It's mid October, but in a certain corner of Bend, Oregon, it's already Christmas. The whole neighborhood has put up Christmas lights. You may see carolers drop by. The mail carrier has delivered handfuls of Christmas cards. God is totally on board. He even sent snow this weekend.
Did you get the memo?
Chris is dying. Dying soon. And he wanted one last Christmas with his wife and children.
This morning he upped his pain meds in order to make it through the day. He doesn't want to miss the turkey, ham and cornbread stuffing or the sweet potato casserole. So as the train makes loops around the early Christmas tree and the cooks are busy in the kitchen, Chris soaks it all in.
tomorrow he stops treatment.
After more than a decade of chronic, debilitating migraines, doctors discovered that Chris had an (unrelated) inoperable brain tumor.
While the rest of us gasped at the news and fought back tears, Chris celebrated! His pain would soon be over. He would soon see his Savior! His joy welled up to overflowing.
It has continued to overflow in the 6 or so months since he announced on Facebook that he was dying. Social media has its down sides, but this is not one of them. A whole community has gathered around as Chris has faced death wide open, inviting everyone to walk this journey with him. We've watched in amazement as Chris has reached out to encourage every one of us - extending words of blessing, wisdom, and grace. His humor and transparency and his deep care for Sarah and the children have been unwavering.
Since doctors are no longer worried about Chris developing a drug addiction, they've given him whatever he's needed to kill the pain. So ironically, since he found out he was dying, he's been able to live a much fuller and richer life -- church services, his kids' sporting events, Facebook, even Disneyland! But in the past month it became clear he wouldn't make it until Christmas.
So Christmas came early in Bend.
This morning I worshiped at an Anglican church. Gazing at a stain glass window of Joseph, Mary, and the Christ Child, I thought about Chris and Sarah's early Christmas. At Christmas the Word became flesh.
Flesh that is subject to pain and disease, migraines, and even brain tumors. As Chris feels his own flesh wasting away, how appropriate to celebrate the moment when God took on human weakness. Yes, Chris' body will return to the dust, but because Jesus conquered death, he can count on a resurrection body. We do not anticipate a disembodied bliss. Jesus ushered in the new creation, in which we can experience the fullness of life that God intended forever, in our resurrected bodies.
And so in the mix of powerful emotions on this early Christmas Day, we grieve, but not as those who have no hope. This is not the grief of despair, but a grief laced with resurrection anticipation.
Thank you, Chris. In your dying you have showed us how to live.