He had an enormous laugh that echoed through the hallways of our home throughout my childhood. Long and lanky, this abused-youth-turned-Marine-war-vet-turned-Christian was the most compassionate, broken soul I’ve ever known.
Brilliant beyond words, Stu was acutely wedged between humanity’s horrendous pain and the wonderment of our perfect God. Stu aged with staggering grace and poured tender mercies upon those who expressed their sorrows to him.
More than even the U.S. Marine Corps values this seasoned soldier held in honor, Stu stood on God’s truth as his foundation. He was a warrior equipped for battle, bearing raw, unabashed kindness beneath the armor of God’s secure, solid truth.
For my family, Stu was like an uncle, teacher, therapist, Bible scholar, or go-to guy. Through diagnoses, my divorce, and difficulties with my kids; Stu showed my family grace upon grace. When my son Jon was diagnosed with disabilities, this brilliant man loved Jon with abandon.
He and my older son Austin were fantastic pals . . . both quick-witted and edgy. Just two days ago, Austin wrote him with questions about a secular religious studies class he was taking. Stu responded:
My Dear Austin,
The phrase “gnostic gospels” refers to a subset of Paul’s addressing a particular heresy popular in the day . . .
I will work on getting you some more info. Miss you and love you! Give your mom and Jon a big hug; tell them I love them.
Ice and snow covered the ground as I went to turn on my computer before sunrise. Through glazed eyes, I noticed an e-mail from my dad written long before dawn.
My dear Colleen, I am shocked and heartbroken to tell you that Stu passed away yesterday. He was fighting cancer but didn’t want us to worry. I am so sorry. Should I call Austin?
Then the screen blurred as my tears began to spill. I covered my face with my hands hoping that when I looked at the screen again the e-mail would be gone, but the message stayed. At that moment, I realized I would never hear Stu’s bellowing laugh or his tender, grace-filled words again.
The day’s clouds hung cold and gray. I was recovering from back surgery and trying to write something interesting; neither was going well when Austin called. When I picked up the phone, a wave of grief took away my breath and words.
“Mom? Mom? Is that you, Mom? What happened? Is your back okay?” Austin had not yet talked with my dad.
I couldn’t speak, so I whispered, “Aust, Aust . . . Uncle Stu . . . is . . . is . . . gone. He passed away yesterday. Aust . . . he’s gone.”
Long pause. Austin began to weep as waves of grief swelled. “He can’t be gone, I just e-mailed him yesterday. What are you talking about?” His voice broke. “Mom, I gotta go.” Click.
We’ve been traveling through the variegated, vast terrain of grief—pulled by various polarities. Stu is now whole, without the anguish of abuse or exhaustive efforts to trust a good God through his hurt soul. His soul is now healed. We smile knowing Stu is happy, saturated in the peace and love of heaven with our Lord.
But there is a vacancy in our lives that won’t be filled while we live on here. We miss him. Some vacancies reveal our need for God and our longing for heaven. Without Christ, there would be no reconciliation. We would never be reunited with Stu or our loved ones.
I cannot imagine.
Let Me Hear from You
I don’t know if you have lost a loved one. Perhaps there are other soul wounds you have tried to heal yourself in an attempt to make life fair. My friend, life is not fair, but God is. This world is terribly broken; God is not. Stu clung to core truths that soothed his many wounds; these biblical truths will soothe you as well.
I came across this Marine Corps prayer the other day. I challenge you to pray it out loud as you read it. Let’s talk about what it says . . . how will you be remembered?
Almighty Father, whose command is over all and whose love never fails, make me aware of Thy presence and obedient to Thy will. Keep me true to my best self, guarding me against dishonesty in purpose and deed and helping me to live so that I can face my fellow Marines, my loved ones, and Thee without shame or fear. Protect my family. . . .
Grant me the courage to be proficient in my daily performance. . . .
If I am inclined to doubt, steady my faith; if I am tempted, make me strong to resist; if I should miss the mark, give me courage to try again.
Guide me with the light of truth and grant me wisdom by which I may understand the answer to my prayer.[ref]“The Marine’s Prayer,” http://www.marines.mil/Portals/59/Publications/NAVMC%202747.pdf, accessed Mar. 9, 2015.[/ref]
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