Good Departure

Written by BG Howard

September 6, 2023

A peculiar stage was set when I once received a call from a distant relative to whom many affectionately refer as “Auntie.” She contacted me one afternoon to inform a popular bishop, and a distant relative as well, was being transported to Jacksonville. He’d been to the doctor in Waycross and it determined further testing would be required so they had opted to admit him in Jacksonville.

With my day already in full swing by mid-morning, I reasoned it a better option to visit my cousin the following day. “Auntie” didn’t have information concerning his admission status but she provided means of contacting the bishop’s youngest son. When I finally dialed him approaching 6:30p that evening, we spoke briefly and he relayed information regarding the hospital to which his father had been admitted.

The following day, plans were made to visit my cousin at St. Vincent’s Hospital and the drive began at 2:45p. Roughly forty-five minutes later had my cousin, his wife, a couple others, Sandra and me simply hanging out in his hospital room conversing for nearly three hours. He was in extremely good spirits as while reminiscing about more than fifty-two years of marriage to his beautiful wife.

There was discussion of thier six children, the construction company he’d started in 1969, and the fact they’d resided at the same address for more than fifty years. He noted his numerous years of public service, tenure on the board of a local utility company, and the more than thirty years in the pulpit. That proved rather impressive given that he identified as being the lead pastor at four Pentecostal churches in the region of southeastern Georgia. There was even a very brief hint at exploits he remembered prior to his days “wearing the collar” but he just chuckled and respectfully declined any further comment.

I have to honestly say it was a genuine treasure to spend time with my elder cousin Tuesday evening. Another visit was slated for the following afternoon when other members of their family and a few friends gathered in his hospital room. The time was cut short as he was due to undergo a procedure just over an hour into the visit but we all gathered around his bed and prayed. Prior to him being taken downstairs, we’d spoken about the fact that the bishop resolved his peace had been made and the outcome would be as the Lord willed.

After leaving the hospital that afternoon, I had reasoned the next couple days would entail a number of other rather intrusive medical procedures and decided to allow the family that quality time. I did check with the hospital and family during the next two days to verify the surgeries had gone well. My plan was to visit a day or so later so as to not infringe upon the family’s limited visitation schedule in the ICU recovery.

As I prepared to stop by the hospital however, a call was received from his wife about 12:25p in the afternoon. She disclosed that everything had been going well and much of the immediate concern alleviated. That was, until she’d been contacted earlier that morning notifying of the fact something had occurred and her husband subsequently passed away.

The reality of the moment hit me like a ton of bricks and required my stepping away from the world for several hours. There was the carnal regret, initial sadness and feeling of mortal loss that instantly set upon me. But then something amazing happened and I could recall the smile on the face of my cousin when we’d last conversed. The confidence in his voice and the peace of which he’d spoken as well as the joy displayed during our discussions.

Factually speaking, it is well understood that the moment one enters the world is the day that he or she begins to die. The real consequences of how a person chooses to live life, in most cases, won’t truly be realized until living is done. However, it does prove somewhat beneficial to have that time for reminiscing and “re-living” life when one knows there is a distinctive possibility tomorrow may not come. My condolences are extended to the bishop’s as the world has lost a valuable treasure.

As my dear departed mother used to say, “There’s a right way to do everything; even something you don’t want to.” Regarding the issue of things one can’t control, rationale suggests simply taking the necessary precautions to certify the best possible outcome. You only die once. From all that I’ve experienced, the best option is to do it in Christ. I could be wrong but it’s just something to consider.

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