For eight long and difficult years, my father battled small-cell lung cancer, desperately struggling to stay alive long enough to ensure his wife, Margaret, would be properly cared for when he was gone. Margaret, the woman who saved him from self-destruction after his first marriage (to my mother) collapsed, had been diagnosed with early-onset dementia. One day, almost five years into his fight to survive, Dad pulled me aside to lovingly tell me I had become "an angel of death" in his life, and asked me to stop if I could.
He was right, too!
My dad lived in Missouri, a state in the middle of America, while I lived near Boston, Massachusetts on the eastern coast of the U.S. Each time his cancer came out of remission or took a turn for the worse, I would dutifully climb on a plane and fly to Missouri to see him "one last time". Since I was a Christian and he had not yet made a profession of faith, our conversation would make its way to faith. Eventually, my father came to believe the doctors were giving me more information than they were giving him, and he would interpret my conversations about Jesus as a sign he was about to die. It got so bad, he told me finally, that he struggled with anxiety every time he heard I was coming to visit.
So, he asked me not to talk about Jesus anymore unless I knew for sure he was about to die. Small wonder, then, that he would consider me an "angel of death". Clearly, I needed to honor his request, but I also loved him too much not to want to see him in heaven when I get there. Over much prayer, the Holy Spirit offered a possible solution.
Using 3 x 5 index cards, I wrote a note to Dad explaining why I wanted him in heaven. Then I explained in clear terms what Jesus makes possible for each of us, and I included the prayer he could pray should he ever decide he wanted to accept Jesus as His Savior. I gave him the cards, explained what they were, and then promised I would never again broach the subject with him. He not only liked the solution, but promised me he would carry the cards with him always "should he change his mind."
Three years passed; our visits now marked by easy conversations and enjoyable reminiscenses now that my visits no longer signaled death was at hand. I never raised any questions about faith and he never told me he'd accepted Jesus. Then a day came when my brother called to tell me Dad was gone. I flew to Missouri with a heavy heart, convinced I had failed my father--and Jesus--in an eternal fashion.
Driving from the airport to the old family farm, my brother caught me up on my Dad's last hours. "By the way," Mark said,"Dad asked me to tell you he used your card--he accepted Jesus--before he passed." In a classic understatement, Mark continued, saying "Dad thought you might want to know."
Is there someone in your life who is weary of the appeals you've made to them about faith? Or have you been so afraid to have a salvation discussion that you've never done so? Are you afraid you'll mess it up; or afraid you'll offend? Take the matter to God in prayer; ask Him to show you a wiser way to proclaim His gift to someone you love. God isnt silent and He doesn't play head games; He will grant you the wisdom you request.
In sharing this story, we've encountered a number of people for whom the "ndex cards" have been helpful in enabling them to reach out to loved ones in respectful ways. If you think we can help, ask us for a sample of the cards we've helped others draft--and a sample of the cards we used with Dad. We'd be delighted to help.