Every member of the human race will eventually have a date with death. It is inevitable and its timing uncertain; consequently, almost everyone has some modicum of anxiety about it.
My father passed away in July 2009 of congestive heart failure. I spent his final month with him in a small, hot town in Texas. Although he’d achieved only an eighth-grade education, he was a successful entrepreneur. Many of the locals held him in high esteem as he cruised the pot-holed streets in his exotic cars. He was very active in his church and enjoyed his status as the top donor. What I found most interesting during the entire ordeal of his impending death was the nature of his final requests:
- “I’d like to hear my sister Althea’s voice. Do you think you can arrange that?” She lived on the East Coast and they rarely spoke. There was no rift in the relationship; just never enough time to connect.
- “Tell my sons to come and see about me. I can’t take care of myself.” All six lived in California and were already en route. He was never the type to express any kind of vulnerability or to do “mushy stuff” like send a birthday card or say, “I love you.” I marveled at the power of death to humble the proudest of souls.
I knew that my father was afraid to die, even though he had heard many sermons on death during almost a lifetime in church. Indeed, he had a reason to be afraid, for there was unfinished business between him and a couple of his fellow church leaders. He had flatly refused to forgive them for an offense that had hurt him deeply and had cost him a cherished fifty-year friendship. Of course, he was not without fault in the matter. We’d had many discussions about the situation during the past year. I was more concerned about his unforgiveness than his death because I knew it was hindering his fellowship with God. Jesus was emphatic about the impact of unforgiveness: “If you do not forgive men their trespasses, neither will your Father forgive your trespasses” (Matthew 6:15).
I finally took matters into my own hands and called his offenders. They expressed a willingness to forgive and finally made the necessary phone calls to reconcile with him. I rejoiced. I also led my father in a prayer of repentance for all his sins. I know that he is now resting in peace.