A Slice Of Life To Go is an online Christian blog written by Todd Thompson. It encourages people to see the beauty in ordinary moments and to know God’s unconditional, unfailing love in everyday life.

October 18th

October 18th, 2005

“So I’m not four anymore?”

“No, Annie. You’re five now. Happy Birthday!”

For weeks Annie and Emma have been talking about how they would soon be five years old. Now that the day is here, they seem a tiny bit wistful pondering that being five means they are no longer four. I understand that. We look forward to arriving and when we do we can’t help but look back.

Driving them to pre-school, we stop at Fry’s Grocery to buy some cookies to share with their classmates. Annie and Emma announce to the checkout clerk that today is their birthday and they are now five years old.

“Really? If it’s your birthday then you need balloons!” An attentive employee walking by hears the conversation and is back in a flash with two balloons, one pink and one orange. The girls giggle, toss a thank you over their shoulder and bounce out the door.

We are pulling out of the parking lot when my Dad calls. He can barely find the words to say that Steve Logemann, a high school acquaintance of mine, has died in a farm accident.

Steve was a couple grades ahead of me at North Kossuth High School. I didn’t know him well except to say hi to him in the hall between classes. He was very tall and very nice. The kind of person your parents would describe as “a good kid”.

Two years ago and 23 years removed from our high school days I received an email from Steve. Somehow one of my “Slice of Life” columns had found its way to his inbox and he asked to be added to the distribution list. Steve and his wife Gail now had four kids and a family website with pictures of their Iowa farm and of their children. The website is called www.twinkleye.com, a not so subtle reference to the Biblical passage in 1 Corinthians 15 that speaks about how believers in Jesus Christ will be changed in the “twinkling of an eye” when He returns. And that because of Jesus’ death on the cross, “death is swallowed up in victory”.

Pressing the end button on my cell phone, I turn right on to 40th Street. Annie and Emma are chattering happy twin talk in the back seat. Driving a little slower than normal, I look around. Palm trees are swaying and gray clouds are rolling on an unusually cool and windy Phoenix day. A phone company technician bends over a junction box, making repairs. Kids with packs on their backs and I-Pod’s in their ears head for the bus stop. A McDonald’s semi truck on its way with a supply of everything needed to make Big Macs and Egg McMuffins. Two ladies aerobic speed walking down the sidewalk. A Dad pushing a stroller. And me driving my kids to preschool on their 5th birthday before going off to work.

The thing about death is that it happens in the middle of life.

Pulling into the school parking lot the kids unbuckle their seat belts and we do what we always do. We have a little talk. We talk about how important it is to be a good friend to others, to be respectful of their teachers, to take care of each other and to remember that they can talk to God anytime about anything. On this day I add that 5 years ago my whole life changed when God blessed me with their lives. I tell them how proud I am of them and how much I love them. We hug for a little longer than usual.

Getting out of the car, Emma says, “Daddy, let’s let the balloons go and watch them go high in the sky.”

“Is that ok with you, Annie?”

“That’s a great idea! I go first!”

“Ok, go ahead…no. Wait Annie. Please. Just a second. Daddy needs to get something.”

Maybe it’s because today is their birthday. Maybe it’s because I’m thinking about Steve’s wife and kids and how terribly much they are going to miss their Daddy. Maybe it’s because with all my formal theological training I don’t have a single satisfying answer as to why bad things happen to good people. Maybe it’s because all of the above makes me remember that life is short and oh so unpredictable.

Whatever it was made me grab the camera.

“Ok, girls! Let ‘em go!”

Annie was right. It was a great idea. We watched them dance into the clouds and out of sight.

Annie and Emma letting go of balloons.

Happy Birthday, Annie and Emma. I love you more than you’ll ever know.

See you later, Steve. Thanks for reminding me to look forward to the “twinkle eye” time. You’ve arrived. I’m sure there’s lots to do on your first day in heaven, but if you happen to see a couple of pink and orange balloons float by, just know they’re from friends in Phoenix who are looking forward to the day of no more looking back.

“Show me, O Lord, my life’s end and the number of my days; let me know how fleeting is my life.”
-Psalm 39:4

“Thanks be to God! He gives us the victory through our Lord Jesus Christ.” – 1 Corinthians 15:57