Last week I had a not good, very bad, horrible day.
Driving on my way to see a donor, from whom I was expecting a significant commitment, I phoned a pastor friend to catch up. We exchanged the usual professional and family information that makes men feel they are staying in rhythm with the heartbeat of their buddies. And I learned that his wife had left him. I’ve not been so shocked in a long time. They seemed to be thriving.
Fortunately, he handled the situation immediately and professionally with his church, and they demonstrated the love and commitment that he has earned there. The leadership unanimously wants him to stay.
Later, while waiting in the lobby of my donor friend, I received a phone call from the son-in-law of my high school buddy from Wisconsin who for the past several years has lived within 80 miles of me. I knew Don’s cancer was back, and he likely wouldn’t make it through the summer.
In fact, I had just checked the map to learn where his house was in relation to my meeting to see if I could run over there that day. I was still wavering between going that day, or waiting until next week when the son-in-law called. Next week would be too late, Chris said. In fact, that afternoon might be too late, as Don was leaving us today, he said in a broken voice. Could I come?
I promised him I would come as soon as I finished my meeting.
Over lunch with my donor prospect I learned his business was off by 35 percent and he would not be able to do for the foundation for which I work what he had hoped and planned to do. He’s a fine man, supportive, and encouraged me to stay in touch.
Pulling away, I called Chris from my car and said I’d be there to see Don in an hour. “Don has passed,” Chris said through his tears. I went anyway to be with the family. We shared hugs, tears, coffee and cookies and some laughs and memories.
The body that once held Don remained in the recliner, dogs in his lap. It would remain there until his son in California and daughter from Seattle arrived and said their farewells.
No matter how much time you have to prepare for a loved one’s passing, you’re never ready when that final breath rattles through the pipes and then falls silent. Don’s illness was terminal and this moment was inevitable. Just, as always, too soon.
That night my friend Steve in Omaha texted that he’d lost control when his bike hit a bump, and he’d broken six ribs and partially deflated a lung.
It was overwhelming really, this day of bad news, and I felt like a patch of dry grass in the path of the lava flowing down from Hawaii’s Kilauea volcano.
I was overwhelmed and yet strangely detached. Is it because these tragedies happened to someone else and I remained untouched? Or is it because I’m basically a stoic and consider these events – as painful as they were to those to dear to me – as merely ebbs and flows of the human experience?
Stuff happens. Nobody promised us a rose garden, yadda yadda.
I’d hate to think that absorbing the stings and arrows of those who sought my undoing in past days hardened my heart to such an extent that I had no soft spot left from which to squeeze a tear.
Or is it because the faith in God’s providence to which I cling truly is sufficient? I’ve often said during difficult periods, “These are not the times that try our faith. These are the times that prove our faith.”
Unfortunately, the opportunity for proving presents itself in trial.
Fortunately, faith is sufficient and trials prove it.