Last night we got news that a family member and friend died of cancer. After a battle of nearly two years, his fight on this earth concluded. He fought well and as the Apostle Paul desired, Roger fought the battle with excellence right up to the end. He was my wife’s cousin and he and his wife Ann and their family have meant a lot to us over our married lives. Roger loved sports, his family and friends and, most of all, the Lord.
I can’t recall a discussion with him that didn’t include all three. He was a passionate Vikings fan and so I resonated with him on that since we met (maybe the word is commiserated). His love for his family was evident as he would share about the happenings in each of their lives. And, it is evident by the way his family loved him. And, he was always an encouragement to Sue and I over the years to keep pursuing our love relationship with Christ, especially as we entered into full time ministry with Campus Crusade/FamilyLife. He and Ann have supported us prayerfully and financially since the moment we started this journey. He and Ann showed us what it was like to live a life of love for Christ by the way they’ve lived. They did many things that showed Christ’s love for others including volunteer work at Campus Crusade’s headquarters when they moved to Florida to escape the harsh Minnesota winters.
Our last meeting with them was about 1 1/2 years ago over breakfast at Byerly’s. He had just completed his first bout with cancer and was seemingly doing well and ready to enter into Chemo treatments over the winter. But, he was so positive and he was an encouragement to us as we discussed some struggles we were having with our financial support as missionaries. He and Ann were going to try and help us. Here he was in the midst of battling for his life and his concern was for us.
Too often, these kind of tributes happen after a loved one has left this earth. I’m saddened that I didn’t get to tell him how much I appreciated his wise counsel over the years as I changed from job to job. He was in the professional human resources arena and helped people and organizations make wise position decisions. And, he was always encouraging to me when we would talk about the struggles I had to find a fit in my career with my personal passions. He would listen and offer wisdom. I appreciated that. I needed that. I’m saddened that I didn’t get a chance to discuss another upcoming Vikings season with him to hear what he thought about how they might do. Or a discussion on the upcoming Twins season and his prediction about where they might finish. I missed telling him how much I enjoyed our opening fishing expeditions where I learned how to bait a hook and look for waders that didn’t have holes in them :-). I was just in MN for a Weekend to Remember marriage conference and had hoped to stop by to say my good-byes since I knew he wasn’t doing well. But, the days got away from me with activities and I was unable to work it out. For that, I’m sad.
But, for all the sadness I feel in losing a friend, I rejoice because of the celebration we just enjoyed yesterday—the truth of Easter. If Easter is about bunnies and eggs only, then this day would be extremely sad. Not only would we have lost Roger on this earth but he would have been lost for all eternity. Yet, because Christ lives, Roger lives. Because Roger placed his faith in the resurrected Jesus Christ, he now is healed of the cancer that ravaged his body. He’s in no more pain. He’s continuing his journey fully alive and experiencing the joy of being in God’s presence 24/7. For that we can rejoice even in the midst of our sadness and sorrow. I read a passage in Acts this morning that I think relates to this truth.
After the crucifixion of Jesus, the apostles saw the risen Christ and they watched Him ascend to heaven with the promise that Jesus would send them a Helper, the Holy Spirit, to assist them in their daily walking on this earth. The Holy Spirit would give them courage to boldly proclaim their faith even in the presence of intense, even life-threatening situations. So, in Acts 4, Peter and John were arrested for speaking about Jesus to the masses and seeing many (it says 5,000 men) put their faith and trust in the name of Jesus Christ. The same religious leaders who put Christ on the cross and knew that His body was missing from the grave had to do something to squelch this newly energized group of men and keep them from teaching things that usurped their authority as the religious leaders of the people. So, they had Peter and John arrested. In Acts 4, when asked by what name they healed (they had healed a disabled man) and spoke, they said “let it be known to all of you and to all the people of Israel, that by the name of Jesus Christ the Nazarene—whom you crucified and whom God raised from the dead—by Him this man is standing her before you healthy. This [Jesus] is the stone despised by you builders, who has become the cornerstone. There is salvation in no one else for there is no other name under heaven given to people by which we must be saved”. When they said this, they were ordered not to mention this name again or there would be consequences. After all, they had the perpetrator crucified just a few weeks prior. They obviously had the power to get what they wanted. Though I can’t say that Roger ever had to respond in the face of this kind of danger, I have no doubt that he would have. The apostles response is what reminds me of Roger. They said in vs. 19 & 20, “But Peter and John answered them, ‘Whether it is right in the sight of God (for us) to listen to you rather than to God, you decide for we are unable to stop speaking about what we have seen and heard.'”
That was Roger. He never stopped speaking about the impact Jesus Christ had on his life! And for that, I’m forever grateful. He was not ashamed of the gospel of Jesus Christ and because of that we have the hope that he is indeed whole again. Though his family and loved ones are saddened because we no longer get to see his smile and hear his laugh or words of wisdom, we rejoice with the angels because death is not the end for one who is a Child of Jesus Christ who conquered death for all time. Roger was and is a child of the King. We’ll miss you Roger! But, we will see you again! Thank you for Easter, Jesus.