I do not know if you have ever experienced a sudden death in your
Two years ago my son in law, Antony, died from a heart attack without
real warning. We had just spent a wonderful few days with them and
baby who was just 5 months old at the time. He was a highly
man of 34 years and was headed for a superb career as a lawyer. He was
a man of impeccable integrity and real personal faith, and perhaps most
special to us; he deeply loved our daughter and was besotted with their
first child after 11 years of a happy marriage.
I do not think we will ever recover from the nightmare of that day when
daughter phoned us from the emergency medical clinic in Harare and told
Antony was dead. Even today it is tough for us to talk about and we
grieve the loss as his young son grows up into such a splendid young
The past week two friends died suddenly here in Bulawayo - first, Phil
Whitehead who, like Antony was a fit man and died running a marathon
charity in Bulawayo. Phil leaves behind Sandy and four children. Then
Friday, Dave Lowe died after a very short illness. Also a big man and
someone who never gave the impression of having anything wrong with
Dave leaves behind Tracy and two teenage girls.
Let me tell you, no experience is tougher than this. We all grieve with
Sandy and Tracy and wish we could stand in their place and take the
but we cannot. It does not help that both men were highly successful in
business, were men of faith and courage and principle. That they were
wonderful dad's and deeply loved their families and their homes. Phil
the CEO of a tyre manufacturing plant here and Dave ran one of the
engineering factories in the country.
They were both outstanding individuals - working hard for a better
for all in Zimbabwe and they simply cannot be replaced. All of us who
them and worked with them will miss them very deeply. But none of us
know the deep pain and sense of loss of Sandy and Tracy and the kids.
girls will especially miss their father and his guidance and love as
grow up and find their own feet in the world. We will have to rally
see that the families are cared for and are not left alone to face the
future. That is the very least we can do and perhaps that is one of the
wonderful things about life here is that we do care for each other in a
We all ask questions at a time like this about the meaning of life and
why God should allow things like this to happen? It is not a question
is easily answered and anyone who has a glib answer is wrong. We know
God shares our sense of loss, that He weeps with us when things like
happen, what we find difficult to understand is why He did not just
to the plate and use His power to prevent something that has such
consequences for everyone associated with the two men. But I think that
two men themselves would have understood that sometimes as a manager,
real power over events and circumstances, all of us have to take
for the sake of the company rather than the simple welfare of the
working within its bounds.
Every manager knows that the first loyalty of a manager with real power
CEO) is to the company and its survival and welfare. This commitment is
they are Chief Executives and why they have power and others do not.
company decisions must past one acid test - is it the best decision
for the company as a whole in the short and long term.
So God looks down on His creation - mankind included - and must make
decisions that are right for the whole of creation and not simply right
a time for small parts of the whole. Many times that involves real
for Him, as we know that he deeply cares about and loves the world and
it's creatures. That love is especially held for those who are of faith
who live their lives, or try to live their lives, according to the
God's rules for life on earth. Antony, Phil and Dave were all such
When life strikes down those who fit such a category, God weeps with us
grieves with us in our loss just as much or more so as we do.
He knows he could "fix" the problem - but only at the expense of what
knows is the greater good.
So the question really is "what is the greater good that justifies such
loss?" The answer to that question is as complex and deep as the answer
the first question and there are no glib answers. However I feel that
intervened every time we petitioned Him, mankind would not need faith
hope as cornerstones of their lives as Christians in a fallen world.
said it all when He said to His disciples "In the world, you will have
tribulation, but be of good cheer, for I have overcome the world!" In
words, life in this sphere of existence means tribulation and trouble
kinds. It is a normal part of life.
The trick is to see that what God does for us during these trials and
tribulations is to walk with us - in fact to walk in our shoes, know
pain and loss just as if He was really here. He also helps us to
these trials - not partly but completely so that we become "more than
conquerors, through Him who died for us." Whatever the trial - we can
more as real overcomers in every sense of the word. In fact that is the
wonder of life in Christ - not being raised from that sickbed to live
whole person again but to somehow be a whole person in that bed. To
real example of what it means to be transformed by the Spirit of Christ
lives and works through us in every circumstance of life.
That has been my experience - even in the darkest hour and I just pray
the women who have been left behind by the sudden deaths of their loved
and the kids who share their loss, will somehow find the strength and
to carry on and to live a life of victory and thankfulness for the joy
having lived with and known these fine men.
A prisoner of conscience and faith who spent 25 years in solitary
confinement in a Soviet jail, said at a conference I attended in Europe
he often felt a deep longing to go back to that cell because there the
of God and faith in Christ was a deep reality. When we go "through the
valley of death" we will know that "His rod and His staff will comfort
Wish it was otherwise, but it isn't.
Bulawayo, 6th November 2005.