Rev. Gaven Mize
"Don't leave me," Ann said to her husband. She had been sick for the better part of six months and had been in hospice care for the past week. Time was running out. Her cheeks had sunken in, her eyes had blackened, and her mouth was almost always dry.
"I won't leave you. I'm right here," said her husband. Harold had always loved her. He had loved her since he first saw her. He hated being in the Army because it so often took him away from her. He got out of the service as soon as he could and then he made a promise to her never to leave her. But, he knew that soon the promise would be broken whether he wanted it or not. As her breath slowed Harold began to cry. He barely even noticed when the pastor came. Harold faintly caught the last few lines from the pastor. "...may you see the Redeemer face to face, and enjoy the vision of God forever," the pastor whispered. And soon after, the pastor told Harold he would be right outside. It was not very long after the pastor left that Ann did, too. She was gone. Harold was a quiet man. He was a man of distinction, honor, and he carried with him a strong and unshakable faith. But not right then. Right then he wanted to run down the hall screaming at the top of his lungs about just how unfair God had been to him. Was this a sin? Surely, he recalled a biblical figure or two who had questioned God. But, who cared at this point? God had taken away the love that He had given Harold. And Harold didn't know much, but at that time he knew that God wasn't a fair God. Harold and Ann had been together 55 years and now he was forced to leave her. God forced Harold to break his promise to his wife.
The next few days moved very slowly. Harold left most, if not all, of the funeral arrangements for the kids. He was numb and just wanted it to all be over: the funeral, his life, just all over. He then recalled Ann's favorite flower and became somewhat reinvigorated and determined that his wife would be buried with pink and white snapdragons in her hands. He faintly remembered the door clicking closed and the car starting, but what he did recall was passing his pastor's car parked in front of the coffee shop. Removing all traces of snapdragons from his mind, Harold whipped the car around and headed to get some coffee. Harold was going to get some answers.
Harold walked into the shop, sat down, and asked, "Why, preacher? Why would God take my wife? Why would He do this to me if He is so good, so just, so fair?"
Taken aback, the preacher answered, "To you, Harold? God didn't do this to you. Death comes for us all. What He did was for Ann." He continued, "This isn't Ann's first death. In her baptism she died the death of Christ as was raised to new life. Do you think that God would have her to remain dead in this death?" The pastor thought he had said the right words. He had gone to seminary and they had said that things like this might happen.
"God is not just. He is an unfair God," Harold said.
"It is true Harold that God is not fair, but just He most certainly is," the pastor said. "It is unfair that Christ became flesh and dwelt among us, it is unfair that He died for our sins on the cross, and it is certainly unfair that we have been ripped from the grasp of sin, death, and the devil in our baptisms. Those things are unfair, if we got what was fair we certainly would have rooms reserved in a very hot section of hell, separated from God for all time. But just, He is. He is just because He is the justifier. Christ is the one who took on Ann's sins and the one who stands between death and life for her. He is her judge and innocent is her verdict."
"I have to go," said Harold. "I promised I wouldn't leave Ann and I have been gone from her body too long. This is hard, preacher. Promise, you won't leave me to suffer alone."
The pastor looked up at Harold, "That promise is for God alone to keep. You have broken no promise today or the day Ann died. Christ has kept that promise for you and He will keep it when your day of dying comes. But, here, today I'll be by your side, until the end, until the casket is lowered and after."
The pastor visits Ann from time to time. But now when he comes with pink and white snapdragons, he also brings with him a cup of coffee and lays a Bible verse on the grave next to hers. Harold's grave. Today that verse left on the hard tombstone reads: "I am with you always, even to the end of the age." In death and in life, no truer words can be spoken.
Rev. Gaven M. Mize serves as pastor at Augustana Lutheran Church, Hickory, North Carolina.
Created: December 15th, 2015