Our small group leader died last night at the UCLA Westwood hospital. Basically, all of his blood vessels in his brain gave in and he was on a ventilator. He was brain-dead.
Let me tell you about Chuck and our small group. I joined our small group about a few months back ago, and really loved the dynamics of the group. I definitely felt that this group was a spiritual group who really valued prayer and the scriptures.There are about 9 of us in our group that meet every other Wed nights. I'm one of the youngest members of the group. The group ranges from 26-71 years of age; with most in their late 30s and early 40s. Chuck (71) was a very gentle and caring man who always showed a lot of concern for the group individually. He was like a father figure to us all. And his genuine care for his group was always very touching. I especially enjoyed our prayer time together. I truly felt safe in our small group and truly appreciated Chuck who was so loving. They helped me through the time when I was getting off all my medication and I was very scared. I remember praying to God frequently to find the right small group to help me grow, and he has answered that prayer ten-fold. I always felt blessed that God has placed me in this small group with such great people, especially Chuck. The group frequently prayed for one another. I knew that Chuck always prayed for each of us every week. He encouraged me to delve more into my prayer life. Chuck was such a Godly man, and we all loved him very much. He also had a great sense of humor as well. He always made us laugh with his antidotes and unwittingly funny commentary about things. I loved going to our small group on Wednesday nights.
Recently, Chuck had neck surgery because of terrible pain. We were praying for him often, and the surgery was successful. But then about a month ago, he was rushed to the hospital. But then he checked out a few days later because he was doing well. I gave him an edible arrangement fruit basket when he checked out, and our small group enjoyed the fruit basket in one of our meetings. Then a couple of weeks later, Chuck asked that I come about an hour earlier to help him cut up some fruit for the small group meeting that night. But by the time I got there, he had already cut up all the fruit. He had just wanted to go to one of his favorite restaurants in his neighborhood with me. We had a lovely meal of steak and sea bass.
I noticed he had a band-aid on his forehead and I asked him what had happened. That's when he told me about his fainting. Apparently, he's been fainting a lot in the past few months. He would faint at random times and fall to the floor. And when he would wake up, he would be disoriented. But luckily so far, he hadn't hit anything too sharp. He would just hit the floor. I became very concerned for him when he told me this, because he hadn't told any of us in the small group that he was fainting. He also told me that he had an ulcer that the doctors cauterized which was caused from all the pain medication he was taking from his neck pains. That night, I really wanted Chuck to tell all the small group members all of the medical problems he was having, and that it's not just his neck pains, but rather far more serious. He did. He shared with everyone his medical troubles. We all prayed for him.
That was about two weeks ago. Ever since then, he was on my mind a lot. I had this very strange ominous feeling of desperation that I needed to go to God immediately. Every time I did pray, I prayed for Chuck. I haven't fasted in over 8 years, but last week, I fasted for two days for Chuck and prayed for him every chance I had. I felt that his condition was very grave. I called him a lot too to see how his medical tests were going. The doctors told him to swallow a camera pill which was going to hopefully tell them where he was internally hemorrhaging which may have been causing all his fainting. I even told him to call me at work if anything happened. I was looking forward to the Wed night small group meeting this week to see how Chuck was doing. But then I got an email from Peggy(a small group member) that Chuck was in the hospital and dying. He had fainted again and hit his head on the floor, and this time at a mall. I got my stuff together and went to Bel Air Presbyterian to pray for Chuck. We needed a miracle. But when I got back home and checked my email and called Peggy, she said he was brain-dead and already with the Lord. God wanted Chuck to be with him right away.
I was very sad. But he's in a better place with the Lord. And I felt blessed that God chose me to be a part of his life in his last months. I learned so much and felt so loved by Chuck. He often said I was a blessing to the group even if I never felt that way. And at times when I would share, he would say, he felt the Lord's presence in our group. And he was always genuine when he said this. He was so encouraging and loving. I also felt privileged that I got to have a very lovely dinner with him last week. I also felt privileged to have fasted for him and prayed for him. The fasting and praying was for Chuck, but I think it did a lot for my spirit as well.
The only thing is I wished I had more time with Chuck here on earth. But I feel blessed for the short time we had here that God allowed me to experience. It was truly a gift from God.
Chuck, you were dearly loved. And I can't wait to see you again in heaven one day.
One of our small group members (Michael wrote this little message):
Chuck prepared to go about his day...perhaps feeling an unfamiliar sensation as the Holy Spirit’s arms began Their gentle wrap around his soul, His lips smiling knowingly as Chuck began his final ascent from this world to his reward, prepared for him by God from before he was placed in his mother’s womb...his legacy intact through all those he touched during his life, people at his church, customers at his barbershop, the members of his Bible study, everyone throughout this gentle man’s life.
And with open arms the Holy Spirit enveloped this man, so filled with longing, with resignation, with strength, our Wednesday leader, our Chuck...and, allowing him to not remember his last fall (just as God is so faithful to remember none of our falls), He began to lift Chuck to paradise. And just as he planned yesterday afternoon...Chuck’s wish came true.
“Dear Chuck...if you can sense these words in the Spirit right now...when you arrive in Heaven, will you please go to my mansion...and fluff up my pillows? For someday, we will all meet together with you in Paradise.”