I’ve had many conversations about death with many people. That wasn’t my normal conversation with my husband Dave. We talked about the future. What we’d do in our retirement years. Where we’d live. Our dreams for our son. Life seemed wide open and expansive. Filled with many possibilities.
We also talked about movies and books. We shared ideas and dreams. Since we were both writers, we talked about that, too. We even did a couple writing projects together. It surprised us both that we were a great team, since our styles were so different.
We co-wrote a historical piece. Dave did the research and I fleshed it out. I gave the facts personality and found the story waiting patiently on the sidelines. It was fun. We envisioned more writing ventures.
We had plans. We talked about everything, except about death. You’d think that would have changed when his cancer went acute. Not so much. I remember saying to him one day, “I hope you’re going to be all right.” And he replied, “Me, too.” Although not many words were spoken, we both knew well all the hopes, dreams, and prayers that were holding these few words up.
Dave let me anoint him with oil and pray over him. I sincerely believed that the Lord would heal him. Later, Dave told me that whether God healed him on earth or in heaven, he knew he’d be okay. The Lord gave him incredible peace.
Dave wanted to live, but he also knew that if he died, he’d live forever with the Lord. Through this journey from life to death to life, he personified the words of Apostle Paul in Philippians 1:21. “For to me, to live is Christ and to die is gain.”
A few months after Dave passed, a friend of ours shared their final conversation. The last thing Dave said to him was, “I just want Kathy to be happy.”
I knew it was true. Dave always thought of others first. Yet, it touched me so deeply that as he was dying he was thinking of my welfare after he was gone.
Eight years later I married Melvin. Even though he was quite a bit older than me, he was full of life. We had dreams and plans, too. But they were different. We talked about the future, but we lived more day by day. We appreciated the joy of each new day together. We both knew what it was like to be alone. We were thankful that the Lord in His love and mercy brought us together. Our home was a home of peace and a home of love because the Lord dwelt there with us.
I planted a garden. Melvin brought me dirt from the field. I took a picture of him up on his tractor. It’s a great shot. He’s pointing to me. There’s a twinkle in his eye. He’s actually flirting with me. We used this picture in his funeral bulletin. It makes me smile whenever I see it. It represents the zest he had for life. The zest he had for the Lord. And the zest he had for our life together.
When I think about him, I don’t see him in a sad way. I miss him and wish he was still here with me, but I know without a doubt that he’s in heaven. Knowing that gives me incredible peace. I can almost imagine Mel meeting Dave and the two of them having good conversations. I can imagine him seeing his first wife, Janice, and his parents, his siblings, and others who passed before him. And those who have passed since.
Two days before he died I asked Melvin, “If you go before me, what should I do?” He looked at me very seriously and sincerely. He leaned forward and said, “You just keep serving the Lord.”
“Okay,” I said. “I will.” In retrospect, our conversation seems more than casual words. I realize now that it’s my promise. I’ll simply keep serving the Lord. I’m not sure how that looks exactly. I know that it will probably contain more conversations about death and about life. Because if we know the Lord and we’re sheep in His pasture, we’ll pass from death to life when our time on earth ends.
During times of transition I’ll see a Bible verse over and over again. It becomes almost funny. I’ll even say out loud, “Okay Lord, I get it.”
When I became a chaplain, I saw one verse repeatedly. It helped me as I walked through new doors and new situations. I said it silently to myself during difficult times. It became a prayer and a promise. Recently, I’ve been seeing it again. One day, I saw it four or five times. It’s Proverbs 3:5-6: “Trust in the Lord with all your heart and lean not on your own understanding; in all your ways acknowledge him, and he will make your paths straight.”
I’m looking for those straight paths that lead to life everlasting with the Lord. I know they’re on a narrow road and that there are few who find that road (Matthew 7:13-14).
As we approach Father’s Day, I’m thankful for my dad, who was a wonderful father. I’m thankful that I married two wonderful men who were also great dads. But most of all, I’m thankful for my heavenly Father, who gives us straight paths that lead to eternity with Him. We just have to choose to walk them. Choose today. Choose life.
“I call heaven and earth to witness against you that today I have set before you life or death, blessing or curse. Oh, that you would choose life; that you and your children might live!” (Deuteronomy 30:19 TLB).
Kathy Yoder is a devotional writer. She may be reached at email@example.com.