Time, like an ever rolling stream, bears all its sons away…
So begins the seventh stanza of Isaac Watts’ 1719 hymn, Our God, Our Help in Ages Past.
Last week, I received word that my father, Alan Yeo, who was 85 years old, had been ill for some time, and who struggled with a number of medical issues, had taken a turn for the worse. I immediately flew to Baltimore to be at his bedside at a hospice facility.
Surrounded by family members, he was lovingly cared for by the hospice staff. The sound of his breathing filled the room and it had a rhythm that both told us he was still with us and also that his end was near.
And then, suddenly, the room was quiet.
My father breathed his last and passed from this world to the next. He was no longer in a broken, fallen world; he had gone to his heavenly home where his suffering was no more.
If you are reading this and have experienced the death of a parent you know that no matter how prepared you think you are for this moment, when it comes, it brings with it a sense of finality that cannot be explained. It can only be experienced. While we rejoice that my father knew and loved God and we have assurance of his place in his new home “over Jordan,” I am very aware I will not speak with him again on this earth. I will not hear his voice greet me with, as he always did, “What’s happening, Douglas?” I won’t hold his hand or kiss his cheek. Time has borne him away, as it does each of us.
So, now, we move on. There are details to attend to and emotions to process. But most of all, this moment reminds me of the precious nature of each day. All of us are good at wasting time; each has his own way to wile away hours in trivial pursuits. But when one you loves breathes his or her last, you are aware in a new way that your days, too, are numbered. I don’t feel much like wasting time right now.
The British writer G. K. Chesterton reminds us of the remarkable gift of each day in his poem, EVENING. I keep this poem in my Bible and read it every day:
Why, indeed, am I allowed two? Because God, in his Sovereign will, has work for me to do in another day for the cause of His Kingdom. With renewed purpose, I push ahead to be a good steward of the talents and gifts God has given me until He decides my work here is done and, like my father, He bears me home.
The Lord gave, and the LORD hath taken away; blessed be the name of the LORD. (Job 1:21)
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Alan Deane Yeo passed from this world to his heavenly home on September 4, 2016 in Columbia, Maryland; he was 85 years old. Born in Brooklyn, he graduated from Westminster College (New Wilmington, Pennsylvania) in 1953 and married Jeannine Spangler (d. 1985). He served in the United States Army’s 6th Infantry Division immediately following the Korean conflict and worked as Vice-President and Secretary of S. P. Skinner Co. in New York City before answering the call to become a United Methodist minister in 1971. He earned his Master of Divinity and Doctor of Ministry degrees from Drew Theological School (Madison, New Jersey) and pastored churches in Milton (1971-1975), Hopatcong (1978-1983), Roselle Park (1983-1987) and Washington, New Jersey (1988-1993) as well as Matamoras, Pennsylvania (1975-1978).
After his retirement from full time ministry work, Alan continued in the service of the Gospel, preaching in churches, assisting in hospice, and as chaplain and teacher of New Testament at Randolph Macon Academy (Front Royal, Virginia). He will be missed by all who knew and were influenced by him and is survived by his wife of 30 years, Annemarie Andersen Yeo, his three sons, six grandchildren, two great-grandchildren and Annemarie’s daughter and grand-daughter.