Recommended by Ricochet Members Created with Sketch. “Not Long I Think. He is So Afraid. He Needs Jesus.”


When I was in middle school, my best friend Stephen had a little dog named BJ, who was about the size of a loaf of bread. One day while we were running around the house, BJ was yapping at my heels. I picked him up and kept running, but BJ wanted to be free, so he wriggled out of my hands. He fell to the floor and broke his neck.

Watching the life flow out of BJ’s little body was a childhood trauma that lingers to this day. The fact that it had been my fault was a big part of it, of course, but also that it was simply the most poignant encounter I’d had with death to that point in my life, or indeed for quite a long while afterwards.

In fact, on the whole I’d say my 51 years have thus far been quite remarkably free from the near pain of death. When I consider those many I’ve known who have prematurely lost a spouse, child, parent or sibling–including my dear wife–I am quite fortunate indeed. For whatever purposes, God has chosen to shield me to a great degree from death’s cold touch.

Yet recently I have felt death’s specter drawing nearer, most especially with the untimely passing of a number of friends old and new. In doing so, I have had to grapple with the reality that I have been a poor excuse for a friend, and that my capacity for compassion is severely constrained by both my fear and my addiction to comfort, to a degree that has shocked me and largely shattered my noble self-image.

Fear and death. They go together like peanut butter and jelly.

I recently got a message from someone very close to me, who described the pain of her brother’s deterioration: “Not long I think. He is so afraid. He needs Jesus.” 

These words grab at my heart. They convey the torment of a soul confronting the terrifying reality of what lies beyond the veil, and they convey the reality of my life as well. Because you see, it is really not long for any of us, and the fear of death hangs over all of us, though often we hide it beneath a veneer of activities and distractions. We all, therefore, desperately need to know Jesus–now, today–and to cast these deepest fears upon Him. This is true even of those of us who have already declared our love for Him and put our hope in his mercy. It is certainly true of me.

Addiction to comfort. This remains perhaps the most conspicuous evidence of the perniciousness of sin in my life.

My dear friend Bill died recently. Bill was a man with whom I once shared some of the richest fellowship of my life, and with whom I am ashamed to say I barely communicated through his final years. I had spoken with him after he had won an early victory over cancer, but as I began to sense the battle turning against him, I neglected to reach out. Again, it wasn’t hard … I just found other things to do.

The news of his death was therefore not entirely a surprise, which only made my failure that much harder to rationalize away. Had it been unexpected, I could have more easily just chalked it up to the busyness of my mobile military lifestyle. But I had known–or at least suspected–that Bill’s disease may very well return and take him, and I had made no effort. In truth, I had been afraid of what the knowledge would mean to me.

Bill himself faced death with admirable and characteristic courage. He wrote his own obituary, in which he testified to his confidence in Christ and his eternal hope beyond the grave. In fact, had I behaved like a real man and a true friend, I would likely have found myself even more comforted and uplifted by his faith near the end than I had been before. In typical fashion, my proclivity to sin was exposed as both selfish and foolish.

My own little dog Salo also died a few months ago. He lived his final year in the Philippines with my wife’s family, so I hadn’t seen him for a while, but the news still hit me very hard. I was at a business lunch when I got the word, and had to retreat to the bathroom to compose myself. The part of my wife’s message that really tore me up was how her family felt so badly that Salo had died overnight at the vet’s office. He was clearly ill, but they had not expected him to die that night, and felt they would have rather he had died at home, surrounded by those who loved him.

I want to believe I am the kind of man who is likewise driven to be there for those whom God has given me to love, and who is moved to action by the compassion that says, “They should not die alone. I should be there for them.” I want to believe that … but I fear that I have instead become the kind of man who, for want of courage and love of comfort, seems to find somewhere else to be.

There are 11 comments.

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  1. Doctor Robert Member

    People with known terminal diseases tend to lose their friends. I will say more of this anon, but for now, I urge all to reach out to those you know who may be suffering illnesses. There can be no greater call at Easter time than to follow our Savior’s example in ministering to the sick.

    • #1
    • March 28, 2018, at 3:42 AM PDT
  2. Bryan G. Stephens Thatcher
    Bryan G. Stephens Joined in the first year of Ricochet Ricochet Charter Member

    Doctor Robert (View Comment):

    People with known terminal diseases tend to lose their friends. I will say more of this anon, but for now, I urge all to reach out to those you know who may be suffering illnesses. There can be no greater call at Easter time than to follow our Savior’s example in ministering to the sick.


    I have lost a friend due to stuff outside my control that happened to me. The friend is scared and can’t get over it. I can forgive, but it still hurts. 

    • #2
    • March 28, 2018, at 5:37 AM PDT
  3. Profile Photo Member

    This is an incredibly brave post; thank you.

    • #3
    • March 28, 2018, at 5:40 AM PDT
  4. Spin Coolidge
    Spin Joined in the first year of Ricochet Ricochet Charter Member

    Great post. Write more. You are good at it.

    That said, you sure you aren’t writing about me?

    My wife’s dad lived to be 90, and he spent the last year of his life living in our basement. He spent that time sick and in pain. I rarely went down to visit him. “Tomorrow”, I said. “When he’s in a better mood.” Then as he got sicker he started being mean to my wife, and sometimes to the kids. That made me bitter towards him. But I kept saying to myself “Go down anyway. One day he’s going to die and you’ll feel like an ass.” Well, I didn’t, he did, and I do.

    • #4
    • March 28, 2018, at 5:56 AM PDT
  5. Jim Chase Member
    Jim Chase Joined in the first year of Ricochet Ricochet Charter Member

    Such a wonderful, powerful post, and a reminder to redeem the time we have. There is grace and purpose in these moments. Let us press on to extend such love, comfort, and courage to others, even if by our mere presence. Thank you for this.

    • #5
    • March 28, 2018, at 6:24 AM PDT
  6. JoelB Member

    I can identify with this post. It is an awesome thing to even the most devout Christian to face the death of a friend or loved one. I have not performed very well myself when facing the dying or death of friends or family.

    I have been reading an old book, The Training of the Twelve by A.B. Bruce. In it, the author mentions the restoration of Peter after his denial of Jesus. Jesus knew that Peter would deny Him knowing that “(T)he spirit indeed is willing, but the flesh is weak”. Comforted by the words of Jesus and empowered by the Holy Spirit, Peter was able to move on beyond this; and by the grace of God, we can as well.

    • #6
    • March 28, 2018, at 6:39 AM PDT
  7. Housebroken Thatcher

    Thank you. I look forward to this making the Main Feed, because I want to share it.

    So much good in this.

    • #7
    • March 28, 2018, at 6:52 AM PDT
  8. Western Chauvinist Member
    Western Chauvinist Joined in the first year of Ricochet Ricochet Charter Member

    I’ve found other places to be, too. I missed being present at my Dad’s death by three days. I had spent the summer with my parents (Dad had ALS) and “had to” return to my new job. When my mother-in-law died, my oldest was nine months old and I was a “tired mom.” Just couldn’t bring myself to pack up the baby and head over to their home 15 minutes away. I like to think I would do things differently now.

    It’s odd, but true, that suffering can, and often does, ennoble us — it changes our perspective and behaviors — by the grace of God. My little family has had many opportunities to suffer since my youngest daughter’s brain tumor surgery in 2013, my breast cancer in 2015, and my oldest daughter’s struggle with depression and anxiety throughout. When suffering becomes inescapable, a choice must be made. Do you pick up your cross and carry it? Or, do you become embittered?

    I realize now how important it is to walk with others in their suffering because of those who walked with us. Loving someone requires your presence in their lives. I’ve started walking toward the fire and, paradoxically, it has brought me great joy! Fear not!

    Great post. Thank you for your honesty and courage.

    • #8
    • March 28, 2018, at 10:29 AM PDT
  9. Yudansha Member
    Yudansha Joined in the first year of Ricochet Ricochet Charter Member

    Spin (View Comment):

    Great post. Write more. You are good at it.

    That said, you sure you aren’t writing about me?

    This. Exactly this. And… if a military man is addicted to comfort, I shudder to think what that means for someone like me who isn’t nearly that tough.

    • #9
    • March 28, 2018, at 11:13 AM PDT
  10. Skyler Coolidge

    I, too, hadn’t seen much death in my life until 2005 when I was in Iraq, and then I saw entirely too much very up close.

    I think our modern society is like that. We dont’ see death much and we are insulated from the death of the animals we eat. Just a couple generations ago your meat was butchered at the shop down the street if you lived in a city, or from your own knife if you lived on a farm. People saw death everyday and benefitted from killing animals.

    I’m not making light of the death of your two dogs, I am a dog lover as well. The only time I ever saw my father cry when I was a child was when our dog had to be put down.

    But is death so bad? Do we all fear death? I don’t think so. Pain is what I might fear, but not death itself. How can you be afraid of something that just means no existence? I don’t want to die anytime soon, but I know that I will die and unless we find a cure for it, I’m fine with it. I hope we come up with a cure for it, not just for me, but for my child and our descendants. I want to think we will conquer everything, including aging, someday. That should be one of the highest goals of mankind. Certainly our investment should be commensurate with our ability (Cavemen should spend time hunting and not finding cures for death. We should spend a reasonable amount of time and money to find a cure. Once the cure is closer, then it should consume a growing share of our effort.)

    Someday my dog will die. I will be sad. Someday a loved one will die. I will be sad. But I won’t be afraid. Fear makes no sense.

    • #10
    • March 28, 2018, at 11:36 AM PDT
  11. Nanda Panjandrum Inactive

    Wonderful post; excellent question…I differentiate the humanity-based fear of dying/non-existence in the earthly sense from a fear of death. St. Ambrose (in a memorial reflection on the death of his brother) describes death as a proffered remedy to the wretchedness that is a consequence of sin/human frailty. Hopefully, one can come to welcome St. Francis’s ‘sister Death’ as an entry into one’s Homeland.

    • #11
    • March 29, 2018, at 12:39 PM PDT
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