I will be 79 in January. My brother John would be 81 in February. I write “would be” because it is expected that his life will end soon. He was diagnosed with terminal lung cancer several months ago.
Hold on! My brother is not in despair. He talks openly about his death, and what will happen to him at that moment. John is so looking forward to being with Jesus! How, with death so eminent, can he be happy and optimistic?
For the first 16 years of my life I lived in his shadow. We were numbers four and five out of seven children in our nuclear family. We entertained each other, or maybe better stated, he was my entertainment. My sister says I picked on him. Events that were funny then to me (and still are today- to me, anyway) were so not funny to John at the time they occurred. Both John and I, along with our oldest sister, were sprinkled at the Campground Methodist Church when he was 12 and I was 10. Eventually, we two took different directions in life. He became a Union carpenter and I joined the U.S. Navy. I think my spiritual interest resurfaced before John’s; however, discussions in deer camp moved him to evaluate his relationship with God. Not long after, he asked a minister, Don Sautter, to baptize him in a swimming pool in Valley Forge, PA, where he lived at the time.
As to why John can look forward with anticipation to his departure from this earth: He believes that the man, Jesus Christ, is the Son of God; not only that, but God himself lived in the body of Jesus Christ. He believes Jesus lived as a human being for a time, that he died on the cross, was buried, but walked out of the tomb three days later (John 19 & 20), proving that death has no power over him! Consider this statement of Jesus to Martha, “I am the resurrection and the life. He who believes in me will live, even though he dies; and whoever lives and believes in me will never die. Do you believe this?” (John 11:25-26). My brother shares the rock-solid faith of Paul who declared, “To die is gain” (Philippians 1:21).
Life on earth can be very good at times, but eternal life in heaven will eclipse anything we have ever known! That is, it will be IF you and I accept the gift of everlasting life in Jesus. And it is a gift! (Romans 5:15-17; Romans 6:23). Heaven is undeserved; it cannot be earned. Jesus Christ paid the debt for our sins – John’s, mine and yours. I know John is not perfect, and neither am I, or anyone else. God very clearly confirms that we all sin (Romans 3:10, 23). Because all sin, Christ died for all.
And so, John has no need to fret about his shortcomings; every sin has been cleansed by the precious blood of Christ! He can spend his last days being grateful that God has blessed him with a good life. He is not resisting his fate. In fact, he chose to pass on chemo which might have prolonged his life; instead, he is taking meds to keep him comfortable. John is surrounded by family and friends. Pam, his wife, is constantly by his side and a wonderful source of comfort. God has provided a born-again hospice-care nurse they have come to love dearly.
I love my brother and I expect to see him later.