This week my teen-aged son entered my walk-in closet as I was doing some organizing. We were chatting about his day when suddenly he asked,
“What is that?” I turned.
“That is your Uncle Dan’s football jacket.”
“Do you ever wear it?”
“Yes, I put it on in the fall, especially in October. The anniversary of his motorcycle accident is this coming Sunday, October 18.”
“May I try it on?”
Suddenly, there he stood, my son wearing his uncle’s football jacket.
“May I wear it to school tomorrow?”
“Yes, you may. Do you want me to wash it?”
“No, I am good.”
The next morning.
My son walks to school. Every morning after devotions we say our good-byes at the front door. This past Thursday morning, I watched my son head down the hill wearing his Uncle Dan’s jacket, the man he is named after.
I will never forget the scene.
Thirty-four years ago today, at 1:00 in the afternoon, I was studying at my desk while in graduate school when the phone rang. Through tears, my mother told me my brother, Dan, had been in a motorcycle accident and was not expected to live through the night.
The effects of that phone call never go away.
My son now has a license and regularly leaves our home in a car alone. I have come to realize I have an intense fear he will be in an accident. When he calls while out with the car, my heart races every time I answer the phone. Every time. I never want to receive the same call my parents received so long ago.
Fear does not win.
I say my prayers and let my son drive. He must grow up and I can’t let fear control me or him. God has heard my heart. He knows I never want to hear the sound of an ambulance rushing to my son, or any one of my children. I am confident my prayers have provided plenty of protection during their travels, but I also know God does not promise a long life.
God knows the number of our days: A person’s days are determined; you have decreed the number of his months and have set limits he cannot exceed. (Job 14:5)
Your eyes saw my unformed body; all the days ordained for me were written in your book before one of them came to be. (Psalm 139:16)
In addition, all lives are short, not some:
…yet you do not know what tomorrow will bring. What is your life? For you are a mist that appears for a little time and then vanishes. (James 4:14)
Man is like a breath; his days are like a passing shadow. (Psalm 144:4)
One of the hardest things to hear from friends who lose a child or young friend or family member is, “God didn’t answer my prayers.” God certainly answers many prayers for healing, but sometimes the circumstance is “unto death.”
There is one example of length of life being extended as a result of prayer. Hezekiah got sick and asked for more time. God granted his request, but as Dr. Michael Jacobson writes in his book, Word on Health:
Remember King Hezekiah? It was said of him that he trusted God more than any king ever to rule in Judah. But when Isaiah informed the king that his sickness was unto death, Hezekiah turned toward the wall, “wept sore,” and begged God to extend his life. God heard Hezekiah’s prayer and gave him another fifteen years (2 Kings 20:1-6)
Is it good news that Hezekiah was granted fifteen more years?
Not really, writes Jacobson. Very little is said about the last 15 years of Hezekiah’s life, except for two things: (1) He blundered by boasting of his wealth to the visiting Babylonians. As a result, Isaiah predicted that his riches would be carried off to Babylon. (2) Three years after he should have been dead, Hezekiah had a son, Manasseh, who became the most wicked king to sit on the throne of Judah. Manasseh practiced occult worship, sacrificed his own son to a pagan god, and “filled Jerusalem from one end to another” with innocent blood. Manasseh was the “straw that broke the camel’s back” and resulted in the entire nation of Judah being condemned to captivity for seventy years (2 Kings 21)*
As I have wrestled with Dan’s death for over three decades now, I have determined that I want to live the length of time God decides. I find myself thinking about Acts 13:36, Now when David had served God’s purpose in his own generation, he fell asleep. I have prayed that I too will fall asleep after I have served God’s purpose in my own generation. Only God knows the good purposes for which I was created (Ephesians 2:10), so I must trust Him with my length of life, and that of my brother’s 23 years as well.
Enjoy your people.
Whatever length of “mist” we get, each minute is a gift. I am grateful for every moment God allows me the honor of being mom to my wide-grinned, generous, handsome, easy-going son, just as I am grateful for every minute God granted me the honor of being sister to my gregarious brother who entered a room personality-first, liked grape soda, hated drinking water, and lived adventurously.
*The Word on Health: A Biblical and Medical Overview of How to Care for Your Body and Mind, Dr. Michael D. Jacobson, page 26.
Picture Explanation: I miss you, Dan. I have no more words for you this year than these, as I type with tears. Your namesake wore your football jacket this week all day at school and then again through an evening of skateboarding. We will keep your jacket hanging in the front room this month to honor your memory, but I still wish you were here to grab it and wear it yourself.
This is my seventh memorial post about my brother. If you want to go back and read any of the prior posts the links are here: 2019, 2018, 2017, 2016, 2015, 2014
© 2020 by Oaks Ministries. All rights reserved.
Laurie, thank you for writing this post through tears. I am looking at the clock and realizing that 1:00 is only five hours away. I love you, dear friend. Thank you for “letting” God change your mourning to dancing and your sorrow to joy. Thank you for walking your journey with serious intention and steadfast focus.
I loved this part of your post: “Now when David had served God’s purpose in his own generation, he fell asleep. I have prayed that I too will fall asleep after I have served God’s purpose in my own generation.”
Lord, please help us to keep our eyes focused on you at all times so we don’t lose sight of your purpose. Help us to live with intention and sober-mindedness. Lord, life can be very hard. I need a bit of winsomeness thrown in there, too, Lord. Please bring special gifts of grace and joy to Laurie, her parents, and her brother today. Thank you that you are good.
My friend, you have had an up close look at what God has done in me. Thank you for driving me to the hospital that night and still being one of my best friends in the globe. I want everyone to know the only reason I “let” God use my suffering for good is because He gave me the grace to do so. I swim in His amazing grace and am witness to His ability to transform us as we trust Him.
Praise God, even in pain.
Laurie, this tugged at my heart too much this morning. I haven’t shed tears over Dan’s death in several years. He has a special place in my heart.
Your message today gave me comfort as I tend to my husband who suffers in failing health. We both know now “unto death” is more realistic than extensive medical intervention to possibly extend his life. We have already travelled that route for the last seven years. Money, time and uncomfortable treatments and proceedures cannot replace the comfort of your own home when your body and spirit are weak, weary and worn out. Trusting God’s will and apreciating each day together feels like the right path for us.
Asking only for prayers of comfort and peacefulness for Dave.
My dear friend. I did not know your current struggles with your husband, Dave. Thank you for telling me – and us, all who read this. We join in prayer for you and Dave.
Dear Father, comfort Dave and Karen in palatable ways. May your presence never be more real – never be more sweet – than it is in this current season of life for them. We join Karen in asking for comfort and peace for Dave. May Dave know His faith in His Savior for forgiveness of sins and eternal life is solid as a rock. May his love for Karen be fully realized and expressed. Oh, what a good wife he has!
Thank you for every breath of life you give us, Father. Each comes from you.
I did not know Dan.
But I do know that Dan is still here.
He is still changing lives.
Although his life on God’s earth was seemingly cut short, his life had great purpose.
And obviously was surrounded with and filled with great love from family and friends. ❤️
Thank you for sharing this very personal story of your brother, Dan.
I will continue to pray for you and your family daily.
God is good.
Dr. Eric R. Angstadt
Yes, Dan’s story is still changing lives. I am so grateful for your messages and prayers.
I am comforted by the verse you shared as well: …but whoever listens to me will dwell secure and will be at ease, without dread of disaster. (Proverbs 1:33) May God continue to increase my security in Him so I do not live with dread of disaster. There is improvement, but may the transforming work continue, Lord. Please.
Oh, Laurie, What a beautiful post!!! Truly, your words honor your brother and speak truth to living on this planet. Trusting God who numbers the hairs on our head and numbers our days is the only way to survive. I didn’t realize you named your son after your brother. I did the same thing. My dad died when I was ten and I named my son after him. Their legacy lives on in our sons. Praying for you, friend.
Oh, Pam, we have something else in common! All three of my children have Dan’s name in there somewhere in the mix. It wasn’t planned that way, but that is how it worked out. His death was a tragedy, but also what God has used most to teach me about Him and increase my ability to reflect Him. As I wrote this year’s post, I thought of you and wondered if you were going to chime in. I have not forgotten to pray you through your own journey of grief and your broken heart as well. Prayers continue.
Your post yesterday was so sweet! I love your faithful love for Dan and the way you keep his memory alive for your family, especially Clay. I know Clay feels very honored to have Dan’s name, and that having his name makes him an even more special part of your family!! I love that Clay wanted to wear Dan’s coat to school and even wore it to skateboard in! I know that blessed your heart!! As One Gritty Blink travels around the world, so will Dan’s story, and God will be using it to touch many lives!
Thank you for your kind words, and thank you for linking Dan to One Gritty Blink. A new thought for me, and one I like.