Thursday, January 10, 2008

One Final Rose

How in the world do you take 86 very colorful years of a man and condense it to under 45 minutes? That was the dilemma Michael faced as he tried to prepare for the funeral of our beloved Rex. This man had done, seen, and heard it all. He'd been all over the world, and brought that world to life for us who haven't stepped on other borders. We had only been in Chatfield a couple of weeks when one day we heard the doorbell ring and there at the door stood Rex with a dozen roses in his hand. Our house sits at the back of our 3+ acres, and he had parked at the gate and walked up the drive to welcome us to this place. He said people would always open the door to a bouquet of roses. He was right. I opened the door to those bouquets five or six times over the last two and a half years. There was even a couple of times he sent a bouquet home with Michael after the men's prayer breakfast on Thursday mornings.

I once told Michael that every Sunday morning Rex would hug me and tell me how much I brightened up the place. He kind of hesitated a minute then told me that Rex said that to everyone. He made everyone feel so special. Since about the middle of November, Rex hadn't been able to get out to church because the pain from his cancer was getting harder to bear. His front row seat was so obviously empty. About two weeks ago on a Sunday afternoon, I was in town and Michael called to say someone had come by the house to see me. I drove home and as I pulled in the gate, I saw a bouquet of roses up on the toolbox of Michael's truck. I knew it was Rex. His last outing. Always thinking of ways to make others feel special. The next time he got out of that bed was when the funeral home came to get him. His step daughter said the night before he died he said "I see him standing at the gate". They didn't know what or who he was seeing. I think I do.

Michael didn't use an abundance of scripture at the funeral. He didn't have to. Rex' life was the scripture. The night before the funeral, a friend of Rex told Michael of an outing that he took with Rex five years ago. Previously, Rex had told this friend that his grandpa was buried in a county east of us near a brush arbor. This friend told Rex that he had gone to the courthouse and there was no cemetery registered in that county, but he knew of a brush arbor out on a ranch. They took a day to see if they could find that cemetery. They found the brush arbor, walked up to it and Rex showed his friend where he sat, where they brought his grandpa in, and also told him that he had walked down that sawdust trail to accept Jesus when he was a small boy. This man was surprised because he had tried to talk to Rex about the Lord before and Rex never wanted to talk about it. Rex thought he could find the cemetery from where they were standing, so they got in the truck and headed that direction. The road had grown up with goldenrods. They slowly drove through, stopped the truck and looked over and saw the sign "Brooks Cemetery". Rex took his hat off, stuck it out the window and yelled "I'm coming Grandpa!, I told you I would come back!" He opened the door of that truck and started running as an 81 year old might run, with his bony arms a pumping, yelling, "I'm coming, Grandpa!, I'm coming!" Rex stood there telling his grandpa everything that had gone on in his life from the time he was a skinny 11 year old until that present day. His friend asked him if his grandpa was a christian man and Rex assured him that he was. This friend told Rex that if he would live like his grandpa had, he would see him again one day. When Rex was a young boy he had accepted Jesus, but like a lot of us, had wandered off the path. The beautiful thing is that Jesus never leaves us or forsakes us. After that visit to the cemetery, Rex found a church. He loved this cowboy church. He loved the people here. He fell in love with Jesus once again.

I believe with all my heart that when Rex took his last breath on this earth that Thursday morning, that his next breath going towards glory was shouting "I'm coming, Grandpa!, I'm coming!" I also believe that he was probably seeing his grandpa standing at the gate waiting for him. In the book "90 Minutes in Heaven" by Don Piper, Don said when he died and went to heaven that the people waiting for him at the gate were not just family members and friends, but that it was the ones who had made a spiritual impact on his life. The ones who had led him to the Lord and encouraged his walk with the Lord. So the question I must ask myself is not "Who will be waiting for me?", although I know who those will be, but "Who will I be waiting for?" Will I be called for "Gate Duty" once or twice, or will it be more often? The way to determine that is how I live my life right here and now. Who am I putting into spiritually? Forgive me Lord, when I think I'm too busy to encourage or be there for someone who needs me. I pray that I make people know they are so special. Put a servant's heart in me, because I can't help but think that Gate Duty would be so sweet. Oh so sweet.

When the service was over at the cemetery, the big bell chimed seven times. Complete. Perfect. Rex heard it. He said he would. He probably had just told Jesus that He really brightened up the place.

His step daughter got a rose off the casket and gave it to Michael. "He would want her to have it", she said. One final, beautiful rose. Thank you, Jesus, for giving us Rex. Thank you, Rex, for giving us Jesus.

It is Rexford Marion Brooks, for Whom the bell tolls.

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