On Friday morning June 4, 1993, four people stepped into eternity and met their Maker. My friend Millie called me from Richland, Washington to tell me that her son’s plane, a single engine Beechcraft Bonanza disappeared from radar screens about 7:50 a.m. in northwestern Nevada. When she called, the plane was already overdue in Richland. A storm, she said, prevented the Civil Air Patrol from beginning an immediate search. Millie called a few days later and said that the charred wreckage of the plane was found and that there were no survivors. Millie’s son Richard Allen Lee, age 42, her daughter-in-law Lynda Jean, and her two grand-daughters Kristina Ann and Megan Jean had stepped into eternity.
For the past four months I have asked, “Lord, is there something that can be salvaged from what we with our human understanding can only interpret as a tragedy?” I kept asking and I kept listening. I shared the tragedy and the loss of four young lives with many people and listened for a response. Then one day I heard words that startled me. The words came from a Believer who observed all the traditions of his particular denomination. He said, “Peter, I hope that when it is my time to die, I will be good enough to go to Heaven.”
I trembled as I heard his response; for I knew that our own goodness is never good enough to save our soul. It is written that my righteousness, my wardrobe of good deeds is as filthy rags in the sight of God. I knew that Jesus had purchased a garment of salvation for me when He died on the cross of Calvary for all the sins of all mankind, which included mine. And I knew that it was my choice, it was up to me to receive this garment of salvation as a gift or not receive it at all.
But how can one convey these life-preserving truths across the counter of a busy store while customers are milling about, interrupting and asking questions? I did the best I could to explain the mercy and grace of God; but I hasten to add here what was in my heart but may not have crossed my lips. It is my prayer that this P.S., this post script to my conversation will find its way into the hearts of those who labor and live under the delusion that being “good enough” can ever open the gates of heaven to any of us regardless of how perfect a life we may have lived here on earth. “Thank you, Jesus, for dying for my sins on the cross,” - words coming from a grateful heart, are the only kind of words that will cause St. Peter to open those heavenly gates for us. It’s a good idea to practice those words early and often.
The poem “I’m Free” was a part of the memorial service held for the Lee family. The third line of the poem reads: “I took His hand when I heard His call.” May the Holy Spirit cause these words to leap from this page into many hearts. We may not know it, but we are all walking on the edge of eternity and may slip across before the day has ended. The time to say “Yes, Lord” is now. Later may be too late.
Written in memory of the Lee family
Don’t grieve for me for now I’m free
I’m following the path God has laid you see
I took His hand when I heard His call
I turned my back and left it all.
I could not stay another day
To laugh, to love, to work or play.
Tasks left undone must stay that way.
I found the peace at the close of day.
If my parting has left a void
Then fill it with remembered joys -
A friendship shared, a laugh, a kiss
Oh yes, these things too I will miss.
Be not burdened with times of sorrow.
I wish you the sunshine of tomorrow.
My life’s been full, I savored much.
Good friends, good times, a loved one’s touch.
Perhaps my time seemed all too brief -
Don’t lengthen it now with undue grief.
Lift up your hearts, and peace to thee -
God wanted me now; He set me free
We knew little that morning
God was going to call your name
In life we loved you dearly
In death we do the same
It broke our hearts to lose you
But you did not go alone
For part of us went with you
The day God called you home.
You left us beautiful memories
Your love is still our guide
And though we cannot see you
You are always by our side.
Our family chain is broken
And nothing seems the same
But as God calls us one by one
The chain will link again.