Five days ago in the late afternoon, I received a call from my secretary. She told me that Herb was in the hospital and on his way to ICU. My experience is that it is best to wait before heading to the hospital in order to give the medical staff time to do what they need to do. So I told her that I would go to the hospital to check on Herb first thing in the morning.
I changed my mind. Right after we finished eating dinner, I left for the hospital. I arrived at the ICU. The staff and Cardiologist were working feverishly to stabilize him. They tried to get his blood pressure up. It worked, but not for long.
The Cardiologist met with the family and said quietly and compassionately, “Herb has made his own decision.”
At 7:09 p.m., Herb drew his last breath and crossed over into the arms of his Creator.
Herb was a special guy; a biblical scholar who loved to argue the nuances of both scripture and theology. For eight years, we had a great “back-and-forth.” He was greatly troubled by the age-old question: “If there is a good and powerful God in the heaven, why do such awful things happen to people?” How much is enough before God should step in to stop pure evil from happening?”
(Wish I knew the answer to that one.)
When we studied Paul’s letter to the Romans. Herb decided that he greatly disliked St. Paul. He repeated for all to hear that, in his opinion, Paul was arrogant and egotistical.
When studying the Christmas story, he announced that he could not believe that Mary was a virgin!
Herb was not making such “confessions” to rile anybody up. He said what he honestly thought.
One day after Bible study, he apologized. “Pastor John, I am sorry if my questions have offended you.”
“Herb,” I replied, “your questions never offend me. Keep asking any question you want. If truth is truth, it will withstand you questions. After all, God created you with a brain and expects you to use it!”
How I wish some of the noisy religious people that suck up the airwaves would stop demanding that we either accept their answers or go to hell. Isn’t a good and honest question much more constructive than a hurtful and thoughtless answer?
“O Divine One, I will keep using the brain you gave me, but you might want to keep an eye out for my buddy Herb. He wants to know what you have been doing as our world spins out of control. He also is asking some good questions about the Blessed Virgin and St. Paul. He is all yours now. GOOD LUCK!”
John E. Holt, Cotuit, Massachusetts