As a pastor, one of my more difficult tasks is to sit with a dear member of my flock who’s facing the hour of death and know there’s nothing I can do to stop this hideous evil. It’s an inevitable part of life in this fallen world.
This last week, however, I thought I might have an opportunity to stop death in its tracks, at least for a while. One of my dear faithful members, Kirk Reid, had been fighting an insidious liver disease for many months. He knew that in order to live beyond his current age of 66, he’d likely need a liver transplant. Since his condition wasn’t severe enough to warrant him receiving the liver of a deceased donor, another option was to receive a partial liver from a live donor. This approach has been very effective. God created the liver to regenerate quite rapidly. Both the donor and receiver have a nearly full-sized liver within about two months after the transplant. Kirk’s daughter, Staci, having the same “O” blood type as her dad, had hoped to be such a living donor. Unfortunately, an issue with her own liver preempted that plan. As Kirk’s condition started to deteriorate a bit more a few weeks back, I asked the family about the requirements for someone to be a living donor. I learned the most important factors were for the donor to have “O” blood, a healthy liver and be age 18 to 55. Since I knew I met those criteria, I began to pray. After talking things over with the donor supervisor and my family, I was convinced that this was something I wanted to try. It was the right thing for me to do. This action would reflect the kind of sacrificial, unconditional and incarnate love that I teach about all the time. I wanted to be able to practice what I preach and actually help one of my sheep hold off the advance of death. So, I filled out the paperwork and began arranging for my visits with the donor medical team. If things continued as planned, I would have finished the testing process today.
Sadly, my plans couldn’t be realized. Over the past week, Kirk’s condition continued to deteriorate quite rapidly. Before I could complete the testing, he progressed to a point where he could no longer handle a live donation. And, his decline didn’t stop. Yesterday, at 1:40 p.m., I once again stood in prayer with a dear sheep as he was received into the waiting arms of the Good Shepherd, Jesus.
I have to admit that I’m filled with many unhappy emotions. Sorrow that a young and vibrant Christian came to a premature end to his life. Regret that I didn’t act more quickly to help Kirk with the donation of part of my liver. Anger that death has won again.
Yet, through these unhappy emotions, I cling to what I shared with Kirk. Death has been swallowed up in victory by our Lord, Jesus Christ! Yes, death WILL overtake us all at some point. But, Jesus has destroyed the power of death. His PERFECT love paid the complete sacrifice for our sin. His unconditional choice to die for us all is our source of certain hope. His incarnate death and resurrection assures us of our own resurrection.
No, I wasn’t able to be the hero and save Kirk’s life. Blast it all!
Yes, Jesus already saved Kirk from hell. Praise His name!
This past week has proven again the importance of what I’ve written about so often in this blog. Our focus must always remain on Jesus first and foremost. His love, alone, is perfect. No healthy liver and no doctor can offer what Jesus has already given. Death demands Jesus alone.