Sunday, July 3, 2011

Apostle

Apostle: "...followers of Jesus who carried the Christian message into the world".
Robert Douglas MacArthur Parks born January 4th ,1945, died June 27th, 2011 was one of God's most little known but most glorious Apostles.

My brother has finished his work on this earth. We laid him to rest underneath the same cedar tree that shades my daddy and mama's graves. He is buried on the right hand side of our father and I believe he sits with Jesus on the right hand side of the Father in Heaven.

Some may have considered my brother a simple man: fooled by his simple life. But his life was not simple nor easy. He suffered countless physical injuries, emotional pain and failures. He fell many times but he always got back up. He did not stay down. He kept striving and did not give up. He fought Death and the Devil many times and won.

He finally lost this life to cancer, but won eternal life in Heaven.

I marvel at his faith. I have never known anyone to live his faith more fully than he did. He was a preacher but not all his sermons happened in church. His entire life was a sermon. No one had to ask if he was a Christian, they just had to watch him live his life to know.

He was humble. He didn't expect a big turnout for his funeral. But the people kept coming. They came to the visitation starting a 1 and the last one left at 10 that night. On the day of his funeral, they overflowed the chapel, sat in the entry hall and the living room of the funeral director. He left behind a grieving but loving widow, five children, eight grandchildren, one brother, two sisters and too many friends and relatives to count. He has left a large hole in a small town.

There were many tears and much laughter. And so much love. So much love. The room was filled with waves of love and caring for this man I called brother. I knew the depths of my own grief and saw it matched by the grief of our biological family, his church family, his community. I realized he had touched lives that most of us knew nothing about. Flowers came from people none of us knew with cards thanking God for Doug being there in their time of need. He went places none of us could have gone...

He raised two amazing children, his son a preacher and his daughter a teacher. Both of them touch lives daily, blessing all they come in contact with. He claimed his wife's children as his own. He never referred to them as "stepchildren"; they were the children of his heart. He loved them fiercely and proudly. He just loved people that way.

Many things happened this past week since he departed this earthly home. Things I will have to mull over before I can put words to paper. Things I need to hold close a little longer. Things that are still shrouded in mystery and tears: seeing old friends from childhood, listening to the stories of our family, realizing how blessed I am to have been born into the family I was born into. I noticed many details: the shape of someone's eyes, the color of hair, a laugh like my mother's, a great niece sobbing that sounded exactly like her mother at that age... intangible things that break my heart even as I rejoice in them. They are all in my heart and I am mulling them over, trying to find the words...

Some things became clear to me. Some were revelations that were comforting. I had felt guilty that I was not there when my brother passed. Until I realized that my sister who was there when he was born at home in a tiny house in the woods, one of the first to ever see him, was there when he left. It was only fitting and proper that she should witness his birth and death: for he loved his big sister and she loved him.

His children and wife were with him too. He was surrounded by love and prayers. What better way to leave this world?

On the morning of his death, unbeknownst to any but me and God, I prayed that my mama would be there to greet him when he crossed over. I felt a little foolish praying that. Until my sister told me that his last words before he died were "My Mama".  I knew that prayer had been answered.

God did not cure my brother of cancer, but I have no doubt whatsoever that he is healed. I know I will miss him as will all the family, but I would not want him to stay and suffer one moment longer.

My brother carried the word of God into a sometimes hostile, disbelieving world. He started churches and left them to others when it was time. He moved in a world of faith and prayer. He did not care what others thought, he only cared what God thought. He wanted to share the love of the Lord that he experienced with everyone he met. He wanted others to know the peace that passeth understanding. Peace in the midst of trouble and toil. Peace that overcame the pain of cancer. Peace that would not die when he did.

During the eulogy his son turned to us all and asked, "Can you feel the Peace?"

And yes, I could.

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