This Christmas Season has been unlike any other that I have experienced. Jen did most to the Christmas Shopping, I found myself being pulled in many ways those closing days to Christmas. Then on Saturday, Dec. 22nd, after coaching my 6-year-old 2ndbasketball game – EVER – I came home and crashed for 3-hour nap, in which I woke up with a 102.5 fever. The Christmas Flu hit, and I was in my bed for 5 days. For the 1sttime in my 21 years of Full Time Ministry, I missed a Sunday and a Christmas Eve Service due to sickness! WOW, what a season for firsts…
Of course, being a great sharer, my 3 kids and wonderful wife are on the way to recovering. Sorry guys, I Love You!
Then last night, on Thursday, Dec. 27th, I stood with a family from our church in an ICU room, and said goodbye to their Husband, Father, Brother, Uncle… to me – My Friend! Chuck Baker, almost 80, went to be with Jesus at 7:10 PM.
It is the first time I have been in the room as I watched a person, a friend, take the 1-second-long journey from life to death. I watched in grief, in wonder, in despair, in pain, in great rejoicing, in bewilderment, and utter amazement. A man that I had laughed with, joked with, prayed with, talked about everything with, and man that I worshipped Jesus within Church, was now in the place that I have preached about for 21 years – he is there.
I didn’t know what to do with all of that emotions. All of that weightiness from the family’s grief. All of my own emotions filled with so many thoughts. For the first time in my 45 years, I had witnessed the miracle of eternal life. I was on the earthly side of that miracle, and I longed to be on Chuck’s side – Heaven! He wasn’t in pain anymore. He didn’t have a walker. No more pills. His heart was strong, all in 1 second! It was the first time I ever truly wanted to switch sides with a Red Sox Fan! You see we talked of being never able to trade places as baseball fans, I as a Yankees Fan – He as a Red Sox Fan! After the Red Sox beat the Yankees in the 2018 Playoffs, Chuck gave me a sympathy card, and he drew a broom on the inside of it. (Chuck has a great sense of humor!) As a good friend of ours said, “Chuck is now playing with the Angels!”
I have been somewhat fortunate in this world to have only been close to death only about 20 times in my life. My mom, my father, my father in law, 2 grandfathers, a grandmother, an aunt, an uncle, several classmates, and then about 8 close families that I have walked through death with, as they said goodbye. In all of these journeys to eternity, I have never been in the final hours of life. I have never seen death, the beginning of eternal life.
After last night, I have a fresh perspective of the true meaning of the words written by the Apostle Paul in 2 Corinthians 5:8 & 9, “8 Yes, we are fully confident, and we would rather be away from these earthly bodies, for then we will be at home with the Lord. 9 So whether we are here in this body or away from this body, our goal is to please him.”
I met a man in 2010 in Memphis, TN.
Wes Linder was a kind and gentle man to me. You see, he was homeless, had nothing to his name but an old SUV, the clothes on his back, and then a few earthly possessions in the old SUV. I was introduced to him by his family. I got to know his brother and his mother. The day, I met Wes, we went to the food pantry and grabbed several bags of dry good groceries and personal items, and went back to his SUV.
You see, I sat in his truck and let him talk and talk. We shared cold soup, canned tuna, crackers, and bottles of water. We talked of dreams and goals. We talked of family and future. We talked of God and sin and eternity. I prayed with Wes that day, and only saw him one other time after that. He died 6 months later, just weeks after my family moved from Memphis, TN to Cape Cod, MA. On Dec. 29, 2010. There was nothing I could do or say. My broken friend’s body couldn’t hold together the years of his life. But this I know, his soul was desperately looking and searching for the love and meaning of Christ’s Love for him!
2 men, that I have known for collectively less than 2 years, made a huge impact on me.
Wes taught me that there is no price tag too small or too great to spend time with someone who needs to be loved. Wes taught me that love matters, no matter how it is shared. Wes taught me that life is not about position or bank accounts, but it is about heart and soul. Wes taught me that there are some amazing jewels hidden in the roughs of life. Wes taught me that simple love is found in simple ways – in authenticity, transparency, and vulnerability. Wes taught me to NEVER judge a book by the cover!
Even though Wes had so many questions as to the many of life, he lives on these 8 years later, because he made an impact on so many people, before he crossed over to eternity!
Chuck taught me to laugh. Chuck “made” me love the taste of Root Beer. Chuck helped loved the Yankees that much more. Chuck taught me what a passionate, never quit, tougher than nails life is all about. For the last 8 years of Chuck’s life, he made a commitment to Jesus, because he survived a Heart Attack (1 of several) that should have been it for him. He didn’t miss church from that point. Chuck taught what friendship with differences is all about – you try being a Yankees Fan up here – LOL! Chuck taught me what faithful looks like, sounds like, and is.
Chuck understood his meaning in life, and though Chuck’s death is only a few hours old, Chuck will live on, because he made an impact on so many people, before he crossed over to eternity!
On the way home for the hospital last night, I stopped at the store and bought a bottle of A&W Root Beer and had a good cry. Once home, I talked to my wife to unpack the emotion, then I went upstairs and prayed for my kids as they laid in bed, then spent some time with my oldest son.
Today for lunch, I went down to the food pantry at our church, and had a cold can of soup and some crackers, and sipped on a bottle of water.
You see, I’m 45, and hopefully, have a lot of life to go. But today, I understand life a little more than I did last night…
I understand, that being alone in this world is hard – so do life with people that are like you and that are not!
I understand that the simple things in life, are often the most meaningful.
I understand that no life is a waste and that we are all meant to impact the world for good, by pleasing Jesus.
I understand what Clarence said, “Remember, no man is a failure who has friends!”
And I have had some greats ones!
Love You, Chuck! Sundays will not be the same, but you will not be forgotten!
Love You, Wes! You’ll never be forgotten, and always be remembered!
I think I am beginning to understand this journey of life…got a lot to learn still…but I am up for it!