Monday, March 01, 2010

Where is the sting?

I've heard people say that someone "lost their battle with cancer."

On Saturday I attended the memorial service for my friend Gary Morey, age 48. Thirty-three months ago, Gary was diagnosed with glioblastoma multiforme, the same aggressive form of brain cancer which killed Senator Ted Kennedy. After operating to remove the major part of the tumor, doctors gave Gary four months to live. What was remarkable about Gary was not so much that he lived much longer than the doctors expected, but that he lived those months in a way which reminded everyone around him that every day we have is a gift from God, but that for a believer in Jesus Christ, death is not something to be feared. Gary made the most of every day, recognizing that he was living on borrowed time on this Earth, but he looked forward with certainty and expectation to being with Jesus.

As I drove home from Gary's memorial service, packed with people whose life he had touched, a song I had not heard for years came to mind. Petra's song "Grave Robber" was recorded in 1983 and the sound is certainly dated, but the message is not: Jesus gives us victory over death. Gary is a testimony to that victory.

In 2008 when Gary first returned to his Sunday School class after his surgery, his teacher asked him about the results. Gary gave his trademark mischievous smile and told him "You're older than me, but I'm going to see Jesus before you do." That may seem glib to someone who does not know Jesus, but for Gary it was a simple reflection of the daily, personal relationship Gary has had with Jesus for years. Gary sneered at death because Jesus has already defeated death and given us eternal life, which is not just some future thing to look forward to. It is the reality of life today.

So I can say with confidence that Gary did not lose his battle with cancer. The loser in this battle was death.