Synchronized Dying?

Perhaps it was several months after I began my second half century of living that I started to face the reality of dying. The decade of the ’90’s was the decade of death for me. Within a short time span my wife’s parents both died, she suddenly with heart failure, and he from a combination of heart ache and lung cancer. It was a tough period of our lives. My wife was not good at grieving and although it was seldom if ever mentioned, her parents deaths were always standing in the shadows of our minds. Three years later my father died and my grief was painful and lasting. And then in December of 1997, only 10 days before her 44th birthday, my Jeanine suffered a fatal heart attack. Now death was really personal, and ugly, and unavoidable forever more.

Meanwhile, in the small community where I lived in North Texas, friend after friend lost battles to cancer, heart disease, diabetes,  and old age. And, back home in the mountains of North Carolina aging aunts and uncles and alcoholic cousins were dying. I started to notice the ages of people whose obituaries were in the Dallas Morning News, and that maybe half of them were younger than me.

After being remarried to a wonderful woman in 1999 and our shared ministry to people in grief for about eight years, my personal mortality is never far from my consciousness. This month, Lord willing, I will have my 66th birthday. Sixty six years of high mileage, mostly on bad roads with little maintenance, has left me with my share of aches, pains, and scars to remind me of the “good old days”.

I don’t mind dying. I don’t dread it one bit so far as I can tell. If God and His Word are reliable (and they are!) I am not only ready, but some days eager for that transition. My problem is the distance between today and that day, whenever it is. You see, my body is aging at a faster rate than my mind. Often I’ll catch myself dreaming the dreams of a much younger man, not one who is riding at a quick gait into the sunset. I have quite a “bucket list” but most of those things are no more realistic than the visions of a little boy who hopes to take on the super-powers of his super heroes on TV.

It isn’t easy to stand flat footed and look reality full in the face. There are things I would like to do that will not happen, not only because of the brevity of life, but other reasons as well. Don’t mistake this seeming pessimism as me giving up on living, nothing could be farther from the truth. I still have a jest for living and count myself among the most fortunate to have the life I have.

I am disappointed that minds and bodies don’t usually age at the same speed. Some people’s bodies function well long after their minds have stopped being useful. Others have great minds, wonderful dreams, and fresh ideas trapped in bodies too worn out and disfunctional to give real meaning to what they imagine.

Give up? Never! Often when I go to my tool box it’s the old tools that are the best ones. Maybe it’s true as well for what some folks would consider old fools. So, I’ll keep hope alive, keep dreaming big dreams, and trusting my God and who knows? It is such hope, a fresh optimism at the start of each new day, that gives texture and vitality to living and causes an old man to walk with his face into the wind and his eyes on the horizon eager for the next challenge.

To my young friends: No, life isn’t fair. But, God is faithful! Even if you put your whole trust in Christ and follow Him the days of your life it might not end well…on earth. Good men and women, holy people, die in auto accidents, fall victim to cancer, and even are tortured and killed because of their faith. The good news is eternal life trumps all of our troubles and trials. One day the eternal day will break out and darkness and every evil will forever be no more. Live, and love, and learn, all day every day. Every life is a gift, use yours wisely.

Life is a unique gift not to be taken lightly.

Royce Ogle

The Journey of Grief

Have you walked that lonely road, desperately missing a loved one who has died? Perhaps you have recently lost a family member or a dear friend and the pain is still raw and sharp. Or, it might be that even though your loss was several years ago the hurt never seems to heal like you expected it would.

Welcome to GriefShare.

“GriefShare is a friendly, caring group of people who will walk alongside you through one of life’s most difficult experiences. You don’t have to go through the grieving process alone.

GriefShare seminars and support groups are led by people who understand what you are going through and want to help. You’ll gain access to valuable GriefShare resources to help you recover from your loss and look forward to rebuilding your life.” (from the GriefShare website)

My wife Carol and I became vividly acquainted with grief and grieving in 1997. Her husband Terry died suddenly in the summer and my wife Jeanine died the same way just before Christmas and her 44th birthday.

Because we knew first hand how difficult it is for survivors to go through the grief process we decided to offer a hand to those who are hurting  as we did. In just a few days we will begin our 8th year of facilitating GriefShare groups. Our experience has been a mixture of sadness and joy as we have walked along side many wonderful people with broken hearts. We have seen some amazing transformations through this ministry of love and mercy.

Last year we were joined in our GriefShare ministry by John and Maggie Dobbs. John is the pulpit minister at the Forsythe Church of Christ in Monroe. John and Maggie lost their son, John Robert, several months ago, a few days before he was to graduate high school. John is a prolific writer and has chronicled much of his personal journey of grief at his popular blog “Out Here Hope Remains”.

We began having our groups meet at Forsythe last year after several years at Whites Ferry Road Church in West Monroe. The Forsythe Church is centrally located on Forsythe west of the Oliver and Forsythe intersection.

On Monday, January 11th at 6:00 p.m. we will have a time of greeting and registration for the upcoming series. We will meet weekly for 13 weeks. Each week we will watch a DVD (30 to 40 min.) and then have a discussion time.

You can expect the following:

  • Very helpful information. The series includes ministers, Christian counselors, famous authors and other experts on grief, and people just like you who share their stories of hope.
  • People who really care about you. Our only goal is to love and nurture hurting people in Christ’s name.
  • Tears are welcomed. Tears are the beautiful expression of a hurting heart and God’s unique way of cleansing a troubled soul. Don’t be fearful of crying, all of us do cry, or have, it is normal and expected.
  • A safe place. Your confidentiality will be respected and honored. What you choose to share in a GriefShare group will not leave the group. “What happens in GriefShare stays in GriefShare”.
  • You don’t have to talk. It’s really up to you. Often people are not ready to talk in a group setting. That is OK. You will be expected to talk only if and when you feel comfortable doing so.
  • Christ centered. Our resources are biblical in nature and we readily say that our ultimate comfort in times of trouble comes from a vibrant, authentic, relationship with Jesus Christ. Our mission is not to have you change your church membership or to pressure you into anything you don’t want to do. We only want to love you in Christ’s stead and point you to him.
  • You will get better! I’ll make you a promise. If you attend each week and take advantage of the resources available to you, I assure you that you will realize that you have found comfort, peace, and a new hope that makes daily living without your loved one much more bearable.

Remember! Each Monday at 6:00 p.m. at Forsythe Church of Christ, 2101 Forsythe Ave. in Monroe. Put it on your calendar now so you can’t forget, you’ll be glad you did. I look forward to meeting you!

Questions? Call Carol Ogle at 318.348.2291



Alive one more day…so far

I don’t know when my life will end but I do know where my human body will stop at last.

The place is jut waiting for me in Lake Dallas, Texas. As of this moment I plan on waiting to go to that last destination as long as possible.

Remember the verse of the song “Everybody wants to go to heaven but no one wants to die”? That’s me. This morning I read the obituary column in the local paper and about a half-dozen people younger than me had died. There is little that is a better reminder of one’s mortality.

Thankfully, this small piece of real estate in North Texas is not really the end. It is the place where my temporary home will be planted. But some day the one who said to Martha “I am the Resurrection and the Life” will call his own to himself and the bodies of believers will be recreated as immortal beings living in bodies that reflect the glory of Jesus Christ, like him, with him forever.

So, for me, what is called in the Scriptures the “blessed hope” (the return of Jesus) is a blessed certainty. The question is never “If?” but rather “When?”.

These days of family gatherings, parties, and fun are filled with pain and misery for some of your friends, neighbors, or perhaps even family. The sorrow of who is missing from the festivities is very, very painful for some survivors. So, be respectful, be sensitive, and give space to those who are still grieving. Be a good listener, weep with them, hug them, and just be with them at their request. That is the best gift you can give someone who is grieving.

Merry Christmas all,