He Ain’t Heavy – He’s My Brother
Janet and I are praying for a Transition by The Book, right now. Because we just returned from the hospital. No, thankfully, nothing was wrong with either one of us, or our family, but we went to visit Roger, a dear friend of ours, who was diagnosed last Father’s Day, June 20th, with stage 4 pancreatic cancer that has metastasized into his liver.
We first met Roger and Arlene back in the fall of 1982. We discovered that we lived three minutes apart in Carmel, and all four of us; Scott, Janet, Roger and Arlene, held a common bond in our Chicago roots. Throughout the years, we have shared many great times together – the Bears winning the Super Bowl in ’85, nights under the stars watching outdoor concerts at Conner Prairie, the marriages of all six of our collective children, and now, the passing of the torch to the next generation – those kids of ours who will eventually keep us company as we enter, God willing, the Golden Years of our lives.
There is something special about a friendship withstanding the test of time – almost three decades, and it occurs to me as I write this, that this year we have known Roger and Arlene more than half our lives. And they still live three minutes away, in the same house that they welcomed us into back in the fall of ’82. It is good that some things never change. Now, though, it is certainly possible that the end is in sight for Roger. And I admit that it is hard for me to contemplate a world that doesn’t include Roger. Not that we see each other every week, or even every month, but Roger and Arlene are always there for us, and we for them, whenever the need arises.
And Roger has seen a transition in me – from the hard-nosed business executive, to the guy who dropped out of the corporate world in search of a closer relationship with Jesus Christ. And in the beginning, Roger just couldn’t understand why I would do such a thing; and I am sure he initially doubted the sincerity of my convictions – just as from time to time, I doubted myself. And I think that my role of pastor was too much for him to take in, having known me from a time when that sort of transformation would have seemed impossible.
And although we have shared countless times together, we have never discussed faith in Jesus Christ, until last fall. Partly because I was afraid to, and partly because it was such a departure from the topics we normally touched on. When news of his illness spread, I finally got up the courage to ask Roger about his thoughts on prayer. He responded that he would appreciate it – more than I had hoped to hear from him. He thought prayer certainly could not hurt, and even let me know that he believed in prayer. So our Bible study started praying for him, and I have personally prayed for him many times. But as I tried to stay in touch with him, his return calls became less frequent, and finally, several months ago, I am embarrassed to say that I just gave up trying. When the call came yesterday to visit him, Janet and I made plans to go this evening.
I am glad we did. He looked better than I expected, but his condition is serious. He is improving, for the moment, but the doctors are reluctant to make any positive predictions about quality of life issues. I was consumed with an overwhelming desire to pray – there and then, on the spot. So, as we got up to leave, I prayed WITH him, for the first time in our relationship. I was blessed by the experience of being God’s comforter to Roger at that moment. And he held my hand tight, and I might have even seen a tear in the corner of his eye. How different from the past – two aging men, the rough edges knocked off, holding hands and praying together in a hospital room; the sound of infusion pumps marking time in the background.
So I am renewing my promise to serve Roger and Arlene well during this illness. I will visit him and try to comfort him and hope that God may perform a miracle in Roger’s life. The verse that I have in mind is Psalms 33:20, “We wait in hope for the LORD; he is our help and our shield.” Short, but powerful – and oh, so appropriate. As yet another member of the body is suffering tonight, I ask that you will pray for our friend Roger, and Arlene, and their entire family. And that perhaps you will also pray for the Lord to direct my steps to minister to this family. Because they need our support, and God’s grace, and His peace. Amen.