“You are from dust and to dust you shall return,” Pastor Ruth says as she dips her thumb in the ashes and makes the sign of the cross on my forehead. Soon we will be scattering my nephew Lee’s ashes.
He was thirty-three years old and died from another overdose. This time fentanyl. Like the rich young man who asked Jesus what he should do to earn eternal life, Lee couldn’t give up what he needed to survive. He wanted to. He tried. Four times in rehab. Other times on his own. It was impossible for him.
Scripture says Jesus looked at the rich man and loved him. I know that Jesus looked at Lee and loved him too. Then Jesus did the impossible for him. He gave him what no one can earn anyway: an eternal life of love.
Lee was not alone when he died. Someone called 911. They tried to revive him but were unsuccessful.
Jesus was there too. Holding him. Looking at him with love. What did Jesus see?
I wonder if, in the moment of Lee’s death, his life flashed before Jesus’ eyes. Jesus would have recalled how Lee always gave to anyone who begged, even if he only had a couple of dollars. Did Jesus laugh when he remembered how Lee and my grandson would goof around pretending to be apes?
Lee had a T-shirt with a typewriter on it that said: “text me.” He liked an unencumbered life. As long as he had an apple and a few almonds, he’d be fine.
Jesus had to keep travelling to be with Lee who went backpacking in Thailand before he was twenty, taught English to children in Honduras, and kayaked on Quadra Island and Campbell River.
Jesus was with Lee in his joys and sorrows, his triumphs and bad decisions. He never left his side during their painful outcomes. Jesus felt proud and shed tears as he listened to the songs Lee wrote that told his story.
I went for a walk after my brother Ron called with the news. It was so surreal. Two weeks before his death, Lee called and told me what he always does. “You know I love you, Aunt Esther. Don’t worry about me. I’m tough. I can take care of himself.”
“It’s okay,” I heard Jesus say at the end of my walk. “He’s with me now.”
I imagine Lee in heaven with Jesus. I picture him grinning and telling me he’s got his mojo back. “And Jesus?” he’d add in his characteristically understated way, “He’s all right.” Then I imagine him going off to find Jack Kerouac. “This is a big place. But don’t worry, I’ll find him. This isn’t my first rodeo.”
I would love to live like a river flows,
carried by the surprise of its own unfolding.
* * *
This is Lee after he’s taken a mouthful of wasabi. He loved wasabi, chilli peppers and curry. Lee Frehner (Nov 11, 1985-Feb 24, 2019) is my brother Ron’s oldest child. He is greatly missed by his parents, step-parents, grandparents, siblings, aunts, uncles, cousins and friends. Although, as Ron says, Lee could be a pain in the ass sometimes, we never stopped loving him, nor he us. He and God did some awesome love mischief in the world in Lee’s 33 years of life. And we are so grateful for him.
The only people for me are the mad ones: the ones who are mad to live, mad to talk, mad to be saved, desirous of everything at the same time, the ones who… burn, burn, burn like fabulous yellow Roman candles. –Jack Kerouac
What love mischief are you and God doing to care for the earth?
Let me know and I will include it in an upcoming post.
Oh, Esther, I’m so sorry for your loss. Grace and peace to you and your family during this painful time!
Oh Esther, what a lovely young man Lee was…no he is. I wish that I had known him. So much life. Lovely be Gail
Thanks, Gail. He would have enjoyed getting to know you too.
Thanks for sharing this, Esther. I’m so sorry to hear of the loss of Lee. May you and his family know God’s peace and comfort in your grieving. Your tribute was beautiful.
“Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest. Matthew 11:28…..Lee is at peace…….
Yes he is. Thanks for this.
I am so sorry to hear about your Lee….what a lovely tribute to him Esther. Much love to you and all his family.
So sorry for your loss. I appreciated your perspective. So thankful we have a God who loves us unconditionally.
Thank you. Me too.
Hello Esther, Sorry to hear of the loss of your nephew to a fetanyl overdose. May Jesus comfort all of your family with His unfailing steadfast love and faithfulness. Christina
so sorry for your loss, Esther..may you know the peace and comfort of the Holy Spirit
Awwww Esther. Thank you for writing this lovely – very real – tribute of Lee. My heart still constricts every time I think of him – which is often! I’m thankful we had the privilege of spending time with him. I’m sorry we couldn’t break through the impossible and help him get his mojo back. I’m grateful that Jesus loves the lonely and despairing and that he loves Lee. Blessings, Suzanne
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