Christmas Day 1999 started off so well.
I was in St. Louis, one of many former hometowns, with Mother and Father. We had opened presents and gone out to a movie, The Green Mile. Dinner came with no flourishing touches. Now we were enjoying some individual me-times. Dad was watching TV. Mom was washing her hair. I was fooling around on the computer trying to copy a CD.
Then one of my uncles called from Kansas City. "And he sounds very upset," my Mom said to Dad.
Within moments we knew the unbelievable, unthinkable, disturbing and heartbreaking truth. My Grandpa Francis had died.
It happened without any tinge of warning. He had Christmas dinner with my aunt and uncle and went home with his special friend Fern, a person whom I dubbed "Madam X," because she never seemed to be around for family gatherings. But she meant the world to Grandpa after his beloved Martha -- my Grandma Francis -- passed on, leaving him alone in a huge house in Overland Park, Kansas.
He was taking a shower upstairs in that house, and Fern hadn’t heard from him in awhile. She went upstairs to check, and that’s when she found him on the bathroom floor. Apparently he’d had a heart attack. She called 911, and he still had a pulse when the EMT’s got there. They couldn’t save him.
Besides the shock and the pain, I thought I was cursed... or cursing others.
Grandma Francis died in 1994, days before I took my first real television job at KRGV in Weslaco, Texas. When Grandpa died, I was days from taking a new job at KOLD in Tucson.
"You are going to retire in Arizona," my brother wisecracked.
If anything, I thought it would be my other living grandma. She’d broken her hip right after I’d accepted the KOLD job, and she was in the hospital. I found out about it on my answering machine.
I didn't learn the truth until many years later. One of the biggest questions people have about God is why, with a loving and powerful Maker, do bad things happen to good people? Why did both my paternal grandparents die suddenly? Why did Grandpa leave this world on a day of joy and thanksgiving? The Cool Church has an excellent seminar on this, but the thing to remember is none of these things are God's doing.
I believe, and Scripture confirms, that God is not a God of death, but a God of love and life. What people fail to realize is that there's a spiritual battle going on. I John 5:19 (NIV) says, "We know that we are children of God, and that the whole world is under the control of the evil one." That would be Satan. He's the one responsible for Grandpa's sudden death. He's the one to blame for every tragic death.
I wince when people bring up that saying, "God only takes the best," or anything implying God "took" them. Do you really believe a loving God would do this to people? As James 1:17 (NIV) says, "Every good and perfect gift is from above, coming down from the Father of the heavenly lights, who does not change like shifting shadows."
If we ever needed a reason for a Savior, this is it. I was watching Rick Warren give a Christmas Eve teaching on Fox News tonight, and he reminded us Jesus didn't come just to save us from sin, but also from death -- and from ourselves, our own plans that aren't in harmony with what God wants for us.
Romans 8:28 (NIV): "And we know that in all things God works for the good of those who love him, who have been called according to his purpose." No, God didn't "take" my Grandpa away. But He did reunite him with Grandma. And together they're living in Paradise.