Across the Finish Line - D.L. Bennett

March, 1997

I wish I'd been there when he crossed the finish line. As it was, we'd been gone only a short while. Maybe that's as it should be. 

His was a victory that didn't come easily. Throughout the long, chilly night and into the early hours of the morning, we watched the numbers flash repeatedly on the monitor screen. Much too soon they would slow, answering the question that nagged at each of us standing vigil, "How long before the end comes?"

This is one of life's bittersweet experiences. We want to hold on, yet we long for the passage to be complete. You watched, too, didn't You God? Day after day D.L. fought valiantly, and demonstrated what we all knew to be true: turning loose of the temporal is hard. You understand. You gave us that instinct. It's what pulls us out of bed each morning, and prods us forward, one foot in front of the other. It's what keeps us fighting, when we'd rather give up; keeps us in the battle when we'd rather beat retreat.

You knew, didn't You, that this final battle was one he'd have to fight to the finish? We all thought he'd lost; had gone down in defeat. But in Your eyes, this was ultimate victory.

He fought, and he won, triumphing over death because of You. He achieved what he longed for... an eternity with You. We grieve the loss of one we love, as well we should. His passing will leave a deep chasm in the hearts of those who loved him. But is he grieving, is he sad? No. No, not at all! He's shouting glory. At last he is home.

You were there beside him all of the time weren't You, Lord? He was never alone. You felt his pain as though it were Your own. That's just how You are. For now suffering and sorrow are part of the human experience. One day there will be no more pain, no more sorrow, no more tears, no night. But for now, that isn't so. So as Your children we have to rest in knowing that whatever comes our way You will walk through each dark day, holding our hand, leading the way. You give to us all the wisdom, guidance and strength that we need.

When we thought he was straining to say a word or two, could it be the conversation wasn't ours at all? Maybe You were cheering him on, "Come on son, you can do it! Just a little longer, and you'll be home!" Was he calling back to You? Did You hear him as he said, "I'm coming, Lord. I'm coming!"

His struggle seemed endless, made bearable only by a sense of Your nearness. Often as we watched and waited, I fancied that if I had heavenly eyes, I'd be able to see You standing there beside him.

What did you think when Jerry, Connie, and Jan sang their father's favorite songs of faith? It was a special moment. They were comforting their dad by blending their voices in praise to the God he loved so much. Did You bend down close, through the tangle of wires and tubes? I was just wondering, did You cry?

When we held hands around that hospital bed and released him back to You, whose hand were You holding? Or did You simply gather us all into the shelter of Your arms?

With his final breath, real life for him began. The vale that separated him from You was torn in two; time ceased to be no more. Sorrow changed to joy and all the questions were answered. Your purpose became clear.

Was he crying tears of joy when he burst into the light of Your presence? Did he stop short, wide eyed with wonder as he tried to take it all in? That first glimpse of Heaven must have been something! I can just hear him sigh with relief as he slipped first one foot and then the other, into the crystal waters of your warm love.

Were You waiting at the gate- was Aunt LaDonna at Your side? Or, did You send an angelic escort to bring him to Your throne? Is that where you met for the very first time? Or, was it under the spreading branches of the tree of life? Maybe beside the banks of the river flowing from Your throne? Was there a banner spread across the streets of gold proclaiming, "WELL DONE, GOOD AND FAITHFUL SERVANT!"? Who was there with You? Moses, David, the Apostle Paul? Did you tell baby William and baby Knuth that their great uncle was home? I hope D.L. told them that their mama still remembers- that one day soon she'll be there, too. What a reunion that must have been!

Oh, Lord, sometimes I ache with anticipation for the day when I'll be wrapped securely in Your arms. No more simply accepting by faith. With senses truly alive (for the very first time) I'll experience You! If I close my eyes real tight, sometimes I think that I can almost feel the warmth of Your embrace- tender and strong. Is that what D.L. felt? Do you plan to spend the first part of forever in one another's arms?

What went through his mind at that moment? "Hey, I don't hurt anymore!" or was it, "The battles finally over." That instant when he was fully aware that he was not in a dream, what was that like? When he touched You, felt the scars in Your great hands, He knew didn't he? He knew that what he had taught, and preached, and lived for, for so long was truth. You were there, right in front of him. The Lord he had served, and loved, and honored with his life, was really, truly there! When he finally stopped crying, did You wipe his final tears with the corner of Your sleeve, or tenderly brush them away with Your fingertips?

So much wondering, Lord. So many questions. For us they go on and on. For D.L. they have all been answered. No more pain, sorrow, more time pressures or schedules. Just peace.

Would You share some of that with us today? As we gather around to say our goodbyes, make us cognizant that for D.L. he's just beginning an eternity of hello's. At last, he is safe in the arms of Jesus.


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2009 Piano Guild Performance


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