She was 26 years old and single. Kay began visiting our church with her sister Brenda. This was the first church where I preached, a little storefront church in middle Tennessee.
Charlotte and I couldn’t help but notice her. After all, she was related to a family we really admired. Brenda and Byron were a young couple in our church with two beautiful blond- headed little girls. I recall going to Brenda and Byron’s home on numerous occasions for Sunday lunch. There was always much laughter in their home.
One day Brenda told me that Kay had received bad news. She had cancer. Twenty-six years old! Charlotte and I stopped by her little apartment one Sunday afternoon. We talked and prayed with her. She sat on her couch in front of the big picture window and cried and cried.
Days went by. Months went by.
One night I received a telephone call. Kay was in the hospital in Columbia (Tennessee). She was near death. I left our house that evening and drove through a steady rain to the hospital about forty-five minutes away. I stopped by her room and spoke with her mother and dad. I had never seen anyone near death before. Brenda and Byron walked with me down the hall to the waiting room. I was stunned when I entered the large waiting room. The room was full but very quiet. The lights were off. There were people everywhere. I suddenly felt very self-conscious. I didn’t know what to do. So, I sat on the floor near the family.
About twenty minutes later she died.
People in the waiting room cried and then hugged one another. They hugged family members and then they began to leave — everyone except the family. A nurse approached me and asked me if I would like to "lead the family to the chapel." (She could probably tell that I didn’t have a clue what I was supposed to do. I had never experienced anything like this before.) I had no idea where the chapel was so the nurse took the group there.
This occurred twenty-six years ago, but I remember the next scene so vividly. The family quietly gathered in the little chapel and sat down. When the last person went through the door, the nurse, who was waiting in the hall, smiled at me and nodded. This was such a significant moment. I was no longer a college student. I was no longer a person who could pass this moment on to someone else. Just twenty minutes earlier, this family had watched a 26-year-old woman slip away into eternity. She had died. She was someone’s daughter, sister, granddaughter, and fiancee.
I saw a larger King James Version Bible on a podium in the chapel. I began to read the twenty-third Psalm — slowly and quietly. I prayed for the family and then slipped out of the chapel to return home. In that incredibly important moment, my uncertainty and inexperience did not rule. Rather, God in his sweet mercy stepped in and got me through it all.
This was a moment that marked me. I learned that God is faithful and is with me — always.
I suspect many of you who are reading this can recall in your own life moments when God’s forever-presence became incredibly important and reassuring.