I have been greatly blessed. There are too many for me to count here, but one stands out among the rest – perhaps because he is no longer with us.
I first learned of my brother Larry’s diagnosis on Good Friday in 2016. Pancreatic cancer. The year that followed was a rollercoaster ride…the type that climbs to dizzying heights then plummets straight down and loops hopefully while making nauseating twists and turns…and I wasn’t even sitting in the front seat.
This is not a blog about his illness. It is about how he lived his life.
One of the more precious recent memories I have with my brother took place during a short stay in the hospital at University of Pennsylvania. I came out to spend the day to help him pass the time. We had some laughs over our shared childhood, chatted with the members of his care team and discussed spiritual matters–in particular, hope and healing.
During our conversation, one of the nurses stopped in to take his vitals. Pastor Larry knew her by name as he did many details of her struggles which he had prayed for. “Mr. Orme, on a scale of 1 to 10, what is your pain level?” she asked. Without blinking, he answered, “about a 6 or a 7.” My eyes opened wide in surprise. He was strong physically and always had a high tolerance for pain, but there had been no visible signs of it during our conversation. He refused the pain meds she offered because he wanted to stay clear-headed so he could be fully present. You see, Larry was a grace-filled Christian who put others first–a discipline he had applied most of his life. He also knew that his younger sister’s love language is spending quality time together. And that day in the hospital, my greedy heart soaked it all in.
When Larry became a Christian as a teenager, I did what I had done all my life: I watched my older brother carefully. I saw abounding joy. I saw indescribable peace. I saw a contentedness of soul–all regardless of his circumstances. I witnessed a life transformed by grace; a life of servanthood that was fully and freely submitted to Christ, and that’s what I wanted. And so began a lifelong faith journey- one that may have stalled out in the early years, but then eventually gained the steadiness and purpose that Larry had told me faith in Christ would provide. I wanted to better understand and know this God who had so remarkably changed my brother’s life.
1 Thessalonians 4 provides insight into the hope that Christians have in grief. “For we believe that Jesus died and rose again, and so we believe that God will bring with Jesus those who have fallen asleep in Him” (v. 14). We put our trust fully in Jesus and wait to rejoin Him and the loved ones who have gone before us. In John 14:1-4, Jesus even tells us that He will go to prepare a room for us in His Father’s house. “Do not let your hearts be troubled. You believe in God, believe also in Me.” (v. 1). Because of His great love for us, He endured great pain and suffering so that we could spend eternity in heaven with Him. And this is where we put our hope.