Death is never welcome; but when an older person, like a grandparent, passes away, it isn't always unexpected.
A few weeks ago, I went to the funeral of a childhood friend.
Brandon Peterson was thirty-one years old. People aren't supposed to die at thirty-one. He was supposed to watch his daughter grow up and get married. He was supposed to retire from his job. He was supposed to live out his old age with his wife by his side.
And yet, Brandon passed away without warning in the prime of his life.
I noticed something at the family visitation that was reiterated at the funeral. While Brandon's family and friends mourn the fact that their time with him was cut so short, their tears were not for Brandon himself.
That's because the boy I knew, who with his twin brother, teased me mercilessly in grade school, grew up to become a man of strong character and even stronger faith.
Only last week, Brandon had been ordained as a deacon in his church. He freely shared his faith through his job as a North Carolina state trooper. As evidenced by the huge number of people who came out to pay their respects, it did not go unnoticed.
On the drive up from Florida to North Carolina for the funeral, I had a lot of time to reflect about life, death, and the lasting impact that we make during our brief time on Earth. Unlike Brandon, I often struggle with sharing my faith. I worry that people won't understand, or that I'll be judged negatively for being a Christian. Cowardly, I know. But I've always reasoned that I go to church regularly, pray often, and try to be a good person. That's enough, right?
It's not. The Lord wants us to bold and unapologetic for our faith. I've always known this, and resisted anyway.
Brandon passed away just a couple of days before Palm Sunday. Palm Sunday is celebrated as the day Jesus rode into Jerusalem, knowing the suffering he would endure. I can't think of a better way to honor Brandon's memory, and to try to live my faith more boldly than to share the story of Easter, the resurrection, and salvation.
While we can't possibly understand why Brandon's life was cut short, I know that several people came to know Christ today at his funeral, and hundreds of others heard the message of salvation, maybe for the first time. While in our human frailty we'd infinitely rather have Brandon here on Earth for a while longer, who knows how many people will receive salvation because of the life he lived while he was here?
I was saved as a child, but Brandon's death reminded me that we truly do not know whether or not we will be here tomorrow. Whether I live another day, another month, or another fifty years, when I die, my family will have immeasurable comfort in the assurance that I'm resting in the peace of my Savior.
I know, without a doubt, that the whole Peterson family can say the same.