By: G. J. Fortier
Brothers and sisters, we do not want you to be uninformed about those who sleep in death, so that you do not grieve like the rest of mankind, who have no hope. For we believe that Jesus died and rose again, and so we believe that God will bring with Jesus those who have fallen asleep in Him. 1 Thessalonians 4:13-14 (NIV)
These words are heartfelt. While there have been Christian men in my life—whom I will not attempt to list here, simply because I will forget one or more of them—who have passed through the years, I haven’t chosen to write about them, and I have no plans to write about others who may pass in the future.
I mean no disrespect.
I debated internally about what the title of this article should be. I chose In memoriam solely for selfish reasons. I chose it for me, because I cannot help but be solemn as I write this. What I could have titled it is:
Last evening (January 21, 2020), I learned that a friend—and it is a privilege that I can call him that—passed away from this life. I say ‘from this life’ because Ansel was a Godly man, a Christian man, a true lover and follower of Jesus Christ. So, as it says in the verses above, I believe that he now resides in the glory filled presence of our Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ, and His Father, in Heaven.
And he doesn’t want to come back.
I don’t remember when I met Ansel Peck. It may have been on a Wednesday night at Halftime. It might have been at the Friday morning Prayer Breakfast. It may have even been at the hospital where I spend my days, running the valet service. The setting didn’t matter, because he was the same man wherever he was. He always had a smile, some words of encouragement, a warm embrace, or simply a prayer for me, and Lord knows, I needed them. He was that way with everyone, and I do mean everyone.
He cared, like few men do. He cared about the community, often not only being at city council meetings, but being vocal at those meetings … like few men are. It was said that each year he visited every school in Houston county, speaking to the principals about the welfare of our children … like few men do. He was a staple at civic events; groundbreaking ceremonies, dedications and other public happenings, not because he enjoyed the limelight or any other selfish reason … unlike so many. And he was at the hospitals, visiting those who were in pain, those who were in fear, or those who just needed a friend when they may have felt completely alone. He was there reminding them that, not only did he care about them, but that God had not, and would never forget them. He did these things, and many, many more because he embodied the Christian spirit, and wished only that others might learn from his selfless example so that they could become the light of Christ for the people in their lives. He loved his community, he loved its people, and he wanted to do something about it … like so few men do.
Blessed are those who mourn, for they will be comforted. Matthew 5:4 (NIV)
Praise be to the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of compassion and the God of all comfort, who comforts us in all our troubles, so that we can comfort those in any trouble with the comfort we ourselves receive from God. 2 Corinthians 1:3-4 (NIV)
I don’t remember when or why—there may not have even been a reason—he started calling me Uncle Gerry, and I took to calling him nephew. We both knew that it was silly, as he was several years my senior, but it was something that we shared and, especially now, I cherish, because he was a man that I wanted to be like.
Some of you may have similar memories of him, but that one … that one’s mine.
I wanted to be a person that people look forward to seeing, because of my love for the Lord and the effect I have on them in His name. Sadly, I fear that I will never live up to the spirit that was Ansel. My last memory of him will be of his willingness to interject himself into a rift that I am suffering between myself and my son. Ansel loved us enough to try to build a bridge between us. I will remember that, always.
What we know, in our hearts as followers of Jesus, is that when death comes for our corporeal bodies, these shells that convey our souls through this life, it will not be the end. We will ascend into the kingdom of Heaven and be with God in paradise, forever. Some of you may remember, as I sometimes do, what it felt like before we had this knowledge. The utter emptiness of simply winking out of existence, with no hope for ourselves, and none to comfort our loved ones with. This is why it is so important, so essential for us as His servants, to prepare ourselves by studying His Word so that we can be a comfort to anyone who is willing to listen to the Good News! But we should never look at this as a responsibility, a duty that we must be obedient to. We should see it as a pleasure, as a way of showing our love for Jesus!
That’s the way I believe Ansel saw it.
Someone once asked me why I think as much about what Heaven will be like as I do. I illustrated it to them this way:
My life in this world can be measured in terms of inches. My life in eternity, in the presence of the glory of God and His son, Jesus, will last as long as the east is distant from the west.
Until we meet again, I love you my friend.
Today is the day. Now is the time. The battle is on!
If my people, who are called by my name, will humble themselves and pray and seek my face and turn from their wicked ways, then I will hear from Heaven and will forgive their sin and will heal their land. 2 Chronicles 7:14 (NIV)
G. J. Fortier is a member of IronMen Ministries and of First Baptist Church, Centerville, Georgia. Look for his Christian Military thriller, Mirrored Man: The Rob Tyler Chronicles, Book 1 and Reflections of the Mirrored Man: The Rob Tyler Chronicles book 2 on Amazon for Kindle and paperback. Or visit his website at www.gerardfortier.com.