I'm being asked to let go of so much right now in my life. First my Mom. Now Greg. Just after we buried Greg last week, we packed up my Moms house. It is sold already and awaiting a closing date. A lifetime of memories divided into boxes and bags. It all feels hard and strange. Like my siblings and I have suddenly been tossed ashore on a new land where we don't know the language and cant quite get our bearings.
Greg suffered so long. He was such a complex person, and the five years of his illness took a toll on our whole family. But the last six weeks of his life were filled with a peace that had alluded him in years gone by, and one that gave all of us such comfort to finally see him grasp. When God does things, He does them right, and there is no mistaking it.I know God had really touched his heart as he was changed into such a loving, forgiving, patient soul. The transformation was really striking, especially to his siblings.
I have been reflecting on this ever since he drew his last breath. I wish I could find words to share with you. Words to touch your own heart and make you feel as confident as I do in the mercy of God I have just encountered. I wish I could take you to his bedside, and let you watch him as he chose to put away old gripes and grudges, and choose instead to love, and forgive, and ask forgiveness of, the people God had given him in this life.
I wish I could show you how God had calmed the stormy seas of Greg's heart, and then let us walk across those stilled waters to meet him in faith.
I wish I could show you how God took an ordinary and often broken family and used them to pour an extraordinary amount of grace into the world. Each of my siblings working all day, long hours, and then driving over to our childhood home to spend the night with an ailing brother. Most of those night were entirely sleepless ones, and yet each one met with joy and patience, and a smile to ease any of Greg's fears, or help his agonized body feel a bit more comfort.
I wish I could show you the happiness of my family as we cooked dinner together in the kitchen, and tore through old photo albums, and pretended for Greg's sake that life hadn't taken us twenty years into the future where we had our own families, jobs, children, worries, and cares to contend with, and instead gave that up for those precious few weeks of his life so he could feel home once again in his heart. Greg's heart needed to be oriented towards home, and love, and a God of mercy, and forgiveness, and tenderness. And in the end,we all know deep inside, that is best of all shown to us through our family.
I wish I could show you the care that family and friends, and sometimes perfect strangers, poured out on us as we struggled to handle the last weeks of his illness.
I wish I could explain to you how my heart felt when he asked me on Saturday last "Ellen, am I dying?" and I had to answer him calmly "Yes, Greg, you're very close now." and hold his hand firmly to reassure him he wouldn't do it alone.
I wish I could show you the final smile left on his face as he breathed his last breath, telling us all he had seen something ahead, that was better than anything he had left behind.
I wish I could show you the courage it took for my heart-broken brothers to carry him down the aisle of the church to his final resting place, next to my Mom and Dad. Or show you my sisters clinging bravely to one another as they marched him out of our church and lives.
I have wondered what the message of Greg's life was. I believe the message was mercy. These last weeks have shown me so clearly that our existence is not defined by single moments of bad judgment, or sinfulness, or petty disputes, but rather by our ability to ask for, receive, and extend mercy to one another. And even should we do that at a late hour, we have a father in heaven not simply ready, but anxious to greet us in his embrace.