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Have you ever been here? Feeling like you “should have, would have, if only?” Like you are trying to chase after something, but no matter how fast you run you can’t catch it?

“I’m so sorry you are hearing this all at once.  It’s a lot to take in, I understand.”  The cell phone rattled against my ear as James explained that our mutual friend Mark had recently been diagnosed with kidney cancer and was being transported to a local hospital for a tracheotomy.  Cancer…tracheotomy…31 years old? These should never be in the same sentence. 

I was at a loss for words.  It felt like someone was pushing my sternum to my spine.  At this point, I had not spoken to Mark in almost a year.  He had left a voice mail in his typical animated voice about catching up.  I’ll call him back, I thought.  Tomorrow…which turned into a lot of tomorrows.

A few days after the surgery, I was told that he was doing great.  Smiling, happy, making jokes…and just acting like the Mark we all know and love.  With a sigh of relief, I promised myself that I would call him back once he was home and settled again.  I was so grateful that I would have a second chance.

Or so I thought.

A few days passed and no new updates.  Finally, I saw a missed call from James. 

No voicemail?  That’s strange, I thought.  Well, I’ll just check the care page website for the update. 

Status update:  Mark has passed away peacefully surrounded by his family.  His family thanks you for your….

The words became blurred with hot tears as I stared at that computer screen.  Frozen in disbelief, I could feel the guilt began to slither up my insides, getting itself a good grip around my heart. 

Due to complications, the situation accelerated quickly...and Mark let go.  The tears of guilt and sorrow poured down my face as I let my forehead fall against the wall outside my office.  How could this happen?  Just one chance. That’s all I wanted, God.  One more chance to joke around and hear his upbeat, lively voice.  One more chance to get a really big “Mark hug.”  I should’ve visited him when I had the chance! Why didn’t I call more??  *sigh*

Have you ever been here? Feeling like you “should have, would have, if only?” Like you are trying to chase after something, but no matter how fast you run you can’t catch it.

What do I do with this? I thought.  I know bad things happen…but where do I go from here?

That night, after crying my last set of tears, I did the only thing I felt I could do.  I prayed and asked for help in dealing with this heavy clump of guilt.   

And when I woke up the next morning, I felt a peace that I’ve never known.  It was amazing!  Like the weight of that guilt was just hauled away.

Every so often, I’ll feel a little guilt spring back onto my heart.  However, I remind myself of that morning and Thessalonians 4:17 which says, “Then we which are alive and remain shall be caught up together with them in the clouds, to meet the Lord in the air: and so shall we ever be with the Lord.”

Mark is no longer in pain, not worrying about tracheotomies or his next chemo session.  No, he is in a better place where only good things exist and, one day, we will get to catch up.  But this time, I won’t just have to call him back… 

I’ll be standing right in front of him in the presence of God.

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