Our neighbor is dying.
The clan we grew up next door to, these wonderful people, they are losing their patriarch. Uncle Dennis has been sick for a while, but he’s worse and not getting better. People are gathering and giving their love and saying goodbye but maybe more like just saying “thank you.”
That’s what I did last night when I went over for the second time since Easter. Easter Sunday my little brother Zach and I (along with Ethan) walked over to see Uncle Dennis and Aunt Harriet. They are the closest thing to Uncle and Aunt you can be without being actual blood. Actually, yesterday when I went back over with my sister Jojo, I told a few of the kids “we’re like relatives. I mean, we’re the relatives you’d have if you had room for more relatives.”
But you saw that picture. They don’t have room for more.
And yet, they make room for more. Each one of these people has the capacity to love, to expand and make room in a way that inspires me and humbles me. I go into the room, to the space in their home where Uncle Dennis is in the bed surrounded by children and grandchildren and other close neighbors, and they announce us like we’re royalty. “Look who’s here Daddy!,” they say. This, this is what makes me want to be a better person — to know people who even in their darkest hour, they remind me it doesn’t have to be so dark. They put others first, in a way that makes you feel loved and special.
We go into the room, me and Zach. Of the McBride’s ten children, I’m closer to the oldest five, Zach to the youngest. We are greeted and welcomed and loved. They usher us in, closer to Uncle Dennis. I’m given the chance not just to look on all the kisses being showered upon him, but to get right up next to the bed and kiss him myself. I get to thank him for being a wonderful neighbor — I have known this man since I was four — and I get to thank him for being like a brother to my dad, one of the many brothers my dad never had who he found here in community living. Dennis and Harriett are two of my parents’ closest friends and watching this new chapter in their life, the chapter of saying goodbye, for now, is hard. If feels like growing up.
The other thing about Uncle Dennis is that for the longest time, he was the overall leader of our community. He was sold out one hundred percent to living community life and he clearly understood the importance of these kinds of new movements in the life of the church.
I thanked him for that, too. I leaned over the bed and kissed his face and told him thank you for the life he helped provide for my family. Because I know that the depth and strength that my own family enjoys is in no small part due to the healing and love we have all received living in this place filled with people who love us right back, warts and all.
Uncle Dennis has a vision and love for community life that has helped build something that is changing the face of the church. Really, it is.
Small groups within the church are bringing the church to life. It’s people coming together in the same way a religious order would, and having the unity and love for Jesus that makes the church stronger. Dennis has loved community life, and his love for this life — his willingness to be sold out for Jesus — has made my life so much richer.
Please join me in praying for this family, for peace and continued grace. When I went up yesterday with Jojo, I was partially motivated by selfish reasons. There is so much grace in that room, so much beauty in the freedom that this grace brings. It’s watching a very good man near the finish line and realizing the great mystery of living what we say we believe. He is headed home. We all are.
There is so much freedom and joy in store for us all.