It's been a hard and unsteady week.
On Monday night I learned that an old and dear friend had committed suicide. He was one of my oldest friends, I met him when I was 8 or 9 and he was 6 or 7. That was 43 or 44 years ago. He and I both went into the ministry. He was a pastor and later a college professor. We stayed in touch enough over the years to keep the friendship alive, and once (about 15 years ago) we talked about where we were at that point in life. Recent years had been hard for my friend. And early Monday morning the burden became too great.
I told his brother that I would gladly speak at the graveside service. But I am in Illinois, and he is being buried in Alabama. I agreed to come, and made plans for the trip. Then Hurricane Ivan entered the picture, and everyone's schedule was turned upside down. So they moved the graveside from Friday to Saturday, which left me out because I couldn't get back to Chicago in time to preach on Sunday.
Then the hurricane hit Alabama, and my youngest son is a student in Birmingham, at Samford University. He and his roommate stayed in the dorm on Thursday while the storm passed overhead. The power was out for two days--and may still be out for all I know. So he and his roommate and some others did what college students do--they played football as the hurricane blasted them with water and wind. And they slid around in the mud of the baseball field.
Since I wasn't going to Alabama, but I had cleared my schedule anyway, I decided to go to a hotel in Joliet where I could do some writing, and also ride my bike along the I & M Canal Trail. Nothing worked out as planned, including a computer that malfunctioned. When I got to my motel, my wife called and said a woman in our church had collapsed and had been taken to the hospital. She is a friend and her oldest son is a friend of our oldest son. Things seemed very bleak last night. Today she is much better, thank God.
Then last night I went for a bike ride--and I did something foolish. I forgot to put the light on my bike. I was riding on a busy road in Joliet at sundown. As I rode back to the motel in the gathering darkness, a car hit me. More precisely, the car's mirror hit my handlebar. That doesn't sound like much, but it's more than enough to cause a major accident. The woman stopped and said, "I didn't even see you," which I'm sure was true. When she found out I was okay, she said, "Thank you, Jesus," and drove off. I pedaled unsteadily back to the motel. I slept fitfully and came back home this morning.
Then to the hospital, then back home, then some problems about an upcoming church event, then to the church for a meeting, then back home, a bike ride, and supper.
Just a few minutes ago I finished writing a eulogy for my dear and cherished friend who will be buried tomorrow. It's a sobering thing to write something for a friend who took his own life. I believe in the grace of God, maybe even more so in times like these, but it's still not easy to find the right words.
I got an email from someone who visited the woman in the hospital who was doing so poorly and now is much better. "I was reminded once again that we're not in control of our own lives." he said. "We're not really in control of anything." Which perfectly sums up how I feel tonight.
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