The hissing of the breathing machine was the only noise in the room. A single white tube pushed oxygen down his throat to keep his body alive, even if the word alive seemed like a lie. Nurses moved quickly in and out of the room like cars in city traffic.
His head was turned toward the window, but he could not see the stunning display of color and the majesty of fall. His eyes were closed, shut tight by crust and sedation. How could my 33-year-old nephew end up in this hospital fighting for his life?
I sat with him, and God began to teach me at his bedside that grace comes in simple moments of holy quietness.
Marcus was the only child of my oldest sister, Rebecca. When he was young, I wanted to help my sister because Marcus' father was infrequent in visiting him. I loved my nephew. I wanted to be there for him.
I took Marcus to his first professional baseball game, where he became addicted to the lovable and ever-losing Chicago Cubs. He had never been to Shedd Aquarium, filled with every conceivable fish on the planet. Once he saw the glass cases of marine life, he was lost in the beautiful world of dolphins, penguins, sea turtles, and sharks. He never forgot it. He saw the wonder of God's good creation in the confines of a place I took for granted. He taught me to notice God's beauty again. I'll never visit those two places without thinking about Marcus.
I watched a machine, blinking with red, yellow, and blue lights, signal to nurses that Marcus needed his urine bag emptied. As the nurse made the change, I thanked God for the moments I had with Marcus—even for this painful moment now. I praised Jesus for giving me him for those short years on the earth.
Every suffering can be blessed because it hollows out a place in us for God and his comfort, which is infinite joy.
Thank you, Lord, for Marcus! As I sat by his side, God restored the gift of wonder to me again. Without wonder, we begin to see the world without hope and joy. The entire business of Jesus welcoming children was to help us adults believe again that God has the whole world in his hands. God can still surprise us, can't he?
A bag of saline slowly dripped into Marcus's veins. The nurse adjusted the tube, searching it for possible kinks and knots.
I knew this would be the last time I would see Marcus in this world. I touched his swollen arm. I prayed that somehow God would allow Marcus to hear my prayer: "Oh, Jesus, take Marcus to be home with you. He knew you as his Savior and Lord. May he find you as the only lover of his soul. Bring him to the river of life, which is filled with every kind of fish. I pray that one day I will watch the fish with him. Amen."
One week later, Marcus was called home. Maybe the sound that met him in heaven was the voice of Master Jesus saying, "Well done, good and faithful servant. You have been faithful with a few things. . . . Come and share your master's happiness" (Matt. 25:23).