It’s the middle of the night. My post-middle-age-but-not-quite-senior self has been wide awake for about a half hour. I checked my phone when I woke up and learned that my Uncle Louie passed away last night. He was 85. This was not unexpected, although death always comes as a surprise.
My thoughts turned to what it must have been like for Uncle Louie to take his first breath in heaven. That beautiful post-resurrection image from John 21 came to mind.
After Jesus rose from the dead and before he ascended to heaven, the disciples found themselves in “what-do-we-do-now” mode. Peter, always quick to make a decision, declared, “I’m going fishing.” What else was there but to go back to his former line of work? They went out, John says, but that night they caught nothing.
Now, picture the scene: The next morning, exhausted from their all-night fishing trip, the sun is just beginning to break as the disciples begin paddling toward shore. The waves are gently lapping on the Sea of Tiberius; there may or may not be a soft breeze. Then, the smell of frying fish wafts across the water. Tired and hungry as they are, their senses pique, and the disciples notice the smoke from a small cooking fire on the beach. They can just make out the figure of a man tending the fire. They didn’t recognize it was the Lord.
“How’s the fishing?” The man calls across the water.
“Not so good,” they shout back.
“Try casting the nets on the other side of the boat,” he suggests.
Peter had heard a similar instruction three years earlier on Lake Gennesaret, when, after a long night of fruitless fishing, another man had suggested they cast their nets just one more time. (See Luke 5). Following that man had changed Peter’s life, and now hearing a similar instruction, Peter knew, “It is the Lord!”
At this point, Peter didn’t have to be told to walk on water. John says he “threw himself into the sea” to get to Jesus. Imagine Peter, dripping wet and laughing, splashing through the surf to get to Christ. When he arrives, the two men laughingly embrace in a bear hug. Then Jesus says simply, “Come and have breakfast.”
I imagine the same for Uncle Louie and all those who “die in the Lord.” At some point over the past few days as Uncle Louie’s body declined, he heard the same voice that called him to salvation, calling again. As his body weakened, I imagine he jumped from the confines of his earthly body and splashed through the surf of death until, dripping wet and laughing, he found himself last night fully embraced in the arms of Jesus.
Then I imagine Jesus said simply, “Come. Let’s have breakfast.”
And over a cup of coffee — because the Anderson men love their coffee — the weariness of Uncle Louie’s journey melted away as the two friends began to share stories of a life well-lived.
Rest In Peace, Uncle Louie. And save a place at the table for me.