Earlier today, my nephew went to be with the Lord. He was 39 years old. Ewing's Sarcoma is a terrible form of cancer - of course, aren't they all? - only this one takes no prisoners. Despite all the medical advances in recent years, this particular type of cancer has a very low survival rate. He lived seven months after diagnosis; he died one year, and one month, and one day after my mother did, and I believe the reunion is already in progress!
His was not a life "writ large" in that he attained no great successes, advanced degrees, or heroic achievements, at least none that I know of. He had been a troubled teen, from a troubled home, and things didn't get much better as he grew up.
He tried to make his life count when and where he could, however, and he joined the U.S. Marines right out of high school. He saw ugly combat in Somalia. Like every true soldier I've ever known who has seen the worst men could do, he never wanted to talk about it.
This terrible economy had taken its toll in his life, as someone who was never in the upper ranks, he was more vulnerable than many others. First, he lost the job he had held for almost ten years with a major company, then his home to foreclosure.
Yet, despite unemployment and illness, he was often the person who opened the doors for the 6:30 a.m AA meeting near his home, made the coffee, and when he could, brought the donuts. Everybody who knew him liked his smile and his great sense of humor.
As the advance of his illness, and the effects of all the medication, took their toll, in recent days he had not been articulate, struggling to communicate even the simplest things. But this morning, for a few minutes he was alert and coherent, as the last thing he said to his mother was, "In times like this, we all need to stick together and love each other."
So now this unknown, uncelebrated, life is experiencing a whole new life in heaven with the Saviour he didn't always serve consistently. He was a prodigal son, to be sure, but as I recall, the Father killed a fatted calf, brought out a robe and ring, and threw a party for another one much like him.
Heaven isn't just for heroes, it is also for healed prodigals. Thank goodness, or many of us would find ourselves excluded from its ranks.
He may not have lived wisely, but he spoke wisdom as he left this life: "In times like this, we all need to stick together and love each other." Amen. And now, he is safely home....