Sudden death

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Time is now fleeting, the moments are passing
Passing from you and from me
Shadows are gathering, death beds are coming
Coming for you and for me.

An uncle of mine died this week. He was 70.

He and my aunt were in the process of moving into a new house. The day after Christmas he went back to the old house to take care of something, fell, and evidently hit his head. He was able to call a friend for help, but by the the time he reached the hospital his brain was beginning to shut down. He lost consciousness and never regained it.

He leaves behind his wife of nearly 50 years, two daughters, and two grandchildren. And while he suffered some chronic health problems, which may have intensified the effect of the fall, neither he nor his wife had any reason to think that his words to her as he left on his errand would be the last he would ever speak to her.

I last saw my uncle in early November, at the annual early Thanksgiving celebration for that side of the family. I took some extra photos because we knew it would be our last Thanksgiving at that house. It never crossed my mind that it would be our last Thanksgiving with my uncle.

No one wants to suffer through a long, painful demise, but most of us would hope for enough advance warning to get our affairs in order and to say our farewells to those who love us. Yet so many people never get that chance. Another uncle died last year from a sudden stroke. A former coworker was felled by a heart attack at the age of 40, two months after his youngest child was born. A friend died suddenly one afternoon of an aortic aneurysm. Another friend was in one of the highest stories of the north tower of the World Trade Center on September 11, 2001.

Pete Maravich and Jim Fixx were both athletes in excellent health, but both dropped dead suddenly from heart attacks.

Only God knows the hour in which you will take your last breath. But whether death comes suddenly or slowly, one thing is sure: Death is coming.

They nailed his hands
There on the cross,
On his head the thorns did lay.
Be prepared to go;
There's one thing I know:
You're gettin' closer to the grave each day.

You're gettin' closer to the grave each day.
Sinner man, won't you stop now and pray?
Live the road of sin alone.
Let Jesus lead you home.
You're gettin' closer to the grave each day.

On the great Judgment Day
When life's book is read
There'll be no time to pray
Learn to love and forgive
While on earth you live.
You're gettin' closer to the grave each day.


By the sweat of your face
you shall eat bread,
till you return to the ground,
for out of it you were taken;
for you are dust,
and to dust you shall return.


Come now, you who say, "Today or tomorrow we will go into such and such a town and spend a year there and trade and make a profit"-- yet you do not know what tomorrow will bring. What is your life? For you are a mist that appears for a little time and then vanishes.(James 4:13-14)


None of us have any guarantees that we will wake up in the morning. When you leave your house in the morning, you cannot know for certain that you will return that evening.

Why should we tarry when Jesus is pleading,
Pleading for you and for me?
Why should we linger and heed not his mercies,
Mercies for you and for me?

Come home.
Come home.
Ye who are weary, come home.
Earnestly, tenderly,
Jesus is calling,
Calling, O sinner, come home.

Today is the only day we know we have. Every moment is entrusted by God to us as stewards, to be used for His glory.

Even if I survive 2010, 2010 will have its share of loss. We go through life expecting every week to be like the last. But in the course of 2010, I will travel through places that I will never visit again. I will spend time with friends and family members that I will never see again. Opportunities will come my way that I will never see again. Friendships will end. At some point in 2010, my youngest child will correct himself and stop uttering some cute malapropism forever. In just a few days, he will no longer be a three-year-old.

Every moment is its own little death.

Look carefully then how you walk, not as unwise but as wise, making the best use of the time, because the days are evil. (Ephesians 5:15-16)

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3 Comments

EstherK Author Profile Page said:

My sincere condolences on your loss.

As you know, I'm Jewish, so my perspective is a little textually different from yours. But the rabbis used to advise that every man should repent one day before he died. The inference was, no one knows which day will be his last, so best to live every day as if it were the only chance you get to do things right.

And also, allow me to quote my nephew, who - at age 4, in the middle of a conversation about relatives who had passed away - came up with the following: "So, you have to do your stuff every day, until you die." Really interesting, I think.

Again, I'm really sorry for your loss - may you find comfort in your faith, photographs and memories.

Yogi said:

Well said Michael,

I have had loved ones die long lingering deaths that I wouldn't wish on anyone but at least we got to say goodbye to each other. My Father-in-Law died of a heart attack while driving his truck. It ran into a bridge abutment on a highway in southeast Oklahoma. My son was in the back seat and survived without a scratch.

You just can't take for granted that you are going to see somebody again.

Terri said:

This was a very moving piece. I wonder who hasn't been touched by a sudden death? My sincere condolences on the passing of your uncle. This is a reminder to always live each day as though it's your last.

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This page contains a single entry by Michael Bates published on December 28, 2009 9:17 PM.

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