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An Easter Message from Beyond

April 24, 2019

A bit late because I was traveling and we give newspapers a week to publish the columns before posting here.

Another Way for week of April 19, 2019

An Easter Message from Beyond

For an Easter reflection I feel compelled to share a little of the story of a friend and fellow church member, Charles Churchman II, who died last December at age 89. A poet and English professor, he once wrote “Do not dread darkness at the day’s decline” inspired by Dylan Thomas’s well-known “Do not go gentle into that good night.” Those of us attending the memorial service for Charles in January were able to pick up a lovely free volume of poetry Charles had penned over the years.

As far as I know, my husband and I were the last ones to serve communion to Charles. Our pastor had asked us to share the bread and grape juice at our annual Christmas Eve Lord’s Supper as he communed from his seat. When the announcement came that Charles had died on Sunday morning December 30, that special connection was the first thing I thought of.

Charles and his wife Pat knew my husband Stuart since he was a young boy and were generous in sharing their family experiences with him because his own mother was unable to participate in many of the family outings or excursions most of us enjoy. Several years ago Stuart reflected in a Father’s Day tribute at church, “The Churchmans invited me to go camping or hiking with them at times, which I couldn’t do with my own family because my mother was crippled with rheumatoid arthritis. So the Churchmans have meant a lot to me through the years. You never know how what you do will affect the lives of other people.”

Charles was a great naturalist and lover of the outdoors, enjoying many hikes, camping trips, fishing and just relaxing in nature.

But the Churchman family went through more illnesses and accidents than any family should have to endure. I’ll not recount them all here. Charles II and his son Charles III–known as Chad–both suffered severe head injuries—years apart—resulting in comas. They both recovered although Chad especially had long lasting effects. These things led to years of intense questioning about faith and the why’s. Charles and Pat’s oldest son John almost died of meningitis. Their daughter Beth and her husband’s family grieved tragic losses of young family members. Ultimately, Charles’s youngest son, Chad, died unexpectedly in August of 2017, at the age of 55.

The doubts expressed by the senior Charles were not just a result of bad things happening to good people—but the bigger how’s: how could a kind and loving God permit the immense suffering endured by millions around the world? What about the various religious faiths in the world? Where is God when we question and wonder? Is it okay to be angry at God? I heard Charles pose these and many other probing questions in our Sunday school classes and small group discussions. I sometimes despaired for his faith.

Charles’s journey in his final days, however, as described by his daughter Catherine and verified by his wife and family, was an amazing witness to the afterlife that Easter points to. Catherine shared at the memorial service, “Dad taught messages through his life, and through his actions. He was not one to tell anyone what to believe, which is why the messages he shared at the end of his life were even more powerful and profound. He showed his love. He loved us all powerfully. He loves us still. And, I was blessed beyond measure to be able to walk that final road with him, holding his hand, cradling him, and listening to what he shared.”

The main message Catherine gleaned from her father was “We need to believe. This is crucial and urgent.” He was intent on sharing that message, even with those at the hospital. He asked to be moved to his own home for his final days and there the family sat vigil and often felt that son Chad, was still “sitting vigil with us as a constant companion.”

Catherine shared another discovery of those final days: “When we hold hands with one another, we are all connected–and connected to God. The circle has no end. Dad spoke continuously of his faith, rarely resting, sharing with urgency the truths he had experienced. He wanted to be sure everyone (nurses, doctors, children, grandchildren, great grandchildren, those who called to speak with him) heard the message and also believed. ‘It’s important,’ Dad said.”

I hope you will take this beautiful message with you as you reflect on the message and meaning of Easter this season. We need to believe. As Catherine wrote what she learned from her earthly father, “The love of God surrounds you. Show that love to others you meet along this road.”

***

Send any comments for Catherine or the family to me at anotherwaymedia@yahoo.com or Another Way Media, P.O. Box 363, Singers Glen, VA 22834. I will pass them along.

***

Any special Easter blessings, thoughts, or your own grief and memories?

Another Way is a column by Melodie Davis, in syndication since 1987. She is the author of nine books. Another Way columns are posted at FindingHarmonyBlog.com a week after newspaper publication.

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