He wasn’t supposed to live to retirement age. He has no job from which to retire. He’s never held one. Never went to school. Never spoken a sentence of English.
They said not to expect him to live much past early childhood. If he hit the toddler years, he would never toddle. If he did make it to the school-age years, there would be no kindergarten for him.
He would never set out on his own. Or make any plans. Or dream about the future.
His doctor said that he had no future.
And, today, my oldest brother, Jim, turned sixty-five years old. And, I’ll be, but he has enjoyed a good, rich life.
I wrote about Jim, two years ago, so I won’t go over the details as to why his prognosis was so dim. You may read the first piece here:
Picking up where I left off in the first writing, not only would Jim make it out of infancy, he grew strong. With no ability to walk, he didn’t grow tall as he surely otherwise would have, but lifelong physical therapy would build firm muscles. Indeed, he became so strong, it made him a handful.
Some Christmases, we brought him home from the group home in nearby North Muskegon where he was finally placed in the late ’70s after twenty-some years in institutional places. Jim was able to use a toilet but, since he could not make his way on his own, two of us had to walk him. Was that ever a challenge!
He. Was. Strong. And since he was not able to control himself, to successfully make it with this muscular man from the living room, through the hall, and into the bathroom, we were happy to finally set him onto the stool without having bashed in a wall or pulling the bathroom door off its hinges.
Having worked up a sweat, I should have been pleased about calories burned ahead of the feast Mom was soon to set before us.
Oh, Mom! How Jim loved Mom! Sure, he would smile at we siblings as we greeted and hugged him, and made a bit of small talk, but when Mom appeared Jim beamed! And when Mom died all too young, Dad received the evidence of Jim’s joy.
Jim’s voice would be expressed in his smiles and much more. Lacking the ability to form words never kept him from communicating what pleased or angered or bothered him. At his place, if the living room TV were turned from his show, he whooped about it. When his favorite meals were set before him, you knew it just as surely as from any person. And when he didn’t want to do something, he could be the very picture of obstinate.
After Jim, only several months old, was so adversely affected in the wake of being wrongly medicated for his whooping cough and encephalitis, he suffered terrible seizures. After these finally no longer struck him, I do not recall his experiencing any serious health issues. In his fifties, he fractured a leg. It required surgery and the placement of a pin. This was the first and only time I ever wondered if his health might be deteriorating, with his death in sight.
He came through that admirably. We were able to have him with us for a short time at Dad’s funeral in 2010. That was the first time all of us siblings were together in I don’t know how long. Because I had moved away it surely had been more than twenty years.
I am ashamed to say that I have not seen him since my transition. I need to do this. I long to be with him at least one more time before either of us finishes our earthly pilgrimage. More than wanting to be with him, to hug and kiss him, I long to share our common hope, that the terrible, physical suffering of our lives will be healed by our Lord Jesus Christ in the resurrection.
As with all of us kids, Jim was baptized in infancy—indeed, before he got sick and when he appeared to have a typical future. Because of his situation, he was not able to receive instruction in the faith and be confirmed or communed. Who knows if he’s ever formed a prayer. How can such a person be saved?
Truly, Jim is the very picture of the direction of salvation and who does the work.
- John 1:12-13: “Yet to all who did receive him, to those who believed in his name, he gave the right to become children of God—children born not of natural descent, nor of human decision or a husband’s will, but born of God.”
- Ephesians 2:1, 4-5, 8-9: “As for you, you were dead in your transgressions and sins . . . But because of his great love for us, God, who is rich in mercy, made us alive with Christ even when we were dead in transgressions—it is by grace you have been saved. . . . For it is by grace you have been saved, through faith—and this is not from yourselves, it is the gift of God—not by works, so that no one can boast.”
- Titus 3:5-7: “He saved us, not because of righteous things we had done, but because of his mercy. He saved us through the washing of rebirth and renewal by the Holy Spirit, whom he poured out on us generously through Jesus Christ our Savior, so that, having been justified by his grace, we might become heirs having the hope of eternal life.”
There it is. As we receive physical life from our parents solely by their work as a gift, so we receive eternal life from our Father solely by Christ’s work as a gift of the Holy Spirit.
In 1 Corinthians 15, we are promised new bodies when we are resurrected from the dead. No longer will we be able to be injured, or grow ill or weary, or die. Isaiah 35:6 tells us, “Then will the lame leap like a deer, and the mute tongue shout for joy.”
On that day, Jim will leap like a deer and shout for joy, dancing a jig of praise to Christ and glorifying Him for the eternal gift which he will enjoy in Paradise with his Lord Jesus and with all the saints.
With Job (19:25-27), my ongoing refrain is “I know that my Redeemer lives, and that in the end he will stand on the earth. And after my skin has been destroyed, yet in my flesh I will see God; I myself will see him with my own eyes—I, and not another. How my heart yearns within me!”
A blessed 65 years to you, dear brother Jim. An eternity of joy awaits.