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So Teach Us to Number Our Days…

Earlier this week I posted the obituary of my former German professor, colleague and friend, Edith Long. Today I am shocked to have to tell you about the death of her son Paul on the way home from his mom's funeral. I am saddened beyond words.

With all the news coverage of Hurricane Ike yesterday and today, what would have been a huge news story - the horrible train crash in the Los Angeles area - has been pushed to the background. Paul, Karen, and Devin Long flew back home yesterday (Friday) after several days with Paul's family here in Greenville. Paul told me after the graveside service that he was dreading having to connect through Dallas with all the news about the storm expected to go through there. As far as I know, they got through Dallas fine. However, our Lord had it in His plan that they would be aboard the Metrolink commuter train involved in yesterday's collision. Karen and Devin each suffered minor injuries, but Paul suffered severe head trauma that resulted in his death this afternoon. Paul's sister Gail sent me a link this afternoon to an article in the NY Times about the crash. Paul's son Devin was interviewed shortly after the accident yesterday and quoted in the article. I put the link further down in this blog post, but the article has changed in the last hour, maybe with the news of Paul's death. Here's what was in the original article:

"Witnesses described a scene of instant terror. Devin Long, 16, was sitting in the middle car with his parents when the trains collided. "There was a great big jerk," he said. "I heard what sounded like a bunch of cars colliding, like a multicar crash. Both my parents went flying. Next thing I knew, I was on the floor between the exit doors." Mr. Long was thrown from his seat, but remained conscious.

His father, Paul Long, 56, lay unconscious but breathing by the stairwell to the second level of the double-decker car. His mother, Karen Long, 55, was injured but alert, he said. “When I saw the condition Dad was in, I sort of freaked out,” he said. “Mom was trying to communicate with Dad. I turned around and saw all the seat cushions tossed about the car. There was blood everywhere. People had cuts on their heads and faces, legs; they had many injuries.”

You may read whatever form the article now has by clicking here.

Paul was three years behind me in college, but through his mom, he and I got to know each other while I was in college and he was still in high school. We shared a very similar sense of humor. Paul was a long-time reader of my e-mails and my blog, and he sent me quite a bit of humor and even some more reflective types of things. Whenever he and his family came to Greenville to visit, we would have lunch together.

Please pray for his wife Karen and son Devin, as well as Paul's three siblings and their families. They have not even had time to begin to process Edith's homegoing and are in total shock about Paul's sudden departure for heaven. We're all reeling from the shocking suddenness of this all, but we're comforted by the knowledge that our Lord has not lost control - this was all in His loving plan for us all.

Today, I'm going to post the last thing my friend Paul sent to me. At the beginning of his e-mail he said, "Unfortunately, I remember most of these!"

Things you don't hear anymore...

Be sure to refill the ice trays - we're going to have company after while.

Watch for the postman - I want to get this letter to Aunt Mary in the mail today.

Quit slamming the screen door when you are on your way out!

Put a dish towel over the cake so the flies won't get on it.

You boys stay close by - the car may not start and I will need you to help push it off.

There's a dollar in my purse. Get 5 gallons of gas when you go to town.

It's getting hot. Open the back door and see if we can get a breeze through here.

Don't forget to wind the clock before you go to bed.

Why can't you remember to roll up your pant legs? Getting them caught in the bicycle chain so many times is tearing them up.

You have torn the knees out of that pair of pants so many times there is nothing left to put a patch on.

Don't you go outside with your good school clothes on!

Be sure and pour the cream off the top of the milk when you open the new bottle.

If you pull that stunt again, I'm going to wear you out!

Get out from under the sewing machine; bumping it messes up the thread!

That dog is NOT coming in this house! I don't care how cold it is out there, dogs just don't come in the house.

Wash your feet before you go to bed. They are nasty from playing outside all day barefooted.

Take that empty bottle to the store with you so you won't have to pay a deposit on another one.

Quit jumping on the floor! I have a cake in the oven and you are going to make it fall if you don't quit!

Let me know when the Fuller Brush man comes by - I need to get a few things from him.

You can walk to the store; it won't hurt you to get some exercise.

Don't sit too close to the TV. It's hard on your eyes.

Go out to the well and draw a bucket of water so I can wash dishes.

It is time for your system to get cleaned out. I am going to give you a dose of castor oil tonight.

If you get a spanking in school and I find out about it, you'll get another one when you get home.

Quit crossing your eyes! They will get stuck that way!


"He is no fool who gives up what he cannot keep to gain what he cannot lose." Jim Elliot

=^..^= =^..^=

"So teach us to number our days that we may get a heart of wisdom." Psalm 90:12

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11 Comments on “So Teach Us to Number Our Days…”

  1. #1 David McGuire
    on Sep 13th, 2008 at 10:25 pm

    How does one respond to this tragic turn of events? I certainly don’t have any answers, but I know the God who does. My deepest sympathy goes out to the Long children and their families. I, too, knew Paul quite well and am grief-stricken at his death. He has joined his mother in Heaven far sooner than anyone would have planned. May God extend His wings of mercy over the Longs at this time.

  2. #2 Mike O'Brien
    on Sep 13th, 2008 at 10:41 pm

    I had Mrs. Nicholas as a teacher last year and last summer and this year I have Mr. Nicholas. I can’t imagine how hard this is for her and him in turn. I know how hard Mrs. Long’s death was and this is just…wow. At least Paul gets to see his mom again sooner than he expected.

  3. #3 Anna
    on Sep 14th, 2008 at 2:31 am

    I just want to say that I’m praying for all who were affected and hurt by this accident in whatever way, even though i do not know anyone directly.

  4. #4 Zina
    on Sep 14th, 2008 at 11:33 am

    Thanks Mr. Loach for letting us know about this tragic event! We have been praying for the Long family and will continue to do so.

  5. #5 Lara
    on Sep 14th, 2008 at 6:08 pm

    I’m so sorry to read this news. My sympathies to the Long family, certainly, but also to you with the loss of your friend.

  6. #6 Jane Hewitt
    on Sep 14th, 2008 at 8:42 pm

    Thank you for your kind tribute to my brother. He will be greatly missed. We can not express the depth of sorrow we are feeling now, but we do know that God is in control and that His plan is best. Your prayers are greatly appreciated.

  7. #7 Rob
    on Sep 14th, 2008 at 9:18 pm

    @David, Mike, Anna, Zina, and Lara – thanks to each one of you for taking the time to comment. I know that the Longs and everyone else who knows and loves them appreciates the prayers that are being offered up for them. The Lord is ministering grace and peace to hearts, as He has promised He would.

  8. #8 Rob
    on Sep 14th, 2008 at 9:22 pm

    @Jane – We’ve been praying for you since we heard about Paul’s injuries Friday evening and will be praying for you, Carl, and Gail and your families during the next days and weeks as you grieve and as you encourage each other in the Lord. I’ve just sent you an e-mail with more personal thoughts for you and your family. I share your grief.

  9. #9 pelf
    on Sep 15th, 2008 at 5:27 am

    I am so so sorry to learn about the freak accident. It is hard having to lose one person after another — sometimes we just feel that somebody upstairs is playing a joke on us.

    But my prayers are with Paul’s family. Rest in peace.

  10. #10 Michael
    on Sep 15th, 2008 at 2:11 pm

    Providence (God’s seeing before in all things) is something that I harp on a lot in my class. One thing we as Christians often misrepresent about providence is that only good or pleasant or happy or wonderful things are providential. Tragic, sorrowful, scary, disappointing, and discouraging things can be just as providential. Such can be seen with Paul’s death. As we look at the events, we can see that God wanted to call Paul home this past Friday. He had to come to Greenville for his mom’s funeral which meant he had to go back to California last Friday. They could have come back Thursday or Saturday, but they came back Friday. They were on that particular train at that particular time. And, how random does everything seem when Paul is so seriously injured yet his wife and son are basically unharmed? But, nothing with God is random or lucky or fateful. And, God does cause all things to work together for good to them that love God to them who are the called according to His purpose. The Longs love God and have been called by God so He is causing all of this to work together for good. We can pray for God to glorify Himself through this by using this in Karen and Devin’s lives to make them more like Christ and to glorify Himself through students at the school where Paul taught coming to a saving knowledge of Christ. During times like this a stanza from one of my favorite songs comes to mind.

    Judge not the Lord by feeble sense
    But trust Him for His grace
    Behind a frowning providence
    He hides a smiling face.

    We can pray that Paul’s family will sense God’s smile which Paul himself now sees clearly and fully in glory.

  11. #11 Rob
    on Sep 16th, 2008 at 10:30 am

    @pelf – It’s interesting to see how different your “take” on this is different from Michael’s comment. I assure you that the Lord is not playing jokes on anyone. It’s a matter of life and death, and the stakes are eternal. God would not joke about that.

    @Michael – Thank you so much for the perspective that you added. The reality of God’s providence and control was what the Spirit used this past weekend to adjust my understanding of what had happened. The Lord struck me with the thought that Paul and his family could have arrived in LA earlier or been delayed and been on an earlier or later train. But they weren’t – they were on exactly the train that the Lord wanted them on. For whatever reason, the Lord wanted to call Paul home and minister to others through that departure. And He is doing just that.