Dr. Debra Atkisson: His Heart Could Be Seen in All That He Did

December 30, 2020

Today the third person I know personally died from COVID.  He is a good man who in his retirement took on a second career to help his church community. And help us he did.  Which is why his leaving us today is such a resounding loss. I can’t even imagine the pain his family is feeling now to lose a man who just exuded goodness. The ripple effect will be felt a great distance for a very long time.

John is a man who never backed down from doing what he felt needed to happen for others. His strong encouragement included literally walking with a pastor as he talked about ways that the congregation could be reached. His reach into all the areas of the church strengthened so many things: caring, compassion, communication. And a strong vision for the future of how our church could touch our community. His heart could be seen in all that he did.

We met via zoom to pray for him today – a group of 120 plus people. Our pastors prayed and read Psalm 23 and Romans; passages John most likely knew by heart.  As we prayed, he lay on a respirator receiving dialysis as the impact of not enough oxygen reaching his cells brought him further from us. We prayed. Many prayed for him to be healed; many prayed for his family; I prayed that he would feel God with him in that moment. That he would feel the love and power of our prayers and know that as he lay in that bed without the physical presence of his family that he would feel God.

John is a fearless Man of God. In his final moments the image of an outstretched hand reaching out to him from above comes to me. And a voice saying “my faithful servant, so very well done, come home now.”

What would John want us to do now? He would encourage each of us to take up the mantle of service to our church and community and continue the work laid out before us. We could all benefit from thinking of his kind face through which one could see goodness and faith. And he would want us to be kind to his family and to each other as we so keenly feel his loss.


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