back to Mainly for the Weary & Perplexed
As I write this my brother Alex is in intensive care. He’s been very ill for about a year now. Lost a lot of weight, complained of marked pain in his back, utter fatigue and in recent months he’s had more and more trouble breathing. He’s been a heavy smoker since boyhood and has been about 6 months into recovery—alcohol-free. It wasn’t hard to guess, without ever saying, that he had developed cancer but we only got the definitive word yesterday (24/12/08). I don’t know if we’re now looking at days or a week or so—probably days.
He’s eighteen months older than I am but in many ways especially in earlier years he seemed older than that—a sort of patriarch of the family. You know how it is in families; sometimes you have brothers who aren’t really brothers and sisters who aren’t really sisters and then there are those who hold “family” precious. Alex thought “family” precious. He was always very attentive to our mother and while he was never Jesus I can tell you that, all in all, he was and is a better man than I have ever been or will be in this life. There were things he forgave and needed to be forgiven of—nothing unique in that, is there?
Always intense (all the McGuiggans are I think) except on the day I baptized him into Jesus Christ about six years ago. We went to the water on his confession of trust in the Christ and committed himself to the care and service of our Lord. He listened with the air of a quiet child as I spoke to him about Jesus and he surrendered himself sweetly to all the little instructions his kid brother was giving to him as the baptism took place.
He was already ill then though the severity of it all developed into what this past year has revealed. He and his wife Ann have four fine sons and a sweet daughter. When they were children, though Alex didn’t attend church himself, he did everything to encourage and help Ann get the children out without fail to church and Sunday school. Three of those sons are presently spreading the gospel of Christ; two as local preachers and the other in the Christian publishing business and they’re raising their children in the nurture of the gospel of Jesus. The other two children are well aware of Jesus and maybe before too long will give their lives over to him to complete an entire “family salvation”. They already have such a disposition toward Christ.
I talked to Alex before he underwent surgery the other day and asked him if he was afraid of dying. He said he had concerns about his family, of course. I said that made perfect sense but “what of you, personally, are you worried?” He said he wasn’t because he had the right man in his corner. It’s astonishing (and yet…) how a few words can express a world-full of meaning and images and truth and can transform a tragic situation into something more than tragedy (not less than tragedy but more).
Ah, sin, disease and death—your day’s coming. To hell with you!
Hurry on, Jesus, life, righteousness, reunions and unbroken peace and adventure.