My brother was lying in bed so weak and tired when he called out to my mom and me from across the room. Amid the pain, discomfort and fear he thought of us and said,
“Mom, Steph, Can I pray for you?”
We shook our head and tears welled up in our eyes as we approached his bedside. His body was exhausted and so sick he could hardly keep his eyes open or hold up his head. Yet he spoke thoughtful and heart felt words as he prayed. Out of his lack of strength, he gave us strength when he prayed thanked God for us.
When he finished, he kept his eyes closed, grabbed my hand and said, “Steph, will you pray for me? Pray I will make it through this part.”
I fought back the tears and began to pray.
For weeks his request has troubled me. What did he mean when he said, “Will you pray I make it through this part?” I have rehearsed those words over and over in my mind trying to make meaning of them.
I have concluded that to some degree he knew what he would face in the days to come. I believe he knew what he would have to face as the breath of life would leave his body. I believe the prayers he asked for were prayers of courage so that he would not fight the process but would valiantly embrace the days ahead and so he could find rest in the arms of Jesus.
That same night he calmed himself in heart and mind by reciting Psalm 23, the Psalm that Marshall read at the beginning of the service. Zach murmured the 23rd Psalm as he sought comfort and peace from the only one who gives us a peace that transcends our understanding. He murmured, “As I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I will fear no evil.” Over and over again.
The Passion Translation of Psalm 23:4&6 says,
“Lord, even when your path takes me through the valley of deepest darkness, fear will never conquer me, for you already have! You remain close to me and lead me through it all the way. Your authority is my strength and my peace.[a] The comfort of your love takes away my fear. I’ll never be lonely, for you are near. So why would I fear the future? For your goodness and love pursue me all the days of my life. Then afterward, when my life is through, I’ll return to your glorious presence to be forever with you!”
At the end of the day standing at the doorway between life and death nothing else matters. We do not have to fear for Zach, because Zach is in the glorious presence of God.
Rick Warren, author of The Purpose Drive Life, asks us to consider, “Who is Jesus? And What have you done with him?” I believe if Zach were standing before you today able to share a rear view mirror reflection, he also would ask you, “What have you done with Jesus in your life?”
My brother had a kind and gentle heart that loved deeply, and he loved without strings attached. My dad frequently says people often mistake kindness as a weakness. And I would add that many people mistake living a life of faith in Jesus as a weakness. I can tell you firsthand, as I have tried to live my life both ways, with and without faith in Jesus, and I can tell you that the life of faith is not for the faint of heart.
The life of faith requires us:
To Love when it’s easier to hate
To speak with gentleness with it’s easier to be harsh
To Stay when its easier to run away
To tell the truth when it’s easier to lie
To be disciplined when it’s easier to go your own way
To forgive when it’s easier to hold a grudge
To Hope when it’s easier to give up
To believe when there is no proof
A life of faith is a lot of things, but easy and weak are not part of it.
During his service we played Elvis Presley’s version of How Great Thou Art. Zach and I grew up Elvis fans. Whether we liked it or not our parents played his music on a road trips, or jamming out at home. Elvis was always a part of the playlist. We danced and sang mimicking Elvis’s hip swing and lip twitch. Zach had it down pat.
We stand firmly on the lyrics from the song that say,
“When Christ shall come, with shouts of acclimation and take Zach home, what joy shall fill our hearts. Then we will bow in humble adoration and there proclaim, ‘Our God how Great thou Art.”
We are bound together when we proclaim, “God how great thou art” because over the last weeks of Zach’s life we have seen the Hand of God in every moment.
We have seen God’s hand in the staff at Mercy ICU-490 who worked tirelessly to save Zach’s life not once, not twice but three times. We have seen his hand over the last few weeks as we have been surrounded by the love, encouragement and prayers of countless friends and family members. Many friends and family sat with us for hours on end in the hospital waiting room. Friends sent food, cried with us, and have been shoulders to lean on when we have felt so worn. God's hand has been at every twist and every turn.
We have indeed been the recipients of God’s love and grace through each of you.
Thank you. To God be the Glory.
At my brother's funeral yesterday God's presence was alive and real. God is bigger than our biggest hurt and he can comfort our deepest pain. These days have not been easy, but they have been full of blessing, God's goodness, grace and love. Find the blessing in every moment. So again I will say, to God be the Glory forever and ever. Amen.