My friend on the mountain died this week. Ken stepped out of his earthly tent and was clothed in immortality early Monday morning. His train to glory finally left the station.
I was always struck by the peace that surrounded Ken as he faced his imminent departure from this life. Only once did he express agitation over his condition. And that was in the context of how it affected others.
Ken slept a lot during my visits, but he would always rally at some point during my stay. He'd sit up and eat his Joe's maple bar and chat with me until his energy waned. Ken was always kind and jovial and expressed great interest in my life. About a month ago, however, Ken admitted that he strugged with the process of dying.
"I didn't think it would take so long to die," he told me. "I feel like I've purchased my ticket, gotten it punched and have my seat on the train. But here we are, just sitting at the station. I hate the thought of being a long-term burden to my friends and family."
I quickly assured Ken he wasn't a burden--that he greatly blessed all who were privilged enough to serve him.
"And the timing of this process is up to God," I reminded him. "Ken, I pray for God to heal you every Monday as I drive up the mountain. But more than that, I pray Psalm 139:16 over you--that all the days God ordained for you before you were even born would be fully lived. The fact that your train hasn't left the station just means God isn't finished with you yet. "
That seemed to comfort Ken a bit. When I left, he was peacefully sleeping.
I didn't see Ken the next week because he decided to join all of his children and grandchildren at the coast for their annual beach retreat. Ken was pretty worn out when I came the following Monday, but reported that a wonderful time was had by all.
I noticed that he didn't eat the maple bar I'd brought him, however. He was no longer taking extra oxygen to help him breathe. Sensing his train would depart before I would return the following Monday, I prayed with Ken said goodbye (instead of my usual "see you later!") before I headed down the mountain.
"Oh, and could you hug Jonah for me?" I asked as I headed for the door. Ken smiled and nodded.
One week later, Ken's train left the station and carried him to glory. He is now a part of that great cloud of witnesses, cheering us on as we live out our earthly days.
Thank you, Ken, for letting me wait with you at the station.
And every time I eat a Joe's maple bar, I will think back fondly on my time with you . . .