Last August my youngest brother, Mark, was killed in a farming accident in Virginia. It was a big shock, and even now doesn’t seem quite real. Our family in Arizona has visited with our relatives back east rather infrequently. Occasionally, several years might pass without having any type of family reunion. For several years prior to his death, Mark had been suggesting that we should plan a big family vacation where everyone could spend some extended time together. We had thought of Lake Powell or some similar location in the west. My extended family lives in Virginia, Arizona, Idaho, and California. We all agreed that it would be a great thing to do. Those plans remained just that…plans. We were going to do it…someday. After Mark’s untimely death, my son and my nephews said, ‘We really need to do this! Now!” It really hit home. We couldn’t put this off any longer.
So, about 9 months ago, we planned a week in mid-July, 2020, at a beachside house in Topsail Island, North Carolina. This was a huge, resort-style, house with 8 rooms with accommodations for all 18 of us…our Arizona family, Mark’s widow, my brother Larry and his sons, and their families. We were going to eat together, make homemade ice cream, collect shells, and have an all-around great time. This was going to be the biggest and best event we’ve ever done…perfect, except that Mark would not be there.
Then COVID-19 came along in March. We had already paid big bucks for the rental and the airline tickets. Surely, things that started out as a 2-week lockdown would be over by July. As the expected end-date of the virus kept getting moved out, we were a little nervous, but continued to plan for our fun time with everyone.
The big day approached. It looked like everything was going to work out. Kathy spent the week prior getting everything ready. New swim suits, vitamin packets, sun-hats and sunscreen, books and games. We were all set. On the morning prior to the flight, I checked in with the airline. We had our masks and our boarding passes. In spite of COVID-19 and the associated uncertainties, we were on our way…almost. At 9:30 that morning, two hours after I had checked-in, I got a phone call from my wife, Kathy. She had developed a cough, a fever, and a pretty bad headache. It had begun the day prior, but we didn’t think it was anything too serious. We were wrong.
After a visit to a nearby Urgent care, the PA said there seemed to be some lung issues, the symptoms were consistent with COVID-19, and travel was not advised…certainly not with a family gathering as the objective. The PA requested X-rays and started Kathy on antibiotics, and told her to take a COVID-19 test. The big day was not what we expected. I called the airline to cancel the flights. We were going to be home (getting tested) while everyone else was going to be together having a big time.
It turned out that with the antibiotics (and tons of prayer by many, many friends) Kathy’s condition rapidly improved. After a few days, her fever was gone. Her headache disappeared, and her cough was lingering, but greatly improved. After ten days, she was as good as new. (After 11 days, we’re still waiting to get the official test results.)
The family had a wonderful time as they relaxed, ate together, made homemade ice cream, and enjoyed their time together. We spent a little FaceTime with them, but it’s not quite the same. Kathy asked our sister-in-law to take some pictures of everyone. Sandy really did capture some great moments.
As I looked at those pictures that showed everyone smiling, laughing, and having a wonderful time, I was reminded of how it feels to miss a big event.
One day, quicker than we imagine, the Lord is going to return. Or, like Mark, we are going to see Jesus sooner than we expect. I don’t want to be missing from the pictures of that day. It will be an incredible, joyful, and glorious day.
In 1910, Wilbur Chapman wrote a hymn, called Glorious Day, that was recently ‘rediscovered’ by Casting Crowns. The last verse reminds us to be prepared:
One day the trumpet will sound for His coming.
One day the skies with His glories will shine.
Wonderful day my Beloved One’s bringing;
glorious Savior, this Jesus, is mine!
Living He loved me; dying, He saved me;
buried, He carried my sins far away.
Rising, He justified freely forever;
one day He’s coming: O glorious day!