Facing Mortality

Facing Mortality

RiverWalk Church of Christ Wichita Ks  Minister

As I write this, Karl is dying. My childhood best friend is dying from cancer.
Karl has lived a wonderful life. Raised on a farm, Karl got up each morning to “chore.” Cows needed to be milked, hogs needed to be fed, and the chickens and other animals needed daily care as well. Then it was off to school or if in the summer, on to the tractor to work the ground, mow hay, or whatever else needed to be done.
Sometimes I would be able to help, and always marveled at the work ethic of his family. They seemed to always have several irons in the fire at the same time, and managed to keep them all going strong.
I learned a lot from Karl in my younger days. He had a small-engine repair shop where I learned to repair small engines myself. He raised domestic rabbits, which I picked up on, and to this day enjoy seeing the rabbit exhibit at the state fair. He was a fair basketball player and a follower of WSU (then WU…Wichita University) basketball on KFH radio (1330 on your AM dial).
Sand creek flowed through their pasture. We often would take our .22 rifles there and plink at things. We’d camp overnight there. We’d explore along the creek. In those days, we were much more nimble and quick than we are now, and had great fun along the creek.
Karl had a great career in aviation. I’m not sure exactly what he did, but he ended up at Duncan Aviation in Omaha as a company rep. I lost track of him for many years, and only relatively recently made contact again. Duncan has been good to him and his family, even during these dark days of cancer.
He has always maintained his faith, and although more conservative than I politically, was empathetic for those who were struggling or dealing with the bad things in life. He and his wife were foster parents, and also raised their own kids. Living in a modest area of Omaha for much of his adult life, Karl made it a point to leave the world a better place for his having been here.
But now he is struggling himself. About a year ago, he went to the doctor for some unexplained internal issues, and discovered a stage 4 cancer had been silently growing within him. Given six months to live, he continued to work as best he could, and also began therapy of different kinds. The treatments have prolonged his life, but did not cure him. He is now in hospice care.
Karl has always relied on God for his strength, peace, and courage. He has cried out to God in his pain and grief much the same way as the Psalmist did centuries ago. Family and friends have prayed for healing and now are praying for relief. One of Karl’s last posts had this from him in it, “I am in desperate need of prayers for you to stand in the gap for me when I cannot think and need your strength when my strength does not work.”
And so we basically wait, as does Karl, for him to be called to his forever home. And it makes me think yet again of the fragility of life, the vaporous nature of our time on this earth, and what is really important. For, you see, Karl is not talking at this end stage of his life about how well the Chiefs did last year, or what the stock market is doing. He’s not discussing the latest clothing trends or the hit movies of last year. And he isn’t thinking much about international politics or the royal wedding.
No. He’s thinking about eternity. He’s thinking about life. He’s thinking about suffering. He’s thinking about the forever that looms before him. And he’s resting in the arms of the Almighty God, drawing from Him the strength and sustenance he needs right now…and that he will experience in the full in the hereafter.
It would do us well to do the same, at least from time to time in our busy-ness and in the rat race we call living. It would do us well to relieve ourselves of the stupidity of materialism for just a moment or two and consider what our treasure in heaven may look like. It would do us well to evaluate our relationships and truly consider the well-being of others…even at our own expense. Because one of these days, we will be where Karl is…facing our own mortality, and drawing on the strength of what we have laid up during our younger years.

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