I have been so all over the place since Christmas week- when I got the text from Ann that said, 'we think Paul might have cancer'. I truly feel like I've been living in slow motion, under a thick haze these last few weeks as Paul's condition went from bad, to worse, to worse still, to desperate, to the end.
Two weeks ago, Ann sent me a text message that simply said, "brain tumors. Love you". I got on a plane, that night, with my brother. We went to go see our friend. We laughed with him and Annie. We gave them a bag of dollar store gifts to make them smile...an orange ball, a bag of peanut M&:Ms, a wand to make it all better. That was fun. But, it was the last thing. The last thing we did? The last thing I did with my friend? We prayed. Brian had his hand on Paul's head, I had my hand on his shoulder (and can't let go of the fact that I think I held it too hard), Ann on his other side holding his hand. We prayed. We thanked God for friendship. We prayed it be the will of God to cure Paul. We told God we trusted Him. Nurses came in, Paul was preparing for a surgery, they said we could finish. So we prayed.
Then we hugged.
And I cried on the elevator back to the car.
But the last thing I did with my friend was pray.
Paul and Ann assured us, they were going to glorify God through this circumstance. That night, at the hotel, engaging in a couple too many budlights, I cried to my brother and said, 'How? How can it be God's will to take my friend? How can Paul give Him the greatest Glory in death?' And Brian reminded me, that if and when God calls Paul, we have no idea how Paul would be used. We can't understand the great mystery of life entirely. But we have a God who loves, who works all things to his Glory. I believe that.
Last week- several times, it appeared Paul would die within the hour. Some of these times were at night. I haven't slept, like so many of you. Anxious with worry. And so I prayed. I begged to understand our God. And I felt called to read the story of Mary, Martha and Lazarus. Since then I have read it over and over and over again.
When Mary and Martha sent word, "Master the one you love is sick!" (John 11:3)
How we've been doing that.
"Master, Lord, Blessed Margaret, sweet Lady... the one you love is sick!"
We started a facebook page for prayers and support. You guys, there are well over 7000 people on it. All of us begging, "Lord, Master, the one you love is sick".
Now Jesus Loved Mary, and her sister Martha and Lazarus (John 11:5).
What comfort I have taken in God's reminder of Love. Jesus loves us. My friendship with Paul, it was built on faith. I can't tell you how many times I have prayed with him. We knew Jesus. We knew Jesus as friends. We knew Jesus in our adventures. We knew and know Jesus. Ann, sweet Ann, and their children. They know Jesus. And Jesus knows them. He knows them by name. And he loves them. And in this story, the story of sisters losing a brother- we are reminded first, that Jesus loved them.
"Martha said, "Jesus, if you had been here, my brother would not have died" (John 11:21)
The sorrow. The sorrow of saying, 'Where are you?' Saturday, my friends, I was angry. "stop praying for a miracle" I wanted to shout. "Pray my friend dies in peace, he is SUFFEREING- Jesus, stop making him SUFFER".
"The teacher is asking for you" (John 11:28)
I am still learning about The Teacher through Paul. Saturday I raged, Sunday I understood. Paul was suffering. Paul was most likely not going to get his miracle in the way I wanted it for him. But, Paul would not give up. He would not give up because HE WANTED TO SUFFER WITH JESUS FOR US! He wanted to pray. He wanted to fight. He wanted to use every ounce he had for grace. To bring people closer to Christ.
"When Jesus saw her weeping and the Jews who had come with her weeping, he became deeply troubled" (John 11:33)
Death was not in the original design. Death is the most horrifying, terrible end. Death seems so final. Death hurts. Death brings disbelief. How many times have I said, "I can't even comprehend what is happening to Paul. I cannot comprehend I might not see my friend on earth again". It's too hard for me to understand. All of us, in such disbelief. You guys, ONE MONTH AGO MY FRIEND WAS ALIVE AND AS FAR AS I KNEW, WELL. And now he is dead? How. how is that possible? How is it possible that two weeks ago, my brother and I gave Paul a gift of dollar store smiles (including rotting teeth and a smiley face stickers), we laughed, we told him he would fight. And now he is dead? Dead? Dead I will never see my friend again here? Dead, my children will not know him but through stories? Dead, his wife, my sweet friend, can't hold her husband? Dead, his babies. My gosh, you guys HIS BABIES. He has an unborn child. His siblings. His mother. dead? not possible, my grief screams. Not so! Please. Not so.
And Jesus wept (John 11:35).
We weep. We weep for our friend. I saw the world with this friend. Can it be true our adventures are over here on earth? Can it be possible I won't hear the Pauly laugh anymore? It hurts so much. So deep. My heart, and so many of my friends, not to mention Paul's family and his sweet Annie/Children...our hearts are shattered. Grief so profound. But friends, I have a God that sees that grief and he WEEPS. He knows the outcome. He knows the glory. And yet, he looks at the suffering of those meant to live with loss and he WEEPS.
So they took away the stone. And Jesus raised his eyes and said, "Father, I thank you for hearing me. I know you always hear me; but because of the crowd here I have said this, that they may believe you have sent me...and when he had said this, he cried out in a loud voice, "LAZARUS, COME OUT" The dead man came out, tied hand and foot with burial bands, and his face was wrapped in a cloth. So Jesus said, "Untie him and let him go" (John 11:41-44)
Can you imagine? Can you imagine after seeing the crowds, the anger, the questioning, the sorrow, Jesus Weeping...and then He says, 'Untie him and let him go".
You see. My God defeated death. It is no more. This morning, I couldn't breathe with grief. I drove in the car and all I could think about was my friend's last breath. But when I thought of it, I thought of his next eternal breath. Paul, who lived his ENTIRE LIFE for Jesus. Not just in word, like so many of us...but so completely. So fully. Until the very end. It is so very fitting that he gets to see Jesus first. Paul is free. I believe with all my heart that Paul is in heaven- with all my heart. I believe he entered the kingdom today, something he was waiting for. And he knew, after all of his suffering, in a way we can only glimpse right now...that JESUS DEFEATED DEATH and GIVES NEW LIFE.
My friend's battle is over. The battle that kept him vehemently shaking his head that he wanted to keep going with treatment, though his fragile body could barely stand it. The battle that doctors say kept him so worn out it was like he was running on a treadmill for days. The battle he fought so hard for this last month, with every inch of his will, in order to suffer well and bring others to Christ. It's funny- there is a slight irony that, this week, the cover story of People magazine is the young woman who chose to die rather than suffer or have her loved ones watch her suffer. That image of our culture, up against the image of my friend, the true warrior, battling for every breath so that he might use it for good. I am so glad he fought. But I am so glad he gets a reprieve.
With the battle over, the miracle has already been beginning. My inbox, phone, facebook, instagram...filled with people saying...
"I did not know him, but his story has changed me"
"I cannot stop praying for this person I do not know"
"I am closer to Jesus because of his example"
THAT'S the miracle. It was granted. Paul and Annie told us all repeatedly...they were willing to go where God wanted them to go, to bring him glory.
And glory has been brought.
And we are all better for it.
I'll miss you dear friend. More than words can say. More than I can possibly imagine on this day. And yet, when I got the message you had 'gone home'...I looked up at the sky- I stared and I knew where you were. And I knew you could see me.
I expect you'll be taking care of us all in a special way now my friend. And I can't wait to watch that story unfold.
Did God answer our prayers?!?!
HE MOST CERTAINLY DID
Please consider helping out Ann as she moves forward without her beloved.
Oh...and after you donate, listen to this song. It is about my friend Paul. Every word.