"Preach the gospel at all times; if necessary, use words." Saint Francis of Assisi

Thursday, January 27, 2011

Life and Death

Yesterday was an interesting day for our family.

We were invited to a birthday churrasco (bar-b-que) for one of our best friends.

Yesterday Sergio celebrated his 53 birthday. His birthday was actually on Tuesday but we had the party yesterday.

Anyway, Sergio was, literally, one of the first people we met here.

We moved here in June of 2002 and we met him in the same month or in the first few days of July.

He is a real estate agent. When we moved here he had his own company. He helped us find our first place to live. It was an apartment and it was close to his office.  We moved in towards the end of July. About a year and a half later he then negotiated the deal on the second place we lived. It was a house and he got no commission from the rental agreement. We then had a fight with him about accepting money from us as a "thank you" for his hard work. We only felt it was right to help him since he helped us. We wanted to give him a commission that he didn't get from the actual deal. The fight came from his not wanting to accept it because he wanted to help his friends and friends don't charge for friendship.  That's the way he is in everything he does. Friends are more important than money.

Sergio quickly became more than our real estate agent. He and his family became our great friends.

He has two sons that are Garrett and Carys' age.

Our families have vacationed together at the beach. Our families have taken a few trips together to the mountains.

He's also my running buddy. He was with me every step of the way when I tried (and failed) to complete my first marathon in 2005. When I ran he ran. When I had to walk he stopped and walked with me. He called my wife when I had to stop and couldn't take another step. He told her where to pick up my tired, defeated body. He got me some water, asked if I was okay and then proceeded to finish the marathon. Because of going so slow with me he, literally, was the last person to finish the race. He arrived with an ambulance following him with sirens blaring signifying the last runner of the race. The streets lined up with fans cheering him on. If it were me, my stupid pride would have wanted to explain why I was last. He never said a word about it being because he was helping me. Never. He just smiled and waved to everyone and soaked in the moment. That's Sergio. He has taught me that the important thing is to finish the race and to run with joy.

Sergio and his family have been regular Bible study partners with us.

I've been blessed to study with Sergio one on one and literally see the "light bulb moment" when he realized that He doesn't have to be "good enough" to be accepted by Christ. That Christ can forgive everything in his past. Just days after having this moment I was blessed to be asked by Sergio to be a part of his demonstration of his new faith through baptism.

Sergio has a deep bond with my parents. Especially my dad. I can't spend 2 minutes with him without him asking about my parents.

I consider him to be one of my best Brasilian friends.

It's always fun to be with Sergio. He has an infectious laugh. Everyone enjoys being around him and I would swear that he knows everybody in POA. Whenever we are out together he always runs into someone he knows. Always.

Last night was a great celebration of his life. We had a great time, as usual, with his family and friends.

A few hours before we left for the birthday party Benay got a phone call. It was the mother of one of Carys' friends from her old school. As I listened to Benay talk I immediately knew someone had died.

She hung up and told me our friend Lourdes had died.

We first met Duncan and Lourdes in 2002.

Our three year old daughters, at that time, (Carys and Andréa) went to the same school together. They immediately became good friends.

Duncan and Lourdes were very helpful to us as we adjusted to living in Brasil.

Duncan had lived in the United States and it was always very helpful to us, initially, to have someone who could speak and understand English as we struggled with the difficulty of learning the Portuguese language.

They were one of the first families we invited to our house for supper in our new apartment.

Lourdes was always smiling. She was always happy. I know people aren't "always" happy but I never saw her without a smile. Even when she was diagnosed with breast cancer.

As she fought the cancer she was smiling, she was encouraging.

I can remember her coming to Benay's baby shower for Giovanni. Benay wanted to talk with her about how she was doing. She never wanted to talk about her problems or her suffering because she didn't want to discourage other people. She would always smile and say she was doing fine.

Carys and Andréa went to the same school together from 2002 through the 2009 school year. Last year Carys started a new school so we didn't get to see Duncan and Lourdes on a daily basis like we were used to.

Benay went to visit her last year and took her a book (Max Lucado). A couple of months ago Benay tried to get in touch with her but wasn't able to. That was the last time we tried to get in touch with her or her family.

Until yesterday.

In Brasil we don't embalm a body so the burial is within 24 hours.

Lourdes died yesterday morning and the funeral, like I mentioned, was last night.

Benay, Carys and I went to be with the family.

Duncan seemed to be, like I would be at that moment, in a daze. With terminal cancer you know the end is coming and, I imagine, you can prepare for it the best you can but, honestly, how can you ever prepare to live your life without your spouse?

I watched him as I thought about what that might feel like to have just lost Benay. He held up okay until he hugged Benay. As she whispered in his ear he began to cry.

As we left Benay and I talked about the will of God.

It's a strange thing at times (to us humans) and not always possible to understand.

Lourdes also has two kids. A girl and a boy. The girl, as I mentioned, is Carys' age. The boy, Rafael, is Garrett's age and they had class together one year. He also has cerebral palsy and has many developmental problems.  When we saw him last night he gave us hugs and then he gave us nuggies on our head.

As we left the funeral we talked about how blessed we are. We have 6 healthy kids. Benay and I are healthy and we just left the funeral of a woman our age who died after fighting cancer for many years. She leaves a husband and two kids, one of which has special needs.

It's times like that when we realize just how blessed we are and how the things that worry us at times are really not big things at all.

We left the funeral and went back to Sergio's birthday party.

When he saw me he came up to me and put an arm around me and asked how I was doing. I said fine and just kind of shrugged my shoulders. He told me "É pesada......É pesada." Which means, in this case, "Going to a funeral is a heavy thing."  February 5 will be the one year anniversary of his father's death. He gave me a hug and encouraged me.

We then had a birthday cake and Sergio shared with everyone how blessed he was to have such a good family, good friends and such a good, blessed life. He shared how this was his first birthday without his dad.

As we were driving home after the party I spent some time reflecting on our time here. Who God has brought into our lives and who He has taken. This wasn't the first funeral we've gone to since we've been here and it probably won't be the last.

I thought about how this celebration and this funeral happened on the same day. How yesterday involved two families that helped us so much when we first moved here. How our kids became good friends. How we've shared meals together and how they, personally, shared the day together.

One celebrating and the other suffering.

Life and death on the same day. Sergio and Duncan's life will be forever intertwined. This day will always bring back memories to both of them until the day they die.

We feel blessed and thank God for these two families.

Please pray for Sergio as he continues to be a light for Jesus to his family, friends and to this city.

And please pray for Duncan and his kids as they begin to try to live life without their mom, wife, best friend. I can't imagine what life would be like without my girlfriend. Only God can strengthen Duncan in this moment.

I believe they both will feel encouragement through your prayers.

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