Oh, boy…I really don’t want to be doing this. I was just winding down for the night, and took one more glance at my phone, and that’s when I saw the text. My brother, my friend, for darn nearly a lifetime, is gone. I’m sitting at my keyboard, unable to sleep, in disbelief, not really knowing what to say, but…knowing that I have to say something. No, that’s not quite right. I need to say something. But I don’t know what…or how. This is my platform, one of the gifts God has given me, and yet…I’m at a loss for words. I want so much to turn back time, and change things so that I am not having to write about the loss of such a good man. It seems patently unfair. I shouldn’t have to be writing about this.
Even so, the reality is what it is. Greg is gone. And so, rather than complain, rather than shake my fist at the sky…I will honor my friend.
Because Greg wouldn’t want me to do those things. We’ve talked about it quite a bit. Greg isn’t here. But he’s not gone.
Greg and I have talked quite a bit over the last several months, catching up after the forward momentum of life had separated us for a time, as life does. But even then, every so often, over the years, I’d get a call, or a text, or an email from Greg out of the blue…and it was if that breach in time never existed. When I found out about his cancer, we started talking more often. I marveled at the times when he’d call me, and he was honestly too weak to even talk…but he was going to call me just the same. His inner strength during this whole stinking ordeal was just awe inspiring to me. I would reach out to offer him a helping hand…and he would invariably wind up helping me more than I did him. I think it was his faith that allowed that to happen. We’d talk, we’d cry, we’d pray together over the phone, and he was just a rock. It was always something to behold.
I’m going to let you all in on a special moment for me. It was the last conversation I had with Greg on the phone. Per usual, he wasn’t at his strongest, and could’ve easily (and understandably) decided to skip it, but he called me yet again. I knew we couldn’t talk very long, but looking back, something about this conversation was different than all the others. The spirit of the thing was different. I don’t recall all that we talked about, but I do know that I never let him go without praying for him and with him on the phone. He was more emotional this time. And when I finished, I said something to him that I had never ventured to say before, because I never wanted to address the elephant that was getting bigger and more obvious in the room. I said, “Greg, listen to me. You don’t lose in this deal. If we get the miracle, the healing that we want, you win. If we don’t, brother, you win. Do you hear me? You WIN.” Through tears, he agreed with me, and that moment came flooding back to me as I read the text from his lovely wife tonight. Greg won.
But we? We have lost. Temporarily. We’ve lost one of the finest men I’ve ever known. And for us, it’s not a win. It most certainly doesn’t feel like a win. And we don’t have to pretend that we’re okay with all of it. It’s not okay. Death is not okay, because it’s not what God intended. We know instinctively that death is wrong.
But we know something else. We know the One that brought Death to its knees, and defeated it once and for all. We know the One who holds the keys of Death and the Grave, having wrestled them from the hands of one who used them to bring pain, fear, confusion, anger, and sadness. And those of us who remain? We still feel all of those things. Because we’re still here. But Greg? Greg wins. Because Love wins. Greg knew love here, experienced love here, and illustrated love here.
But it pales in comparison to the Love he is experiencing now. That’s perfect love. And perfect love drives out fear.
I’m going to miss our phone calls. Boy, that last sentence was hard to write. I hate that. But I hold tightly to the hope we have, the hope that we will see Greg again, and when we do, that Perfect Love will have driven every last vestige of fear, sadness, anger, confusion, and pain from our midst. And we’ll see that infectious smile on Greg’s face, hear that immediately recognizable laugh, and know that we, too, have won. Greg just got to the finish line before us is all. (And he might just be buck dancing right now!)
I love you, Greg. I’m going to sorely miss you, brother. I hate you had to go through all that. I’m eternally grateful that we reconnected, grateful for all the talks, the prayers, the laughter, and the tears. I’m a better man because you were here…and I’m honored to have shared a piece of this life with you. I’ll end by telling you what you told me every time we ended a phone conversation: “I’ll talk to you soon, buddy. Love you.”