Okay, so I realize the title might throw you off, but hang with me. If you’ve been in this space for the past few months, you may remember this post I wrote in June of last year. It was all about my dear friends, Steve and Gayla. Steve battled cancer for a couple of years. He was 39 with three small kids. I wrote about how our community rallied around his family and met every conceivable need they had. Often times, needs were met they didn’t even know they had. It was amazing and beautiful, encouraging and challenging.
Well, sadly, he lost his battle to cancer in October. The funeral was filled with thousands from near and far who came to celebrate Steve’s life and legacy. I sobbed and I laughed as person after person told stories about Steve. My sweet Gayla went first. She shared with us about how they were neighbors growing up and how Steve was madly in love with a slightly younger Gayla. It took her a while to return said love.
During the reception after, I was talking with someone and she said, “There are many people teaching us how to live well, but no one teaching us how to die well.” That statement hit me like a ton of bricks. It’s true, right? I had the honor of being intimately involved in Steve and Gayla’s lives during his last year. I was there several days of the week into the wee hours of the morning. I fought back tears when I would see him in his declining health. Because it happened so quickly.
I observed him and how he lived. It was nothing short of incredible! I was challenged and convicted because I don’t know if I would have lived out my last days as he did. A few verses came to mind as I thought about his last year of life.
“…preach the word; be ready in season and out of season; reprove, rebuke, and exhort, with complete patience and teaching.” (2 Timothy 4:2 ESV)
Throughout his battle, Steve took EVERY opportunity to share the gospel. He traveled the country, sharing his story and faith to church communities. He was constantly sharing with those of us around him about God’s goodness and love and grace to him and his family. The Lord poured out blessing after blessing after miracle after miracle in his life, and Steve gave all glory to the Lord.
“I have fought the good fight, I have finished the race, I have kept the faith. Henceforth there is laid up for me the crown of righteousness, which the Lord, the righteous judge, will award to me on that day, and not only to me but also to all who have loved his appearing.” (2 Timothy 4: 7-8 ESV)
He prayed. He believed. He held onto hope. Steve ran an incredible race. It was one of the biggest honors of my life to run along side him and his family. He grew in his love for Christ through his journey. He trusted Christ like never before. His dependence on Him never wavered even when doctor’s reports told him to doubt and fear. He viewed his circumstances through the eyes of Christ and he stood firm on the sure foundation of God’s Word and promises.
“For to me to live is Christ, and to die is gain. If I am to live in the flesh, that means fruitful labor for me. Yet which I shall choose I cannot tell. I am hard pressed between the two. My desire is to depart and be with Christ, for that is far better.” (Philippians 1:21-23 ESV)
Steve knew beyond a shadow of a doubt that here was not home. Here was never intended to be home. Home is with Christ. Heaven is our final destination. Nothing brings about this tension more so than death. Death is hard and it hurts. But, Steve knew death was not final. It was not the end. He knew he would see his family and friends again one day. Until then, he knew he would be able to join the great cloud of witnesses to cheer all of us on on the rest of our races.
Here’s an interview he did with his pastor two months before he passed away. Funny story… he and his family, the film crew and I all showed up at his house that afternoon and we spent a couple of hours locked out of their new house. Always an adventure!
Oh, may the same be true of us!