When you go to the grocery in the middle of the afternoon, you see all sorts of folks you don't see there on the weekend. Usually, I would have been working in the middle of the day. But since my mom's last stroke, I had been running errands during the day for my parents. It seemed there was something they needed from the grocery or pharmacy every day. This day, I was hurrying through the store aisles.
As I turned the corner of the last aisle, I saw a lady from church. I had often seen her at the nursing home where her husband had been living for several years. She would be there patiently feeding him lunch in the dining hall and faithfully caring for his every need.
We greeted each other in the grocery as she asked, “How is your mom?” As I began to tell her about Mom's second stroke, she asked if I had heard that her husband had died in February. “No,” I said, “I had not heard about that. I am so sorry.” And then she began to tell the story of his final day on earth.
“It was the day before Valentine's Day,” she began. “Remember how hard it rained that day?” she asked, and I nodded as I recalled the the stormy weather. She continued, “He sat up in bed that day and said, 'Look at all that rain!' And I said to him, 'Who are you?' Because he had not spoken that clearly or even noticed the rain for months.” And then she told me that later that night, he had died in his sleep. Her eyes tightened and her cheeks flushed as she said, “I should have known, because he was so different.”
My mind drifted away from our conversation as I wondered how many other widows have said that same thing, “I should have known.” Recalling my own husband's death, I thought "Certainly, I should have known." I still remember how I sat up in bed feeling the presence of angels around me. “Reach out to him.” They didn't speak out loud of course, but I could hear them urging me to reach out to him. I did not. At the time, I thought I had good reasons not to wake him in the middle of the night. It's one of those things that I've wanted to do over so many times.
Later when my mother died, sixteen months after the first stroke, my dad said that I should have been there. My children and I had been there so many other times in the middle of the night, but not that night. So often we live in denial of the obvious truth. And yet when that one thing which is impossible to know finally happens, we blame ourselves by saying, “I should have known.” The truth is that no one can know the day or the hour of the passing of another person or even know of their own death. There are reasons why these things are known only by God.
"And which of you with taking thought can add to his stature one cubit? If ye then be not able to do that thing which is least, why take ye thought for the rest? Consider the lilies how they grow: they toil not, they spin not; and yet I say unto you, that Solomon in all his glory was not arrayed like one of these. If then God so clothe the grass, which is to day in the field, and to morrow is cast into the oven; how much more will he clothe you, O ye of little faith? And see not ye what ye shall eat, or what ye shall drink, neither be ye of doubtful mind. For all these things do the nations of the world seek after: and your Father knows that ye have need of these things. But rather seek ye the kingdom of God; and all these things shall be added unto you."
Lord, Thank you for reminding us that you know us intimately even when we don't understand the circumstances surrounding life and death. Thank you for providing for us all the days of our lives. Forgive us when we try to second guess your plans. Help us to rest knowing that you are in control of everything. Thank you most of all for providing eternal life through your Son, Jesus Christ. Amen.