Over the next few days, we pieced together what had happened to John. It was a beautiful spring afternoon, and he stopped by the university on his way home to go for a run. Security camera videos show him walking out of the gym into brilliant afternoon sunlight.
Several people saw him on the jogging trails, and he appeared to be fine. But, at the top of a hill he collapsed. Within moments he was found by a law student. She told John she was going for help.
He didn’t respond.
Initially, she didn’t know who he was because he was face down. She recognized him when another passerby helped her turn him over and begin CPR. As more people came and emergency personnel arrived, she tried to tell them John’s identity, but they were distracted.
Despite many attempts by two different emergency crews, they were never able to resuscitate him, nor did they know his name. John was taken to a local hospital as John Doe.
For several hours, the university police continued to try to identify him but without success. It wasn’t until John’s father showed up on campus trying to retrace his steps that his identity was discovered.
But the Lord’s grace was in all of the confusion and miscommunication.
If John’s identity had been known, the police would have come to our home, where three of our children were alone. I will always be thankful to the Lord for sparing our children the added trauma of having policemen knock at our front door; everyone anxiously waiting as they tried to locate me.
Also, the reality is that John could have died at home with us. I am grateful that he didn’t. The Lord pulled a cloak of privacy around that moment. We don’t have to live with those images in our hearts and minds. For our children, their lasting image is our family breakfast of scrambled eggs and toast that morning. For me, it is kissing him at the door, watching him walk to his car, and feeling prompted to pray him.
I am comforted to know that John wasn’t alone on the trail when he died. The young woman who found John knew him through a Bible study at the law school- she as a student, he as a professor.
It took two months for the medical examiner to issue his report. His autopsy stated that John died of a subarachnoid hemorrhage in his brain- a severe brain bleed- more than likely due to an aneurysm. He died within moments of collapsing.
The day after he died we all went to the path…
wife, daughters, son,
mother, father, sisters
in-laws, brothers-in-law, sisters-in-law,
We walked the route he had run: down sidewalks, over bridges, up a gravel hill. We held bright spring bouquets because I just couldn’t come to that spot empty-handed. Our love and life were too beautiful, too precious.
And I knew we were on holy, holy ground. Our eyes couldn’t see it but the portal between heaven and earth was there, like the wardrobe in the Chronicles of Narnia. John’s body may have collapsed, but I know his soul kept running. Straight into heaven. Straight into his Heavenly Father’s presence.
And we sang the song that was rising from my heart:
“I would have despaired unless I had believed that I would see the goodness of the Lord. Wait on the Lord, be strong, and let your heart take courage. Wait on the Lord. Yes, wait on the Lord.” from Psalm 27
And for 31 months, I have seen the Lord’s goodness. He has given me strength to do things I never thought I’d have to do. He has given me courage to live a life I never expected. His goodness keeps showing up. We haven’t had to wait.