“I will sing to the Lord as long as I live;
I will sing praise to my God while I have being.” Psalm 104:33
This verse was quoted at the conclusion of Ben Larson’s obituary. In last Sunday’s sermon I mentioned that Ben was a friend to our family who passed away during the earthquake in Haiti. Upon returning to this country his widow, Renee, gave an interview quoted here from the ELCA news service:
“All he wanted was to be a pastor in this church,” Renee said.
The three senior students at Wartburg Seminary, Dubuque, Iowa, went to Haiti to teach Lutheran theology to members and pastors of the Lutheran church during the seminary’s January term. That all changed on Jan. 12, when a severe earthquake struck Haiti. At the time of the quake all three were together in the St. Joseph Home for Boys.
“We were all together on the same floor,” when the building began to shake, Renee said. “We all kind of panicked and started running. Jonathan and I were together. (Ben) was hugging a pillar in the middle of the floor. I turned and I saw him, and I saw concrete starting to fall on him. I called for him and started running toward him.”
At that moment the two floors above collapsed on them. Jonathan and Renee were trapped for a short time, but managed to squeeze out onto the roof of the building and called for Ben, she said. The collapsed building continued to shift as the aftershocks continued, Renee said. The two went back to the place where they had crawled out and called again for Ben. Renee said she heard Ben’s voice. He was singing, not unusual for Ben who loved music. “I told him I loved him, and that Jon and I were okay, and to keep singing,” Renee said. But the singing stopped after he sang the words “God’s peace to us we pray,” she said.
“If he was alive, he would have been calling for help desperately,” Renee said. “Ben spent his last breath singing.”
I am saddened by the loss, and humbled by the kind of faith that sings to the very end. It makes me consider how I live out my rather ordinary days. Is my life one of praise for the tremendous good gifts we share everyday? If confronted with the end, could I summon the courage and strength to sing?