What happened on February 17? For most, it’s just another day, nothing special. For me, it is one of those most life impacting days. February 17, 1984 is the day my mother died. And February 17, 2002 is the day my father died. Yes, eighteen years to the day after my father was widowed, he joined the saints in heaven with her. Not that it means anything particularly, just an interesting reality. And yes, I’ve written about this before, but it’s one of those things that continues to impact my life.
Mom’s death impacted me most. Not because I loved her more than Dad, but because I was least prepared. I’d been through the loss of all four of my grandparents prior to that. I had been a pastor for almost eight years and done dozens of funerals, so I thought I faced death fairly well.
How could any death be harder than my first funeral in the summer of 1976, still born twin girls? Or the seventeen year old killed in a car wreck? or the six year old leukemia patient? or the suicide victim who killed himself in his daughter’s home while she was there? or the wife who came home to find her husband dead at the front door of the house from a self-inflicted shooting? or the young mother who died of cancer, leaving a grieving husband with three small children? And so many others.
Of course, most funerals have been for senior saints who lived long and fruitful lives, whose lives we celebrated. But death is still death, and it is ugly. What about the sixty year marriage and the grieving partner who feels cut in half when their spouse dies? Over forty plus years of funerals, enemy death expresses itself in many ways, none of them easy.
But while I’ve grieved with many a person and been touched by their loss, it wasn’t as personal until it was my mom. She was just 66 years old. I was only 33. I have a friend of 60 years whose grandmother is still alive. Why did my mom die so young? Why did my wife’s father die at 39? Why did my best friend Jim die at 62? Why my dear brother Wes at 61?
Did I mention she was 66 and I was 33? Thirty three years later, she would have been ninety nine,her hundredth birthday coming this summer. And now I’m 66 the age that she died. That is sobering.
The question that dogs me this year is the fruitfulness of those years, or the lack thereof. In my first year of semi-retirement, working now in a half time position, for what will my life count going forward? How do I not waste my life in its remaining years or days?
David prayed in Psalm 39:4, 5, “Show me, O LORD, my life’s end and the number of my days; let me know how fleeting is my life. You have made my days a mere handbreadth; the span of my years as nothing before you, Each man’s life is but a breath.
Moses wrote in Psalm 90:12, Teach us to number our days aright, that we may gain a heart of wisdom. (NIV)
Solomon, trying to make sense of life, searching for meaning in multiple life experiences and finding much of it to be vanity/futility/meaningless, nevertheless draws these important conclusions, Remember your Creator in the days of your youth, before the days of trouble come… here is the conclusion of the matter: Fear God and keep his commandments, for this is the whole duty of man. Ecclesiastes 12: 1, 13
Paul expresses it best, I consider my life worth nothing to me, if only I may finish the race and complete the task the Lord Jesus has given me — the task of testifying to the gospel of God’s grace. Acts 20:24