Death, the unavoidable certainty

I penned the following a few weeks ago. Rather than change the tense of it, I wanted to clarify that it isn’t fresh in composition.

The title of any piece with the word death in it probably seems like something one wouldn’t want to read. As this title indicates, death isn’t something we can’t avoid. Yes, I know the title is redundant, since something that’s unavoidable is a certainty. We all have an appointment with death. The most unfortunate thing is none of us has a clue of when that appointment has been pinned on the cosmic calendar. This past Sunday, I was knocked aside shortly after arriving at church with news of the death of a good friend of mine, Frederick Haynes. Fred was my best man at my wedding, and I’ve witnessed his growth in Christ throughout the last thirty years. I’ve seen him go from being a Bible teacher to being the pastor of a thriving church congregation, which has spiritually taken its place in the community.

Receiving the news of Fred’s death almost immediately upon my arrival at church, and watching the effect of that news on others, caused me to feel I needed to return home, get back in bed and start the day again. Although Fred was no longer attending my congregation, he was still a member, returning on occasion to fellowship with friends and associates. He had gone on years ago to do the work of God in his personal calling. He was still well-known and loved in what used to be his weekly place of worship. News of his passing caused there to be a dark cloud over the worship services last Sunday morning. There was a thick malaise from the pulpit to the back of the church, noticeable by all. It was impossible for me to hold back the evidence of my pain. I found myself asking the wrong question: Why Fred and I’m still here? I’m the one who’s been suffering from the ravages of Multiple Myeloma for the last seventeen years; I’m the one who went into relapse a few months ago, and is now undergoing treatments to hopefully place me into remission again. Fred was one of the good guys, younger than I, with so much talent yet to be dedicated to bringing glory to God for years to come.

There’s an old saying: The good die young. At sixty-five years of age, a millennial might say that Fed wasn’t young. Oh, but he was. He hadn’t even hit his second wind in serving the community, preaching the Gospel and bringing glory to God. He will be missed by countless numbers of people throughout the local community and from around the nation. His going-home celebration was a grand event. The church was filled to the rafters, with overflow spilling into the fellowship hall and a large meeting room, both equipped with technology making it possible for those there to see the service. Fred, Reverend Fred was a great guy, a great servant of God.

As I reflect on the title of this piece, I’m moved to think of the fact that though death is unavoidable, it’s best dealt with when the person meeting it, has a rich legacy to leave behind. Fred had one. His service to God will continue to be an inspiration to many though he’s no longer physically with us.

Death is an unavoidable certainty; however, the quality of the legacy we leave behind is totally dependent on the quality of the life we lived. Fred’s life was modeled in the image of Jesus Christ. He’ll continue to affect other for years to come.

I’m old and blessed…hope you will be too.

Being tired comes with the package some days

There are days when tired seems to be the main course. Living with Multiple Myeloma is a blessing and a curse. It’s a blessing when one considers the advancement in treatment that have been rolled out over the last twenty years. These treatments have increased survival rates and placed characterization of this horrible disease in the chronic disease column. As I write this piece, I’m not in any form meaning to complain about my experiences over the last seventeen and one-half years. I just feel the need to pen some of what I’m feeling today.

This has been one of those weeks, thank God few in number, when I’m tired. It’s been a challenge to follow my normal routine of taking a ten-mile bicycle ride, working out with my weights and doing a few stretching exercises before breakfast. I’ve been retired now for three years and nine months. Retirement has been enjoyable. I often joke when asked what am I doing in retirement by saying whatever I want. God has blessed me to be a long-term cancer survivor, who wasn’t quite sure I would get the chance to enjoy these golden years. The times I’ve spent with my grandchildren, my wife, other family members and friends have been precious. I distinctly remember praying seventeen years ago that God would allow me to see my children grow into adulthood. I have no doubt that prayer has been answered, and He’s given me even more.

There’s a reality which I must accept: I’m a consumer of large quantities of chemotherapy drugs, designed to keep my cancer at bay. I went into relapse during the latter part of last year. My healthcare team is now trying to put me into remission again. No doubt these medications are having effects I would rather not experience, fatigue being one of them. Tiredness comes every once and awhile. When it does, I must slow things down and allow my body to rest, to catchup. These are the times when prayer, meditation and less animated activities are par for my daily course. The problem though is that this tiredness is unique.

I can recall when I was much younger, spending a full day at work, preceded with running a good five miles, and maybe even a bit of exercise after work would leave me tired. This was a different kind of tired though. It didn’t put me in a mental fog like what I’m occasionally experiencing now. There are times when I feel a though I’m too tired to withstand the tiredness I’m feeling. There wasn’t any excessive physical activity to bring it on; it just showed up at my doorstep. It causes me to say with regularity that this too shall pass. God is always gracious in moving it beyond my field of sensitivity in short order, allowing me to bounce back to my normal menu of activities. But while it’s with me, it’s dark, heavy and burdensome.

I can only say that one must be prepared to take the bad with the predominant good and thank God. As I go through each of my days of heavy tiredness, I’m reminded of the Psalmist who said, “As I go “through” the valley of the shadow of death…”. I’m still here, and as long as I am, God is still blessing me to go through whatever dark passages life places before me.
I’m old and blessed…hope you will be too.