His name is Jason.
He’s in his late thirties.
He has just weeks to live.
His body is riddled with cancer,
But his heart abounds with hope.
We had the privilege of meeting him as we were anxiously packing up Jim’s hospital room to head out to yet another scan. Cataloging a litany of appointment dates & times, scans, blood-work, diagnostic tests, and clinical abbreviations — the hospital rooms are where we “huddle-up” as a family to call the next play and plan the next move now that the cancer’s back, aggressive, and starting to spread.
Jason graciously entered our world after Jim had endured a very difficult night, and was having trouble keeping food and water down due to some medication. And as the nurse reviewed his final release instructions, Jim interrupted her “Wait a minute, I want to give away the flowers.”
He does this.
Every time he leaves the hospital, he gives another patient the flowers that have been sent to him so they can enjoy them too. I’m surprised he remembered the whole flower thing because he’s so drained and feels so sick.
The nurse responded, “I know the perfect person.”
With flowers in hand instead of a football, number 12 is wheeled down the hall and around the corner into Jason’s room. This complete stranger that will soon dominate our conversation for days to come is shocked and ecstatic to see Jim Kelly in his room. The nurses and everyone else in the room can’t help but feed off of the contagious joy radiating from this man. You would never know he had just weeks to live. He celebrates every heartbeat and acts more alive than most people who enjoy perfect health.
We take a few photos, say our goodbyes, and then Jim gets back into his wheelchair. Before we head out the door, however, we’re interrupted as Jason says, “Jim, can I pray for you?”
A beautiful, overwhelming silence wrapped itself around us followed by one of the most precious and moving prayers I have ever experienced.
I wish I could remember everything Jason said to God. I wish I could adequately explain what it was like to have a young man dying of cancer, given weeks to live — a mere handful of heartbeats… pray for my husband, the man who means the most to me in all the world, who’s fighting for his life because of the same dreadful disease.
I wish you were there because I know you’d be in awe of God as I am right now trying my best to share this with you.
As soon as Jason stopped praying, Jim looked up at him moved by compassion, laid his hand on Jason’s shoulder and began to pray.
After Jim stopped praying, we all just kind of stood there, awestruck.
As we left Jason’s room and made our way to the elevator, his joy went with us. Little was said because we could feel the hope and joy he shared from the depths of his soul take root in the depths of ours — words would’ve fallen so short…
And in a way they still do.
Jason, the one who might not see the sunrise next week, radiated such joy and lived in the light of eternity so profoundly, that the soft glow and promise of the world to come cast its warmth across our souls. It was as if the Son walked into the hospital room to give us a glimpse of what it’s like to suffer well, praise Him in the storm, and walk by faith and not by sight. It gave a whole new meaning to the biblical expression, “living word.”
There’s even more to this incredible story…
We invited our pastor over to pray with Jim today. After some small talk and an update on everything that has transpired over the last few weeks we were ready to pray. The doorbell interrupted us and I jumped up to get it. The house was starting to fill up as the Kelly brothers made their way over one by one, as well as friends and teammates.
Peter John, a long time, close friend of Jim’s, was at the door. We exchanged greetings, made the necessary introductions, and then prepared to go back to prayer. Before Pastor Jerry began, however, he said. “Before we pray, I’d like to tell you something that I think will encourage you,” upon which he recounted how before he came to our house he had had a meeting with another pastor in the area. During that meeting the pastor shared with Jerry how he had visited a young man, a member of his church in the hospital the day before. Jerry went on to explain how this young man was in his late thirties and dying of cancer.
As Pastor Jerry continued to share the story his pastor friend had recounted, I knew it was Jason. And it was. If you know me at all, this is the point when I start freaking out, ready to jump out of my skin. I could hardly contain the joy!
And it gets even better…
We invited Jim’s brothers and friends to join us for prayer. After an amazing time of coming boldly before God’s throne of grace to find help in our time of need, we decided to share all the details about the incredible way in which God had woven our lives together with Jason’s. Amazingly, as Pastor Jerry started talking about what Jason’s pastor had shared with him, mid-sentence Jim interrupted and said, “Wait a minute, Peter John, we gave Jason the flowers you sent us.” To which Peter John responded with a look of awe on his face, “You’ve got to be kidding me.”
And in all these things God works for the good of those who love Him… You can literally trace the hand of God weaving these destinies together to craft a beautiful tapestry of His glory throughout this incredible story. Those few moments in time where His grace, love, mercy, compassion, and tenderness were tangible — felt by those who were there and now can be shared by all who hear this remarkable story. Through the joy of a dying man, yet another warrior fighting the battle is given hope, and is blessed beyond measure. From a friend moved to send flowers during his buddy’s time of great need, to the prayer of two saints both seeking the heart of their Savior we see the loving, strong, sovereign hand of their God at work. In the midst of suffering we find a contagious joy and shared hope that causes both men, to not just endure this trial they have been entrusted with…But to triumph through it, to the glory of the God who loves them and gave Himself for them.