January 17, 2011
I said “goodbye for now” to a dear friend a few days ago. Satherine was a charter member of Antioch Church, a faithful friend of our family, and like a grandmother to my children, never forgetting their birthdays, always interested in their lives. Cindy and I had the distinct privilege of traveling across the country with Satherine, Joel and Sonia Leath in the mid-1980s when we sang with a group called “Damascus Road.” Our oldest son, Micah, was just a baby, and Satherine would hold him in her lap during the concerts, along with her two real grandchildren, Joel David and Rachelle. She taught Cindy and me about raising children and was a tremendous influence on our parenting. At Satherine’s funeral, Micah told the story of being at her house on one occasion and playing with Joel David and Rachelle. He said, “We would play house. I was the child and J.D. and Rachelle were mom and dad.” Micah paused as people in the congregation smiled at the picture of a little white boy and his two black parents. Then Micah said, “I guess I was adopted.” He smiled and said, “It never occurred to any of us that we had different skin colors.”
On Oct. 16, my family visited Satherine when she was in Alamance Health Center. We had to wake her up, and when we did, the first thing she asked us was, “Are you real?” We assured her we were, and I tickled her feet to prove it. She then told us that she had been having a dream, and she was at a place where she was told, “all you have to do is step across and you will be there.” I believe Satherine had a dream about heaven. She then looked at us and said, “You were right. If you’re not right, then I’m not right!” What was she talking about? I don’t know for sure. But here’s what I think she meant. I have heard about how the church can be racially reconciled for years, from people like Tom Skinner and Tony Evans and John Perkins. But I saw it and I lived it with Satherine and Joel and Sonia, and others. “You were right.” When she came face to face with heaven, Satherine knew that the Word we have preached for years is true, and that God really has broken down the walls of separation for all of his people. The second thing I believe Satherine meant was, “You were right. The Gospel is true. Jesus is Lord. Death is not a grave but a door!”
The last thing Satherine said before we prayed for her and hugged her that day was this: “Time doesn’t matter. It’s how you live your life.” Nobody reading this column knows right now that time doesn’t matter more than Satherine, who has moved to the place where there is no time and no sickness and no pain and no sorrow.
That last statement she made, though, is worth your consideration. “It’s how you live your life.” May I say to you that nothing matters more at this moment for each of us than that we live our lives in and through and for the One who gave us life? Paul said it like this: “To live is Christ, but to die is gain.”
Satherine is gone, but we who believe do not grieve as those who have no hope. We will see her again. So, it is goodbye for now, Satherine. And, thank you.