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Thursday, May 9, 2019

Dormal Newberry

Dormal Newberry died on Resurrection Sunday this year. It was a fitting day for a man to die who lived for Jesus. I visited him and his wife, Cathy, two days before he died. It was Good Friday. Hospice had delivered his bed to their apartment a few hours earlier.

He looked weaker than I’d ever seen him, but there was nothing weak about his love for the Lord.

I knelt at the side of his bed and asked, “How does it feel to know you’re dying, Dormal?”

We’d known each other for the two or three years I’d been teaching Bible studies and preaching Sunday sermons at the 55+ community where he and Cathy lived. I will never forget the night he stood with me eight months earlier when my mom died of a brain aneurysm. She lived at Ashwood Meadows, also.

Weakened by his own recurring illnesses, Dormal could hardly stand erect in the hallway outside her apartment. His shoulders hunched forward as he held tightly to his walker. He put his hand on my shoulder as I wept and spoke softly to me, encouraging me.

And now, here he was lying on a hospice bed down the hall and around the corner from mom’s old apartment.

“How does it feel to know you’re dying, Dormal?”

He looked straight into my eyes and shrugged. “I’m ready to go,” he said simply, and confidently. And he had every reason to be confident. Decades ago, Dormal committed his life to Jesus. He confessed his sins to the Savior and had made it a habit to routinely do so. It’s called ‘keeping short accounts’ with God – to not let sins pile up before bringing them in repentance to Christ.

Cathy told me later that for the last two days of his life, Dormal made a point to ask everyone who visited him about their relationship with the Savior.

“Do you know you’re saved?” he’d ask. “Do you know your sins are forgiven?” he’d ask.

“Dormal, would you like me to read Scripture to you?”

He nodded his head and smiled. “The one about the second coming.”

I opened his Bible to 1 Thessalonians 4 and began at the 13th verse:

“But we do not want you to be uninformed, brethren, about those who are asleep, so that you will not grieve as do the rest who have no hope. For if we believe that Jesus died and rose again, even so God will bring with Him those who have fallen asleep in Jesus. For this we say to you by the word of the Lord, that we who are alive and remain until the coming of the Lord, will not precede those who have fallen asleep. For the Lord Himself will descend from heaven with a shout, with the voice of the archangel and with the trumpet of God, and the dead in Christ will rise first. Then we who are alive and remain will be caught up together with them in the clouds to meet the Lord in the air, and so we shall always be with the Lord. Therefore comfort one another with these words."

I closed the Bible and looked at him. He seemed to see something far away. I waited a few moments and then said, “Dormal, will you do me a favor?”

“If I can, sure,” he said, his gaze returning from a distant place.

“When you get to heaven, I know you’ll be spending a lot of time just being with Jesus . . . but after a while, would you do me a favor and look for my mom – and tell her I said, ‘Hi’?”

Dormal rolled from his right side onto his back and laughed out loud. “Sure,” he said, still chuckling. “I’ll tell her that.”

I already miss my older brother in Christ. And Ashwood Meadows is poorer because of his absence. But even though those of us who know Jesus still grieve our loss, we do not grieve as those who have no reason – as Dormal had good reason – to hope for eternal life. One day – whether soon or late – “the Lord will descend from heaven with a shout” – and we who love Christ will be going home.

Dormal will be waiting for us. As will my mom. And all those who have lived their lives for the Savior.

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