“Thank you, Jesus. Thank you, Jesus. Thank you, Jesus.” The whispered phrase, repeated like a Gregorian chant as John leaned back against the bathroom wall submitting to my husband’s lifting of one foot, then the other. The immediate goal, get him into a clean pair of pajamas and prevent him from collapsing on the floor. We would have done anything to keep him alive.

John Fawcett served as the worship leader of our church. His abundant gifting in music, prayer, and the ministry of healing brought people from all over the world into the presence of Jesus. The story of so many visiting our church is often the same. “I just cried the entire time, and I don’t know why.” One reason is the foundation of worship that John laid until his death on May 27, 2008.

His voice, his compositions, his back of the leg kick-ups while standing at the keyboard are more than memories, they hover and inhabit our imaginations and worship experience almost ten years later. Despite speaking multiple languages, blessing countless people with his connoisseur cooking extravaganzas, impromptu worship “benders” and overall zeal to live life passionately in the Spirit, his heart of gratitude still lingers and informs my life today.

How is it that a person covered in cancerous tumors can thank you for reading an Oswald Chambers devotional by his bedside, let alone engage in a challenging theological conversation around the changing fortunes of Job? Why did he crave Dilly Bars in his final days causing willing friends to make any time of day runs to Dairy Queen only to receive a gracious “God bless you” once the Dilly Bar was securely in hand? With less than a week to live, where did he find the strength to climb split level stairs to ask his wife if she needed any more help in the kitchen.

John was the first person I’ve seen die of cancer following a courageous four-year battle and decline. The adjective “courageous” is always used in sentences describing the departed after a long illness, but what made his fight courageous? Standing up to cancer with a beautiful, young wife and two young children is in and of itself a courageous act. No one knows if the treatments will work or if the many vigils of healing prayer will produce the desired result. The very act of continuing to seek the Lord when all seems lost is an act of valor. John chose worship and prayer as his exit. He led worship events in his home when he could barely muster the strength to walk, and then he thanked us all for coming.

Every life is endowed with the capacity to impact and reflect the life of the Creator “infinitely more than we could ask or imagine” (Eph, 3:20), and as we believe and live in that reality the Creator’s beauty extends. John’s profound expression of faith literally brought people to their knees, and he thrived in the reality of God’s power changing people’s lives throughout his short 46 years.

The more we open ourselves up in faith to what God wants to do in and through us, collaborating in the tending of his vineyard, the more our lives will transform and our gratitude increase. Some describe this as living the sacramental life, one in which we are keenly aware of the sacred, kingdom intersections of life on a moment by moment basis. John lived such a life, and the impact of his life was evident even to our 10-year-old son. At John’s funeral, he said, “There are some people who God wants to have back a little sooner because he misses them.”

Cancer isn’t selective. Even the most unlikely, fitness minded, microwave trashing, kale eating health nuts can get it. Sometimes I feel like donning sackcloth and ashes in the face of hearing another friend, relative, or neighbor just received the dreaded diagnosis. Instead of mourning prematurely, we can help. If you are ever presented with the opportunity to serve a dying person, take it. None of us know in advance how we are going to leave this world, and wouldn’t we all love to leave it gracefully, overflowing with gratitude? Giving ourselves in love and service to those taking their final breaths may provide some treasured life lessons in how we want to die and the legacy we want to leave behind.

“All this is for your benefit, so that the grace that is reaching more and more people may cause thanksgiving to overflow to the glory of God” 2 Corinthians 4:15.

Margaret Philbrick

Margaret Philbrick is an author, gardener and teacher who desires to plant seeds in hearts. Margaret has a B.A. in English Literature from Trinity University in San Antonio Tx.and a Masters in Teaching from National Louis University. She teaches writing and literature to children and teens at The Greenhouse School and H.S.U., both of which provide supplemental classical education to the home-school community. She is actively involved in the fulfillment of God’s vision at Church of the Resurrection and the Redbud Writers Guild where she serves on the board of both organizations. Her first book, Back to the Manger, is a holiday gift book she created with her mother, an oil painter. Her debut novel, A Minor, released to critical acclaim in 2014. You can find Margaret in her garden digging in the dirt or writing poetry and you can connect with her on-line via her website at: www.margaretphilbrick.com.
Margaret Philbrick

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