When I was little, my great-uncle Ron would pop in every month or so—a white-haired, burly former sailor with blue eyes, great stories, and pockets full of surprises. Every time he came, my little brother and I knew the drill. We sat at the table, eyes closed, palms out, smiling at a sudden weight in our expectant hands, awaiting permission to open our eyes and see the treat he'd brought us.
Sometimes it was chocolate, sometimes candy. For some reason, I'll always associate those visits with Mike-and-Ike's. It was familiar and special, our little routine. We ate our candy, he demanded I brush my hair for him next time, I asked him about the orca whales he kept at his apartment—familiar and special and precious.
My Uncle Ron passed away yesterday morning, sometime between 4 and 5 a.m. I'd say I was heartbroken, that I'm grieving the loss of a man I've prayed for all my life who had never been a Christian by any stretch for all those long, long years. But I can't say that. I can't say I'm falling apart. I'm not. I'm overjoyed, because guess what?
Uncle Ron has had breathing problems pretty much forever, but it wasn't until the swelling in his legs convinced him to go to the hospital that we discovered the true extent of the issue: heart failure. Serious. Last Sunday my family went to visit him in the hospital—he had been admitted, though we expected he'd soon be sent home—but I didn't go with them, having contracted a pretty nasty cold. Figured he didn't need that on top of everything else, but I wanted to do something, if I couldn't be there. I wanted to say something that needed to be said.
Because Uncle Ron was nearing the end, and he wasn't saved. My Uncle Ron was dying, and without a miracle, we were never going to see him again once he did.
So I wrote him a card. Nothing fancy, nothing long. Just something to remind him that he was never alone, that Jesus was with him, that Jesus wanted to hear from him, that Jesus loved him, and so did I. And then my folks left, and I prayed. I prayed and prayed, as hard—maybe harder—and definitely longer than I ever have in my life. My whole family was praying, praying for a miracle. Praying that my Uncle Ron would see the light and choose Jesus before it was too late, choose LIFE that nothing could take from him—not even his last breath.
And all week, we prayed. And prayed and prayed and prayed. And then two days ago, at the eleventh hour, with my mom and older brother at his side, my Uncle Ron chose Jesus. And he prayed, too.
So no, I'm not sad. I'm ecstatic, I'm bursting with thankfulness, I'm praising God a thousand times for never giving up on my Uncle Ron, for being there, for giving him day after day, a lifetime of chances, until he finally took the leap. Until he finally found eternal life with Jesus.
My Uncle Ron is saved. He is with his heavenly Father, and I am going to meet him there one day, not long from now. He'll be waiting in a place where he can breathe and run and laugh and sing and live in Jesus' love for all eternity. He is saved, and he is free, and he is going to live forever.
Because guess what?