I’ve been in a bit of a knitting frenzy lately. Not that I don’t have other things to do (it’s actually a very busy time, getting ready for the Hope Christmas Market) but it’s knitting that I’m drawn to. It’s an activity that I sneak in throughout the day and reward myself with when other work is completed. You see, my older brother, Jonathan, passed away a month ago (October 12th to be exact). I’m finding myself on a journey that I’ve never been on before and not really sure how to navigate. My family and I are all affected in different ways by Jonathan’s passing and I’m realizing how significant the life of one person is.
On May 31st of this year, our family’s life was turned upside down as we learned, through emergency surgery, that Jonathan had inoperable stage four colon cancer. He was 43 years old with a wife and three young daughters at home. He also had four classes left in completing his RN degree from the Mayo Clinic in Rochester, MN.
Jonathan and I were on good terms but over the years, because of distance and the crowding in of everyday commitments, we would sometimes allow too much time to elapse between visits. This all changed last May. Perspectives change when you live in the shadow of death. I spent much time over those last 4 1/2 months travelling back and forth to MN. My time and conversations with Jonathan this past summer are so precious to me and I find myself thinking about them often.
Jonathan had a strong desire to make things right and we cleared up a few things that should have been said years ago. We also began to freely express affection, which was a change from our stoic Norwegian background. Jonathan was quick to say “I love you” and give hugs.
One other notable change was Jonathan’s faith. He was always a believer (at least as long as I could remember) but now scripture was a true lifeline for him. He craved it. Our visits together were filled with reading the Bible and prayer. He vacillated between the hope of God’s ability to heal him, truly believing that He would, and with the excitement of meeting Jesus face to face.
Jonathan’s true passion in this life was carpentry. He loved to build houses. This was the way God designed him as was evident from an early age when he would build elaborate forts in the back yard. With the decline in the economy, he decided to change careers and chose to pursue a nursing degree. But it was always carpentry, and custom home building in particular, that would get him truly excited. Jonathan experienced a low point, emotionally, in the hospital and he found himself crying out to God asking Him “Why?”. At that point, Jonathan shared with me later, God gave him a vision. Jonathan said, God reminded him of all the houses, renovations and additions that he had done for his family here on earth. Jonathan said that God then told him, “I have mansions for you to build for your family here. I have work for you to do here”. This brought Jonathan tremendous peace and helped him endure the suffering of those last few weeks and months.
During this journey with Jonathan, I found that my love of reading disappeared. I just couldn’t get myself to concentrate on the written word. I did, however, find that I needed something to fill my time and knitting became the perfect thing. I would even bring it to the hospital with me when I visited with Jonathan. The repetition of the stitches and feel of the wool was and is comforting to me. I can accomplish something on a small scale even while one part of my life seems to be unravelling. The process of knitting also accompanies the meditations of scripture well. God’s word was Jonathan’s comfort during his last few months with us here on earth and I’ll close with one of his favorite passages:
“Do not be anxious about anything, but in everything, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God. And the peace of God, which transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.” Philippians 4:6&7
May you also find comfort in the work of your hands and in the God of peace.