“How is your dad?” I asked my colleague. I had bumped into on the way to lunch. I knew his father was seriously ill, and had been praying for him.
“Oh, he died,” he said.
“I am so sorry,” I said, “I hadn’t heard.”
Then I asked, because it would make me feel better, “But...he was a man of God?”
I imagined that my colleague, a man with a solid faith, grew up in a Christian home and that it would be a comfort at a time like this. But he shook his head and said, “We hope...”
“You always find things in their stuff,” he went on, “We found a red gospel of John; worn and used. Maybe in those lonely hours on the construction site...”
And he repeated the two poignant words he started with, “We hope...”
I nodded. I understood about hope.
A few years ago, just after Christmas my brother called from England to say that my dad was in hospital. His body, once so strong, had finally let him down and he had collapsed with pneumonia. A nurse suggested I might want to be there, my boss said, “Go!” and that night I was on a plane to England.
Dad never came home from hospital and we weren’t able to communicate with him well. He was in an intensive care unit, hooked up to life support machines and sedated. I slept in his bedroom at home and looked for a sign of hope.
Dad loved reading and poetry and on one of my recent visits, my friend Susan had sent him a book of poems by famous poets. Their faith in God was evident in the lines of their work, a fact he commented on negatively at the time. But on top of the bookcase in his room, that book was lying open where he left it; he was obviously reading it before he collapsed.
Dad died that year on January 22nd. He had time to make his peace with God and, I believe, from many conversations over the years, he knew the way. I took comfort in thinking of the thief on the cross, turning to Jesus in the last minutes of his life. It makes no difference after all, except to our own happiness, whether we discover God’s grace early or at the last second.
The Daily Light for January 22nd starts with Psalm 48:14
He is our God forever and ever, and he will be our guide until we die.
It continues with other verses that give comfort and hope, including Psalm 23:3-4
Signs of hope...I’m grateful that people leave them.
Psalm 23:3-4 (New International Version)
3 he restores my soul.
He guides me in paths of righteousness
for his name's sake.
4 Even though I walk
through the valley of the shadow o
I will fear no evil,
for you are with me;
your rod and your staff,
they comfort me.