When John Quincy Adams was eighty years old, he was met by an old friend who shook his trembling hand and said, “Good morning. How is John Quincy Adams today?” The retired Chief Executive looked at him for a moment and then said, “John Quincy Adams himself is quite well, sir, quite well, but the house in which he lives at present is becoming dilapidated. It is tottering upon its foundations. Time and seasons have almost destroyed it. Its roof is pretty worn out. Its wall are much shattered, and it crumbles with every wind. The old tenement is becoming almost uninhabitable, and I think that John Quincy Adams will have to move out of it soon. But he himself is well sir, quite well!”
The world expects a person who has lived for many years to die. Death is a natural process of being human. What is not expected is for a young person to take his or her own life as 15-year-old Braxton Caner did on July 29, 2014. Braxton Caner was the son of Christian apologist and Brewton-Parker College President Ergun Caner.
Had any one known what dark thoughts were passing through his mind, loved ones would have, with one voice, tried to persuade Braxton from such an act of violence. But no one knew. The shock was total.
While we do not understand the reasoning for all of human behavior, compassion allows us to sympathize and grieve with those who choose to exit life on their own terms. Evangelist Billy Graham reminds us that people encounter death from different perspectives:
“Some defy death, as did actor Steve McQueen until it consumed him with cancer. They laugh at death, as did Will Rogers, until the day his plane crashed. George Burns says, ‘I don’t believe in death.’ But they invite death when life becomes unbearable, as did Marilyn Monroe. Still others have a fatalistic attitude toward death or reject it, claiming we should not worry about it because there is no life after death and there is nothing we can do about death anyway. Others go to the opposite extreme and live in constant, paralyzing fear of death. Because they have no security and assurance of God’s love and protection in the midst of death, their lives are pre-occupied with fear and often filled with attempts to win God’s favor and avoid His anger. Our individual responses to death cannot be placed in neat categories and given labels” (Facing Death).
The death of Braxton Caner, may not be able to be placed into a neat category. The temptation is to focus upon the final moment of his life, and dwell upon that event. I would suggest that the earlier years of his life not be overshadowed by the last moment of death. In the earlier years are good memories.
There is the memory of his new birth. Braxton was born on March 8, 1999 in Denver, Colorado. He was born again six years later when he came to faith in Christ at a tender age and was baptized by his father at the Thomas Road Baptist Church in Lynchburg, Virginia.
There is the memory of Braxton reaffirming his faith in Christ at a youth camp under the preaching of evangelist Tony Nolan.
There is the memory of Braxton travelling with his dad and sharing his faith on mission trips, at evangelistic meetings, during Bible conferences, and at youth camps. His testimony was heard far and wide in 41 states and several foreign countries including Kenya, Israel, Wales and the Bahamas. Not many young people have such a spiritual legacy.
There is the memory of Braxton participating in sports, playing football, and starting at the guard position for the Aledo High School Bearcats.
Therefore, remember the better moments in the life of Braxton and be comforted by this thought. It is well within the sphere of the Lord’s mercy to heal the broken in heart and to bind up their wounds, even when those wounds are self-inflicted. “Yahweh healeth the broken in heart, and bindeth up their wounds” (Ps. 147:2-3).
“So let this feeble body fail,
And let it faint or die;
My soul shall quit this mournful vale,
And soar to worlds on high;
Shall join the disembodied saints,
And find its long-sought rest,
That only bliss for which it pants,
In the Redeemer’s breast.”