This morning I received a call at 4:00 a.m. that one of our church members who had been in the hospital since Wednesday had taken a turn for the worse, and the family was requesting my presence. Upon arrival, I discovered our 83 year old member was alert, but family around him were concerned over his congestive heart failure and pneumonia. After a time of prayer with our church member, asking the Lord for grace to either die with dignity or be healed by sovereignty, I sat down to visit with the family. We spent a couple of hours visiting, telling stories about their loved (who was now asleep), and reflecting on the goodness of God to his family.
During the conversation, the family spoke highly of our church's hospital chaplain Rick Talley. Rick, pictured to the left, had faithfully visited other members of this family during their hospital stays within the last several years. Rick had not yet been to see this particular church member since his admission to the hospital Wednesday because Rick had called us on that day to let us know he wasn't feeling well and wouldn't be making his hospital rounds. As I sat with family members in the hospital room, they testified how much Rick's ministry meant to them, and expressed their hope that Rick would be feeling better soon. I told the family how much the pastoral staff also appreciated Rick's ministry. He loved people so much that he insisted he be given as many church ministry assignments as possible, even though he was a part-time ministering pastor in terms of pay. He joined with all the full-time ministering pastors in our efforts to personally contact every single member (4,598) during the course of a year. This past Monday, I wrote about our church member ministry and Rick commented on this blog:
This is a very special ministry for our church. It's like three of my assigned contacts this week were waiting for someone to call. All three were weeping and sharing their heart and heartaches, just waiting for an encouraging word. God is truly an amazing God and He is smack dab in the middle of this ministry!!!That's Rick's heart. Upon leaving the hospital at 6:30 a.m. I gave Rick a call to check on him and see how he was doing. Rick always rises very early (5:30 a.m.), eats a small breakfast, and then makes his hospital rounds. By 8:30 a.m. every morning he gives me a fresh hospital report on my blackberry. Rick, 62 years of age, is a graduate of Southwestern Theological Seminary, and has served previously at Wedgewood Baptist Church, Fort Worth, Texas. Ten years ago, Rick's daughter, Mary Beth, was shot through the back in the horrible and senseless shooting that occurred at Wedgewood Baptist Church. Seven people died that Wednesday night, and seven people who were shot survived. Mary Beth was one of the seven who survived. Years ago Rick's wife divorced him. Rick never, however, got bitter with God over those events in his life. Rather, Rick's compassion for people in the hospitals seemed to have been shaped by some of his own painful experiences.
I didn't receive a response from Rick to my text this morning, which was unusual, so I went by his apartment to check on him. His car was in the carport, so I knew he was home. Rick didn't come to the door when I rang the doorbell. Concerned, I called the manager of the apartment complex, obtained a key, and I and the police entered Rick's apartment in what is called a "well-being entry."
Rick had died during the night.
He died in his sleep on the sofa. Frankly, when the Lord calls me home, I hope he takes me in the same manner. Rick died of what the coroner calls "natural causes." He was a diabetic, suffered from hypertension, and had not been feeling well. We all know, though, that he died at the precise time appointed by His Lord.
Rick's death is a loss for our church. We will miss his enthusiasm in ministry. We will miss the way he truly cared for the people whom he visited. I will miss the friend who would often join me at Thunder basketball games, or OU football games, or Enid High School athletic events. Rick would join my daughter and me in visiting homebound members on Thanksgiving and Christmas Day. Our entire pastoral staff and our spouses will miss the person who stood up at last December's Christmas party and thanked everyone, with tears in his eyes, for being his family.
Rick, we aren't saying "Goodbye" to you. We simply offer "We'll see you soon."
The Lord works in mysterious ways,