Blessed Assurance

My brother, Jerry ,was diagnosed with Multiple Sclerosis 27 years ago, just after his youngest son was born. He was 39. He slowly lost his mobility, his continence and his job. He faced daily does of over 15 medications per day, had surgery to remove part of his intestinal tract and replace with a colostomy bag, and endured months of treatment for a stage 4 pressure wound. At the end of his life, he was losing his ability to speak and swallow. He could no longer transition from his bed to his wheelchair. When he was evaluated for in home hospice, his wife declined pastoral visits as she said he had long ago lost his faith. When he died less than 48 hours later, the family said they did not want any religious activities at his memorial service for that same reason. This broke my heart, but I was told these were his wishes over the last years of his suffering. I held him and we cried part of a day together before he passed, but he could only communicate “You be ok, Mom be ok.”I prayed “God hold Jerry in your arms and comfort him. Your will be done.” After he passed, my daughter called me to read a portion of the journal he gave her on her graduation from high school 18 years ago. I felt that through her, God was reassuring me that though my brother couldn’t communicate with us at the end, he was talking with the Father. This is what he said: Don’t be polite with God. Be real with God, nice to people. This always works well with God. People are often pious with God, even when they are angry. In most all Western religious dogma, we can all agree that God is all powerful, all knowing. If this basic belief is taken on faith, (and probably 1-2 billion Christians accept this mystery) then God surely knows when we are pissed off at him.
Your uncle was angry at God for a couple of years, but the evil of multiple sclerosis made my relationship with God possible. My anger, when expressed to God, became less and less important to me. It occurred to me that by the simple act of anger, I had opened a channel to the Father. I got really pissed and He really listened. His love was forthcoming in spite of this incredible anger. It was humbling to say the least.
It turns out that sometimes to realize our blessings, we must confront our own devils. Courage does not mean we overcome. It means we face up to our fear. I’m sure my story is far from over. I’m sure it will never be neat. It will probably be very untidy, even messy. But whatever these demons bring forth, I know one thing. I will not go to battle alone! God wants us to go with Him, not for Him!
My daughter read this at her uncle Jerry’s service. I said a prayer. Jerry’s wife’s best friend read a prayer and her husband, who is studying to become a pastor lead us in the Lord’s Prayer.

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