My daughter just got over what was thankfully a small case of pneumonia. A friend was telling me how he nearly died from it years ago, and that reminded me of a time back in 2007 when death was close by.

I was returning from a trip to Honduras. When we touched down in Miami January 20th, 2007, I called my wife to let her know that I was back on US soil. She informed me that her grandfather had passed away that morning and she was driving back from South Georgia to help with the arrangements. Her grandparents raised her so it was an especially tough blow.

A week later, her great aunt died, the sister of the grandmother who just lost her husband. Over the next two weeks afterwards, my wife traveled to South Carolina about 4 times to visit with her other grandfather who was nearing death. He passed peacefully, early one morning.

Three deaths in a little less than five weeks. My wife hardly had time to grieve over the first one because she had to help her grandmother with all the legal navigations.

My daughter, who was six at the time, wrote a note and placed it in the casket of her first great-grandfather who passed away. It read, “Dear God, please take care of Grandpa.”

To say that our family situation was strained is an understatement. But God is faithful and saw us through. Then something unimaginable happened.

On Friday, March 23rd, I received an IM from a friend I used to work with. Another coworker was in the hospital and needed prayer.  So I prayed and began to paste the message into an email to send to a few folks when the phone rang. Erin was dead.

I was in shock and disbelief. Erin Cantrell was only 32 or 33. She died from complications with pneumonia. Pneumonia! She was a wife, mother of 3, a world champion kick boxer and a woman of tremendous faith. As the stories began to unfold, I learned much about Erin that I never knew.

Apparently she was “responsible”, if I might use that word, for a number of people coming to the Lord. She was quite the evangelist. She knew in whom her faith rested and where her future was. And though her husband and children passed through the sort of pain that I honestly hope I never can relate to, the testimony of a wall-to-wall packed church, testimonies from friends of Erin’s impact on them, her involvement at church and in the community — all these speak to the fact that hers was a life worth living.

My daughter’s recent case of pneumonia brought to mind the wave of death we experienced back in 2007, which culminated in one of God’s faithful servants dying from it.

Sickness and death are never welcomed or convenient. But they do tend to help us re-calibrate our center. As we examine our focus and the activities into which we pour our energy, do we recognize misplaced dedication?  Like Erin Cantrell, will the testimony of those whose lives intersected with ours speak to our pursuit of maintaining an eternal perspective?