I shared in a recent blog about my wife’s cousin, Scott (age 56) and his courageous struggle with brain cancer. He died recently. I was privileged to be able to give the eulogy at his funeral. It was a joy, even though it was Scott’s funeral, to share our journey over the the last three and a half years. Scott’s wish was that I give a testimony to all present at his funeral.
The morning of the service, while on a prayer walk, I had the strong impression that I was to share as a scout. Scott and I had explored the thin line between life and death. I was now coming back to report that going to be with Jesus had become real for Scott; it was reality not illusion. One of the scriptures that informed our sharing was II Cor 4:16-18, which reads in part, “We do not lose heart. Though outwardly we are wasting away, yet inwardly we are being renewed day by day…So we fix our eyes not on what is seen, on what is unseen. For what is seen is temporary, but what is unseen is eternal.”
I reported on three impressions. First, Scott kept his focus on Jesus, as he opened his heart to him. He was so excited about what Jesus was showing him through scripture, spiritual writers and our talks. He learned to see spiritual reality simply, yet in life changing ways as he struggled to make sense of his fight with cancer. We talked about the work of the Holy Spirit in renewing his heart, as his body continued to deteriorate despite the aggressive cancer therapy. I marveled at how Jesus became so real to Scott in the midst of much uncertainty regarding life and death. Scott taught me to trust Jesus and keep my focus on him, no matter what the circumstances.
Secondly, I watched as Scott grew more confidently in the Lord despite his uncertain condition. The hope of going to be with Jesus gave Scott an eternal horizon to view his struggle here below. I would often say, “Scott, it not you; it is Jesus working in your heart” (Rom. 8:26). Scott never complained or felt sorry for himself. He even made light of his health and how it effected him. Often he would say “How fortunate I am.” More profoundly he would say, “either way I win.” How privileged I was to see God at work in the soul of a man. The words of Ps. 116:15 seemed to apply to Scott’s life near the end. “Precious in the sight of the Lord is the death of his saints.”
Thirdly, Scott’s death was a gift that he gave not only to his family but to all the people who knew him. Many after the service said that Scott’s witness helped them deal with the reality of death in a whole new way. Even in the midst of sorrow, Scott wanted his death to be a blessing. In that sense he was giving his death away. “The final human and Christian challenge of our lives,” observes Richard Rolheiser, “is the struggle to give our death away.” Our death can be our last and greatest gift to those we love. The question men, for each of us is this – “How can we live now so that when we die our death may be a blessing to our family and friends?”