June 3, 2013
1 Corinthians 15:54b-57
“Death has been swallowed up in victory. Where, O death, is your victory? Where, O death is your sting?” The sting of death is sin , and the power of sin is the law. But thanks be to God! He gives us the victory through our Lord Jesus Christ.
One phone call can change everything.
Saturday, Rick and I were having a lovely day. I’d gone to Madison early and ran at the Susan G. Komen “Race for the Cure.” Rick visited a man from church just moved to a local nursing home and got mulch for the flower beds. With both of us home, we worked outside. I cleaned out the rest of the flower beds so the mulch could go down. Rick finished planting the garden.
I officiated at a wedding late afternoon and stepped inside for a few minutes to check the time. By chance, I checked my cell phone. There were two missed calls, from Vielhuber family members. The second missed call was Rick’s mom. She left a message saying our 61-year-old brother-in-law had passed away.
Dan was a farmer. With his son, Andy, they ran crop land and did some custom farming. Dan raised bees for about 50 years and enjoyed helping others learn the art of raising bees. The last few years, he had also had an apple orchard. Dan got stuck in a wet field on Saturday. A neighbor stopped to help him. When the tractor was unstuck, Dan got out and said he needed to catch his breath. Shortly after this, he went down. Despite being in the country, the ambulance crew arrived very quickly. They performed CPR and took him to the hospital. But Dan slipped away and received his eternal reward.
Rick’s sister Judy was in Milwaukee visiting her daughter and family. Rick and I got ourselves together and headed north. I was caught up in trying to find our nephew Andy and figuring out the absolute latest time I could leave to get to Spring Green for the wedding. As I was driving, a few miles from the farm, Rick reached over, took my hand and began to pray. He thanked God for the beautiful day and Dan’s life. He asked God to give us the words when there really are no words and that our presence would be enough. Winding through the Baraboo bluff, it was my husband who remembered to pray and ended up being the pastor to me.
On Friday, I had a graveside service where I spoke about the preciousness of life; of how quickly life can change and how if we only knew that today would be our last day with a loved one, we might do things just a bit different. I have spoken these words at many funerals and graveside services. I’ve experienced this through the loss of Rick’s son, our grandson, my Dad and other people whom I’ve loved. Yet, I felt like I was rediscovering this once again on Saturday, when one phone called changed everything.
Dan was a wonderful example of a person who lived the Christian life and lived what he believed. He was a very giving man. There are going to be so many people who turned to Dan for advice and knowledge that will miss him, including our family. He took time to teach others.
Take a minute. Chat aimlessly with your loved ones today. Let them know your true feelings. Tell them how much you love them and that you’ll always hold them dear. Tell them “Thank you,” “I’m sorry,” “Please forgive me,” and “I forgive you.” Tomorrow is not promised to anyone, young or old alike. For if that phone call ever comes, you’ll be so glad that you did.
Thank you for this beautiful day, for your presence all around us. Thank you for bringing into our lives people who are so meaningful for us. Thank you for how they teach us, help us and model the Christian life for us. When something happens and our lives are forever changed, may your presence be enough. Amen.