On September 11, 1993, I received word that my 14 year old cousin, Chris Marshall, lost his life in an accident.
Every year on the anniversary of that day his mom and dad, my uncle Tim and his wife Dottie have relived those sad events. When the World Trade Center was decimated on September 11 2001, the sorrow became greater still.
Today I want to share a message Tim wrote to his son, on the 5th anniversary of what most of us now know as “9/11.”
Hours from now, around dusk, our hearts will once again remember those moments 13 years ago when we heard the news that you had been badly injured and were on the way to the hospital.
Within an hour we heard the doctor say:
“Mr.and Mrs. Marshall, in spite of all our efforts your son did not make it.”
I can still hear the screams in that tiny waiting room at St. Thomas and the immediate crying that filled the room. I felt so alone at that moment and could not really process what had happened. It truly seemed like a bad dream.
However, the dream has lasted for 13 years and I still don’t see you coming through our door. I still visit your grave and tend to it as I always have. I know you’re not here any more and it hurts so much.
The big question that we humans have is: “Why?” I struggled with that one for a long time until I finally realized there are no answers here.
This earth is not the place where a massive question like that can be fully addressed. In the years that have passed I have watched the frustrated actions of people who apparently think this earth is all there is. They are in a frenzy–whether its to get more stuff or power than everyone else or to worship this world itself under one banner or another. I guess they’re scared, Chris.
All I know is that as these years have passed I feel less and less attached to this world. I feel I am blessed to live in the greatest nation on earth and we have many nice things, but that’s pretty horizontal. My gaze has gone vertical more and more and I have learned what you know: apart from Almighty God there is no hope, but in Him there is all hope.
Five years ago today was the second worst day of our lives as we watched in horror as some sadistic butchers who worship a false god killed 3000 people. Hate and evil were revealed and this nation was shocked. Our hearts were broken because we knew that suddenly thousands of people felt the hurt and loss we had known for 8 years.
It was a tearful day and I remember making my visit to your grave at dusk that evening. I cried more than I had ever cried before, but I know I was feeling their grief along with my own, What a sad and horrible day! Since then there has been a panorama of events and more attacks and more death.
I have felt the heaviness of praying for the 9/11 families and for those of our soldiers who have died since. I have also prayed for your best friend-Michael Adkins- who joined the Marines when he graduated and is serving now in Kuwait repairing Marine aircraft.
I have been reminded that freedom is never free. There is always a blood sacrifice. It’s true for a nation-whether we like it or not. It’s true for human beings, too, and we cannot escape the significance of the blood sacrifice of Jesus Christ for all who will believe.
As my mind has processed all of this I keep going back to August 28, 1986 when during a service at church you nudged me and said: “Dad, I want to accept Christ tonight.” As we made our way to the altar, Craig Fry-the youth pastor-said: “Well Dad you know what to do,” and I knelt with you as you received that wonderiful, free gift of salvation for yourself.
That moment was revisited on the night of Sept. 11, 1993 in the aftermath of that horrible news that my youngest child was dead. The feeling came over me that you were watching all of us for a while–then you were gone. Strange to say but there was a peace that came over me in that. I don’t understand it. I just know it’s true.
Losing you changed our lives, just as it did for those who lost loved ones 5 years ago. We feel a bit less at home here now. We look for heaven a little more. In the months before this day we have had reminders of how changeable everything is.
Since back in May we have been told to expect Meemaw Stinson to join you, She nearly has a few times and at age 98 she says she’s ready to leave. With that backdrop I have been reading a book “Ninety Minutes in Heaven” by Don Piper. It’s a most intriguing book. This man was pronounced dead–no pulse, no heartbeat–after a terrible wreck.
Ninety minutes later, as a friend of his who felt impressed to get in that mangled car and pray, he came back to life. While he was gone he says he went to heaven’s gates, which he says cannot be described in human language-nor can anything he saw, and was greeted by many loved ones and friends. He said he had never felt so loved and welcomed ever before.
The thing that was so interesting to me was that he said his loved ones and friends looked just as they did the last time he saw them. He had no trouble recognizing them– whether they were young or old. As I thought about it, it made sense. They have not yet received their glorified bodies.
So, Chris, I know I won’t have any problem in finding you when I get there. I can’t wait for that big hug and I know there won’t be any time limit on it! I will finally be home and it will be worth the wait. I’ll leave behind those I love…but they’ll be along one day too. There won’t be any more sorrow, such as we experienced on Aug. 15 when we had to put little Molly-your dog- to sleep.
We put her ashes with you, Chris. It seemed only right. No, I’ll leave all of that behind ro go to a place where it’s never “Good-bye” it’s always “Good Morning!”
For that and many reasons I could never wish you to be back here. Until then, we press on to achieve the purpose for which God has us here and now. I’m not sure when it will be all over for me, but keep watching and before long I’ll see you at those Gates.
With all our love,
Dad, Mom, and Steve
I Thess. 4:16, 17