Those of you who have been with us for awhile may remember the account of our meeting for the first time Gerry and Elaine Udstuen in Central Park, New York City on May 14, 2010 (thanks to Frances, the great chronicler of our lives, for the precise date of the encounter!). We had a brief, but wonderful time of fellowship in the Lord on this, the only time we have ever seen Gerry and Elaine face to face. We just "happened" to end up in the same place at the same time in Central Park on that day, leading to our sharing together the common faith we hold in the Lord Jesus (Gerry was a retired pastor), and also hearing Gerry sing for the first and only time face to face - "I have a favorite hymn that's been on my heart lately. Would you mind if I sang a few verses?" We didn't mind, nor did I mind hearing Gerry sing in numerous phone calls over the last few years. If, by some chance, you find it strange to think of an 83 year old man singing to friends he'd just met, on a park bench in the heart of New York city (or on subsequent occasions over the phone), well, you just don't know Gerry. It was absolutely and perfectly appropriate, and sublimely beautiful.
Gerry and I shared email addresses and phone numbers that day. Better yet, we used them, staying in touch mostly in calls every few months. You may recall that not long after our meeting, Gerry and Elaine's daughter Amy was diagnosed with cancer. She went to be with the Lord in December, 2010, and I still hear the echoes of Gerry's affirmations of faith throughout the difficult journey. I also still hear his weeping as joy and sorrow resided concurrently in his heart, as it always does in God's trusting children in Christ during times of great trial. I wrote a song for Amy, and for Gerry and Elaine during the difficult time (we will include it on a CD we are working on and will distribute later in the fall). God's grace united with Gerry and Elaine's faith for inspiration, and I must confess that the first time I ever sang the song, it was to Gerry over the phone (following his example, of course). "Love hopeth all things" goes the refrain, "love believeth all things, and love will never end, this I see, this I see…").
I write these words with a profound sense of bittersweetness, and of the aforementioned concurrent joy and sorrow of the heart. I received a call from Elaine on Saturday, informing me that Gerry went to be with the Lord in August. Doctors diagnosed cancer several months before. The prognosis was not hopeful, and at 87, Gerry decided not to attempt the difficult process of cancer treatments. Elaine said that he lived the last few months of his earthly journey as he lived the rest of his life, trusting the Lord and honoring Him every step of the way. Not long before he passed into the Lord's direct presence, he told Elaine, "Tell Glen I'll be waiting for him." I'm sure you can imagine how I cherish those words, and even more, the prospect of the reunion to come.
Indeed, on that day, May 14, 2010, that blessed day, Gerry told Frances and I as we parted, "Well, I don't guess we'll see each other down here again." He smiled as he looked skyward and added, "But we will Up There." Yes we will, and I look forward to being with my brother again. Until then, I will miss the phone calls, the words of love, faith, and wisdom, and the songs (thankfully, Gerry sent me a tape several years ago that included his singing of favorite hymns). My brother was a unique and wonderful gift to me, one that came as an unexpected blessing, and whose holy influence will linger in my heart for the rest of my life. I know you will join me in praying for Elaine, and I encourage you to anticipate with great joy hearing Gerry sing in our future and Heavenly home. I can assure you it will be a wondrous blessing "Up There." Because it surely was "down here." Until then, my friend and brother...
"The Lord is my strength and my shield. My heart trusted in Him, and I am helped. Therefore, my heart greatly rejoiceth, with with my song will I praise Him."