Death, Dying and Shadows

Having just said goodbye to my 37-year-old son, U.S. Marine Corps Major Luke Gaines Parker, (Aug. 19, 1976 – Nov. 17, 2013), I feel qualified to write about death, dying and shadows. Death because a memorial service was held for Luke; shadows because they are illusions.

Luke was born hyperactive before it became a buzz word and was diagnosed with learning disabilities, all of which he overcame. When Luke wanted to learn something, he did. He learned to whitewater raft, rock climb, scuba dive, play a trumpet and piano, fly an airplane. When he wanted his own plane, he found and purchased one of 19 remaining Focke Wulfs in the world. He worked his way up from learner, to instructor, to an instrument rating. He performed aerobatic maneuvers at air shows and wrote smoke messages in the sky.

As a Marine, Luke worked his way up from enlisted to Major. He served six tours of duty in war zones – saw many of his Marine Corps buddies die – and returned home from Iraq with Post Traumatic Stress Syndrome, which he overcame. But this isn’t about Luke – it’s about shadows.

Shadows are illusions. Shadows aren’t real. They can’t hurt you. People can make shadow animals on the wall – even sharks and wolves – but the shadow critters are harmless. They can’t bite.

Death is unpopular. It gets bad PR. People think of death as an end. It’s scary. They see death as the worst thing that can happen. Death is not the end of life; it’s the beginning of eternal life. Death is what we label the passage from this earth into Heaven where there is no more death, dying, sorrow, illness, pain or sorrow. Death stands between this restless world and eternal joy.

Death is not the worst thing that can happen. Today at a nursing home, I saw the worst; lonely people with no one to visit them or care; people whose bodies and minds have worn out ahead of death’s arrival. Some screamed and cried for help because imaginary fiends – real to them – bit and crawled under their clothing. Some slumped over in their chairs, lacking strength to straighten up. Some sat, head lolling, drooling, useless arms ending in claw-like appendages that had once been functional hands.

Death is not the worst thing that can happen. Today at a prison, I saw hopelessness in eyes once bright with wonder; human bodies held captive in cold metal cages, trapped in a dreamless land of no hope, no future.

Death is not the worst thing that can happen. Today I saw a drug addict with bleeding gums and pussy sores on his face sitting in the cold rain, shivering, and talking to invisible companions as he held a paper cup and begged for money for his next fix.

Death is not the worst thing that can happen. Today I saw an alcoholic mother in an uncontrollable spate of weeping because her young daughter had run away from home and she had sobered up enough to realize that it was her neglect and abuse that sent the young girl rushing out into a dangerous, uncertain future.

Death is not the worst thing that can happen. Today I saw an abused child with cigarette burns and bruises on his thin arms and face and shattered trust written across his face because the parents who should have loved and protected him had turned on him with anger and hate.

Death is not the worst thing that can happen. Jesus asked, “What does it profit a person to gain the whole world and lose his soul?” If this life is all there is to life – then death is indeed an enemy and the worst thing that can happen.

Luke lived his 37 years to the fullest because he walked with God. Even when other people around him did, Luke never drank alcohol or used profanity. He attended church, read his Bible, and was a great father to his young daughter. Within three days of his death, I received 850 messages expressing sorrow and commending his life – because it was a life lived with God. He flew his beloved Focke Wulf through the shadow of death into the arms of Jesus.

Do I miss my son? Dreadfully. Am I incapacitated by grief? No. Death is a shadow. Shadows are harmless, powerless illusions. Death doesn’t deserve such a bum rap. There are many things in this life worse than death.

Link to six Christian mystery-romance-suspense novels:


Life is never long enough

Today, November 19, 2013, I learned that I must say goodbye to the best son any mother ever had, Marine Corps Major Luke Parker, who was killed in a plane crash Sunday. Life is never long enough when you love someone.

When I look back to my time as Luke’s mother, I know I was blessed by the LORD that He chose me out of all the other women on earth to be Luke’s mom.

Luke was hyperactive before hyper became a buzz word. At the doctor’s office, other children sat in their mother’s laps. Luke jumped off furniture, tore around the room like a wild fox, and shouted with laughter when I tried to catch him. When I finally caught him and attempted to restrain him, he screamed so loudly that we were taken into a waiting room in the back. There wasn’t enough space for him to bounce and run there, and by the time we left the doctor’s office I needed treatment for a raging headache. The Marine Corps was the perfect career for his boundless energy. He began training before he was out of high school, running four to six miles a day in every kind of weather.

Luke was born loving animals and they sensed that and loved him in return. Once when he was walking in New York, a thirsty bird landed on his shoulder. Luke feed the bird drops of water until it recovered and flew away. With Luke’s help, we rescued and saved dogs, cats, ravens opossums, frogs, tadpoles, snakes, lizards. I walked outside one day to find Luke hanging upside down in a tree teaching a baby opossum how to climb.

When Luke was four, the “experts” at a children’s clinic in Reno, Nevada, informed me that Luke had learning and developmental issues and would never do well in school or be particularly successful. My answer was, “As long as he loves Jesus and serves Him, I don’t care.”

The experts were wrong and Luke achieved everything he ever wanted to do. When he decided he wanted to play a trumpet, he learned. When he wanted to learn to play the piano, he took a few lessons and wound up playing in church. He was a skilled artist and poet, and in spite of the fact that he said he hated writing, he was entrusted to write newsletters for his Marine Corps unit. He decided he needed a college diploma and graduated from Stephen F Austin. He decided he wanted to learn to fly and earned not only a pilot’s license, but also his instrument and instructor’s ratings. He fell in love with an old army jeep and bought it and rebuilt and painted it from the ground up, learning as he went. He decided he wanted to buy a plane and found one of the only 19 surviving Focke Wulf planes in the world, which he kept in pristine shape. He and the plane went down on Sunday, Nov. 17. If he could have chosen the way to go – that’s what he would have chosen. From the sky into the arms of Jesus.

I could be proud that Luke made the rank of Major; that he graduated from college; that he and his plane performed in air shows; that he ran marathons. I am proud of all those things, but what I am most proud of him for is for having been a great dad to his daughter and walking with God.

Luke read his Bible nearly every day and prayed constantly. He would want me to use this opportunity to encourage you to consider where you will be when you die and make sure it’s heaven. You’ll get to see him there! Because of Luke, one of my favorite Bible verses is 3 John 4, “I have no greater joy than to hear that my children walk in truth.”

Proud of you, Son. Thank you for walking in truth. I’ll see you soon!