Thinking about Life and Death


Harry Kalas died yesterday in Washington, D. C. as he was preparing to broadcast the baseball game between the Washington Nationals and the Philadelphia Phillies. He, at the age of 73, even though he had battled health issues over the last few years, was still the radio voice of the Phillies. In the late 1960s I would lie in my bed and listen to Kalas, Gene Elston, and Loel Passe broadcast the Houston Astros games over my transistor radio (the Astros  were bad then, too), and from time to time had to use my earphone if the game went into extra innings, because I was supposed to be asleep.


Maybe it’s because I am in my fifties now, but reading such obituaries is a reminder to me that my life is “a mist that appears for a little time and then vanishes.” (James  4:14) I realize how quickly the time has flown and if the Lord chooses to allow me to live as long as my Dad, I have approximately thirty years left on this “terrestrial ball.” However, my hope is not to be found in length of years but in the one who said, “I am the resurrection and the life. Whoever believes in me, though he die, yet shall he live, and everyone who lives and believes in me shall never die.”


I remind Dixie from time to time what song I want sung at my funeral (so if any of you are still around, be sure that she carries out my wishes). I want everyone present to sing it, and I don’t want any verses skipped (Baptists beware), for it speaks of our only hope in life and death:


Our God, our help in ages past,

Our hope for years to come,

Our shelter from the stormy blast,

And our eternal home.


Under the shadow of thy throne

Thy saints have dwelt secure;

Sufficient is thine arm alone,

And our defense is sure.


Before the hills in order stood,

Or earth received her frame,

From everlasting thou art God,

To endless years the same.


A thousand ages in thy sight

Are like an evening gone;

Short as the watch that ends the night

Before the rising sun.


The busy tribes of flesh and blood,

With all their lives and cares,

Are carried downward by thy flood,

And lost in following years.


Time, like an ever-rolling stream,

Bears all its sons away;

They fly forgotten, as a dream

Dies at the opening day.


Our God, our help in ages past,

Our hope for years to come,

Be thou our guard while troubles last,

And our eternal home






  1. Ellis Hayden said,

    April 14, 2009 at 12:36 PM

    Good article…but Clifton…all the verses.

    • cliftonr said,

      April 14, 2009 at 2:21 PM

      I disagree with John Wesley quite often, but I think he got it right when he gave these instructions for singing hymns in 1761:

      “Sing them exactly as they are printed here without altering or mending them at all …

      Sing ALL. See that you join with the congregation as frequently as you can …

      Sing lustily and with a good courage. Beware of singing as if you were half dead, or half asleep; but lift up your voice with strength …

      Sing modestly. Do not bawl, so as to be heard above or distinct from the rest of the congregation, that you may not destroy the harmony …

      Sing in Time. Whatever time is sung, be sure to keep with it. Do not run before nor stay behind it … and take care not to sing too slow…”

      Above all sing spiritually. Have an eye to God in every word you sing. Aim at pleasing Him more than yourself or any other creature.”

      I agree wholeheartedly…especially the part about “sing all” and “do not bawl.” ;^)

  2. Carly Barnett said,

    April 14, 2009 at 2:47 PM

    Good words to think about this morning.

  3. April 15, 2009 at 12:41 PM

    It’s always calming to remember that death is the worst possible thing that could happen to us on this Earth, and for those who believe, it is merely a doorway to eternal bliss with the Father. Thanks for the reminder.

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