Death: The Great Equalizer
Death makes us consider our need for God. That was a most prescient observation made by the pastor at a recent memorial service for a man I’ll call Kevin.
Prior to falling ill in his mid-40s, Kevin had volunteered at our church’s food pantry, even though he was a member of a different congregation.
Though slowed by disabilities, he was always helpful and willing to do whatever we asked, even if he needed a bit of extra instruction to complete the task.
Kevin was also a huge sports fan, cheering on the local Marshall University teams and others.
Though he had no transportation outside of buses and folks willing to give him rides to different events, Kevin managed to collect all manner of hats and other sports memorabilia.
That included a ball autographed by most members of Marshall’s NCAA 2020 national championship soccer team.
He even possessed a photograph of himself taken with the governor.
“I’ve never had my picture taken with the governor,” the pastor said with a chuckle.
During his sermon, he noted that the music for the service came from one of Kevin’s favorite gospel groups. The pastor added with a catch in his voice that the church should have played that music on a Sunday while Kevin was alive.
Kevin’s passing wasn’t noticed by many. No family attended his memorial service or the graveside ceremony that followed the next morning.
Yet, he still made an impact by doing what he could, and in a cheerful manner.
An Unfortunate Passing
Ironically, soon after his service I read a story about the death of Thomas McKenzie, a popular priest in Nashville. He was the author of The Anglican Way, which stirred a lot of interest after its 2014 release.
Having written fewer articles in recent years as I devote more time to ghostwriting and editing books, I hadn’t come across McKenzie’s name before. Not like I likely would have, had I still been writing for a trade magazine that covered the Christian products industry.
What caught my attention about this story, though, was the suddenness at which McKenzie was gone, coupled with the circumstances of his passing.
McKenzie and his oldest son died when their car collided with a tractor trailer 20 miles west of Nashville on a Monday morning.
It happened as the priest was driving him to college. After that, McKenzie had been planning a sabbatical, starting by taking his wife to England to celebrate his 50th birthday.
Afterwards, he would travel to France to hike the Camino, a medieval pilgrimage trail. Plus, take other hikes through France and Spain before returning home.
None of that happened. It was a great reminder of the truth of James 4:14: “What is your life? It is just a vapor that appears for a little while and then vanishes away” (MEV).
The older I get, the more I recognize the temporary nature of life. We all (me included) are prone to take those around us for granted, as if they will be here tomorrow just like they were today.
That is assuredly not true, as the grieving members of McKenzie’s church can affirm. So can the members of Kevin’s much smaller congregation in West Virginia.
Since we don’t know how long we will have with those around us, today we should treasure that time.