“I’m looking forward to my destination but not necessarily the journey.”
By a man who sees his end.
Words spoken not too long ago in his family room with his wife Shirley, snuggled close by.
Words spoken by a smitten man who has been married to his precious bride for 53 years.
Words spoken by a humble man who has sought God in the everyday, ever since his postman preached Truth into his wife’s life and then his.
Words spoken by a man defined by his character, walk with God and a faithful life.
A man to be known for his faith.
When Shirley first spoke of Larry’s initial diagnosis, she was adamant in Larry to be known as the Larry we all know. Not the man with dementia. Not the man with cancer.
Shirley’s love for her husband, who tells me he is 47, when he is 74, is so strong, so cemented, that no earthly event can shatter the bond.
Larry knows where he is going. There is no doubt in his mind of the assurance he claims from scripture.
“But as for me, I watch in hope for the Lord, I wait for my God my Savior; my God will hear me.” (Micah 7:7)
Bad news no one is ready to hear.
Larry and Shirley were given a diagnosis that they were not exactly unprepared, but nevertheless, still shocking. It’s the kind of news you hear other people receiving but never for yourself. It’s the kind of news that leaves you in a state of shock. It’s the kind of news that can immobilize you or cause panic.
It did neither for these two. In fact, Larry’s doctor was so distraught in bearing the “bad news,” Larry found himself consoling the doctor. How does anyone share to another their days are limited and they most likely will not see the New Year? How do you tell someone that the cancer has spread and there’s no hope? No cure. No medical miracle.
Shirley expressed wonderment when people are surprised in how they are handling his pancreatic cancer spreading to his liver and lymph nodes. Many are surprised they haven’t crumbled under the pressure and they appear so calm and put together.
To see God face to face.
Larry’s life explains it all as he is faced with his own immortality. There is no doubt in anyone’s mind, once they meet Larry, hear his heart and passion, Larry is not afraid to die. He is waiting with great anticipation for when the Lord receives him into the kingdom, and sees God face to face.
“Do not let your hearts be troubled. You believe in God; believe also in me. My Father’s house has many rooms; if that were not so, would I have told you that I am going there to prepare a place for you? And if I go and prepare a place for you, I will come back and take you to be with me that you also may be where I am.” (John 14:1-3)
Hope is in God and not his circumstances.
All hope is gone? For Larry’s physical body that is true. But for Larry anticipating eternity with His Father, be reunited with his son and be free from of all his physical ailments, his hope is secure in the everlasting.
It’s their faith in God who has proven Himself these last 53 years, they can’t do anything but trust. During the moments of Larry stammering, words only Shirley can understand, he trusts His God. When Shirley is sobbing alone during her quiet moments, emotions temporarily overtake her, she knows God’s love is constant and He’s there right beside her, as He always has been. Shirley’s grief is short-lived though. Today is the day of celebration with her husband. Tomorrow will be time for tears.
A love withstanding.
I watch them sit together on the couch. Shirley touches his arm, rubs her hand back and forth as she makes sure he understands the conversation swirling around them. Larry is connected at times, comments on our conversation and soon he is onto his own train of thoughts. Shirley touches his weathered face, leans over and plants a kiss on his cheek, tenderly, loving with a passion a woman who has endured much, loved much, and been loved by an incredible man.
A perfect man? No. Human and with faults just like the rest of us.
His humor bubbles out intermittently. It’s hidden more, and he laughs at his jostled words. He smiles now and then as he looks at Shirley’s adoring gaze, knowing she always has his back.
Joy is evident between these two. Love swirls around them and lands in their eyes, in their touches, in their sweet embrace. I marvel at the simplicity of their mannerisms. I admire their faith that God has allowed Larry’s dementia and now the cancer to take away his life. My husband is awed by their openness to share this journey, that so few embrace and many in fear, try to run away from.
Hope in God sustains them…everyday.
Scripture flows from Shirley’s mouth as she recites verse after verse. Verses that sustain her. Verses that offer encouragement to Larry. Verses that give them both hope, for hope is what they cling to. Hope is what gets them up in the morning. Hope is what gets them through each day.
There is beauty in the ashes. There is hope in the dying. There is a peace that surpasses all understanding, that most people cannot understand.
“I know that my redeemer lives, and that in the end he will stand on the earth. And after my skin has been destroyed, yet in my flesh I will see God; I myself will see him with my own eyes—I and not another. How my heart yearns within me!” (Job 19:25-27)
Larry knows where he is going and he can hardly wait!
For the second part go to What is Your Legacy?