The worst text I’ve ever received. The words that pull the air right out of your lungs without your permission. A year ago at almost just this time. The moment you know is guaranteed to come but you are nonetheless completely unprepared for when it does. When I think about it, I still can’t help but know that God’s timing is perfect. Down to the minute. I wasn’t alone when I got this news. I wasn’t driving from New Jersey to Illinois in a fog. I wasn’t stuck in traffic, or on a vacation, or shooting a wedding in New York City. I was at work in a place where we daily interact with sickness, fear, unexpected loss, and heartache. I was in a place where I was surrounded by people who routinely drop what they are doing and pray for others. And that’s what they did. As soon as Shawn told me that Dad was being worked on by paramedics, I was immediately surrounded by a little cloud of witnesses that I could see with my eyes and hear their prayers rise. And I knew then that while prayers were being said for him to if at all possible be spared, what was really happening was my Dad’s name was being whispered before the Lord even in the very moments he arrived in his presence. Knowing I was witnessing something incredible, I opened my eyes and peeked at those who stood around me, praying for a man they had never met, I was amazed as I imagined how great a cloud of witnesses we are surrounded by every day, cheering us on as it were in our race, shouting “further up and further in.” So when mom’s message came through a few moments after we said amen, I already sort of knew. He was gone.

I would still proclaim God’s perfect timing even if none of these things had aligned in such a way. But sometimes he allows us a glimpse of his merciful heart towards his little bruised reeds and faintly burning wicks.

Hebrews 12:1 “Therefore, since we are surrounded by such a great cloud of witnesses, let us throw off everything that hinders and the sin that so easily entangles, and let us run with perseverance the race marked out for us.”

My dad is gone, but he’s part of that great cloud of witnesses cheering us on to the finish line of our own faith, when it will become sight, “where death will be a memory and tears be no more.”

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