“If I speak with human eloquence and angelic ecstasy but don’t love, I’m nothing but the creaking of a rusty gate. If I speak God’s Word with power, revealing all His mysteries and making everything plain as day and if I have faith that says to a mountain, “Jump,” and it jumps, but I don’t love, I’m nothing. If I give everything I own to the poor and even go to the stake to be burned as a martyr, but I don’t love, I’ve gotten nowhere. So, no matter what I say, what I believe, and what I do, I’m bankrupt without love.” “We don’t yet see things clearly. We’re squinting in a fog, peering through a mist. But it won’t be long before the weather clears and the sun shines bright! We’ll see it all then, see it all as clearly as God sees us, knowing Him directly just as He knows us! But for right now, until that completeness, we have three things to do to lead us toward that consummation: Trust steadily in God, hope unswervingly, love extravagantly. And the best of the three is love.” 1Corinthians 13: 1-3; 12-13, The Message
My dear cousin Dennis passed from this earth on Saturday. Dennis and I were childhood buddies and I am left with many memories as all his family and friends are. His dad said, “Carmen, you are probably as close to a sister as Dennis ever had” and that may be true. We played Batman and Robin at the little community school (sliding down the poles from the roof to the bat cave), board games for hours (He taught me to play chess. I never won??), cooked together, cleaned together, went to church together, youth group and school. There was a nasty little incident of us filling my uncle’s car tank with water. We really thought we were helping. I promise! You see, he lived across the street from my dear grandparents and being at their house was my very favorite pass time. My mom used to ask me, “What is so exciting over there!?” I told her I didn’t know. It was just where I wanted to be. Dennis probably played a role in that.
I knew him best as a child and very young man. He loved listening to Lynn Anderson, made famous with “I Never Promised You a Rose Garden”, and he told me recently he was proud of that crush. For those who have known him only as a grown man, he was ALWAYS passionate about anything he believed in. He was passionate about Jesus and church, politics, his love for me and about being more. He wanted the best for me and when I didn’t feel the same way, he certainly tried to show me the error of my ways. I remember once, (well, more than once) I visited another youth group and he called and reminded me that my youth group needed me. Where was my loyalty! I married at 16 and he was in my wedding. He was so worried I wouldn’t graduate from high school. On my graduation day, I received flowers from him with a card that read, “I am so proud of you! Love, Dennis.”
I married and Dennis went to college. This is where are paths crossed less frequently. Marriage and trying to finish growing up took my attention and trying to be more took his. There is so much of his life I missed out on. Dennis graduated from Louisiana Tech and moved away and we lost some of that personal relationship.
As his lifestyle changed, I became so confused. I always loved Dennis but I couldn’t figure out “how to love him”. Why is that I ask myself today. As a Christian, I was torn. Somehow I had lost sight of the verses above. I struggled with loving and not agreeing. I think if he and I would have discussed it, we would have both been comfortable much sooner. Over the years I have grown in maturity of years and in my Christian walk. I have learned more and more that my job is to love unconditionally and let God take care of the rest. I’m not junior God, thank goodness!
Each and every year we enjoyed our time together at Christmas and Memorial Day. He loved his family and was very insistent that we all be together when he was here. He loved to cook for us and each Christmas we had a wonderful new dish to sample. He brought New York to us as he brought Louisiana to his friends in New York.
The last private message I had from Dennis was to tell me how proud he was of my writing. He had read my blogs and was impressed. Of course he used words that I had to Google. What is syntax I asked? I knew it must be good because he said I used it. When he was home soon after that message, he continued to encourage me. He reminded me that all good writers have editors and I was my own editor and doing a great job of it. “You have an idea…you expand upon it… and you make a point. And, you do it with good grammar.” That was especially nice of him since I am very southern in speech :) His praise meant more to me than he probably realized. I have always wanted Dennis to be proud of me. He was after all my big brother and friend.
During this terrible illness that robbed him of his life, he showed such bravery. On the eve of his first surgery, I texted him that I was praying for him and he responded, “I’m sure everything will be all right”. He fought hard to live. Knowing that his prognosis was not good, he continued to fight and did it with grace and a smile on his face. He waited on us to be with him and as we stood at his bedside on the morning of his death, he knew we had come and as he breathed his last breaths, he was surrounded by family, friends and much love.
We now must cherish our memories. We will certainly miss a celebrity birthday without him. He always posted a tribute whether they were 150 years old or 50. How will we ever keep up with the British Royal family? I once asked him did he ever work? If you are not traveling you are posting on Facebook! I will miss him.
Until we visit again…