On Monday, November 30, my dearest friend and more than a brother, Sonny, went home to the Lord. Our tremendous loss is heaven’s great gain. Strong in faith, he passed from the loving arms of his wife Rose to the outstretched arms of the Lord. There are no words that I can write that describe the closeness we experienced over a lifetime; no words can do it justice. We had many adventures. We shared much joy. We suffered through some difficult times. But as we were talking the last time I saw him three weeks ago, we remarked that no matter what time of day or night, no matter how far apart we were, or what we were doing, we could count on one another if needed. More than a brother.
Since September, I was able to visit him three times, about three weeks apart. Each time we didn’t know if we would see each other again on this side of heaven. Each time, we left nothing on the table. In October, failing quicker in health and needing a walker or a cane, Sonny had a plan in mind. He directed me to a special place where he would meditate on the Lord. He had built a stone bench and had placed a cross there next to an outlook over a ravine. It was about 150 yards into the woods. He hadn’t been there for three years. Moving about six inches at a time, with his hand on my shoulder, we navigated through the brush and the woods for about an hour before we found the place. The cross was no longer standing, but with Sonny directing my search in the underbrush, I found it and built stones around it so that it stood tall.
Sitting on the bench, Sonny pulled out his bible and read aloud Psalm 121: “I will lift up my eyes unto the hills, from whence comes my help. My help comes from the Lord, which made heaven and earth. He will not suffer thy foot to be moved: he that keeps thee will not slumber. Behold, he that keeps Israel shall neither slumber nor sleep. The Lord is thy keeper: the Lord is thy shade upon thy right hand. The sun shall not smite thee by day, nor the moon by night. The Lord shall preserve you from all evil: he shall preserve your soul. The Lord shall preserve thy going out and thy coming in from this time forth, and even for evermore.” When Sonny finished, I anointed him with oil and prayed over him. Then we made our way back. It was a special time, a deep spiritual realization of what was to come. A proclamation of faith.
A few weeks ago, he was limited to his bed and a wheel chair. He could no longer stand on his own. But his sense of humor remained. We laughed and joked, and looked at pictures and told stories of our life together, wishing we could remember more of them. In serious moments, we wondered what it would be like to actually pass from life through death to eternal life. We wanted to make sure each knew how we felt about each other. When it was time for me to go, I leaned over to hug his frail body. He pulled me tight and kissed me on the cheek. We both knew this would be the last time. It was a long embrace. I kissed him on the forehead and told him “love is greater than death.” We parted exchanging, our familiar farewell, “Love you, brother.” Yes, more than a brother.