During the US Civil War, General Stonewall Jackson befriended a little girl at a home where he wintered. Five-year-old Janie Corbin adored Jackson so much that she wore a piece of gold braid in her hair, taken from the general’s hat.
Those who were with Dallas Willard—philosopher, speaker, writer—when he died from pancreatic cancer in 2013, tell of the beauty and grace he demonstrated as he faced death. One of Dallas’ friends recalls that he said, “I taught on the Great Cloud of Witnesses and now I’m experiencing it. I am in heaven’s hallway and there is a large community coming for me. They are the most loving persons I’ve ever been around.” His last words before entering eternal life were simply, “Thank you.”
I have a confession to make: I love the TV show “Undercover Boss.” The premise of the show is that company bosses—disguised as ordinary employees—learn what their employees think of them and what the employees’ day-to-day lives are like. One reason I enjoy this show so much is seeing the disguises the bosses wear—some that appear to be laughably unconvincing. But what I appreciate most is how, through their experiences, the bosses come to understand both their employees and their companies more deeply, leading them to become far better leaders as a result.
It was a cold December when my father’s health began to dramatically fail. The joy of Christmas was a bit muted. Two weeks later on his ninetieth birthday, my dad went to be with his Savior. There were tears of grief, but there was also joy. My father had been set free from the ravages of disease. And when he took his last breath, he enjoyed a truly new day in Jesus’ presence!
For years, Denise referred warmly to her sibling Carolyn as “my little sister.” Carolyn faced significant cognitive challenges, but she loved life and brought joy to everyone who knew her. She loved Jesus too!
The Swedish writer Fredrick Backman’s 2012 debut novel A Man Called Ove is the tale of a man who sees no reason to live. After the death of his wife (the one person who brought him laughter, intimacy, and joy) and after losing his job, Ove plots his suicide. But then he’s drawn into the larger story around him: There’s a pregnant woman who needs his support, a neighbor in conflict with authorities who are trying to force him into a nursing home, and a young man estranged from his father. Ove discovers reasons to live as he moves beyond himself and toward others.
French philosopher Blaise Pascal wondered why kings wasted hours being entertained by court jesters. Why spend time in the presence of a fool? Pascal concluded that the man who has everything still has one thing to worry about—that he might lose everything. So he calls for the fool, who distracts him from that thought.
I spent my birthday this year at a conference with my husband and some friends. At the end of the conference, I enjoyed taking some time to talk with an acquaintance that is a year younger than I am. As we chatted, he said, “The older I get, the more I realize I haven’t accomplished everything I wanted to accomplish by now.” Then he wistfully remarked, “I may never accomplish it.”
For two and a half years, a visit to my wife’s oncologist was part of our weekly routine. But one visit was different. In a discernably subdued tone, he told us that he was going to stop her treatment. The chemo was no longer effective. My wife had come to the final stage of her fight against a fast-growing, aggressive cancer.
One of my favorite hymns is When We See Christ. The chorus declares how it will be worth every struggle and challenge we encounter in life when we see Jesus face-to-face. And with that day in view, we can courageously live for Him today!
My wife was quiet and sincere—a behind-the-scenes kind of person. She taught and mentored students in her home church in the 1980s and 1990s. But she chose not to retire from that ministry. And over the past 10 years, she continued to teach and mentor the children of her former students. In fact, she ministered to two generations of believers in Jesus within the same family. All in all, 40 years of faithful service.
Since the early days of human existence it’s been a constant foe. Recently it came calling in a friend’s life as she lamented her children not walking with Jesus. Another friend bemoaned the death of what had been a loving marriage. A family member looked at me with teary eyes, trying to form words that couldn’t come due to dementia. Another family member, deep in the throes of grief because of her father’s death, said softly, “I can’t believe he’s gone.”
My friend says our lives are like trains. We make various “stops” for school, college, job, marriage, and family. At each stop we spend time with others who have stepped off. When we graduate or change jobs, we say goodbye to the people at that junction and step back onto the train. Only a handful of people stay with us all the way to the end. These are the most important people in our lives, the people who receive most of our time and attention.
At the climax of the film Superman II, it looked as if villain General Zod had beaten the world’s superhero. Zod had coerced Superman into a crystal chamber that was designed to expose him to sunrays from their home planet Krypton—rays that would neutralize his superpowers. But Superman secretly reconfigured the chamber so that the power-draining sunrays were released on General Zod and his Kryptonian cronies instead!