GaryKarenCrumpI heard my text alert while in the jet bridge. After a two-hour weather-related delay, I just wanted to get on the plane. I read the text though.

And just like that, I found out my friend, Gary, was gone. His suffering was over and he was free from pain. Just like that. Unexpected.

Gary had endured six major surgeries in the past six months. Monday’s shoulder replacement surgery was the last procedure scheduled to repair his body and relieve his pain. This surgery, though, was too much for his heart.

God numbers our days. By faith, we declare His timing is perfect.

I’m not surprised by Gary’s wife’s immediate response that she was happy for Gary. In the 25 years I’ve know them, that’s been Karen’s focus – Gary’s joy and well-being. Why would I expect anything different now?

Life sometimes collides loudly with death. It’s ugly. Out of sync. There’s anger. People talk about love when there was little evidence they lived with love.

That’s not what happened for Gary and Karen. He was loved and he loved. I’m not implying Gary won’t be missed. He will be by many. But he lived with death in mind so there’s no collision with life. He lived life to the fullest because he knew every day mattered and no more days were promised. He embraced people and moments. He was a steward of every opportunity. If you’re a reader of this blog, you know I write about really living. Being alive. Living alive. Being alive because you’re living. That was Gary.

That still is Gary. That’s the beautiful thing about personal faith in Jesus Christ. We live forever. Eternally. He’s gone from here – his temporary home. He’s not dead nor will he be dead to us. He will not be forgotten. He’s more alive than he’s ever been. That’s saying a lot for someone who really lived!

If a spiritual inventory of Gary’s heart could be conducted, the report might read something like this:

Heart larger than most. Vibrant and healthy to love and be loved. Obvious love for the God of the Bible who created him, Jesus who saved him, and the Holy Spirit who filled him. Patterns demonstrate his ability to love so many resided and radiated from here. (1 John 4:19)

Strengthening of his heart was provided especially by devotion to his wife, son, daughter-in-law, and grandsons. He also was loved by many family and friends . There’s also an obvious channel through which he received their love. It’s deep and wide. He was loved!

This heart indicates much evidence of God’s power to heal the broken-hearted (Psalm 147:3) as its obvious this man knew and cared deeply about those with great needs. As he prayed and wept with and for them, God restored the strength of his heart. (Psalm 73:26)

Finally, the number of verses and songs of praise hidden in his heart, in more than one language, is stunning but not surprising to all of us remembering Gary’s heart . There’s evidence he was ready and able to provide an answer for the hope within him. (1 Peter 3:15) His spiritual heart is strong and used often. He clearly loved God’s Word, knew it, and used it.

We’d love to see more hearts like this. Although Gary’s was physically tired, it was spiritually wide awake! Our Heavenly Father takes great delight in the rich storehouse of joy within Gary’s heart.

I will miss my friend greatly. Gary’s death was clearly a great loss for us continuing our journey here on earth, but a tremendous gain for heaven.