The writer of Ecclesiastes tells us that “for everything there is a season, and a time for every matter under heaven: a time to be born, and a time to die.” We know the truth of that simple statement. It is not a startling revelation. We have enough experience with living and dying to know that death comes to us all eventually. Yet, when it comes, it always seems to catch us off guard. The certainty of death almost always seems far off until it comes crashing unexpectedly into our lives. In those moments, we are reminded vividly and painfully that there is indeed a time to die. We are shocked by the suddenness of it and unprepared for the reality of it, yet still it comes. We say “This can’t be happening” or “I just spoke to him yesterday.” Such is our attempt to make sense of death when it comes near to us.
It certainly has come near to us, too near, too soon. Our brother in Christ, Don Hastings, has taken his leave from this life and has gone on to the next one. His death leaves us with questions. For those who were closest to him, the questions are critical. What will we do without him? What will life be like without him? Don was husband, father and grandfather. Indeed, what will life be like without him? Whatever it will be, it will not be the same. The emptiness left by his dying, if it can be filled, can only be filled by the grace of God and the legacy of Don’s life. The hope of God in Jesus Christ is God’s promise to us that death does not have the last word. Even as death takes from us one we never wanted to be without, in Christ we know that there is more to life than the short time we spend on this earth. In the midst of grief, faith holds the future we cannot see. Today we weep, but there is a day coming when all will be made well.
Certainly, our faith is a comfort in times like these, but we also have Don’s life and the way he lived it. All the ways that he gave himself to others without even thinking about it now becomes for us memories of a special man. Memories that we honor not only when we remember them, but also when we let them impact the way we live our lives. Don was a devoted husband, father and grandfather. He cherished his family. He was a working man. Overcoming physical challenges, he provided for his family; whether at Lockheed Martin, in his barber shop, or at the grocery store, Don did what needed to be done to make sure that his family had what was needed. Don was not just concerned about his own family, but the livelihood of other working men and women as well. He served his country in the Army until polio caused him to be honorably discharged. His love for his church was always evident.
Pause for a moment and think about the ways that you knew Don. What memories emerge? I think of Don as a greeter. I believe it was his spiritual gift. He was always greeting people; saying hello to them, and asking them how they were doing. He never met a stranger. He was always reaching out to others with a kind word and smile. To give someone a pleasant greeting, a few minutes of your time, may seem like a small thing. However, Don did it for a lifetime. Who could count how many lives he touched? One smile, one hello and one handshake at time, he made his world a better place. How is it that someone turns to be the kind of person Don was? I am sure that Don faced enough defeats and challenges. Yet, he still offered himself freely to those around him, sharing his love of life and people.
Don was not just friendly. He was also concerned. His ability to empathize was extraordinary. He would always ask me about Karns football. As I would share the most recent news, which more often than not was bad news, I could see Don’s face take on the pain and disappointment that was evident from the news I was sharing. No matter what I told him, he always found something positive to say. “Well, maybe they will do better this week.” I will always be grateful to Don for the way he offered hope.
Don: Thank you for the legacy you have left to us. May our living be more lively and hopeful as we apply the lessons of your life to our own lives.