I went to a memorial service last Saturday. I had met the deceased (I’ll call him Joe) about a year earlier when he rented an office in my building. Joe was an author of history books and was working on a new volume. He kept odd hours and so I rarely saw him except an occasional passing in the hallway. Joe was, I think, what anyone would describe as a really nice guy.
The service was held in a conference room at the old Valley National Bank building downtown (Now a Hilton Hotel). Joe was a banker and worked in that building before retiring to become a full time author. About seventy-five people showed up, including many of Joe’s old banking buddies. Unfortunately there was only seating for fifty. It was close-up and personal, sort of like a flight on Southwest, but without the peanuts.
The service began with one of Joe’s buddies telling numerous funny stories about their days collecting bad debts for the bank. The next forty-five minutes were a mixture of stories from a half dozen other attendees, including Joe’s sons and daughters. Toward the end, someone read a poem entitled: “Do not stand at my grave and weep” which included such lines as: “I am a thousand winds that blow, I am the diamond glints on snow, I am not there; I did not die.” There was no prayer and there was no mention of our Redeemer. Joe was a “nice” guy, but it was clear that he was not likely a Christian or a follower of any religion. I was so struck by the emptiness of his life without God.
Then a sadness came upon me, but not for the obvious reasons. You see about two weeks before Joe died, he invited me into his office and told me about his cancer. Just then, I remembered a testimony from my friend Don Hodges about praying for people that cross your path. So I offered to pray for Joe and he accepted. Neither of us knew he would be dead in fourteen days. So I just prayed for healing. It never occurred to me to witness to him and pray for salvation. I learned an important lesson: From this day forward, if God puts me in a position to pray for a friend or stranger, I will pray for their salvation first.
At the very end of the memorial, Joe’s young grandson stood and closed the service with a beautiful prayer to our Lord Jesus Christ. Perhaps God sent him to witness to Joe before he died. The Lord’s will was surely done. There is always hope.