In January my alter ego OneOldCop penned a piece titled Of Signs and Coincidences. It discussed why I wound up spending much of the Christmas and New Year holiday period contemplating something not so festive, funeral arrangements. No. I am not kidding. Read the piece if you want the full story. The only reason I mention it is another sign or coincidence popped up recently. One that reminded me of The Parable of the Rich Fool.
The Saturday after Valentine’s Day my wife and I spent the evening with friends. It was a delightful evening filled with laughs, great food, and a bit of the game people in our generation play, “who has the latest and most bothersome story about growing older.” It ended with the promise of another dinner in a few weeks, after our friends returned from a Caribbean vacation.
Seven days after we parted company a phone call from a stranger delivered tragic news. One of our friends drowned. He swam into dangerous waters and was pulled out to sea with his wife and other vacationers watching helplessly from the beach.
This guy led a great life. He was a retired professor who served as a dean at two prestigious universities. He was respected in his field, he traveled the world, and was an interesting guy to be around. He went on vacation to spend a few days exploring a new place, and now he is gone.
Yes, it is a tragedy. It is also a message to anyone who will listen. First, as the story in Luke so clearer shows, none of us are guaranteed the next breath. None of us know that when we make a dinner date for two weeks from next Saturday, we will be around to keep that date.
My friend’s death is tragic for several reasons. First, it did not need to happen. He was warned, and people reportedly tried to stop him from getting into the water. The waters off this beach were known to be unsafe. He chose not to listen, or, as many of us might, assumed he could handle anything the sea threw at him. Also, it appears he made few if any arrangements in preparation for his passing, after all, he was in good health. He had years left to make his final arrangements, just like the rich farmer in the parable.
Of more concern to me at the moment is where he stood with God. I knew the man for the better part of four decades. Yet, I never had a discussion with him over his faith. I had shared my faith, and he was aware of my involvement in several ministries. Still, I never tried to have an in-depth discussion with him about what he believed.
I did know he and his wife were raised Catholic. I also know she talks about him being in a better place now, and that she believed there was a reason for his death. Still, I do not know if he had a relationship with Jesus, a believer’s baptism, or was simply relying on the fact he was part of the Catholic Church for his salvation. As I sit here writing this, I can tell you those are uncomfortable feelings.
For the record, sort of, I do have a reason or excuse for not asking those questions over the years. He was a life long academician, with a doctorate. I worked within the higher education environment for many years. Faculty members are often hesitant to admit any belief system beyond tenure, collegiality, and the pursuit of grant money. Even those I knew who were Christian did not “come out” to the rest of the academic community easily. Evangelizing within higher education could be a masochistic pursuit, and a lot of us wimped out when it came to approaching others in the university setting about faith.
As I sit here attempting to bring this piece to a close, I feel convicted in two ways. First, from what I know at the moment, his planning for his passing was not much farther along than mine is now. Even though I started pulling things together and arranging things to make it easier for my family if I should not come back from a trip one day, there is much left to do.
Second, and more important, I should have directly approached my friend about his faith. Even if he rebuffed me in some fashion, I would have known I tried. I also might have a better feeling for the reality of his wife’s belief that he is in a better place.
The moral of this story? None of us know when the end will come for us or those around us. Take nothing for granted, and assuming you can address important matters the next time you see someone is dangerous. There may not be a next time.
© sinnerswalk.com – 2019