Psa 90:10 We live for seventy years or so (with luck we might make it to eighty), And what do we have to show for it? Trouble. Toil and trouble and a marker in the grave yard. Msg
We strive to live long lives yet there is a down side to longevity; you get to watch your friends die. On Oct. 17th, I lost another very close friend. His name was Robert G. Brown, but to me he was always Bobby G. If I had to pick another nickname, it would be “smiley” because he always had a smile on his face.
He was barely 66, short of the three score and ten that scripture seems to indicate we might be allotted. Much too young to die by today’s standards. Yet our time on this earth was determined before the foundations were laid. Our arrival and departure dates were already set before time began. Because God is in control, nothing happens that surprises Him, so on that Sunday morning at 1:30 am, Bob’s departure flight arrived to whisk him back to his heavenly home.
Bob and his family came into our lives the summer of 1970 when they moved to La Grande. Beth’s folks had retired here and Bob and Beth had had enough of California, decided to give Oregon a try. I don’t remember the first time I met Bob but we both were attending First Baptist church and our two families just sort of clicked into a friendship that has lasted 40 years.
I was working for Terry Travel Trailers as purchasing manager and in September of 1970 hired Bob as the material handler, which involved the shipping and receiving of all the production materials. I left Terry in 1972 and started raising hogs. In 1974 Bob and I formed a corporation and purchased 200 acres in Summerville with the idea of farming and raising hogs. Unfortunately, Bob and I had a knack for picking the worst time to start a new venture, and with financing drying up, we were forced to go our separate ways.
In the years that followed, they moved to the Portland area and Bob worked in a variety of fields, sometimes chasing rainbows looking for the elusive pot of gold. He never found it but along the way he did find a closer relationship with his Lord and Savior. In 2001 he had a Thoracic Aortic Aneurysm that should have taken his life then, but God was not finished with Bob. He still had some molding and shaping that needed to be done.
There was a period after that where Bob was angry with God for not allowing him to die and be in Heaven. He felt cheated because he was unable to work and yet he wasn’t allowed to die. In the following years Bob began to understand that he had a lifetime of experiences to share with others, and God used him to mentor and counsel others in his church.
In 2006, I was diagnosed with prostate cancer and spent two months going through radiation treatments in Portland. Bob and I met weekly for lunch, spending two or more hours just fellowshipping, talking about God and Heaven, analyzing the two different and difficult roads that we were traveling, trying to make sense of it and understanding what God was trying to teach us. It was a time where we were encouraging each other through difficult times.
Then this year I was diagnosed with Mucosal Melanoma, a rare cancer that involved surgery and another 6 weeks of radiation. We spent four months in Portland and again Bob and I started meeting once a week for lunch. It again was a time of soul searching for both of us, a time of supporting each other, and a lot of speculation as to what heaven would be like. We became as close as brothers, brothers in Christ, brothers in God’s family. I will treasure those days, and will miss those times of sharing.
A couple of years ago Bob and Beth came and spent a long weekend with us. I had borrowed a contraption called a “Rodenator” and it involved pumping a mixture of propane and oxygen into gopher tunnels and igniting it. The resulting explosion and concussion would kill the gophers even in their deepest tunnels. Here were two old guys out in my pasture, blowing up the ground, laughing and having a blast like we were kids again. I don’t think we even cared whether we were killing any gophers; we were having too much fun just blowing up the ground. We did this for over two hours and finally had to break for lunch. Good times, good times.
Years ago I wrote about walking my four year old Doberman on Pismo Beach. Every morning while we were camped there I would take him down to the beach and let him run free. As I made him sit to unleash him, his whole body would quiver with excitement in anticipation of being freed to run with the surf and wind. As soon as he felt and heard the snap release on his collar, he was off like a bullet! He ran back and forth, up and down the surf, chasing sea gulls, exploring sand dunes, always moving, always coming back and checking on me, then off he would go again, full tilt, never tiring. It was a sight that I never tired of. The thought occurred to me as Quincy was being unleashed from my physical control, that this must be what people experience in death. One minute we are shackled to this earth by a body suffering aches and pains and no longer wants to move or operate the way we want, and the next instant we are unleashed, free to move about like never before; free of pain, free of time restrictions, free of stress, free of sin, free to worship in the presence of God and Jesus-- free at last, free at last! Finally I understood visually why Jesus said death could not claim victory.
Bob and I had always questioned why we cling so thightly to this life on earth when Heaven offered wonders unimaginable. God built into us a will to live so we would not quit when things got tough. Bob was not a quitter. He hung in there when others would have given up.
We also agreed that when each of us died, it would be a time of celebration, not mourning. Yes, it is sad for us that he is not with us today, that our times of fellowship are put on hold, but he has just departed on a journey to another world which the rest of us who know Christ as Lord and Savior will follow later. Bob is free now, free of pain, free of all the medications, free to run and jump as never before, free at last, free at last.
Bob is beginning his journey through eternity where there is no sadness. I know the saints in heaven are rejoicing at Bob’s arrival – and so should we. Bob and I agreed that when we die, it is party time! So celebrate and enjoy the good memories of your time with Bob and Beth and the kids, and know that on this day Jeri and I will be dancing a jig on some beach in Hawaii thanking God for the good times we had with Bobby G.