" she asked meekly? "Yes, I'm so sorry."
The shock was overwhelming and she could only look at me in disbelief for several moments, but then was joined by a doctor who escorted her to see Mickey. As she stood weeping, bidding farewell to her young husband, she remained as composed as anyone I've ever seen in such a circumstance. The following day would be especially difficult, what would have been their 1st wedding anniversary, but one last loving gesture by her husband provided an enduring bitter-sweet memory. She arrived home to find a delivery from the florist waiting at her door, a dozen roses to mark her anniversary, with a card that read, "I love you, Mickey." When he ordered the roses in advance, he never realized it would be the last expression he could ever convey to his sweetheart... a cherished token Lauren will hold dear for the remainder of her life, an inspiring act that I will never forget and have often reflected on.
Needless to say, the sorrow of these moments years ago, may have been the most difficult this young wife and mother ever faced, yet it was not the end. She was sustained by the peace and joy to know that her husband knew the salvation of Jesus Christ and was prepared for that moment. She knew that Mickey was now at home in Heaven with his Lord and that she would see him again one day when she follows!
We were all comforted to know that Mickey was safely in the arms of the Lord... but who among us can explain why this great young guy was plucked so prematurely and suddenly from the beginnings of such a happy, promising life? I certainly don't have answers to such questions, only our Heavenly Father knows. Yet as a minister who has consoled scores of grieving hearts over my lifetime, I can describe to you dozens of other similar accounts... lives that have passed on before us without any greater reason or explanation. Young, old, children, mothers, fathers... some rich, others poor, leaders, followers, famous, obscure... some who died suddenly, others who lingered.
What I do know and can assure you is that death has an appointment with each of us. It is no respecter of our health, age, position or schedule. It is something that none of us can evade and it will usually come calling at a time that we least expect it, and the only way we can be prepared for it is to live each moment as if it were our last.
What were the last words or deeds you did for your loved ones today? At some point in the future, at a day and hour unknown to you, your final words will be uttered to those around you... your last actions on the earth will be sealed for history. While you have the chance, be loving, be kind, be forgiving... it may be your last opportunity.
And if today should be your last, what is the state of your heart and soul with God? What assurance do you have, when you stand before your Maker that He will allow you to join Him in Heaven? The Bible teaches that there is gulf of sin that exists between all mankind and God, a partition that separates us from His presence... which cannot be offset by good deeds or intentions alone. The one and only solution for this sinful detachment... is God's willingness to pardon and forgive our sins, based on the redeeming death of His son, Jesus Christ.
The Bible says that under God's values, sin demands the penalty of death... so out of His love, He devised a plan to pay this penalty in our behalf and for mankind to be rescued. God sent His son, Jesus, to come and to take sin's punishment for us... who died and rose from the dead, showing that all who believe in and trust Him as their Savior and Lord, that He has power to grant forgiveness of sins and the promise of eternal life.
So, are you prepared should death knock at your door today? After you die, your opportunity is forever gone to acquire God's forgiveness and promise of Heaven as your eternal home... so please, while you have opportunity now, receive God's free gift of salvation. Jesus extends His love to you today, if you will but just place your faith in Him and receive the forgiveness that He offers.
"Behold, now is the accepted time; behold, now is the day of salvation." 2 Corinthians 6:2