In the blink of an eye, he was gone.
Ken left behind a beautiful family… and SCORES of friends.
We’re talking thousands here. Literally. Tens of hundreds of precious people, the overwhelming majority of whom are kids — students, teenagers, middle/junior high and high school students — whose lives will never be the same. This because at some divinely-appointed moment-in-time, their lives intersected with his.
I do take some solace in the fact that Ken died the way he lived. Full throttle, loving life, breezing down the highway on a crisp Winter’s day, probably singing if not praying, with the wind at his back and a wide open road at his front, bright blue skies glistening above him, and his beloved motorcycle sputtering beneath him.
Ken’s dear wife posted this on Facebook: “When he left on Sat. I told him ‘be careful and the cops will be out’. His response was ‘Yes, dear’. The kiss and he was gone.”
He was gone.
Gone from her; gone from so many, many of us.
One freak accident, in one brief instant, frozen in time, that changed everything.
That was Saturday. I am writing this on the following Tuesday. Trying desperately to process that one logic-defying, reason-tormenting, faith-testing, emotionally-draining question… Why?
And coming to no conclusions.
Having given so much to so many with so much left to give to so many others, Why?
It simply does not make sense.
Look, I’ve been a pastor for over 30 years, and over that span of three decades I’ve done my fair share of funerals. I’ve worked for a funeral home. I was the go-to-guy when accidents like this happened, to make what is called in the industry, “the removal.” I’m supposed to be desensitized to this sort of thing. Part of the circle of life right? You’re born, you live, you die. I get that. I have always gotten that.
But never have a I gotten that when it’s a guy like Ken.
You’re my friend, right? At least, if nothing else, we’ve briefly connected on this website. So I can be honest with you, yes? As I ever-so-briefly descend into the nether-reaches of my sometimes darkened mind?
OK. How’s this for honesty? You want names? I could give you names. I want to give you names. But I won’t. Frankly, I don’t want to be sued. But I could tick off for you more names than I have fingers or toes on which to count them. Names of those who over the years, from my frame of reference, live to torment people. As they travel the well-worn sod of this troubled world we share, these unnamed individuals leave in their wakes the wreckage of broken lives — family members, co-workers, neighbors, friends or acquaintances — people whom they have gleefully destroyed. Used. Abused. Mistreated. Taken advantage of. Damaged in some way. And then wadded them up and threw them away. Without so much as giving it a thought.
Some of them even ride motorcycles.
And yet, like the Energizer Bunny, they just keep going, and going, and going; pouring ever more blood on their already red-stained fingers.
I know it doesn’t sound very pastor-like to suggest that the world would be a better place — a bit brighter and a far more joyful place — if certain individuals made an early exit of this life and went to their just deserts. (Yes, that is the correct spelling. 1 “s”; not 2.) So I won’t suggest it. (Even though you just gave me your permission to be honest.)
But I will suggest that less than 72 hours ago, this little blue ball of a planet of ours got a little dimmer, even as Heaven got a bit brighter, when Ken departed this world and entered the next.
Look up Ken in the dictionary and you’ll probably find these stunningly inadequate definitions: Hero (the real kind; not the media-manufactured kind); Father-figure; Role model; Bright and shining example of Christ-like love; Humility personified; Faithfulness; the Fruit of the Spirit on constant display; Real, Genuine, Authentic, What you see is what you get; and Boy-What-A-Laugh.
Frankly, if it’s any consolation, I know that the psalmist who wrote, “So I tried to understand why the wicked prosper. But what a difficult task it is! (73:16); I know that Job who wrote, “Why do the wicked go on living, grow old, even increase in power? (21:7); I know that Jeremiah who wrote, “Why does the way of the wicked prosper? Why are those happy who deal so treacherously?” (12:1), and I know that other biblical writers who wrote down their equally troubling thoughts, each, in his own way, asked the same haunting question as me. And received the same non-answer.
No, I have no answers. I do not know “Why?”.
Perhaps I don’t need to know. God owes me no explanations. Even though it makes no sense.
The only sense that I can make of this otherwise senseless loss rests in this promise: “‘For my thoughts are not your thoughts, neither are your ways my ways’, declares the Lord” (Isaiah 55:8).
Yes! Indeed! He’s got it all figured out. Even if I don’t. In other words, He knows why.
Further, I know that James 4:14 is a fact of life. Words written by Jesus’ half-brother, no less. Having lost his sibling to a cruel and senseless Roman execution for a crime (blasphemy) that Jesus did not commit, James words ring ever so true: “What do you know about tomorrow? How can you be so sure about your life? It is nothing more than mist that appears for only a little while before it disappears.” In other words, neither God nor life grants any guarantees.
And yes, there is coming a day — sooner rather than later, I think; sooner rather than later, I hope — when we will finally say a final “Goodbye” to ever having to say “Goodbye” again.
There is coming a day (and for my dear friend, Ken, that day came last Saturday), when God “will wipe every tear from (our) eyes, and there will be no more death or sorrow or crying or pain. All these things are gone forever” (Revelation 21:4).
So maybe I’m just a wee bit selfish when I allow myself to be haunted by the question, “Why?” Or a tad bit jealous that Ken is riding his bike on golden streets up there while I’m still pounding pavement down here. Or both.
All that being said, on Saturday the soundtrack of Heaven reached a joyous crescendo, while our Earthly sonata sounded somewhat muted for our loss.
Obviously, I am still processing the un-processable. Still pondering the un-ponderable. Still seeking answers to unanswerable questions. You know — questions like… Why?