Tuesday, August 22, 2017
Roadside Warnings by Carol Ford
While stopped at a red light I noticed a utility pole just off to the side. Several faded baseball hats were attached to the pole and they were stacked high in two vertical rows. The lettering “Never forget John” could still be read on the white T-shirt stretched across the post. At the base three pots of coloured plastic flowers completed the tribute.
The car behind me honked and the light had changed to green, so I gave an apologetic wave and continued driving. But my mind was then processing the scene and trying to remember what had happened in that spot. The story drifted back into my memory.
Two years before a teenager had lost his life running across the street to catch the bus. He was heading home after his shift at a local restaurant. It was late at night, he wasn’t crossing with the light, and he was wearing a new black winter coat. The elderly couple who hit him didn’t see him until it was too late.
The more I thought about the tragic accident, other details came to mind. His family had lost their mother to cancer a few months prior, and his dad and younger brother were now reeling with this second loss.
I couldn’t help wondering what the effect had been on the elderly couple; had they been able to cope with this trauma? If they lived locally, did they avoid passing this spot whenever possible?
The memorial had done its job. It brought back the tragedy and produced sobering and reflective thoughts. Did it make me want to be a more careful driver? Maybe... These roadside markers, as a Christian, evoke in me concern for where that person will spend eternity. A fatal car crash, a stroke, a heart attack, or any violent episode that produces an instant death, usually leaves no time for an eternal decision.
My birth brother, with whom I was reunited when I was fifty, died alone at night suffering a heart attack. To my knowledge he did not share my faith, and the grief of losing him this way was far greater than I could have imagined; now our separation may be forever.
Evangelism courses, over the years, have promoted the use of the following statement “If you died today, do you know where you will spend eternity?” I’ve always felt that this question was a bit too bold and personal and I’ve been afraid to ask it directly for fear people will reject me.
If I had asked my brother this question, I would at least know that I had tried to share God’s gift of forgiveness and eternal life. We had sixteen years together after our reunion, and during all that time, I carefully crafted our conversations so as not to venture too far into topics that would be divisive.
I have no trouble being a guest speaker in front of strangers and sharing my life story and the gift of salvation in a public setting, but when it’s one-to-one, I shy away from these conversations. With non-believing close friends or relatives, I assume that they can see that I am a Christian and if they need to know more about my faith, they will ask. Also, over time, we settle into an unspoken agreement that our relationship works better if I go into their world and keep mine separate. It’s awkward, and the longer it happens, the more difficult it is to broach the topic of heaven and hell.
In the Bible, Paul, a follower of Christ, says, “I don’t really understand myself, for I want to do what is right, but I don’t do it. Instead, I do what I hate.” This sums up my dilemma.
Roadside memorials are stark reminders of the brevity of life, and writing this article has become a personal confession. My prayer to God is a request for the courage and opportunities to ask others where they will spend eternity before it’s too late.
Note: This article was shortlisted at the 2017 Word Awards
Carol Ford is a published author, speaker and career coach. Carol lives in Ontario, Canada. Her short story entitled “My Mother’s Gift” is published in Hot Apple Cider with Cinnamon and another short story will appear in Christmas with Hot Apple Cider. Carol is a co-author of the devotional entitled As the Ink Flows: Devotions to Inspire Christian Writers & Speakers. Carol is writing a memoir about her adoption, her reunion with her birth family, and how God has blessed and protected her throughout her life.
L-R Carol Ford, Claudia Loopstra, Mel Teague
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