On December 23rd a man Janet and I have known for almost 15 years passed away. He was Kristin’s father-in-law, Roland Inskeep – a quiet, likable gentleman who has struggled with Alzheimer’s for the past several years – one of the most devastating diseases I can think of – both for the person affected and for their family. Janet and I weren’t close personal friends of Roland, but we always spent time with him during the holidays and when our grandchildren were involved in sporting events or award ceremonies.
Back in 1966, when I was thirteen, my own paternal grandfather, Jacob Toussaint, also succumbed to the effects of Alzheimer’s. Near Chicago, in mid January of that year, he wandered away from the nursing home where he lived, without a coat, and died of pneumonia several days later. Although people such as President Ronald Reagan also suffered from this dreaded disease, I haven’t known too many others who have had to deal with Alzheimer’s. But once you’ve seen it, you don’t forget what it is like, and how difficult it is on all parties involved.
Roland’s battle ended on the evening of December 23rd, just several hours short of Christmas Eve. As much as it saddens me to see anyone pass on (from the human perspective), in this case, Roland’s death was a blessing. Those of us who are Christian realize that he is in a far better place and that someday he will be reunited with his wife, Judy, and the rest of the family who pre-deceased him. This is the first grandparent Connor, Carter and Cooper have lost and this certainly caused me some deep thought about the void that will be left in the boys’ lives. Of course, it also leaves me as the only grandfather still alive while, thankfully, the boys still have both of their grandmothers.
We all attended the Celebration of Life service held at Carmel United Methodist Church last Friday morning. The pastor who conducted the service reminded us that the two most important dates in our lives are the date that we are born and the date that we die and enter heaven. Everything else is represented by the dash that is between the two dates – in Roland’s case, 1935 – 2013.
We know what happened at the beginning and the end, but it was great to hear all the stories of the some of the events that happened in between – those years represented by the dash… Although I have heard this analogy before, I spent the service listening to the stories and wondering what people might say about my life – the years between my birth and, eventually, my death. While it was difficult to realize the extent to how much Roland will be missed, the stories of his life were quite inspiring.
As the year 2013 comes to a close, I thought that maybe we should all take a moment and wonder about how we are going to spend our time next year – how each of us intends to fill in the dash for 2014. Hopefully, we will become a little more Christlike and deepen our relationship with God. The verse for this evening reflects the idea that Jesus was there at the beginning and will be there at the end. It means that He is also everything in between – in other words – He is with us every step of the intervening years between our birth and our death. In Revelation 22:13, Christ tells us, “I am the Alpha and the Omega, the First and the Last, the Beginning and the End.” He is always there – forever…
My encouragement this evening is that you have a great opportunity to create your own future and how people will look back on your life – don’t waste it. My prayer is that you will pray about what God wants you to accomplish next year and that you will be obedient to that call. Have a great day in the Lord, grace and peace…