Late last Tuesday night I received a devastating phone call informing me that my former college roommate and life-long friend, Ron Eversole, had just been killed in a horrible automobile accident. I was stunned. It didn’t seem possible. I had just exchanged emails with Ron earlier that same day. His death comes just three weeks after the passing of my good friend, John Foster, about whom I wrote in this blog two weeks ago.
But I mourn today. I can’t believe Ron is gone. I fight back tears when I think of him or pray or listen to Christian music on the radio. Once again I’m painfully reminded of the uncertainty of life. David once stated, “There is but a step between me and death.” James wrote, “Why you do not even know what will happen tomorrow. What is your life? You are a mist that appears for a little while and then vanishes.” (James 4:14)
I really hurt for Ron’s wife Garnett and their two children and grandchildren. When I heard the news on Tuesday night around midnight, I called Garnett at her home in Florida and we shared our shock and grief over the phone. We also reminded each other of our hope in Christ. “To be absent from the body is to be present with the Lord.”
But I didn’t sleep much Tuesday night. I thought about the many joyful experiences Ron and I had in Bible College: playing basketball, going to Reds baseball games, visiting in each other’s homes, double dating, staying up all night cramming for finals, riding his Honda motorcycle, being attendants in each other’s weddings, preparing sermons.
One evening in our senior year we began discussing where we envisioned ourselves being in ten years. I said, “I think I’d like to go back home and start a new church in the Erie, Pennsylvania area and build it up to 200 people. It’s so needed there.”
Ron responded, “I’d like to go back to Louisville and help build a large church in my home town.” We need a big church there.” Ten years later I was preaching at a large church in Louisville and Ron was preaching at a church of about two hundred people a half-hour from my home in Pennsylvania. Someone once said, “If you want to make God laugh, tell Him your plans.”
Ron spent his entire life in the ministry. He loved to preach but really struggled to write sermons. He often complemented me on the sermons I wrote and borrowed my notes from time to time. He enjoyed telling people of an occasion when he had little time to prepare and preached one of my sermons almost verbatim. Although it was one of my favorites, a cranky old woman told him afterward that it was one of the worst sermons she had ever heard in her life!
Not too long after that humbling experience Ron decided God was calling him to be an associate minister. He served his longest ministry as an assistant to my brother John at the Lakeside Christian Church in Northern Kentucky. Before retiring, Ron spent a decade as an executive pastor with the Tates Creek Christian Church in Lexington.
Last Tuesday night as I lay wide-eyed in bed I kept thinking about my own mortality and how I needed to tell people close to me how much they mean to me. I kept thinking about the fact that I needed to give more of my money away because it’s of no use to us when we’re gone. I kept thinking about how important it is to live one day at a time and make the most of every opportunity. But mostly I was thinking about the importance of trusting totally in God because there’s actually nothing else to trust in. All other ground is sinking sand. Like Simon Peter we can only say, “Lord, to whom shall we go? You alone have the words of eternal life.”
As a minister I dealt with grieving people nearly every week. And I’ve been in this situation before myself. But it doesn’t get any easier. I wonder how people with no faith in Christ can endure these experiences. What if you were convinced that we’re mere road-kill and when you’re dead that’s it? What if you were “…without God and without hope in the world”? How unbearably sad that must be. I’m so thankful for Jesus’ promise, “I am the resurrection and the life. He who believes in me will live, even though he dies” (John 11:25).
This week I keep remembering what Butch Dabney said when he was asked why he feared death less as he got older. He said, “It’s because I have more friends in heaven than I do on earth!” That’s becoming increasingly true for me also. That’s probably why the old-timers used to sing, “Friends will be there I have loved long ago and joy like a river around me will flow.” That’s certainly a part of the reason the Apostle Paul wrote, “For to me, to live is Christ and to die is gain.”
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