When I was in high school, I was a part of a group called Campus Life. We met every Monday night, played games, hung out, and had meaningful discussions with each other. This group was a great place for us high schoolers to have fun, while also having meaningful conversations about teenage issues, relationships, and life.
Every year, Campus Life took a trip to the Upper Peninsula in Michigan, for some white water rafting and camping. A lot of my friends raved about how fun the trip had been in previous years, so one year I decided to go. Here’s a GIF of me wiping out on the rapids.
While on the trip, my friend Alex and I became better friends with a guy named Tim. Tim was our age, and he was fun, joyful, kind, and humorous. We hung out with Tim on the rafting trip, got to know him more, and grew in our friendship with him.
Several weeks after returning from the white water rafting trip, I got a phone call from Alex.
“Dude, Tim was in a serious car accident last night, and is now in a coma at Hinsdale Hospital.”
“What?!” I said, shocked and somewhat in disbelief. Our group of friends would often joke around and play pranks on each other, so I didn’t know if this was some joke Tim and Alex were trying to pull on me.
But I found out real quickly that Alex was not joking. Tim had been driving home from work the night before, taking the same route as usual: up the hill and over the train tracks. Only this time, he decided to go up the hill and over the railroads tracks with a little more speed. As a result, his car got air, came down on one wheel, flipped, and smashed into a telephone pole.
Alex and I drove to the hospital to see Tim a few days later with another friend. Tim was hooked up to a bunch of tubes, had his eyes open, part of his head had been surgically removed, and he was motionless on the hospital bed. It was a very sad and depressing scene, and I hope I never have to see a loved one in a situation like that again.
Less than a week later, I was out to lunch with my mom, our pastor, and our pastor’s wife. We had just ordered our food when I got a text from Alex that read, “Tim just passed.”Apparently, Tim’s body had experienced so much trauma during the collision, that there was no way for his body to recover.
I was shocked, and immediately broke down in tears. This was the first time I had lost a friend, and it was completely unexpected. It didn’t seem real, it was painful, and I had so many questions in my head about why he died.
This week, another friend of mine died unexpectedly.
My wife and I were driving home from a wedding in Tennessee, and at one point my wife got a phone call from a good friend of ours.
“What!? Oh my gosh…” my wife gasped.
I was surprised, and not sure what had happened. My wife pulled the phone slightly away from her ear and told me that our mutual friend Kenny had passed away.
Kenny and I had gone to the same church and college for a few years. We would often stop and have conversations together. To think of him not being alive was shocking and sad. He was so young, jolly, and full of faith and life, and I couldn’t understand why the Lord called him home so early.
Two of my friends had died unexpectedly, and even though both friend’s deaths were years apart, each occurrence hit me like a ton of bricks.
For many people, death is an abstract, “far in the distant future” idea. It doesn’t feel real, near, or imminent – until it becomes personal. Once a family member or friend dies, then all of a sudden we are smacked with reality.
Wow, life really is a vapor.
When your friends die unexpectedly, it puts life into perspective. It reminds you how short and fragile life really is. It reminds you that when you say goodbye to your wife, you’re not guaranteed that she will come home. It reminds you that tomorrow is not guaranteed, and that all of us are making an impact on other people – whether positive or negative.
Death reminds us to be grateful for each breath, to not take anything or anyone for granted, and to not be afraid.
Because one day, all of us will die.
The good news of Jesus Christ is that even in death, you are a winner. “I am the resurrection and the life. The one who believes in me will live, even though they die…” said Jesus (John 11:25 NIV).
I like how the Apostle Paul puts it: “For to me, to live is Christ and to die is gain.” (Philippians 1:21 NIV)
Goodbye Tim, Goodbye Kenny… for now. I know I’ll see you again in the Kingdom of Heaven one day. For that truth and hope, I am grateful.
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