Darkness. Confusion. A cloudiness in my soul. This is what I am experiencing on this Saturday morning in July. Today I read a report about a man who has been one of my mentors for the past several years; more of a sage really, a man who has shared his wisdom, wit and life with me and countless thousand others.
The report was not good. It’s a story of a valiant fight pitted against an enemy who has spent many years of relentless attacks against my friend and his family. Craig has spent this time fighting like the true warrior he is. Never giving up in the face of this battle and continuing to love his family well in the process.
While I only had one physical interaction with this man, (he literally pushed me out of the way to make his way towards the stage at an event, it was done in good humor too) in one of my darkest hours a simple two minute phone call from him changed the course of my feelings for this man irrevocably.
Ironically, I am listening to the Lord of the Rings soundtrack as I write this and the music playing now is the song after the death of Gandalf; which brings another level of sadness to my heart.
I won’t try to explain why this is happening to my friend and mentor, as I truthfully don’t know. I won’t cheapen his life by trying to use my finite mind to explain the why’s of this disease which has attacked him. I will say this, he has fought this thing with every fiber of his being, spiritually, mentally and physically and shared his successes and failures along the way. If nothing else, he has shown me how a true man of God fights alongside Jesus against terrible odds and wins.
You might be confused when I say he wins when he is now in the care of hospice. He wins because to quote Gandalf from the Return of the King;
Gandalf: “End? No, the journey doesn’t end here. Death is just another path, one that we all must take. The grey rain curtain of this world rolls back and all turns to silver glass and then you see it.”
Pippin: “What? Gandalf? See What?”
Gandalf: “White shores and beyond, a far green country under a swift sunrise.”
Pippin: “Well, that isn’t so bad.”
Gandalf: “No. No, it isn’t.”
And while I am saddened by this turn of events in my friend’s life I will not be sorry, for his journey is not ended, only his location will be changing. I will mourn his passing, though not for Craig, but because of the journey his family will soon be taking. Having walked this path myself; I know the Lord of Heaven and Earth will be right there beside them every step of the way.
Let me say this; thank you Craig McConnell for living and loving well in this life. You have inspired me more than you may ever know. I’m one of those who can honestly say I am a better man because of you. I love you brother and look forward to the day we can sit and laugh together on the other side.
Live well today men and love those around you fiercely.