Tuesday evening April 10, 2006. Hamburg State Park. 8:30 p.m.
Lynne, the girls and I had just started toasting our "last night of camping" marshmallows. We were glad to have had a great three night camping trip to
visit Bailey at college and to just do all the cool stuff you do camping.
Maia and Hope had found a stream in the woods not far from the camp site and spent a large part of the trip discovering, exploring, and getting far dirtier
than we would have liked even for camping. Ellie liked the "raw" marshmallows and visiting her oldest sister. There was a gentleman who was going to
set up a high powered telescope at 9:00 to look at Saturn at the far end of the camp ground. We were all looking forward to a really cool night.
"Are you Jerry Strickland?" The Park Ranger's truck had pulled up about thirty feet from our site. Not feeling the need to correct him I said; "Yep, that's
me." He handed me a note with a phone number scribbled on it. It was my older brother's number. "Sir, there's an emergency.
You need to call this number."
I knew instinctively what had happened. My mother had passed away.
Jimmy and I had always told each other we would never call the other one when we were out of town unless it was indeed an emergency.
Mom had lived in the nursing home a little over two years. Though she often complained of "Not doing too good.", she never really had any serious
health issues. Jimmy told me she had complained of shortness of breath to such an extent the nursing home had her taken to the hospital emergency room
where she suffered cardiac arrest and, within minutes, was dead.
Driving around the one way road of the campground to meet the ranger back at the camp office to call my brother, I looked to my right and saw the
sunset. Now, as far as sunsets go, it wasn't anything especially spectacular. But it made me stop the truck to take a look and say "Thank you God. It's
beautiful." I remembered my camera in the truck and thought I should take a picture. I almost didn't. It took only seconds for me to make up my mind. I
grabbed my camera and walked slowly from the truck to the water's edge. "What will people think," I wondered "if they find out you took the time to
take some stupid picture when your mother may very well be dead or dying three hours away."
"You're mother's gone, but you're alive and you have work to do. Take the picture." Sometimes there's no mistaking the voice of the Holy Spirit. He was
right. I took the picture. My mother will be gone from this place forever, this one sunset would only last a moment. I had a chance to capture that
moment in time to possibly touch the lives of others.
Right then and there I decided to stop wasting my life. As much as I do for the kingdom now, I can do more. As much as I do for others and my family
now, I can do more. I stopped thinking, "What if I die tomorrow? What will I have accomplished?" I began thinking, "What if I'm on this earth another
60 or 70 years? I don't want to waste any of that time."
I returned to our camp site and told Lynne about my mom. After a while in her arms I showed her the picture I took. "Gary, it's beautiful."
By the way, at 9:00 I walked with Lynne and the girls to look at Saturn. We also saw Venus and got an astronomy lesson from the man with the
telescope. Life is precious, and it's for living. Living for God first, then others and then ourselves.
My mother is in the presence of God not wasting even the smallest moment of her time any more.
I miss her terribly.
But her and my dad are now together in a place I call home.
And when I see them again some day I want them to know that I chose to live my life with an eye on eternity and my Heavenly Father.
Thomas Jesse Strickland Rita NeSmith Strickland
1927-2003 1930- 2007