The story of the deaths of founding Presidents John Adams and Thomas Jefferson should be retold every July 4th. It was an unbelievable coincidence.

The story’s impact rests on the dedication of both presidents to the teachings of Jesus.  Adams, a lawyer, briefly considered the ministry. Jefferson assembled Gospel passages he preferred into a book, “Life and Morals of Jesus of Nazareth.”

Adams even stated directly, “The Declaration of Independence’s words, ‘created equal (in rights) ... to life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness’ are based on the equality ‘at the heart of Christianity.’”

Jefferson wrote the Declaration. But it was Adams’ eloquence that persuaded the Continental Congress to risk death by signing it.

Invited to the 50th celebration of the signing, Adams, 90, and Jefferson, 83, were too ill. Amazingly, not knowing about the other, each vowed to live until the Fourth.

On July 3, Jefferson lay dying. He suddenly exclaimed, “It is the Fourth of July!”  Learning his error, he clung to life until morning.

Adams also lay dying, as a storm raged about him. Told that it was July 4th, he cried, “It is a great day!”

The storm dissolved into soft rain. A final thunderclap shook the house, and a shaft of sunlight pierced the clouds, illuminating his room.

At that instant, John Adams died.

His friends called this a miracle. The word “miracle” still fits.

On every Independence Day, let’s remember this story.

Proclaiming freedom and equal rights, it is Americans’ “fireworks in the sky.”

Barbara Findley Stuart

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