January 1, 2015 was the 32nd anniversary of the passing of my now sainted father, Martin Herbert Otto Kieschnick. He died New Year’s Day of 1983 after battling cancer for more than a year. Our entire family, especially my almost 99 year old mother, Elda, misses him greatly. We are comforted only by the hope and assurance that our earthly father is the recipient of eternal life from our heavenly Father through faith in Christ our Lord and that, through the miracle of the resurrection of the body, we will see this wonderful but not quite perfect man again someday.
Last month I visited a longtime friend and co-worker, Dr. Keith Loomans, who is at home under hospice care, spending what appear to be his last days on this earth. His wife, Margie, and other family members are lovingly caring for Keith, trying to make him as comfortable as possible, even though he struggles valiantly for every breath of life.
Conversely, during the recent holidays I received word of the sudden death of two LCMS clergy friends of mine. Rev. Dr. Ronald Fink, former parish pastor and past LCMS Atlantic District President, died suddenly December 27 at the age of 77 after preaching two days earlier at a Christmas Eve service. Terry and I traveled with Ron and his wife, Millie, on our recent cruise following the footsteps of the apostle Paul. Ron appeared healthy and was doing just fine on our trip. Apparently he suffered a heart attack or stroke or aneurism that took his life instantly.
Rev. Kim DeVries, long time pastor of Mount Calvary Lutheran Church in San Antonio, passed away New Year’s Day. He was not yet 65 and apparently suffered a heart attack or blood clot while jogging. Terry and I were with Kim and his wife, Cathy, in November at the LCEF Fall Conference in California. Though seemingly in excellent health, Kim died suddenly. He leaves Cathy, two sons, their wives, two grandsons and other family members to mourn his passing.
People who lose loved ones as the result of lengthy illness have the burden of walking with their loved one through the valley of the shadow of death. They see and are deeply saddened by the pain and suffering their loved ones experience, often resulting from medical treatments intended to cure the disease that has captivated the loved one’s being.
People who lose loved ones to sudden, unexpected death are shocked by the loss and the unhappy experience of not being able to say goodbye or to prepare themselves in advance. If the loved one is taken prematurely, there’s a sense of regret or remorse that the expected longevity of the loved one in question was abbreviated. There may also be feelings of anger at being cheated, robbed of future time and life experiences that have suddenly and irreversibly vanished.
There’s no easy way to lose a loved one, whether he or she leaves this world slowly or suddenly. Although it’s not a frequent topic of conversation and while I’m certainly not in any rush, I’ve told Terry that should the Lord choose to take me quickly, may his Holy Name be praised!
Either way, as the hymn says, for all of us: “I’m but a stranger here. Heaven is my home!”