I used to call my sister Joy’s longtime partner, Rich,”Brod Pitt” for his sometimes tangent similarity to Brad Pitt. And anyway, he showed my kids how to roast marshmallows which they very much enjoyed and that makes him a star to me.
In 2014 during a short visit to California, I put together visual images of precious moments—gifts from God— I could recognize along the way. Many more moments included Rich and other people that I didn’t get to capture on camera.
Later that year, we had a celebration-of-life reunion with loved ones.
In the top left photo above, Rich is the only one smiling at the camera after we walked out of the garage of the lovely Mr. A’s Restaurant.
The day after our celebration, Rich and Joy took me to the humongous Kobey’s Swap Meet where I would find among other things the pair of vintage lamps which would sit on top of the shop piano, the small washboard (behind the red tractor) with the word “Victory” on it,
“You have a good eye, Karen,” Rich called to me with squinted eyes that hot day as we all walked back to the car with our finds, he carrying Joy’s own mint green vintage ice cream maker and me carrying mine. I think he was trying to make me feel better as he watched me carry my solid wood bucket. (Too bad they don’t have the ubiquitous Filipino baggers available … You see the value of people when they are not there, huh?)
The finale for our reunion was a backyard concert with group singing of oldies-but-goodies tunes with professional singer and guitarist, Daniel (with the bandana), whom Rich specifically picked up to lead the songfest.
A couple months later, November 2015, Rich was diagnosed with lung cancer. On one of my many conversations with Joy, she said he increasingly got very sleepy and was becoming weak.
In January this year, I joined our weeklong church fasting and prayer time. On the second day of fasting, the devotion was praying for the sick. I called up Joy that morning and asked if I could pray with Rich. He was mostly sleeping but after a little while, he woke up. I told him we are all on the same boat and it’s not necessarily the oldest, sickest, or weakest who goes first but I would like to share with him the Scriptures which talk about the assurance of salvation . I shared and explained the gospel to him and sharp as he remained, he understood, prayed to receive and put his faith in Jesus Christ as his personal Savior. “God wants you to feel His love, Rich” I told him. “I felt that. I really felt that,” he replied. I prayed over him and he agreed in prayer before he dozed back off to sleep.
Everytime I talked to Joy after that, he was sleeping and resting. He got weaker…
My prayer partner, Ann, and I had been praying weekly for Rich and Joy since the early January fast. After 3 pm, she sent me this prayer:
At 5pm I received Joy’s message at 5:12 pm—the sad news that Rich passed two hours prior (our 3:12pm)… Perhaps around the same time as Ann’s prayer (3:19pm). In this sad news I saw the glimmer of God’s grace to allow us to see His hand and timing of letting Rich come home to Him. I see it as a loving assurance of Rich’s warm welcome in heaven where he has true riches.
Dear Lord, thank You that You gave Rich complete spiritual healing to have assurance of salvation before his physical life ended. If his cancer disappeared but he’s not spending eternity with You, that would have been worse. In our grief and mourning, I thank You for Your nuggets of grace and big helpings of love, comfort, strength, hope, and peace.
In the fragile volatile hyperlapsing moments that constitute the continuum of time, there are not two but three constants: death, taxes, and God. Thank You for You through this all. Every moment is a celebration of life. Thank You for all the people You have allowed in mine and all the precious moments You allow us to be together.