Tuesday, October 13, 2009

Waking Up In Heaven

This has been a week of unexpected sorrow and yet of joyful rememberance. I lost two friends this week. Two men who each made an amazing mark on the earth while they were here. Two men who seemingly left us much too soon, for by my measure they were still young.
Frank Hollick was absolutely the life of any party. A big guy with twinkling eyes and a quick, booming laugh, Frank was loud and fun and absolutely everyone's "go to" guy if you needed anything done. I met Frank and Vicki Hollick when my son Jordan was in kindergarten with their oldest son, Greg. Jordan and Greg were friends from kindergarten all the way until they graduated from Santiago High School in 2003. It was Greg's younger brother, Ian, who really connected Frank with our family because Jordan and Ian played baseball together from the time Jordan was in the 8th grade through his high school graduation. Frank coached, along with my husband Mark, Jordan's travel ball team. Man, Frank loved baseball just like he loved everything else in his life. "Moderation" was not in his vocabulary when it came to doing whatever it took to help his kids succeed. And by, "His Kids", I mean anyone who was on the team whether their last name was "Hollick" or not. Frank was responsible for getting the brick team room built at Santiago for the varsity baseball team, he worked the booster events whether Bingo or cooking burgers at a tournament - always the first one there and the last one to leave. He loved to tease me about doing a musical together. Apparently Frank played "Frank Butler" from Annie Get Your Gun when he was in high school and he always told me he was going to audition for a role in one of our community theater productions so we could perform together. His heart was enormous. He loved his wife, Vicki and his incredible children: Greg, Ian, Natalie and Adam. He loved his work buddies and employees, his neighbors, his church community and anyone and everyone who crossed his path, especially in regards to his kids' wide ranging activities: Greg's soccer, Ian's baseball, Adam's football, Natalie's athletics and choirs. I can't figure out when he ever slept. He was like a superhero.
On Thursday, October 1, Frank was up at their cabin in Crestline, doing some renovations. Frank had worked in construction for his whole adult life. I can't begin to guess how many times in his life he had scaled a ladder and stood on a scaffolding. But on this day, something happened and Frank fell. He was airlifted by a Mercy helicopter to the hospital but there was nothing they could do. Frank was gone.

I met John Aeby in 1975 during the short time I lived in Eugene, Oregon. John's wife, Clarice, and I became fast friends and to this day, I count her as one of my dearest, sweetest friends. John was the most gentle, kind man I could ever imagine. Always soft spoken, he seemed at first desperately shy but as I grew to know and love him, I realized he was simply at peace with himself and didn't need to ever be the center of things. A deep thinker, I could ask John some ponderous question and I can still see him cock his head to one side, allow a smile to light up his eyes and then he would give the best possible answer. I took devilish delight in trying to make John "crack up". Really. I viewed it as a personal victory if I could make John laugh long and loudly. I was often successful.
For the past 30 years John has worked at Holt International, the largest adoption agency in the world. According to their website, Holt has helped 40,000 children from all over the world find loving homes. When I talked with Clarice just last night she told me that John's "fingerprints" are still all over the place: He wrote and edited their monthly magazine, took the photographs and the videos that are used in all of their outreach and publicity materials. John traveled all over the world with families to help smooth the path of placement for those families. He loved his work.
John also loved being outside, riding his bicylce. He really loved riding his bicycle. It took him to beautiful, quiet places in Oregon where he could sit in peace, soaking in the creation around him. Even more than his work and riding his bike, John loved Clarice and their three children: Erica, Ryan and Renee. When Ryan and Renee each got married and started their own families, John's heart expanded to his "in law" kids and his four grandkids. But even more than his wife and children, his job and his bike, John Aeby loved his Lord and Savior. Everything John did was motivated by his deep love for Jesus.
On Saturday, September 12 John set off on a nearly 500 mile, week long bike ride. It is an annual event called Cycle Oregon and there were 2,000 riders participating. Clarice told me that John had participated several other times and really loved this adventure. This year's ride started in Medford in southern Oregon and actually travelled down into Northern California and back. On the 6th day of the ride, September 17th, the bikers were given the option to spend the day lounging in Grants Pass in their campground or taking a short 43 mile ride. One of John's riding companions peeked into John's tent at 6:00 AM and saw he was sleeping. At 6:00 PM that night, the companions realized John had never come out of his tent the entire day. It was then they discovered that John had died in his sleep sometime during the night.
Frank was only 52 and John was only 59. On the surface, those two men could not have been any different if they had tried: Frank was loud and boisterous and John was soft spoken and tender. But when you look deeper, you find two men who were very much the same: They both had incredible servant hearts: either of them would do anything to help a friend or help a stranger. They had incredible work ethic: doing everything to the best of their abilities and then a bit more. They were devoted husbands and adored their wives. They were incredible fathers who raised remarkable children. All seven of these children call themsleves blessed to be the child of Frank Hollick and John Aeby. They were loved by their peers.
At Frank's memorial service, Greg, Frank's oldest child, spoke so beautifully and he brought up the question everyone was asking, "Why?" Why would God take Frank now, so suddenly and without any warning? The same could be asked for John. These were 2 REALLY good men in their best years. Psalms 139: 16 tells us that God knew us before we were even formed in our mothers' womb and that, before we were even born, God had ordained the number of days we would live. So while we may never know this side of heaven the answer to the "why", we do know that God knew. God knew it was time for these men to come home. He ordained the time and place. He didn't ask our permission (not one of us would have said, "Ok, God, sure thing"... or at lease that would not have been our initial gut response). But one of the last lessons we can learn from John and from Frank is this: Be ready. We don't know when our numbered days will end. Set your heart right before God. If you have never asked Him into your heart to be your Lord and Savior, don't wait another day, another minute. Star living your life in a way that honors God. Beside the fact that you will experience incredible joy and satisfaction for the rest of your life as His child, you just don't know if you are going to go to bed and wake up in Heaven.