The grace of God means something like:
Here is your life.
You might never have been,
but you are because the party wouldn’t have been complete without you.
Here is the world.
Beautiful and terrible things will happen.
Don’t be afraid.
I am with you.
– Frederick Buechner

This weekend is my family’s big get-together and campout weekend.
My 6 siblings and all their kids – even a few super cute babies – are together for a weekend.

My brother Chris keeps sending me these annoying little texts like “booked your flights yet?” and “you’re the only one not coming” and “don’t you know our mom has heart failure?”.
It’s out west and far away.
I would love to be there, along with everyone else.

The big pull is Chris.

So Chris is one of my big brothers.  A year older than me.
Husband to one of the kindest, smartest, funniest, gentlest women I know named Colleen.
Father to 5 interesting, funny, beautiful kids.
These kids will make you laugh – guaranteed!
Well liked and respected by the community as their pharmacist and fellow farmer.
The kind of guy you’d like to do business with and be neighbours with
and if he was drinking man, you’d want to crack open a cold one with.
A good guy with a big generous heart who likes to tell bad jokes.

I love this guy.

Even more so now.

You see, last summer he collapsed by the playground while he was picking up his kids from Bible camp.
One minute he’s shooting the breeze with the guys.
The next he’s on the ground.
No heart beat.
No breath.
Just basically dead.
For over an hour.

We were pretty sure we had lost him.
Colleen was pretty sure she was a widow.
The chances of surviving 5 minutes of that are small and almost non-existent after 12 to 15 minutes.  Certainly not without significant brain damage.

There was a round-robin of first-aiders who gave him their breath and physically made his heart beat while someone ran to town to get a defibrillator from the curling rink and someone called for an ambulance.

An old farmer took Colleen’s hands and said, with tears in his eyes,
“Just tell me what to do and I’ll do whatever you want.”

People prayed.
And watched.
Prayed some more.

On the ambulance ride to the local hospital, somehow Chris started breathing and beating again.
The rest of the family met him at the hospital.
My 80 year old father said,
“It should have been me.”

He was transferred immediately to the intensive care cardiac unit in Calgary.
That first night as he lay in hospital, he said to my brother Mark,
“I’m not afraid to go, but I’d sure like to stay.”

He slowly recovered that week.
Each day he got stronger and clearer.

The doctors had no explanations.
He’s a healthy guy.
It shouldn’t have happened.
He was gone for over an hour.
He shouldn’t have survived.

But the next Sunday, he was back at camp to pick up his kids.
I’m sure a few people had their eyes on him!

There’s so many beautiful, amazing things about his story that still choke me up.

I love it that before the grandparents and kids got back to the farm,
while everyone else was at the hospital,
supper was waiting on the door step
and the chickens had been fed.
And that was just the beginning of many acts of love that week.
Love wasn’t just words.
It was the church at its best and people at their best.

I love that Chris and Colleen just tell their story to friends and family.
People who know Jesus and people who had never said a prayer in their life.
A neighbour said he prayed for the first time because he had lost a parent as a child
and he sure didn’t want that for their kids.
A fellow pharmacist said he had never prayed before but he was going to start now.
A doctor friend asked the cardiologist “Was this a miracle or what happened to Chris?”
Everyone – regardless of their faith or lack of it – gets to be a witness to this amazing, scary story.

I love that events like this give us a chance to tell each other how much we love each other without it being gushy or weird.
My sister and I say things like that to each other but my brothers are all pretty tough guys.
We joke and tease and know we always have each other’s back –
but trust me, when I spoke to Chris for the first time in the hospital, both of us just cried.
I told him I loved him.
And now whenever I see him, the first words out of my mouth are “You’re alive!”
It’s not like he and Colleen were headed down the wrong road or chasing after the wrong things and God needed to get their attention – not at all. Their life has always been about living the way of Jesus.
But last summer reminded all of us all that loving God and loving each other is what really matters.
As Chris said, “Business is just business and life is short.”

Frederick Buchner is right – the beautiful and the terrible are so intertwined sometimes.
Life can be so good and also so heartbreaking.
But because of the grace of God, we do not have to be afraid.
He is with us.

He is with us – through the beautiful and the terrible.
He is with us.
Thanks be to God.

PS.   Chris just texted me.  He’s in the midst of the party but he assures me I’m not missing anything.  It’s just so-so and not a really great time.  I know he’s lying but it still made me happy.