The news media reported the deaths of two men recently. One died at the age of 95 after a lifetime of achievements. The other died in a fiery car crash at the age of 40 at the height of his film career. I’m, of course, referring to Nelson Mandela and Paul Walker.
Nelson Mandela was a South African anti-apartheid revolutionary, politician, and philanthropist who served as President of South Africa from 1994 to 1999. He was South Africa’s first black chief executive, and the first elected in a fully representative democratic election. His government focused on dismantling the legacy of apartheid through tackling institutionalized racism, poverty and inequality, and fostering racial reconciliation. Although he was a man with human faults and failures, these were overshadowed by his huge list of human rights achievements and successes. He won the Nobel Peace Prize!! And, he did all this without the benefit of today’s social media.
Paul Walker was not anyone I’d ever heard of before as his films were not ones of my taste. I probably wouldn’t have given his death more than a passing thought, but he died a few miles from my home. The accident was within a few feet from where my daughter and her family attend church. We’ve been to this church many times. The accident happened a quarter mile from ‘our’ Walmart! The crash site created enormous traffic jams as crowds went there…some to pay their respect and others to simply gawk. So obsessed were fans with the site of the accident that two young men were arrested because they ‘stole’ some remnants of the crash. They face possible jail time for acting stupidly and impulsively.
I didn’t know of Paul Walker but he was immensely popular. Those who knew him personally spoke of what a decent man he was…down to earth, genuine, and concerned for the environment. He even attended the school that my daughter-in-law attended and where two of my grandchildren now attend. Yet, his life was cut short because of a lapse in judgement.
Social media played a big part in spreading news of his death.
While the news reported these deaths, it seems as if this holiday season brought us personally news of several other deaths as well. Every few days we heard of the passing of someone…old friends, friends or relatives of friends…young and old. But, with all the news of people passing, it was the death of one young man that impacted me the most.
I’m in my early 60’s, so it isn’t unheard of that I would have my contemporaries pass away. My best friend died almost 7 years ago at the age of 56. It was way too soon to lose her, but not unimaginable. But, the unimaginable did happen on Christmas Eve. A young man named Kevin Hill passed away after a two-year battle with cancer. He was a husband and father of two little children…and a dear friend of my son and daughter-in-law. Before locating to Atlanta a few years ago, Kevin and his wife, Rachel, were members of our church. They returned to California frequently for Kevin to get treatment. And, it was here, in an apartment in Burbank, that Kevin took his last breath.
I never had the opportunity to meet Kevin or Rachel personally but I feel as I have gotten to know them through a Facebook page and blog that Rachel started to document their journey. Social media brought them into my life and into the lives of many. Kevin and Rachel are people of faith and they never doubted where Kevin would go if he lost his battle with cancer. But, that didn’t mean that they didn’t fight and research all treatment options. Most of these options were quite physically demanding and grueling. But, it didn’t matter. Kevin still fought to stay with his family. And, Rachel was right there beside him…encouraging him and being his advocate when he was too sick and too tired.
Kevin’s death really threw some of their friends for a loop…even those with a strong faith. To young couples in their thirties, they can’t picture not living to see their children grow up and get married or not growing old together. It is completely unimaginable. And, that’s how it should be. We shouldn’t spend our youth worrying about what could happen. But, when something like this does happen, it can cause enormous crises in faith.
What impressed me the most in reading the blog about this family’s journey was the incredible maturity and grace exhibited by them both. Rachel wrote with sensitivity and was extremely articulate. She revealed their lives to us at a deeply intimate level. She exposed their strengths and weaknesses, hopes and fears, courage and doubts…and, she shared their absolute faith as to God’s will in their lives. But, most of all, Rachel shared their belief in the blessed assurance of salvation through Jesus Christ. While going through the toughest time in her life, Rachel still encouraged other women whom she never met simply by her example of a godly woman.
I kept up with this family through social media. And I learned of Kevin’s passing the same way. And even thou this information didn’t come to me via national or network news, that doesn’t minimize the impact, nor the example of grace they shared with so many. Kevin’s death may not have touched as many lives as Nelson Mandela or Paul Walker, but his life and death were indeed far-reaching.
Kevin and Rachel Hill did not choose this journey, but they traveled it with Jesus by their side. If I’m ever in a similar position, I can only pray that I can follow their example.