Dad Theology: Answering the Call, Andrew's Way

This week's blog features a guest writer: my dad, Bill Duckworth. When he's not joking about my ridiculously large shoe collection (see post entitled, "The Stuff of Advent and Christmas") or explaining the obvious effects of having a labrador retriever (see last week's post, "Insight from Isaac"), he finds some time to write. I'm glad that he does; and you will be, too.

Answering The Call, Andrew’s Way

“I want you to be with me when I die.” Andrew’s words remain sealed in my mind. Having met him at a long-term care facility where he lived with failing health, we just “hit it off” from our first encounter. I stared him in the eye, “Look Andrew, God does not call me on the phone and tell me when someone is departing this world for his kingdom.” We both laughed but he replied, “Oh yes he does and you will know!”

That exchange led me to look deeper into a life event most avoid discussing: death. Actually, God seems more than ready to talk about it so as to bring understanding, deliver saints from paralyzing fear, manifest a peace that melts anxiety, and illustrate it is no more than a step across an invisible boundary line from our place to his Holy place.

Moses understood this clearly when God called him one day saying, “Go up this mountain of the Abarim, Mount Nebo… and die on the mountain which you ascend and be gathered to your people.” (Deuteronomy 32:49-50)* Without worry, care or fear, he obeyed and had a funeral with God serving as both gravedigger and minister. And Jesus was consistently trying to prepare people for his final days teaching 12 hardheads the meaning of a cross and eternal life. Unfortunately, they were much more interested in shooing away children, calling fire down from heaven to eliminate foreigners, and debating which chair they would occupy in his kingdom. So, why is this subject avoided when Solomon, a notable wise guy, said the day of one’s death is better than the day of birth? (Ecclesiastes 7:1)*

When the fog of death clears, we see it is not dying that most people fear but the process of departure. “What is ahead? How long will it take? Will there be pain? Who will be beside me?” Being a people of life makes it hard to face the cessation of living, but it will come for one and all. I prepare for storms, long workdays, difficult clients, long lines, and traffic jams. But am I prepared for all of that to end? Andrew was and he relished in the thoughts and visions of standing before a powerful God of love, mercy, and grace. He was ready to say so long to his work here to experience glory there. Andrew was so anticipating the call coming that he had trimmed down all of his earthly treasures to fit into a 12’ X 15’ room. He knew God; He wanted to be with Jesus; He could see him clearer than he could see me next to his bed. Andrew was ready.

Two weeks after Andrew made that statement, I was beginning my workday and the phone rang at 8:15 a.m. A voice said, “Mr. Duckworth, Andrew is dying.” Stunned, I replied, “Who is this?” It was a worker at the residential facility and I continued, “How did you know to call me?” He replied softly, “Something inside me said, ‘Call Mr. Duckworth,’ so I am calling.”

I arrived and walked into room B-129 at 8:47. Andrew’s wife and family were gathered around him and immediately, his lips formed a big grin when he saw me. “Andrew, you were right. God called; I answered; Here I am.” And Andrew crossed over. May we all be willing to hear and answer the call of God, Andrew’s way.

“O Death, where is your victory? O Death, where is your sting?” (1 Corinthians 15:55)**

Bill Duckworth

* New Kings James Version
** United Bible Societies’ Greek New Testament