On Saturday we say a temporary goodbye to an incredible man: our friend Norm. He and his wife and daughters have walked through the journey of ALS, also known as Lou Gehrig's disease, for the last two years with grace and patience. I sit on the sidelines and know, without doubt, I could never have had the strength Norman has exhibited. It is in that strength he has decided to let go of the machines that keep him alive and embrace the new, robust life waiting for him in heaven...in God's presence....whole and restored and rejoicing to see the Savior he has loved so dearly and served so well.
I won't even try to speak to the private moments and the long paths that led to this decision because I don't know them and I have no place there. I have merely been a spectator to an exquisite love story between Norman, Debra, and their girls, and my words could add absolutely nothing.
But what I would like to say is this:
Norm, the first time I saw you I didn't see you at all: I heard you - laughing. You always laughed, a big hearty light-up-your face laugh, and you made me, and everyone else, bust up right along with you. Even last night when we came to see you and try, somehow, to say good-bye, you made us belly laugh. How is that possible? Weren't we supposed to be somber and reflective? But, in typical form, you cracked a joke and we were off to the races. With only your eyes to affirm chosen letters and with your precious wife, Debra, to translate, you worked us.
When the girls called to say one of your dogs, Remi, was sick (and we all went through a laundry list of what he could have eaten), you spelled, "Maybe..Remi..ate..Nugget's..poop." (Nugget being another one of your dogs.) We laughed over that but Debra said she didn't think that was the problem. We could all tell she was worried, especially where your young daughters were concerned, about anything happening to their baby dog and causing them more sadness, so you lightened the mood even more. You indicated to Debra you had something else to add. "Maybe," you said, "Remi.....ate......Nugget." And then you lifted your eyebrows and rolled your eyes in that way that makes a person crack up even if you hadn't made a wisecrack. Debra repeated your words with a mock-scathing tone of incredulity and complete adoration, while Jamie and the kids and I burst out laughing. We couldn't help it and you didn't want us to.
It was plain to see, Norm, that you weren't filled with dread. You wanted to share joy with us, and hope, and even genuine merriment because that's how you lived and you eagerly anticipated where you were headed. You wanted us to see God's grace and, as always, to point us to Him. How could we see anything else when we considered who you were and how you lived your life?
It's not enough but I want to say thank you. I want to pay tribute in some small way to how you touched us. I'll miss you. We'll miss you. It's so very hard to say goodbye. However, we know without doubt, truly, we will all be together again. And knowing you and I, we'll be fighting for airspace on who can make 'em laugh the longest. You're gettin' a headstart and, with your delivery? I don't stand a chance.
See you there, Norm.