When Death Comes "Early"1
On Monday of this week, October 27, 2014, Bob Willis, a good friend, long-time member, and Elder at Bridgeway Church succumbed to the effects of a glioblastoma brain tumor. He was diagnosed in early February of this year. Bob would have turned 54 in a couple of weeks and is survived by his wife Sherry, and two daughters, Katie and Kristen. Continue reading . . .
On Monday of this week, October 27, 2014, Bob Willis, a good friend, long-time member, and Elder at Bridgeway Church succumbed to the effects of a glioblastoma brain tumor. He was diagnosed in early February of this year. Bob would have turned 54 in a couple of weeks and is survived by his wife Sherry, and two daughters, Katie and Kristen.
The reason I’m mentioning him in this blog is that his age at the time of death was so very close to that of Jonathan Edwards. Edwards, born in 1703, was a few months past his 54th birthday when he died. You may recall that on February 16, 1758, Edwards was installed as President of the College of New Jersey (now Princeton University). On February 23rd he agreed to receive a somewhat experimental smallpox inoculation from which he contracted a fever. He died on March 22nd.
Edwards and his wife Sarah had eleven children (eight daughters and three sons). The only child to precede Edwards in death was Jerusha who fell extremely ill not long after the death of David Brainerd, with whom she had fallen in love. Edwards’s final words were written to his daughter Lucy:
"Dear Lucy, it seems to me to be the will of God that I must shortly leave you; therefore give my kindest love to my dear wife, and tell her, that the uncommon union, which has so long subsisted between us, has been of such a nature as I trust is spiritual and therefore will continue forever: and I hope she will be supported under so great a trial, and submit cheerfully to the will of God. And as to my children, you are now to be left fatherless, which I hope will be an inducement to you all to seek a Father who will never fail you."
Sarah was herself quite ill when she received the news by letter. On April 3, she wrote to her daughter Esther:
“What shall I say: A holy and good God has covered us with a dark cloud. O that we may kiss the rod, and lay our hands on our mouths! The Lord has done it. He has made me adore his goodness that we had him so long. But my God lives; and he has my heart. O what a legacy my husband, and your father, has left to us! We are all given to God: and there I am and love to be. Your ever affectionate mother, Sarah Edwards.”
Sarah was in Philadelphia when she passed away from dysentery on October 2 of that same year. She was only 48 years old.
My prayer for Sherry Willis and her children is that they will respond to this devastating loss the way Sarah did when Jonathan died: “But my God lives, and he has my heart!”
(You probably noticed that in the title to this post I put the word “early” in quote marks. Death often comes at a time that we regard as early or premature. We all have hopes that our loved ones will be with us for a long time, but brain tumors and inoculations gone awry are indifferent to our wishes. Regardless of when death comes, whether “early” or after a long, long life, we must remember the words of David in Psalm 139:16 – “Your eyes saw my unformed substance; in your book were written, every one of them, the days that were formed for me, when as yet there was none of them.”)