Written by Dave Lenehan
“Going To See the Big Guy, Maybe.” Sounds like an odd thing to say, doesn’t it? I didn’t see it on a sign or in front of a church or at a flea market next to an old Texaco sign. Those odd words are the epitaph on a veteran’s grave marker at the National Cemetery at Otis Air National Guard base on Cape Cod, Massachusetts. My Dad Roger is buried in the same section (45) as this man.
How did I come across such an strange collection of last words? When I visit my Dad’s gravesite, I like to walk around his section and read the history that marks each stone. People’s names, ranks, branch of service, years served. Some have their spouse buried beside them. Almost all of them have a one sentence descriptor of the person buried below. Most say things you would expect: “Loving father, husband and grandfather.” “Much loved and forever missed.” “Rest in peace.”
My father’s marker reads, “He lived his faith and loved his God and his family.” It’s a very accurate description of the wonderful man of God I knew. But, that one marker has stuck with me for years. “Going to See the Big Guy Maybe.” Honestly, it makes me sad. This person knew that his life that was ending on Earth was not the final chapter, but he was not sure, not convinced of where he would end up after he drew his last breath. I certainly don’t know this man or his family or his background. I am also not writing this to make fun of him (I have as much respect and thanks for him as a veteran than I would any other buried in that hallowed ground).
But I cannot ignore the fact that, at least from what is written on his gravestone, this man wasn’t 100% sure if he was going to heaven when he died. To him it seemed like a 50-50 shot. That one word, “maybe,” is what separates his confidence and his doubt.
“Now faith is the assurance of things hoped for, the conviction of things not seen. For by it the people of old received their commendation. By faith we understand that the universe was created by the word of God, so that what is seen was not made out of things that are visible.”(Hebrews 11:1-3, ESV)
As followers of Jesus we know that we know that we can be assured of our faith. When we surrender our lives to Jesus, we are given an eternal hope, grace, mercy, forgiveness and that certainty of seeing our Lord face to face when we leave this earth.
“By awesome deeds you answer us with righteousness,
O God of our salvation,
the hope of all the ends of the earth
and of the farthest seas;
the one who by his strength established the mountains,
being girded with might;
who stills the roaring of the seas,
the roaring of their waves,
the tumult of the peoples,
so that those who dwell at the ends of the earth are in awe at your signs.
You make the going out of the morning and the evening to shout for joy.” (Psalm 65:5-8, ESV)
The Psalmist here focuses us on that source of that hope. “The one.” Jesus, the One and Only Savior. Then, even though the words are a bit simple, we are confident about, “going to see the Big Guy.”
Memorial Day was a few weeks ago when we honor all veterans who have sacrificed their lives in defense of our country, of your freedom and mine. It’s awe-inspiring to go to a National Cemetery and see what I call the “fields of honor” – the men and women who either served and died in life or gave their lives on the battle field. Memorial Day is just that: a day to remember, to honor, to memorialize those who served and died so that our nation and many others around the world could remain free.
If there’s someone in your family, veteran or not, who doesn’t yet know the hope of Jesus, who doesn’t have that confidence of eternity in Heaven, please share your faith story this week with them. Don’t let another day or opportunity slide by.
If you have veterans in your family, please thank them for me for their service. Otis Cemetery holds my father, his brother (my uncle Howard) and another man who as a mentor helped me develop as a young leader and young man in high school (see the list below). For all of them, I am forever grateful.
Roger W. Lenehan, US Navy, Boatswin’s Mate 1st Class, WWII & Korea
Howard J. Lenehan, Jr., US Navy, TM1, Submarines, WWII
Raymound L. Nault, USAA/USAF, Colonel, WWII, 2 Purple Hearts, 4 Bronze Stars, Distinguished Flying Cross
Memorial Day also marked the 10th year of my Dad’s passing and my wife’s birthday. It was a day filled with a wide mix of emotions and celebration!