Personal tragedy strikes when we least expect it. Sally and I recently attended the funeral of a dear friend in Louisville who lost a very brief battle with cancer. Ernie Adams was a vibrant, larger-than-life character who energized any gathering of which he was present. As a professional stage actor and singer, Ernie had a commanding presence. His booming voice and laugh, huge blue eyes, charming wit and magnetic personality, would instantly win over anyone. I cannot overstate the lasting impression Ernie would make on all who encountered him.
Shortly after his cancer diagnosis in July, Sally and I spent a few days with Ernie and his wife while he was receiving treatment in the hospital. We were greatly shocked about how quickly the cancer had taken over his body. In a few short weeks our friend who I had endearingly referred to as the “Big Man,” had already been reduced to a shadow of his former self. Even though his sense of humor was still intact, the familiar booming voice and jovial laugh was all but gone. Sally and I sadly realized that barring a miracle, our good friend would not be with us much longer.
Ernie passed away a few weeks later. His funeral was a beautiful celebration event of the likes that I have never before experienced! A estimated crowd of over 600 filled the church well beyond capacity. Former choir members, including Sally and me, along with professionals from Ernie’s theater productions, were invited to join with current church choir and sing some of Ernie’s favorite selections that we had rehearsed and performed along with him many years earlier. The University of Kentucky select choir, of which Ernie’s youngest daughter is a member, also contributed several moving pieces to the service. An eerie silence fell amongst the crowd when a recording of Ernie’s distinctive bass voice singing “The Lord’s Prayer” and “Amazing Grace” filled the sanctuary. If anyone could pull off singing at their own funeral, it would be Ernie! After that, I was barely able to utter the words of “How Great Thou Art” when singing with the choir! The service was a glorious tribute to a man who was greatly loved by everyone who met him, and a testimony of the life of a man who, although was a friend of many, made each person whose life he touched, feel equally important to him. Ernie will not only be greatly missed by his family and friends, but Fern Creek Baptist Church will never be quite the same without him. The church sign out by the road said, “Ernie Adams 1959-2016, Singing with Jesus!”
Although we can find comfort in knowing that Ernie loved the Lord and that we will see him again, my heart goes out to Ernie’s family. Things were not supposed to turn out this way for them. Ernie was only in his fifties, and had never dealt with serious illness prior to his cancer diagnosis. I am sure that many of you can relate to Ernie’s family’s story. Many of us have also experienced similar loss and tragedy. The Lifetree Small Group program this week can help us deal with this sort of tragedy. The episode titled “Why, God? When personal tragedy doesn’t make sense”, features an original film depicting the true story of Thomas Vander Woude, who found his son, Joseph, struggling for his life after a backyard accident. Meaningful conversation will follow and we will focus on one relevant Bible passage that will challenge us, help us build faith, grow hope, and help draw us closer to God. Participants will be invited to share their own experiences with past, personal tragedy and how it impacted their lives. You are sure to be inspired!
Everyone is invited to join us for honest, life-changing discussions and fellowship this Tuesday, September 12th at 7:00 p.m. It only lasts one hour! Make sure to check the Leader and church bulletin for topics and schedule updates. Lifetree Small Groups also provide excellent opportunities to meet new friends and strengthen existing relationships.