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About a month ago, I received a message on LinkedIn. It had been sent a few weeks back. Honestly, I didn’t even know you could message people on LinkedIn. I guess you can message people from anywhere nowadays.

This person told me that she was a big fan of my book Clay and wondered if I would be up for meeting her so I could sign her copy and talk about it.

I don’t get messages like this very often on any platform, so I told this person (who signed their message with just a first name) “Sure!”

She asked if we could meet in Mount Airy. It’s like a forty-minute drive from my house. She said she might bring friends. I said, “Of course!”

I put it on my calendar as “Mystery Meeting.”

Last week, the day arrived, and as I am driving up to Mount Airy, I’m realizing that there are quite a few details I was missing, like: this person’s last name and how was I supposed to know who she was or what she looked like or if she was real or was she just some flattering algorithm or Russian Hacker or an unknown author serial killer. Basically, I didn’t know what I was getting myself into.

The thought hit me. What if I die! 

Now, I don’t know how much of this was logical – like visiting strangers you meet on LinkedIn in person or thinking they might kill you – but there I was in the car.

So I called and left a voicemail for my wife that said something along the lines of “I love you. No matter what happens, keep following Jesus. And if I die, I’ll be looking forward to the day we see each other again in heaven.”

I realized that I probably needed to say that same thing to my children, too. So I left them voicemails. Then, I left one for my parents and my sister. Then, I started going down the list of friends.

I told them all generally the same thing that I loved them, that I didn’t want them to give up on Jesus if their friend died tragically (or idiotically), and that we have hope that this is not the end.

You probably have figured out by now that I wasn’t murdered by a serial killer or kidnapped by Russian hackers.

As it turned out, Liz and her friends were real and delightful. We got coffee. I asked them about their lives. They asked me about mine. We talked about Clay. We took selfies. I signed copies of my book. For an hour, I felt like a celebrity.

We hugged and went on our merry ways.

Friends and family were frantically calling to find out if I was alive or dead. They left some pretty funny voicemails.

It makes me wonder about last words.

About what really really matters.

Like if you had one last thing to say, what would it be?

I realized on my ride up to Mount Airy what mine must be.

“I love you. Don’t give up on Jesus. Because in him, there is always something to hope for.”

Ned Erickson

Ned is the Founder and Executive Director of the Winston-Salem Fellows, a non-profit dedicated to equipping people to live seamless lives as they grow into the men and women they were created to be. He is the author of four books, including the critically acclaimed novel Clay. He, his wife, two children, dogs, rabbit, guinea pig, turtle, and chickens live in Winston-Salem, North Carolina.

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