Yesterday I woke up to one of my best friends sobbing, cussing, and punching the wall.
Josh never cries. He is one of the funniest humans I have ever encountered. It was a surreal way to wake up.
I was on the third bunk while he was on the second, occasionally pounding the wall by our beds.
I continued listening to him as I waded further from the shallows of my subconscious and into the reality of the day. Josh was on the phone in the bunk below me, and I soon pieced together that his friend Dan had died in a car accident the night before. As I continued listening, it became clear that Dan had been married just a few weeks prior, and his wife Kayla was also in the car accident. She was in critical condition. A driver had slid in the snow across the center of the road and hit them head on.
I crawled down from my bunk and sat with Josh on his bed, holding his shoulders. He called another friend to tell him the news. In the middle of the call, he got a text, paused to read it, and sobbed back into his iPhone,
“Kayla just died too.”
I sat with Josh a while longer as he made a few more phone calls to inform friends and family of the death of his friends. It was a very surreal morning.
Today I saw on Instagram that a young Ugandan boy had died. I had been following his story for a few months now, as his medical condition continued to baffle doctors and his health waned. A friend of mine had moved to Uganda solely to care for him, and posted updates periodically. Today’s photo on my feed was a flower and a printed portrait of the boy. The caption stated that early this morning, he departed to be with Jesus.
It really did not fit in with the stream of selfies, mountaintop adventurers, and latte art surrounding it.
Saturday evening I delivered a message to an auditorium full of high schoolers. I had a message written up, but I felt like the Lord kept pressing one word into my mind for the event: Weight.
I talked about how we have become desensitized by media to the point that nothing really has weight. Everything is fluffy, funny, and ironic. It is rare to be scrolling through my newsfeed and find something of real weight like I did today. My brain has become used to the constant input of noise that ends up becoming a shallow buzz, removing me from what is really important.
And that surreal morning, I awoke to a jarring reality that didn’t make sense to my cluttered mind. Dan and Kayla would never again wake up together and get coffee. They wouldn’t drive to their church or meet up with friends.
I realized that I have become extremely focused on things that do not matter. Things that do not last. Things that, when I get a phone call saying a friend of mine has died, will not matter at all and I will be sorry to have wasted so much time on them.
C.S. Lewis talks about the word glory as equivalent to weight. Like a giant rock in a river, the weight we give to things helps to shape our lives. The more glorious something is, the more it will inform the way we live. But I feel like lately, I’ve been trying to stack up a bunch of pebbles and demand that they withstand the flow, but when the tides surge, they are quickly swept away. What has the most glory in your life? What most shapes the way you live and the way you spend your time? Is it truly glorious?
I have been wrestling with what exactly I want to say in this post. It is incredibly heavy and indelibly important, but the only thing I can say after witnessing all this death is this:
Jesus hates death.
He hates it more than we do. God didn’t create humans in the hopes that they would one day die. He made us to have life, and life to the fullest. When His dear friend Lazarus died, all Jesus could do was weep. So what I want to say, dear reader, with all the gravity I can muster, is that experiencing the love of God is the fullest life imaginable. It is the only preparation for death.
Moody once said, “One day you will read in the papers that D.L. Moody has died. Don’t believe a word of it! For at that very moment I will be more alive than I have ever been in this old body.” Right now we can rejoice that Dan, Kayla, and the young Ugandan boy are more alive than we could ever dare imagine. One day it will be true of me and many of my friends. And I hope with all my heavy heart that it will be true of you.
Jesus has swallowed up death, and drank every dark drop down. He has taken it into Himself that it may be destroyed and done away with. He has made it possible for us to chant in its awful face,
Where, O death, is your sting? Where, O grave, is your victory?
Is death something you fear, or is it something that has already been defeated?
Come and find life where it may be found, in Christ Jesus, and in Him alone.
Very moving post Ethan. Death is most hardest on those left behind. God bless their family, friends & you.
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Hi Ethan, I am very sorry to hear about your friends. Thank you for sharing in the grief with them. And sharing your grief with us. I can tell you from experience that just sitting with Josh was the best thing you could possibly do.
Thanks for writing this. I woke up this morning to my sister crying. One of her friends lost her baby last night. This is the second miscarriage I have known about in the last month, and it hurts so much. It is so easy to be angry with God and stay with that way as a result of this, but knowing that He hates these deaths as much as I do helps.
Thank you Ethan that was beautiful! Also thanks for being there for Joshua.
Dan and Kayla , though their time here was cut short, from all I have heard about them , their lives here has counted for good. So many have been touched by them.
I pray that some how, God will take this and turn it around to bring good out of it. Romans 8: 28 and we know that in all things God works for the good of those who love him, who have been called according to his purpose.
They were not here by accident , they were called by God , they loved God and their life showed that. So there is a purpose for them being here. I believe that the good will over come and God will be glorified By their love for him. God bless their families, I loss my son way to early, I thought my children would out live me. The same with my younger sister but God has been faithful and has/ still is seeing me through it.
P.S. Joshua is my grandson.
What a comforting article, Ethan. Very poignant and well written. “He hath set eternity in our hearts.”
Thanks for writing, Ethan. Your thoughts on Weight resound with ideas that have been on my mind lately. The constant buzz of media and images vie for our attention and often drown out the thoughts and stories that are true. I’ve been interviewing refugees to hear their stories and understand where they have come from, and the word that has been on my mind is Witness. This is related to Weight, I think. How do we witness the stories and lives of people around us and give them appropriate weight? Aka, letting there be more weight on things of consequence and less attention on the fluff? I’m pondering these things as I consider how I will present these stories to a broader audience.
I am sorry for the loss of Dan, Kayla, and the young Ugandan boy. And I’m thankful for the hope we have in the resurrection.
Keep sharing your thoughts, please.
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Beautifully tragic. Thank you for being real and vulnerable.