March 9, 2005

My younger brother, Richard, went home to be with the Lord a few minutes after midnight last Friday night.  According to the doctors at M.D. Anderson Hospital, Richard has suffered beyond human imagination for almost 12 years.  Yet Richard often stated that this was the path God chose for his life and he would live it for God’s glory.

Richard’s initial cancer was found in August, 1993, nine days after his little son died of cancer.  Richard’s life was a glowing testimony of “a peace that passes all understanding” as his body fell apart:  one of the first stem cell transplant recipients in the world, followed by 10 years of graft-vs-host rejection as the new immune system that was given to him began attacking his body and organs; a year-long battle with the worst case of pancreatitis any of the MD Anderson doctors had ever witnessed; two hip replacements; blindness; his body was burned from the inside out, and the doctors could find no pain medication to help him — his legs were covered with massive layers of blisters; he had deep burn scars on his limbs as the burning continued until he went to heaven; his immune system was too weak to stop the effects of the radiation that was given last year, and it ate a hole in the side of his face and all the nerves in his face (still without pain medication) and he still never complained as the hole grew to be large enough to put my fist through. He would go days and nights without sleep because the pain was so great.  As he shook and suffered, he would say that he could lean on his Heavenly Father during the pain.  He said that Jesus suffered so much more on the cross because He was separated from the Father and so alone.  Richard always knew He was wrapped in the loving arms of his gentle Heavenly Father.

From August 1993 until March 5, 2005, Richard never had anytime without extreme pain.  When massive doses of morphine and opiates no longer gave any relief, he suffered without relief until he went home to be with Jesus.  Yet, in the midst of it all, he never lost his hope, his joy, his trust in God’s purposes, his sense of humor or his complete devotion to his family.

Additionally, all through this journey their family had no health insurance.  Richard and Sue made a covenant that they would never make their needs known to anyone and trust God to provide their needs.  Each time there was a need, they would gather their little girls around them and excitedly say, “We’re going to pray together and see how God provides for this situation.”  Then, when God answered, as He ALWAYS did, they would gather the girls again and thank God for providing.  Richard told me that He and Sue, not knowing how long Richard would be here on earth, never wanted the girls to think that it was okay to ask other people to provide for their needs.  They wanted the girls to know that God is sufficient in providing needs, when we trust Him to do it, he provides sufficiently and abundantly.  But He provides in HIS WAY AND HIS TIME so that He will get the glory.  Needless to say, these young ladies have a tremendously strong faith and trust in their Heavenly Father, that will carry them through the days to come with the loss of their earthly father.

I had the precious privilege of being with Sue and the girls (D’Ana, Julie and Vicki) to spend the evening with them last Friday and sit for a little while with my precious  brother.  Little did I know I would be by his bed when he was called home to heaven. Though we had no idea that Friday would be his last day on earth, looking back we see how God orchestrated his final day in such a precious way, and we are in awe.

About an hour before Richard went to heaven, Sue and I both felt tremendous spiritual warfare taking place in the room, which I have NEVER BEFORE felt in their home!!  We prayed, sang praise songs, quoted Scripture and trusted Jesus to again fill the room with peace.  We know now that Satan was trying for a final victory to fill Richard with fear when God was about to take him home.  Within moments, the room was again soothing.

In God’s perfect timing, as He called Richard home, the room was COMPLETELY FILLED WITH THE PRESENCE OF THE LORD and Richard was taken to heaven with a peacefulness, beyond human description, that surrounded us. His heart and breathing very quickly slowed down and he was gone.  No trauma, no violent end, only complete peace as Richard was lifted up, and his body stopped. We sensed the very moment when Richard left his broken, worn out, damaged body and went into the very presence of Jesus.  Words cannot describe the glorious victory that was felt in the room.  We KNEW that for whatever reason Richard had been chosen to suffer for Jesus, the victory had been won!  Satan lost the 12 year battle.  The victory belonged to God.  Sue, the girls and I joyously cried, praised Jesus and through our tears sang, “When We All Get To Heaven.”   Oh, yes, what a day of rejoicing it

was!

Thank you for your prayers over the years.  They have been felt more than you’ll know.  When we all get to heaven we will finally know God’s purpose in entrusting Richard, Sue and the girls with this HUGE journey of completely trusting Him, though He never let them know the reason.

The story is not just about Richard, because through his journey, his precious wife, Sue, never left his side.  She had the responsibility of the bills, of being his fulltime nurse, of home-schooling the girls, of being up day after day after day faithfully, gently caring for him with a patience that I thought only God could have. Even when Richard was in Houston a total of about two years, Sue never waivered in knowing that her place was by Richard’s side. Their 5,7 and 9 year old daughters stayed with loving grandparents. Even though it had only been a year since their little son had died, Sue knew that God loved her little ones even more than she and Richard, and He would care for them abundantly.  And He did!

Sue and Richard taught their three girls how to unconditionally love, how to know God, how to depend on His Word, how to give unselfishly to others and how to be disciplined in their walk with God. They are three of the most amazing, godly, wholesome, beautiful, smart, well-balanced young ladies I have ever known, mature way beyond their years. They teach Bible studies, sing on the praise team at church, work with AWANA.  They are now 16,18, and 20 years old, and if you ever want your heart to be blessed, invite them to sing at your church.  What joy and peace is radiated through them as they praise God with their beautiful singing.

Richard often said, “God doesn’t do big things for small reasons.”  When we get to heaven, we’ll know what this is all about.  In the meantime, we may not know the reasons, but it’s our privilege to trust God faithfully through the circumstances He chooses for our lives, and Richard, Sue and the girls have done that.

Last night as hundreds and hundreds of people gathered for a celebration of Richard’s life, voices were lifted to heaven as we sang praises to God. It was a joyful time of sweet fellowship, as many people who had never met Richard – but prayed for him faithfully -joined our family and the hundreds of friends to celebrate Richard’s healing, his home-going, and God’s loving faithfulness through the journey.  What a comfort to KNOW that the separation from my wonderful little brother is only temporary, and that we can have ASSURANCE that heaven is our future because of God’s great, loving sacrifice of His Son taking the penalty of our sins, on the cross, so that we can have everlasting life.

I wanted to share this final chapter of Richard’s life here on earth with you, knowing that you were a part of the journey.  Thank you for participating in his story through your prayers.

If you know others who prayed for him and knew about his journey, please feel free to share this with them.

We thank God for each of you.

With great joy,

Janet Lord-Rose