Last week I lost a friend. Heaven gained a warrior.
Luckie was his name- his father’s wish to bring him good luck throughout his life…a whimsical but fitting name to a man who brought laughter to so many, including me.
He was like a younger brother to me and in fact was the same age as my youngest brother. I loved this man…loved him for his great heart, for his glaring faults, for his complete honesty and yet his personally recognized deep duplicity. Luckie was self-aware. He was a contradiction in so many ways. And that was not a bad thing.
Our relationship was respectful. He called me by the title anyone who knows me well uses- my ‘grandmother name’- “nini”. As a high-level pastor in our church, he was my co-worker and his sweet wife was my right hand in the ministry duties I had. Husband and I leaned on this couple. We knew they were loyal and faithful and strong. Luckie was somewhat intimidated by dear husband, however, and so I was often the go between for communication purposes.
He was the pastor-in-charge of the ministry I led, and oh, what a blessing he was. Prophetic and powerful words he spoke over all of us. Black and white was how he saw things, and no cause was too small to be taken on. I remember falling to my knees once as he prophesied over me the heart of God. It wasn’t Luckie’s voice, it was the Holy Spirit speaking directly through the voice of a man, and I could not physically stand up in the mighty onslaught of that word.
I was his counselor. He came to me with his brokenness, his memories, and his tears. It is possible that I knew him better than almost anyone else, for in the privacy of my office, he shared his deepest wounds and hardest struggles. For a year and a half, every week, I had the honor of spending an afternoon with him praying, listening, calling on the Holy Spirit to bring healing to his heart.
We lost that close connection after my retirement, but I watched from afar as his star rose and he stepped into a leadership role that was the hardest thing he’d ever done. When he could no longer carry on, it was our turn to support him and his precious wife…and then the cancer became obvious and Luckie hid himself away to fight the loneliest battle of all because he wanted to spare his family pain.
Suddenly, he was slipping away. On his final afternoon on this earth, I placed a desperate call to a cell phone. They held it to his ear, and I’m told he nodded as I read Scripture to him…”what can separate us from the love of God?”…
I sang to him, controlling the quaver in my voice by demanding the very best of myself for his final hour…”it is well with my soul…”
And I prayed. Listening to his ragged gasps, I prayed desperately for my friend, my little brother, that the grace of God would carry him through that final dark river into the arms of Jesus.
And when it was all over, and they texted me a simple phrase…”he’s gone”…”he’s home”…
I stood out under the stars and wept and screamed to the sky…not in anger, not in confusion, not in denial…
Just in anguish because my friend, my brother, was gone. There have been very few in my life with whom I felt so close…such a visceral, tender, mutually respectful connection.
Oh, Luckie. The days come and go and you are not here, and the church seems so empty without your laughter and your craziness.
But there is a corner of heaven where there is dancing going on and very loud music and silliness and shouting and X-tremely funny preaching…and you are in the center of it.
Until we meet again, my dear little brother, farewell. Never forgotten, always loved.