The Death of My Mom, a Mentor, and a Young Man; Thoughts on the Human Death Order
“Your eyes have seen my unformed substance; and in Your book were all written the days that were ordained for me, when as yet there was not one of them.” – Psalm 139:16
Allow me to share with you the story of three people from my life that have all gone home to be with the Lord. I start with Wyatt Blankenship. I met Wyatt in the summer of 1997. I was in college, serving as the youth minister of Union Grove Baptist in Beech Bluff, Tennessee. Wyatt was the “new kid” in the youth group. That summer, he was saved. Wyatt was full of life. He was younger than the other students in our small youth group of twenty students or so, but that did not stop the others from embracing him like a little brother. Certain things jump out to me about Wyatt. I remember he loved to play video games and paint ball, typical interests of boys his age. He was also a young man of integrity. One time he came and told me that he had lied about what grade he was in just so that he could be in the “youth group.” His honesty poured out upon his cheeks in the form of tears. It was in that moment I realized how special he really was. Six years later, at the age of eighteen, Wyatt was killed in a car wreck just outside of Linden, Tennessee. At the funeral, an eighty-one year old deacon by the name of Marvin Russell came to me in tears and wept over young Wyatt’s passing. I remember Marvin telling me something like, “Old men like me are not supposed to outlive young people like Wyatt.” That statement rang in my ears for quite some time. Why would God call home a young man in his prime of life and leave an old man to remain on this earth a little longer? Marvin’s amazing statement that day at the funeral matched his amazing life. He loved God, and served Him wholeheartedly. He and his wife Marie had personally ministered to me by opening up their home during my college years. There was always an extra bed, and extra meal, and an extra cup of laundry detergent. God would take Marvin home in the fall of 2009 at the age of 87, six years after Wyatt’s passing. Marvin had impacted so many people through his life and testimony for Jesus Christ. One person in particular he had impacted was my mom. She would occasionally come up to Union Grove from Memphis and attend the services. She had even spent some time in the Russell’s home. I remember after the 1999 tornado ripped through the Beech Bluff community, my Mom and I drove all the way up to the Russell’s house just to make sure they were okay; for we could not get them on the phone and had become very concerned. When we pulled up to their place, the house was still standing, but the garage was gone, and there was extensive damage to their yard and fence. Their power had been knocked out, which was not a good thing for an elderly couple in January. Mom and I did our best to meet a few immediate needs, and prayed with them. I remember before we departed, I handed Marvin a brand new flashlight. Driving off, my mom said, “I wonder how much time Marvin still has. He seems to be in such bad shape.” The irony of that statement is that he had another ten years, and my mother only had eight.
Who would have ever predicted the death order of these three saints? Wyatt Blankenship (1985-2003), Hope Martin (1944-2007), and Marvin Russell (1922-2009). From our perspective, this might seem out of order, but it is not from God’s perspective. God’s plan is never out of order. It would be good for us to remember that God’s ways and thoughts are not in sync with ours (Isaiah 55:8). He has a plan for our lives (Jeremiah 29:11), a plan from start to finish. So whether God graces you with eighteen years or eighty-seven, run the race to the fullest, and do so for the glory of God (Hebrews 12:1). Marvin, Wyatt and my mother most certainly did.
– Pastor Eric