I've just returned from a business trip to Orlando. During a portion of the time I was there, I found myself doing what nearly anyone who visits would do while in the area: standing in line at an amusement park.
What made this time different than any other was the phone call I received from Debbie, our church's secretary. She wanted to know if I had received the email regarding the death of Jack Booker.
Everything surrounding me: time, place, sounds, smells, and the anticipation of getting on one of the world's best roller coasters, all broke apart and fell to the ground like so much shattered glass.
My friend and brother in Christ, Jack Booker, had gone to be with the Lord.
Debbie gave me all of the details she could, but it seemed that blood filled my ears, preventing me from hearing with any clarity, the words she was clearly speaking to me. My mind raced with emotions, memories and thoughts about what I should do. I had flashbacks.
"Hello preacher! How are you today?"
"I'm going to get you a copy of 'Last of the Dogmen.' It's the best movie ever made."
"Hey brother! I heard it was a good message today, but I don't know because I was asleep," he would joke.
"Lee, you are a blessing to this congregation and we are glad to have you." These were the last words Jack ever spoke to me.
After Debbie gave me a number to contact Genia who was at the hospital with Charlene, I began to ask myself what I was doing in Orlando. I needed to be home, to be with the people I've come to love, during this very important time. All I could manage was a phone call to let them know that my heart and my prayers were with them all. It felt inadequate. Very inadequate.
During the time I've served at O'Fallon, there have been three passings. Though I've been touched by them all, I knew Jack best and feel that we had a personal relationship. That makes this particularly difficult.
How do I feel?
What should I feel?
What do I say?
What should I say?
How do I care for the congregation?
I'm a "new hand" at this sort of thing, but I suspect you never become an "old hand" at it.
We've lost a dear loved one.
But medicine for me is medicine for others. And that which I know is this:
"...Blessed are the dead which die in the Lord from henceforth: Yea, saith the Spirit, that they may rest from their labours; and their works do follow them." Rev 14:13
It is not mine to determine the worth of Jack's life, the quality of his walk, the quantity of his work or the sincerity of his heart. That is the Lord's domain. But I will say, that I found him to be a quality man, a tireless worker for the Lord, a constant encourager, and an example of Christian faith.
Though the sadness in our hearts is inevitable, we of like faith cannot help but to celebrate his life and his home going. As Christians, it is ultimately to what we all look forward and that, with great anticipation and hope. Jack has gone where we all want to go...into the hands of a just God.
So to my brother and friend,
"Farewell. I thank God for the brief time we had together, to walk along the path of this Christian journey, to run on the track of this Christian race, for the conversations both spoken and unspoken. I pray that we will again see one another. Rest well from your labors. Your work has truly followed you. You are already missed.
May the great God of Heaven grant you every spiritual blessing.