Sunday, January 26, 2014

When Death Feels Like An Untraveled Tunnel

Pennsylvania Turnpike's Allegheny Mountain Tunnel
I had the privilege of speaking at the memorial service yesterday of Tim Federowicz, age 50, who died of lung cancer at his home a week ago. I first learned to know Tim as a shy little kid growing up in a single parent home with his mother and four sisters, a part of a family our church helped from time to time.

Tim was a hard worker on a dairy farm most of his life, and never got to travel much, but his nephew Jonathan Smith asked him some time ago to go with him to Pittsburgh to pick up a truck he had bought. Tim had never been on the Pennsylvania Turnpike, and when they approached their first tunnel, Tim expressed concern, wanting to know all about what this tunnel was like.

"How do we know it's safe?" Tim asked. "What if it would collapse while we're going through it?"

Jonathan tried to explain that thousands of people had gone through it safely without anything like that ever happening.

That little story seemed like a metaphor for the almost certain death Tim faced when he learned he had an advanced case of cancer. He was facing a dark and fearsome tunnel indeed, and of course one he had never traveled before.

It was a blessing that Tim, in the last decade of his life, had come to experience a faith that helped him deal with his fears, a realization that even though he, like all of us, must go through the dark "tunnel" of death, that he need "fear no evil". And that he didn't have to be on that journey alone, and that there was new light and a new land on the other side.

In spite of how hard this was, Tim experienced the touch of an unseen hand to shepherd him when things got especially dark, along with his having the love and support of good people like his nephew Jonathan.
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