In Memoriam – The Sheer Family

In Memoriam—The Sheer Family

I never dreamed the personal life of one so dear to me could be shattered in such an unfathomable way. As a professional law enforcement officer, I have always been on the investigative side of the fence. Now, I was seeing a triple murder/suicide, from a personal perspective. The family of four found dead in their home in Mission Viejo, California, on May 27, 2014 were my friends.

I went to the same high school as Mark and Lydia Sheer, although I was a few years their junior. In 1979, my brother, Steve, married Lydia’s sister, Sandie. In 1986, Mark was a real estate agent, and I bought my first home from him, coincidently, next door to he and Lydia. So we were friends and neighbors, in addition to having a family tie.

After a few years we each moved, but remained acquainted by the occasional family gathering. When I began In the Dirt Ministry in 2004, our communication was more frequent because of our shared love for Jesus coupled with the enjoyment of riding dirt bikes.

When I learned that Mark and Lydia, as well as their 15 year-old daughter, Amy, lost their life at the hands of their son and brother, 21 year-old Michael, I felt sick to my stomach. I mourned for my sister-in-law, Sandie, who just lost a dear friend, and sister, Lydia. I grieved for Sandie’s mother, Rachel, who would hear the news that her daughter, primary caretaker and best friend, Lydia, along with her family had been erased from humanity without warning. I ached for Mark’s mother, Carol, who discovered her firstborn son, his wife, and their children, in a condition that no mother or grandmother should ever witness. I pray that God will erase the images from her memory.

I am sad for both the Sheer and Davis families who need to figure out a way to continue living when such a big piece of life has been taken from their midst in a personal way, by one they loved and cared for during 21 years of life. I pray that whatever tormented Michael will be discovered in others before another mother walks in Carol’s footsteps.

Where was God on that fateful day? The same place as always—His sovereignty is in control, we are simply unable to fully understand His divine blueprint. Our perspective is temporary; His is eternal. He did not author the evil that made it necessary for Jesus to die, and He did not intervene even though Jesus prayed, “Father, if you are willing, remove this cup from me. Nevertheless, not my will but yours, be done.” Similarly, God did not author the thoughts in Michael’s mind, nor did He intervene, although He could have, and our human side wishes He had. But we know the upside of Jesus’ crucifixion was the resurrection. He was the “firstfruits” so others could follow.

Mark and Lydia were not the only two who loved and followed Jesus. My sister-in-law Sandie does as well. We all cope with tragedy in very different and personal ways. When the Orange County Sheriff’s Department concluded the investigation, they gave Sandie access to the home. “I visited each of their rooms, fell to my knees at each crime scene,” she said,  “and was able to cry deeply, pray and talk with my Savior, thanking Him for receiving them, and asking after their care and mercy for Michael.”

What a beautiful picture! Actually praying for them at the scene where the “earthly tents” collapsed and the eternal, heavenly bodies took over is a holy moment.

This isn’t some mythical illusion. The Apostle Paul, a well known, documented, historical figure, who murdered his share of early church followers of Christ, until he became one, wrote about it in his first letter to the Corinthians, “And if Christ has not been raised, then our preaching is in vain and your faith is in vain. … But in fact Christ has been raised from the dead, the firstfruits of those who have fallen asleep. For as by a man came death, by a man has come also the resurrection of the dead. For as in Adam all die, so also in Christ shall all be made alive.”

Paul became so convinced that Jesus’ sacrifice could secure his eternal salvation, he wrote to the Philippians, “For me to live is Christ, and to die is gain.”

On May 27, God was there to receive His children into glory, and He is here in the form of the Holy Spirit to help us in our grief. He did not abandon the Sheer family; but has been available—we simply do not always recognize or welcome His presence. Most who criticize God for not intervening in such a tragedy also fail to give Him credit when there is a miraculous intervention, or when others, under the power and guidance of the Holy Spirit, complete acts of mercy and generosity worldwide.

I have grown weary of hearing people grouse about the “separation of church and state.” As long as people perish, the church will continue to be more relevant than the state. The state is much like the perishable body, it will come to an end, but the church, like the imperishable body, will live on.

Mark and Lydia know more theology today than they fathomed last week. We mourn for ourselves as we lost ones we love, but mourn not for them for they have seen the radiant beauty of their Lord and Savior since Paul assured us, “… to be absent from the body is to be at home with the Lord.”

Since I moved to Texas two years ago, I have not communicated with Mark. I checked my email account to see if perhaps I could pull a quote from him, as I knew he often talked about his relationship with Christ. In doing so, I discovered old messages to a previous email address did not go back far enough. But, I also found a LinkedIn request from him. It was dated August 12, 2013, but went to my old email address, so I never saw it. Coincidently, this was also the seventh anniversary of my own father’s eternal birthday.

While it was strictly a symbolic gesture, I accepted Mark’s invitation to be LinkedIn post-mortem. If he could communicate with anyone still wearing their perishable body, I am fairly certain he would plea with others, “Accept Jesus’ invitation to be part of your life. It’s the greatest link of all time.”

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  • Mickey Straub
    Reply

    I’m still moved by your writing…and stunned by the tragedy!

    • Jim McNeff
      Reply

      Thanks Mickey! Appreciate your comments.

      – Jim

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