On a cold January morning, thirteen men made a routine descent into the Sago coal mine in West Virginia. The chain of events that set off an explosion in that mine is not altogether clear. For forty-two hours, the men were trapped beneath the surface. When their families heard the news, they gathered together, desperately praying that the rescue efforts would be successful.
The headline in the first-edition copies of USA Today proclaimed ALL ALIVE, but by the time most people got to the newsstands, the worst of all fears was realized. Twelve men would never again see the faces of their loved ones. All the men perished. All but one, that is..Randy McCloy.
Randy suffered severe carbon monoxide poisoning and was at the doorway of death when someone finally reached him. His rescue was the one glimmer of light in the dark shadows of this collapsed mine.
He spent weeks in a coma and months in a rehabilitation hospital. Gradually, his limited responses returned. The most telling was the day his wife, Anna, stood at his bedside. She knew he could not talk, so she said, “Randy, if you know who I am, give me a kiss.” To her shock and joy, Randy responded to her request. He leaned up and kissed her.
His first definitive response was a gesture of love.
As I reflected on this story, I was reminded of the incredible power of love. For all of the damage done to Randy’s lungs, nothing could stop the power of love from beating in his heart. In many ways, it was love that delivered him from death’s doorway to a hospital room and then to his home for a reunion with the family he so deeply loved.
Gradually, Randy began to talk about the hours he spent beneath the surface with his fellow workers. He was reluctant to discuss the details of the final moments of his friends and coworkers, but he did speak of the actions of these men as death approached. In particular, Randy said, all of the men wrote farewell notes to their loved ones. He said, “It’s a hard thing to have to say good-bye to someone on a piece of paper.” Randy himself had written a note in which he declared his love and affection for Anna, told his son and namesake Randall to “trust in the Lord,” and encouraged his daughter Isabelle to “stay sweet”. In this love letter, he told his family that he did not want them to grieve long but to be happy and live.
As these men took their final breaths in the darkness, they painstakingly scrawled out love letters to the ones they would leave behind. If you were writing such a letter what would you say?
Jesus knew He was on His way to the cross as He met with His disciples one last time in a secluded upper room. His final words were encouraging and hopeful. “Do not let your hearts be troubled. You believe in God; believe also in me. My Father’s house has many rooms; if that were not so, would I have told you that I am going there to prepare a place for you? And if I go and prepare a place for you, I will come back and take you to be with me that you also may be where I am. (John 14: 1-3)
What a promise! Mine explosions, terrorist attacks, disease, accidents ... nothing can keep us from spending eternity in our Father’s house with Jesus. Be encouraged. We are loved and we know how the story ends!
Have a great week!