(I leave for Haiti this Thursday morning. One year ago today, I was in that country when we lost my friend Jeremy to brain cancer. He was one of the greatest friends I’ll ever know. I still miss him like crazy and think of him often. I’ve had a lot of frustrations with my Dallas Cowboys I need to share with him and lots of ideas and hopes for our Cubbies in the next couple of seasons that we need to talk about. I miss not being able to shoot him a text or give him a call or go play a round of golf together. I’m still sad he’s gone, but I’m so thankful for the friendship we had and the incredibly fun memories we have together.Jeremy was definitely one of a kind. When I got home from Haiti last year, I wrote about my experience on the morning I found out he had died. It was an life-changing moment, and I want to honor and remember my friend by reposting it today.)
February 29, 2012
I returned home from an incredible trip to Haiti late last night. I’m not really going to blog much about that trip here. You can read about our adventures at www.hatshaiti.org where I provided daily updates about all our fun. It was a really wonderful trip – Haiti is a beautiful broken country full of beautiful broken people. I’m in love with the place.
But it was a trip I took with a very heavy heart. I left early last Thursday morning, knowing that Jeremy, one of my very best friends, a guy I’d known most of my life, was losing his battle with brain cancer. I was able to say my goodbye before I left. It looked like he wasn’t going to live past the weekend. I grieved before I left as best I could, not knowing what the future days held. God was faithful and gave me the strength, joy and energy to be able to love on a bunch of amazing kids at the orphanage. But still, it was tough. But I made it through. I was able to laugh and play and pray and forget the worries back home for chunks at a time. But still…
Jeremy died on Sunday night. I was sleeping alone in the dark in a little bunkhouse at the Comfort home. The Comforts are a couple raising 13 kids, 12 of whom were born with AIDS/HIV. The 13th has other major medical complications (http://ilovehaiticomfort.blogspot.com/ ) I had spent a crazy week with them on a trip to Haiti last year, so Ray Comfort came by the HATS orphanage where we stayed to bring me to his place for a 24 hour visit with the family. I woke up Monday morning not knowing what was going on back home. The Comforts have a computer with a satellite hookup, so mid-morning I was able to sneak away from the hours of carrying kids around, blowing bubbles, spinning in circles, and doing magic tricks to log on and check my messages. And there it was. The message I’ve been dreading for 3 months. My wife wrote to tell me Jeremy had died.
As much as I had prepared for it, as much as I was at peace knowing that Jeremy was no longer in pain, as much as I was relieved that this long nightmare was over, I hurt. I was sad. I was broken. I was angry. And I was standing in the middle of chaos. 13 orphans in the middle of a little room trying to play with the stuff I had brought them. Starving for my attention. Wanting to play. To read. To laugh. To blow more bubbles. I just wanted to weep, to grieve, to get away. But I couldn’t. All I could do was sit on the concrete floor, covered in dust and children. Little Marissa came and sat on my lap. I watched the kids play, in a daze.
Then something remarkable happened. Little Rosy came over to me and sat in the part of my lap unoccupied by Marissa. Rosy is short for Rosemond, but everyone calls him Rosy. He’s 8 years old, and he is a walking, talking miracle. The Comforts got him at age 3. He had suffered from severe malnutrition, pneumonia, tuberculosis, scabies, AIDS, and various skin ulcerations and infections when he was rescued from the streets. He didn’t speak and was unable to walk or crawl. Instead, he scooted around on the floor, pushing himself with his left leg. He weighed 18 pounds. He is still several years behind in motor skills, but is walking well and speaking well and understands both Creole and English. He’s quiet and keeps to himself, for the most part. He often likes to sit with me and play with my watch, pluck my leg hairs, and poke at the mole on my neck. Doesn’t talk to me much. I always wonder what goes on in that brain of his. But things seem like they’re growing clearer now. He seems happier. He smiles and interacts with the kids more than he did a year ago. My prayer for him has been that he’d hear God’s voice and understand it clearly.
He sat in my lap and looked at me with compassion. He put his arm around me and laid his head on my shoulder, as if he knew. He then gently moved toward me, and did something he’d never done before.
He gave me a kiss on the cheek.
He laid his head back on my shoulder. I looked down at him.
“Thanks Rosy. You knew I needed that, didn’t you?”
He just smiled that crooked little grin of his and gazed at me with knowing eyes, one of which drifts off to the side. He has a lazy eye, like me. And I knew that he knew. He knew what I needed in the midst of the chaos, the sorrow. It’s as if God reached down from the heavens and, through that little boy, gave me what I needed. A kiss from the Lord. A touch. Compassion. Comfort. I needed the Peace that says “it’s all going to be ok, whether you understand it or not. I AM with you, Brooks.”
In the midst of it all, I found Jesus in the dirt on Monday morning. Through the touch of a remarkable, broken little boy. The kind of goofy little underdog that Jeremy Lavake would have loved and bonded with so easily if the two had ever met.
I still have lots of questions. Questions about life and death. About the unfairness of it all. Poverty. Sickness. AIDS. Brain cancer. It doesn’t make much sense to me. But I know this. God is real. And He is good.
And that’s never been more clear to me than it was on the floor Monday morning. For that I’m thankful.