Despite what marketers try and tell you, there are many benefits to growing older, i.e. “Gray hair is a crown of splendor” (Proverbs 16:31) – but there is one major downside, to be sure:
The older I get, the more people whom I love and appreciate die – and there’s nothing any of us can do about that.
Earlier today, I spoke with a former pastor and friend of mine. It would be impossible for me to overstate how much I have enjoyed and benefited from his teaching and preaching. His sermons were eloquent, poignant and with a flair and flavor that still stick with me over sixteen years since he last preached each Sunday. But this gentleman has just been diagnosed with stage four lung cancer. He never smoked nor was around anyone who did for long periods of time.
Only the Lord knows how much time he has left – but I suspect I’m going to wish it’s more than he receives. But after hanging up with him, it got me thinking about all the people I miss. There are many family members, of course, but public people – individuals whose recent voices shaped our world and who I wish were still around to say more.
Here are just four for me:
1. Dr. Adrian Rogers: A former Focus on the Family board member and longtime pastor of Bellevue Baptist Church in Memphis, Dr. Rogers has been gone since 2004, when he died at the age of 74. Thankfully, his sermons can still be heard through his ministry, Love Worth Finding. I listen to his podcast several times per week on my morning run.
Adrian Rogers was bold and courageous. He once said:
“It is better to be divided by truth than to be united in error. It is better to speak the truth that hurts and then heals, than falsehood that comforts and then kills. It is better to be hated for telling the truth than to be loved for telling a lie. It is better to stand alone with the truth, than to be wrong with a multitude. It is better to ultimately succeed with the truth than to temporarily succeed with a lie. There is only one Gospel.”
2. Charles Schulz: The creator of Charlie Brown and the “Peanuts” comic strip, Schulz died on February 12, 2000. Months earlier, he had announced that Sunday would be the last day one of his original comic strips would appear in the paper. Little did he know it would also be his last day on earth. Offering the perfect blend of wisdom, wit and whimsy, the artist professed a strong Christian faith and often used his strip to preach, such as when he introduced a black child into the mix.
“Cartooning is preaching,” he said. “And I think we have a right to do some preaching. I hate shallow humor. I hate shallow religious humor, I hate shallow sports humor, I hate shallowness of any kind.”
3. Rush Limbaugh: Comedically describing himself as “Talent on loan from God,” Limbaugh died last February 17th at the age of 70 after a year-long battle with lung cancer. Bold, brash and entertaining, Rush was a friend to many of us because we listened to him almost every day for over 30 years. He put into words what many of us were thinking but couldn’t, wouldn’t – or had not yet said.
“I have a personal relationship with Jesus Christ,” Rush said as he approached the end of his life. “It is of immense value, strength, confidence, and that’s why I’m able to remain fully committed to the idea that what is supposed to happen will happen when it’s meant to.”
4. Fred Rogers: Better known as “Mister Rogers,” who died in 2003, was recently lionized and played by Tom Hanks in a major motion picture. Gentle, thoughtful and a Presbyterian minister, the Pittsburgh native influenced many of us via his public television program.
“There are three ways to ultimate success,” he once said. “The first way is to be kind. The second way is to be kind. The third way is to be kind.”
The promise of God’s sovereignty is more than enough to remind us God knows best regarding the timetable for who lives and who dies. But I think it’s also okay to lament loss – and miss the voices and personalities that have shaped and influenced us.
Rogers, Schulz, Limbaugh and Rogers are just four of the many for me – how about you?
Photo from Twitter.