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.
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