Thursday, June 18, 2009

Ernest L. Vinson (1931-2009)

Yesterday morning shortly before 2 a.m., my beloved uncle Ernie went into eternity following a battle with a form of leukemia. I am thankful that his suffering didn't last long, and that he is now in the presence of the Lord. No more pain, no more grief. Only joy and peace.

Normally, I handle death with equanimity. But this is different. This one hurts like no previous death in my family. I've lost grandparents, my father, uncles and cousins. I've lost close friends. With all there was a sense of loss, but I dealt with it fairly quickly and moved on.

To be clear, I loved my late father. But in all honesty, I did not have a real close relationship with him. We became somewhat estranged in my teen years for a variety of reasons. It pained me, and and I regret that we weren't as close as we ought to have been. I have no doubt that he loved me, but we had a lot of baggage to slog through. He died in 1980 before we could sort it all out. He would be in his 90s if he had lived. I prayed with him before he succumbed to emphysema at the age of 62, and that was that. Dad did his best, and had lived a very hard life. He carried a lot of emotional scars from his own childhood, as well as going through the hell of the Great Depression and World War II. Frequently, he turned to the bottle to drown his pain, which made life miserable for me and the rest of my family. He walled most of us off, and I never could really break through that wall.

Not so with Ernie. Not only was he a second father to me, but my bowling and fishing buddy. For the past 18 years, I made twice-a-year jaunts to Arkansas to fish for crappie on Lake Charles. He taught me to bowl and to fish. And those hours out in the boat on the lake were times of very wonderful fellowship. Words weren't always necessary either. Ernie wasn't perfect and had his issues. But he was a great man and I loved him very much. I will feel his loss keenly.

I am thankful that my mother and I got the chance to be with him in his final days, and were the last ones who got to speak to him when he was still conscious and coherent. I am thankful for the opportunity to pray with him, and share with him my hope in the Gospel of Jesus Christ. And that is really the ultimate comfort. I have hope in Christ, and hope in a certain resurrection.

But we do not want you to be uninformed, brethren, about those who are asleep, so that you will not grieve as do the rest who have no hope. For if we believe that Jesus died and rose again, even so God will bring with Him those who have fallen asleep in Jesus. For this we say to you by the word of the Lord, that we who are alive and remain until the coming of the Lord, will not precede those who have fallen asleep. For the Lord Himself will descend from heaven with a shout, with the voice of the archangel and with the trumpet of God, and the dead in Christ will rise first. Then we who are alive and remain will be caught up together with them in the clouds to meet the Lord in the air, and so we shall always be with the Lord. Therefore comfort one another with these words (1 Thessalonians 4:13-18).

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