Loss of a friend

A friend of mine died on Christmas day. The sudden loss has disturbed me more than I thought. Although I have rarely seen him over the last two decades, my friend and his family were a significant part of my life when I lived in the valley.

We were both competitive cross country (XC) skiers and spent many hours together training on snow, on roller skis, and on our mountain bikes. Although there was at least a fifteen year difference between us, when it came to outdoor sport we were quite equal in terms of fitness and skill, and, therefore, compatible as training partners. As the younger member of this dynamic duo, I always admired him for his excellent ski technique and incredible long distance endurance on snow. As a former marathon runner of some twenty five years, he had vast experience in fitness training methodology and I was keen to learn what I could from him.

As CANSI instructors we taught XC skiing in the local ski club, our own children predominantly filling out the roster. In fact, his children were a part of our ministry to children (a church-based community outreach program) A simple lifestyle in a less complicated period in my life.

Unfortunately, outside of self-propelled outdoor sport, we had very little in common. He was a government lawyer, I was a young pastor of a small church. We talked about philosophy, God, faith, the Church, and many other natural and spiritual realities over a period of approximately three years. At times, I would plead with him to turn his heart towards God, but, sadly, he insisted upon remaining a staunch atheist at that time.

When you train with someone several times a week over a period of three years, you get to know and understand an individual quite well. He knew my faults, as I knew his, yet there was a quiet acceptance and mutual tolerance for each other. When we moved to the city, I simply lost touch with my friend, and know little about his heart attitude towards Christ before he died. My hope and my prayer is that the health difficulties that he experienced in the latter part of his life caused him to reflect, and turn towards a loving and merciful God.

At this point, I am feeling grief, remorse, and perhaps a little guilt. Earlier this Spring a cycling acquaintance mentioned to me that my friend was battling with cancer. He suggested that I should visit him. My response was basically, “I’m not sure if it will do any good…he won’t listen to me anyway…” Yet, deep down inside, I realized that I could at least make contact. Well, the months rolled by until winter was upon us. I heard about my friends death on Facebook, and I am sitting here wondering if there was something I could have said or done – thus the sense of guilt I am feeling.

The purpose of this story is clearly this,

we can do all that we can to live a healthy and productive life and still die a tragic death.

We do not know the time nor the place. We have but one supreme choice to make in this life – to love and serve God or to reject the sacrifice of Jesus Christ. The choices we make today become who we are tomorrow.

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