In December of 2014, my wife Melissa – the co-founder of this ministry, Act II, and the woman who brought me to Christ’s salvation – died suddenly in her sleep.
And for more than three years, I have wondered why.
When my mother died, it jump started my teaching career and essentially began my adulthood. When my father died, the inheritance money from his retirement allowed me to leave California and move to Idaho. When my son Emerson died at birth, it motivated my first wife and I to have four more children (where we had intended to stop with Emerson and his older brother before he died), four children who would never have been born had Emerson lived. (One of the most pressing reasons for me to get to Heaven is to see Emerson.) I’ve understood the Lord’s purpose for each of those deaths.
But Melissa’s? No clue.
Now, since her death, I’ve remarried to a wonderful woman who I helped lead to the Lord. Perhaps it was for Dana that I became a widower and thus available to become part of her life – and that of her children.
Perhaps it was like the epic hero quest stories – Homer’s Iliad, or Star Wars – where the main character (apparently, me) has to lose his mentor (Melissa) before he can fulfill his destiny. (I confess that there’s more than a smidge of self-aggrandizement in this theory. Lissa would probably think her role a bit ostentatious as well.)
Of course, it’s very possible that the answer to my queries won’t be told to me until I see the Lord in the heavenly flesh. So many of our clouded perceptions have to wait until death or rapture before Christ Himself reveals the Big Picture Answers to us.
Until then, all we have is His Word. Scripture. The Bible.
And until the other day, the best I could find in the entire Bible to support my grief over my late wife’s early death (she was just 47 years old) was Romans 8:28, one of the most famous passages in the New Testament:
“And we know that for those who love God all things work together for good, for those who are called according to his purpose.”
Paul has just this to offer me: whatever God’s reason for bringing Melissa to Heaven at such a young age, Gordon, don’t doubt that He did it for the “greater good“.
Yeah. That doesn’t console me too much, either then or now.
Then the other day, I discovered a pair of verses in the Book of Isaiah that I’ve glossed over many times before. [Sidebar: have you ever noticed that? The Bible is ALIVE. It literally can change the parts that leap off the page at you from one visit to another! Whatever God’s trying to tell you, He’ll make leap off the page and bypass your brain and go straight to your heart instead. Of course, it’s not literally the writing – it’s how God affects your brain as you read. JUST to clarify that detail…. ok, continue, please.] The reason I noticed it, I think, is that I’m doing my Bible in a year reading this time through in the NLT, which is not my version of choice but as with any translation of the Holy Word, it transforms the shape of His message so you see it from a different perspective. Comparing the versions, you feel like they say the exact same thing – but one version brought out my late wife to me, and the tears that accompany her memory at times like these:
Isaiah 57, v. 1 and 2
Good people pass away;
the godly often die before their time.
But no one seems to care or wonder why.
No one seems to understand
that God is protecting them from the evil to come.
For those who follow godly paths
will rest in peace when they die.
Does this sanctify the saying “Only the good die young?” Are all old people ungodly? Does this also answer the question of “why does God keep us here on the sin-filled earth once we’re saved? Can’t He just “beam us up?”
In order; no, but this may be where the the saying came from….
You mean, old people like 120-year old Moses? 99-year old Billy Graham? Of course not.
The reason we’re all still here is to fulfill the Great Commission, to spread the Gospel throughout the world.
What are you, a Star Trek geek?
But it DOES give me reassurance that there might have been a real purpose to her early death: to spare her from something more tragic that she would have had to endure. What that might be, I do not know. But I trust the Lord. If indeed He took her home early to protect her, I am satisfied that He did the right thing.
And I have some peace about her death now that I did not have before this.