In 1897 a journalist was sent to check on the health of humorist and writer Mark Twain. Reports of his impending death were circulating. The serious illness of Twain’s cousin, James Ross Clemens, was mistakenly being reported that Twain himself was near death’s door. Twain, on June 2, 1897, recounting being told his obituary was being prepared, told the New York Journal, “The reports of my death have been greatly exaggerated.”
I never thought I would have to repeat the words of Twain in regard to my own viability, but may I say, “Reports of my death are greatly exaggerated.” Let me explain. The other night my wife came home after a trip to Wal-Mart relating an unusual encounter she had. She had been approached by a person who wanted to know if I had passed away. What?!? I hadn’t heard anything about it! To say my wife was startled is an understatement. It seems a preacher in the Elkin/State Road area had passed away from cancer whose wife’s name was Shirley, and since I was a preacher from that area, had been diagnosed with prostate cancer in 2013, and my wife’s name is Shirley, the conclusion was that it was me! After regaining her composure from hearing of my demise, my wife thought the whole conversation with her friend in the aisle of Wal-Mart was rather humorous. I didn’t quite see the incident as humorous as my wife did, as no one ever wants to hear about their death!
I would be less than honest, though, if I didn’t confess that in the last year thoughts of my mortality has been a frequent companion. It has been almost a year since I was diagnosed with prostate cancer, and after the shock wears off from hearing those stunning words, you do take inventory of your own mortality. At age 62 I already realize I am sliding down the backside of the hill without anything pushing me any faster. My age and knowing my “c” diagnosis will be something that I will always have to keep a check on, I already realize the fragileness of life and what a precious, precious gift life is. Every new day I am privileged see the sun rise I realize it is a marvelous gift from the Good Lord.
None of us know the number of days we have been allotted on this earth, but while I am here I do want to make a difference in the lives of other people. I have been privileged to preach the unsearchable riches of Christ for over 40 years and I trust and pray it has made a difference in the lives of others. I have the promise it has for the Bible says, “So shall my word be that goeth forth out of my mouth: it shall not return unto me void, but it shall accomplish that which I please, and it shall prosper in the thing whereto I sent it” (Isaiah 55:11). I have been privileged, as well, to coach high school runners for four decades and I am most thankful for the many young people I have been able to mentor and help over the years. It has been most rewarding.
I love life and I can never express in words how thankful I am for each sunrise I witness. I do want to hang around as long as possible. I am like the little boy who says he wants to go to heaven but he is not interested in getting up a train-load tonight! But this I know, there is an eternal hope that lives within me that assures me that when this life is over there awaits an Eternal City where there will be no sickness, heartache, death and where no one will ever grow old! That hope was given to me as a 19 year old on the night I embraced Christ as my Savior. Unless we are alive when the Lord returns, the day will come when all of us will have to depart this life through the doorway of death. But as the great evangelist D.L. Moody once said, “One day you will read that D.L. Moody has passed away. Do not believe it. For at the moment I will be more alive than I have ever been before.”
And until my faith becomes sight I hope to live each day to the fullest, being a faithful servant of the Christ of the cross. And one more thing, unless you hear it from me firsthand, reports of my death are greatly exaggerated!