Today, I had to bid au revoir to one of the best men I've had the privilege of knowing. He was among the first people my family met at Church way back, 27 years ago this very month! He and his wife were my first Sunday School teachers. I had a huge crush on their oldest son (who broke my heart when he married someone else - no matter that I was 10 at the time!). They were there as I went through the 2nd half of elementary school, all of junior and senior high...they were at my graduation, sent me letters and care packages while I was at school, every time I saw them, he had a huge smile and a bear hug for me.
If I hadn't been blessed with the family I was, I'd have wanted this man for my Dad.
He was Godly - a 100% Christian, as his 2nd son called him today. He never compromised his beliefs. He was one of those men that can hunt, fish, hike, bike, and then turn around and hold a newborn baby with the most tender hands and gentle heart.
He was an amazing steward of that which he'd been given. He raised 3 amazing children, watched them grow, get married and raise families of their own. His family were all there today...in the bittersweet moment of knowing that we were saying, not good-bye, but "see you on the other side"...
It was tough. It was amusing, it was heart-wrenching, it was tender.
And through it all, I kept thinking of the song:
I'm gonna miss that smile
I'm gonna miss you, my friend...
I'm not crying for you...I'm crying for me...
That's the truth! He had a rough fight with cancer these last months - the treatments not really doing anything to help, but, through it all - the pain, the treatments, the knowing that his time on earth was drawing to a rapid end, he was nothing but graceful, peaceful...our pastor today said when they visited him last week, his Inbox was empty. He had made sure that all the things he had to do were done, so he could focus on all the things that he wanted to do for as much time as he had left.
I remember, being about 9, we'd been at the Church for a little over 2 years, and giving him a hug and just looking up, up, up to his face, which was split in this huge grin...I'd just been baptized, and he was so excited that I'd made that decision, committed my life to God...and he was so tall, I was sure he must have been able to see God's face, hear His voice because he was so close to heaven.
I know now that was the truth, but not because of his physical height, but because of the shape of his heart.
I'm going to miss him, miss knowing that this man, this mentor, this prayer warrior for me is no longer here on earth interceding for those he knew and loved, as well as those he had yet to meet.
But I know where he is, and I know that he's whole, healed of illness, no more cancer, no more ravages of disease and age - but perfected in his Lord...at Home at last...seeing what it's like, now that it really can't get any better for him...