Today my mom called me on the phone, in the middle of my usual Thursday craziness - juggling transportation plans for youth night, giving my home aid instructions for my laundry, getting ready for a meeting - to tell me that Charlie had passed away. She was definitely emotional about it, and I could imagine that Kevan and my dad were too - he was a dear family friend, but I just blinked, not able to absorb the news at all. When I got off the phone, I felt weird, like I should cry or cancel my meeting or something, but I just mechanically checked my email and straightened my glasses on my nose.
After my home aid left, I bundled up and decided to go for a walk. I rode down the alley for two blocks, then came back on the sidewalk, the tears in my eyes caused only by the cold wind blowing in my face. "Charlie's gone... he's passed... he's dead..." I tried telling myself, but it wouldn't stick. I've only known Charlie as a very old man with a very young spirit. Kevan once said he is like Caleb in Joshua 14, taking possession of new land and powerfully fighting the enemy. Clear-minded and sharp, adventurous and feisty, determined and driven, Charlie has seemed sort of immortal to me. At least, I thought he would out-live me. I visited him in his home in Charleston in 2009, and have been looking forward to another visit soon. The thought of not seeing him again on this earth has never occurred to me. So I couldn't mourn, because it just doesn't seem real. Charlie is more full of life than most people I've met.
Tonight when I got home, it finally set in. I thought of all the scribbled letters I've received from him, and more recently the emails. I re-read some emails we've shared in the past year. This is an excerpt from one of the last notes I received from him:
Connie, when your life continues to be firmly rooted in our Lord Jesus, then things work. You say that you do not know what your story will be like in the end. The secret to that question fits into two scriptures:
Phil.4:12b.(NIV) I have learned the secret to be content in any and every situation . And Col: 3:23 & 24.Whatsoever you do, work at it with all your heart as working for the Lord, not for men, for you know your reward comes from the Lord not men. So Connie, seek to please only your Lord, for that is a winner.
Charlie always signed off his notes with the phrase, "To Him Who is Our Life." It is a reflection of how much his life was focused on Jesus - giving glory to Him, pointing others to Him. Even whenever he was bedridden in the hospital, he was inviting his visitors to sit and listen to stories of Jesus and his amazing work in the life of an old man named Charles Luce. Maybe that's why it doesn't feel like he is dead - because Jesus is completely and thoroughly his life, and He is eternal and His love will continue on...