"Behold! I tell you a mystery. We shall not all sleep, but we shall all be changed, in a moment, in the twinkling of an eye, at the last trumpet. For the trumpet will sound, and the dead will be raised imperishable, and we shall be changed." ~ 1 Corinthians 15:51-52
They say writing out your feelings can be therapeutic so, I suppose this post is more an exercise of my heart in this moment of time. Our house over the last two months has been rather still, numb in a way, and quiet as we contemplate the loss that has come into our lives. It was July 12th when we first lost our good friend "Sir" David as he passed away due to the injuries of collapsing down the stairs following what we might think was a stroke. Then, after a 3 month stay in hospital from an unexplainable illness that caused drastic weight loss and the breakdown of his immune system, my stepdad passed away the morning of July 6th. Followed on this past Monday July 24th when our good friend Rod passed away after a 5 year battle with liver and kidney failure.
While the loss of one close relationship can be devastating in itself, this unstoppable wave of death has flooded our thoughts and emotions with the feeling of mortality and the fleeting strength of physical life. Our hearts are broken for the families of our friends and the numbing realities of our own world changing before our eyes and brings the doubting fears of greater loss that much closer. I find myself dwelling in the questions... What are the last words that I might ever share? What is the legacy that I might leave behind? Where is my community? And, what am I suppose to do now?
"For this perishable body must put on the imperishable, and this mortal body must put on immortality." ~ Verse 53
The miraculous truly does happen, even if it's just for an instance! With David on life support, a diagnosis of multiple injuries, and the expectation of little turn around; David's wife Teresa, his daughters Jennifer and Michelle, along with his grand daughters Maddy & Lauren scrambled to find their visa's and arrange flights to come up from Knoxville Tennessee. They just wanted to see their dad one last time. Then, with heavy hearts, they were confronted with the difficult decision to take him off the life support machine.
That is when it happened. They took David off the breathing machine and he woke up! With no expectation, "Sir" David opened his eyes and looked towards his wife! With hope flooding the room and a loving embrace from his wife, Teresa asked him, "David, how long have we been married?" Without skipping a beat he slowly said to her, "49 years."
Now, in normal circumstances this wouldn't be so miraculous but, the truly awe inspiring love that shone from his short answer was that even though David's suspected stroke and collapse down the stairs had left the doctors thinking he had little to no brain activity, the tragic event occurred the day before their actual 49th anniversary! This was truly words that came not from simple recall but the spiritually miraculous wonderment of their two hearts beating as one imperishable love!
David would pass away only a few days later but, his last words were given in the miraculous moments of faith, hope, and love amidst his wife and daughters. My wife Bonnie and I had the privilege of being there for some of those moments and I will forever be inspired as I think of the words I choose to share with my loved ones and those who are closest to me. Time is something that can change in a moments breath and I hope to always be ready in knowing that I have done all I can to speak words of immortal love and care for all in my life.
" 'Death is swallowed up in victory.' 'O death, where is your victory? O death, where is your sting?' The sting of death is sin, and the power of sin is the law. But thanks be to God, who gives us the victory through our Lord Jesus Christ. ~ Verses 54-57
Amidst hospital visits with my stepdad and "Sir" David and his family, we spent some time over coffee with our good friend Rod. For several years Rod had played his guitar and led our house church community in worship. He was an incredible blessing who shaped the very spirit of our tribe while serving in immeasurable ways both in our community and the neighbourhoods of several other house church tribes. I told my fellow Edge leaders that in some ways, I think Rod was more intwined with the house churches of our movement more then I was.
Since last fall though, we had seen how Rod's health had slowly declined. He had been struggling with liver failure for the past 5 years and it had now affected his kidneys while being complicated by his diabetes. We sat in our living room while he shared that the doctors said there was really nothing else they could do for him. We felt the pain of powerlessness as we prayed together seeking God's comfort and if possible, intervention.
Over the past two months Rod has flooded his days with life. I told my wife that I thought he was completely amazing. Even with the knowledge of his own failing health, the emotional struggles of others around him, Rod was always encouraging, uplifting others, sharing his incredible talents, and speaking of the faith he had. It was hard to truly believe he was this close to leaving us.
Meeting me at the South Campus Hospital, Rod and I crowded around my stepdad's hospital bed. We spent the next few hours telling stories, laughing, singing, and playing a few gospel tunes. As we got ready to leave, my dad and I embraced and he said, "Thank you so much son. This has been so encouraging." My dad passed away only 4 days later as we sat with him in his hospital room reading scripture and praying in the company of angels.
The stories of Rod impacting our community over the past several weeks leading up to his passing was nothing less then a roar of victory. He touched so many with an awe inspiring spirit of joy and encouragement that gave nothing to the fear of death. Rod passed away at home while his wife Leslie read psalms to him and his children strummed their guitars while singing at his bedside. While I hope to see many years ahead in my own life, I hope I might honour that incredible legacy my spiritual brother Rod had, leading right up to the moment I take my last breath.
On To Destiny
"Therefore, my beloved brothers, be steadfast, immovable, always abounding in the work of the Lord, knowing that in the Lord your labor is not in vain." ~ Verse 58
Sharing these stories, I find myself sitting with tears flowing from my eyes. It seems as though great pain of loss is so close to the incredible gains we receive in spiritual and communal life. While feeling powerless and an emotional wave of failure and inadequacy, I am reminded, the labouring work of brotherhood is never in vain. These are the moments that define a new horizon, one which is imperishable and set to the backdrop and inspiration of those who built on the past foundations of my life's experience.
It is true that the world will never be the same again and yet, the glory, mystery, and love of God will always be calling us forward as he dresses us with a character of steadfastness and immovability. The pursuit of life is never found in the singular storyline of self service, but rather in the celebration of seeking the wonderment and relationship with others. For this, I am eternally blessed!