John Adams, statesman and second president of the United States, was determined to live until the 50th anniversary of the signing of the Declaration of Independence—July 4, 1826. At dawn on that day, a servant awoke him and asked if he knew what day it was. He said: “Oh yes, it is the glorious Fourth of July. God bless it. God bless you all”, sounding a bit like Tiny Tim. Adams then slipped into a coma. In the afternoon, he recovered consciousness briefly to murmur, “Thomas Jefferson lives.” These were his last words. Unbeknownst to him, Thomas Jefferson had died earlier that same day.
The report is that on the evening of July 3rd, Thomas Jefferson was in bed and his life subsiding rapidly. He whispered to a young friend who was watching by his bedside: “Is this the fourth?” The man could not bring himself to say that it was not yet, so kept silent. Jefferson repeated the question and this time the friend nodded. A look of deep satisfaction came over Jefferson’s face; he sighed deeply, lay back, sank into a deep sleep, and died shortly after noon on July 4, 1826.
It is remarkable that these two brilliant statesmen, whose resolve had so much to do with laying the foundation of our republic, were able to keep Charon’s boat waiting on the banks of the River Styx until they could celebrate that date so precious to them both. If you are a student of the philosophy of “life after life,” and/or if you use your imagination to put some content into your Christian understanding of life after death, or if you have some be-wonderment about what happens and who we see when we die, then you will enjoy thinking about John Adams’ comment, “Thomas Jefferson lives” as he left this world. Jefferson had preceded Adams in death by a few hours. Did these two meet up as they left on the “long journey?” You never know . . . .
As you celebrate Independence Day, think about these grand and great leaders, and pray to our God that their kind will increase in our time.