My #oneword for this year is “Grace” and I’ve been living it, learning it, and loving it for ten months. I’m in the home stretch and it’s tough. I’ve suffered quite a bit of loss this year. When I embarked on this journey to live deeper and more authentically in God’s presence I had no idea what would come. The same grace that empowered me to write my sixth book and produce an ahhhh-mazing container garden is also the grace that sustains me through the loss of my cousin, Kevin. He was my first best friend. He was my big brother before my younger brothers were born.
Kevin was diagnosed with stage 3 chronic leukemia on October 8th. The prognosis was “good” and we could expect him to live another three to five years. Eight days later, he died. I’m amazed at my ability to articulate this fact without crying. I didn’t think I’d be able to write about him for months. Yet, here I am. Miraculously, by the grace of God, typing away on my keyboard in memory of Kevin.
What I Want You To Know
I won’t drone on and on about who he was because you didn’t know him. Any feelings you have about what I’d say would be fleeting for that reason. Kevin was single with no children but he left behind a lot of people who loved him dearly. The last conversation we had was about why he was still single at 51. I’ve known every girlfriend he’s ever had since the fourth grade. I had questions. He had answers, and we had a good laugh about them.
We switched the conversation to politics. Not much laughter there. So, we quickly switched the conversation to faith. He had me in stitches talking about our Sunday morning battles over the one bathroom in our grandmother’s house. “You took so long to get ready,” he said. It was true. I’d take so long that he’d have to rush to get dressed in only a few minutes. When the church bus arrived, I’d run out and hop on the bus impatiently waiting for him. Sometimes the driver would blow the horn in frustration. Kevin had me cracking up as he told the stories.
He was a grade ahead of me in school so we matriculated together until he graduated. Finally, I was able to stop sleeping on my grandmother’s sofa. (Read TOYI ELIZABETH to learn more about that). I was so sad the day he left for the Navy. In our last conversation, we talked about that, too. He recalled how hard I tried not to cry and I made jokes about taking his room and his car. Then he said with strong sobriety, “It’s the same thing you’re doing now.”
He was right.
I told him to “shut up” and not be late to pick me up from the airport. He said he wouldn’t be late because he would be able to get in the bathroom on time. We laughed. When we got off the phone I cried. I said to myself that I needed to prepare my heart because within five years my cousin could be gone. Three days later he was.
After a devastating couple of days, I realized something. If Kevin had lived another three to five years with leukemia and chemotherapy it would have been solely for our benefit, the people who love him, not terribly joyous for him. God was so gracious to take Kevin before he suffered any longer. This revelation of grace gave me the strength I needed to grieve well.
What I Want You to Learn.
I’m not one of the people who believe that you can die “before your time”. I’m an El Shaddai, God Almighty Christian. If God is not sovereign then we might as well go to Cracker Barrel on Sunday mornings and call it a week. While I do not believe there was anything that could have been done to keep Kevin alive beyond his determined days, I do believe he would have had more time to prepare if he had gone to the doctor when he was sick. Those three days of laughter very well could have been two or three years if he had gone to the doctor when he first felt ill. Kevin hated hospitals and he was not fond of doctors. Like so many people, he avoided healthcare settings until he absolutely had to go.
Many people regularly skip getting mammograms, colonoscopies, or PSA checks because they are afraid to face what might be. In moments of fear like these, we have to realize (and operationalize) God’s grace. We have to trust Him that we will be healed on this side of life or the next and move forward.
My Year of Grace Continues
“Though the Lord may give you the bread of adversity and the water of affliction, yet your Teacher will not hide himself any more, but your eyes shall see your Teacher.” – Isaiah 30:20
Some years ago after meditating on the above scripture, God and I made a deal. I had learned a lot about the people and problems of life. I had suffered quite a great deal of pain, mostly from other people but also self-inflicted pain from poor decisions and impetuous behavior. Patience is a virtue y’all! I asked God to empower me to glorify Him, magnify Him, to live and move and have my being in Him. Here’s the catch though… I asked for three very important things to do this. First, I needed God to align my heart with his will for my life. Second, I asked that my pain have meaning. Last, and most importantly, I asked that I possess the grace, love, and Holy Ghost power to turn darkness into light.
Darkness isn’t a thing of itself. It is only the absence of light. There is no way for darkness to exist with light. So let me light it up right here…
I am in a lot of pain losing Kevin so soon after his diagnosis and I am not going to let that pain wallow in me without purposefully producing light. So…please get your regular physical. Go to the doctor when you are feeling ill. Schedule your preventative procedures. God loves you. Let his love conquer your fear of doctors, hospitals and testings. Read your Bible so you understand that God uses our faith to help heal us through doctors, medicine, testing, and scientific advances from the minds of those he has anointed.
Your body is the temple of God. Your hands are the ones God uses to feed the poor and serve those in need. Your “hello” might be the one that saves someone’s life. Take care of yourself.
Love God. Love Yourself. Love Everybody Else.
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