ONE EMAIL changed my week.
It came this past Tuesday. By today, my son and I were supposed to be on the West Coast, prepping to meet with my editor and the publishing team: president, sales folks, designers.
But the email reported that my editor – the person most responsible for ushering my book through the production gauntlet – had just lost his 35-year-old son and his 83-year-old dad when the small plane his son was flying crashed and burned shortly after takeoff.
I saw the photos online and I read the story in the digital edition of the local newspaper.
There was nothing left of the front part of the plane where the young man and his grandpa were sitting. The tail of the plane was all that survived intact.
I spent about two hours working with a travel company to get my airline tickets changed for a flight to the publishing company next month. The airlines charged the full price of the change fees: $200 for each ticket, each way. About $800 for the two of us since we were flying there on one airline and flying back on another. They said they would have waived the fee if it had been my son and my dad in the airplane.
Normally, I would have gotten angry at everything about that phone call.
- At how long it took them to change the tickets; the distracted lady sounded like she was new to the job and working in the living room of a noisy house in India.
- At having to pay that steep fee in spite of the tragedy.
But as I sat there on hold, I kept thinking of my son.
In a month, he and I will go to the postponed meeting. He directs my marketing efforts and I wanted him there with me.
So I will be there with my son.
My editor will be there without his son.
I think he will notice that.
I’ve thought about how to introduce him to my son. But the very thought of speaking the words melts me.
All week long, so far, I have felt broken for this editor whom I have never met face to face.
- We’ve joked by email.
- We’ve argued by email and phone.
- We’ve created books together by email, phone, and Federal Express.
I should think of him as a colleague. Normally I do.
Today, he’s a dad without a son. And he’s a son without a dad.
No more. No less.
That’s all and everything. Right now, the spirit has room for nothing else.
When tragedies like this consume our day, we’re left wondering why God didn’t bother to lift a finger. Or lift the plane.
Worse, we wonder why God invented death. It seems like a terrible idea.
Theologians will argue that God wasn’t the source of death, and that death came into the world through Adam.
But who can trust a theologian?
They invent words so they can talk about things they don’t understand. Like the Trinity, entire sanctification, and original sin.
Still, I think it’s healthy to talk about things we don’t understand. And to raise questions we can’t answer.
Like why would God All-Mighty allow death when God in the Flesh cried at a friend’s grave?
“Jesus wept” (John 11:35).
I find myself not liking a God who would invent death. Or even a God who might not have invented death, but who allows it when he could stop it.
I like a God who cries when someone dies.
So when I think about the death of people close to home – family, friends, and colleagues – I leave behind the questions I can’t answer.
I turn to scenes I can picture and understand and embrace.
- Jesus crying at the grave of Lazarus.
- Lazarus rising from the dead and walking out of the tomb, at the command of Jesus.
- Jesus rising from the dead – evidence that death for all its finality isn’t final.
It feels final, I know. There’s no flesh to touch, no voice to hear.
But as followers of Jesus we trust that there is life in the Spirit.
We don’t know what that’s like. But we trust that if Jesus is there, it’s enough.
For more about death
- Two deaths, a Good Friday reading
- What happens to dead Christians?
- What about near-death experiences?
- Book: “Death,” Complete Bible Handbook, pages 103-104
- Video: The Bible, and the Long Good-bye
Blog subscribers who win books this week
- Jaime Hernandez
- Rogerio Lauretti
I give away free books each week. It’s normally to randomly selected subscribers to my free blog and quarterly newsletter. But this time I picked two of the most recent subscribers. I’ll probably pick from the newbies for the next several weeks.
The winners will get the option of choosing my new release: A Quick Guided Tour Through the Bible – among about half a dozen other titles.