I wished I could be at Mike’s funeral, but we had already scheduled a vacation to Wisconsin when Mike died. I know he would understand why I couldn’t come. I’ve known Mike since he and Carol first came to Gloria Dei. I knew Mike as someone who loved to give. Mike thought about people; he thought about each person he met as a unique individual with unique interests, and he treated each person he met as if they were special to him. Over the years, I saw Mike give in numerous ways: from giving rides to people who needed them, to talking to and helping the homeless, to helping his granddaughter, to serving as trustee on the Board of Directors, to making pancakes for all of us after service on Sunday mornings. He loved to feed us, even when he could barely eat himself. I think it was his favorite thing to do. He was definitely one of the most enthusiastic Fellowship board members we’ve ever had.
The last time Mike made pancakes was in December. He had just gotten out of the hospital after he had a feeding tube placed. I was at Gloria Dei on a Saturday evening, making Christmas cookies with the youth group for our shut-ins. It had turned out to be an exhausting, but worthwhile, endeavor. Mike came sauntering in at some point in the evening, with a bunch of supplies for making pancakes the next day. No one had expected him to go on with making pancakes after all he had been through, but he was determined. They were good pancakes. But he was suffering; he couldn’t finish cleaning up because of the pain he was in. He did it for us. He loved us well.
I watched over the past couple years as Mike lost weight, was in pain, and suffered. I sat with him and Carol in the hospital more than once as Mike went through so much. We prayed. From my position as Mike’s friend, church secretary, and member of the Mercy group, I watched Pastor and the people of this church love him and minister to him, and I thank God for all of them: for Pastor Horn, who so capably ministered to my friend, and for my brothers and sisters, who never abandon one of their own. One day about three months ago, Pastor was sick and unable to be at the Mercy group meeting. Carol was there, and she was telling us how sad she was about how Mike was suffering. We were all sad too. There was nothing for us to do but go into the Sanctuary, get down on our knees, and ask God to hold our friend in His hands and heal him, whether on this earth or in heaven. And so all of us did. Mike loved us. We loved him back.
The last time Mike was in church in April, he was determined to go up to the Communion rail on his own two feet and receive the Sacrament. I was ushering, and I can tell you, I was scared that he was not steady enough. But he did it. He loved our Lord, and he was determined. He relied on our Lord. I was there with Mike, Carol, and their family just after Mike died. Pastor led a short prayer service. I couldn’t believe my friend was gone, and I ached in grief for him. But as Pastor recited the litany, and sang, I knew that Mike was in heaven, being cared for by the One he was relying on, the One who heals all hurts—our merciful Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ. And how could I wish Mike were back here with us when he is now with our Lord face-to-face?
Mike was my brother in Christ, and I cherished his friendship. I look forward to the day when I will see him again in heaven. Jesus said in John 16, “You have sorrow now, but I will see you again and your hearts will rejoice, and no one will take your joy from you. In that day you will ask nothing of me.” We will ask nothing of Jesus because He has given us everything. I can’t wait to see my friend again someday, when there is no sorrow and only joy. But for now, intermixed with the sorrow of this day, I do have joy thinking of him up there in the arms of our Lord. And that is enough.