July 28 2019
A little boy and his grandfather were sitting and talking. The little boy asked the old man, Can you croak like a frog, grandpa?
Can your croak like a frog?
Why do you ask that, Johnny?
Because grandma says that when you croak she will take me to Disneyland.
Last Sunday afternoon, Roger Capps, one of the dearest friends I=ve ever had passed from this mortal realm into God=s eternal kingdom. I became acquainted with Roger and his wife Jan when they started attending my church in Portland in 1978. Roger and I had a lot in common. We liked to hike, to play golf, to bike and to drink Oregon IPA=s. We hiked around Mt. Hood 3 times, 39 miles in all, 10000 feet of elevation gain and loss. We biked from PDX to the Oregon coast along with my son Jeremy. When Roger entered Cycle Oregon, a bike trip that covers hundreds of miles across Oregon he told a buddy, “My strategy for the race is this: I start slowly and taper off from there.”
We played golf at the Eastmoreland Golf Course, always quite badly as is turned out. He had a bum shoulder and blamed his bad golf on that. But we would always redeem our crappy golf with an Oregon IPA in the clubhouse at the end of the round.
We ran two marathons together. He was my pacer spurring me on to my best time. 3:18: 55 and I have the picture at the finish line to prove it.
He was a teacher in the Clackamas District; principal of two elementary schools in that district, organizer of mission trips to Mexico and Guatemala, landscaper par excellence for his church, the Moreland Presbyterian church in Portland, devoted husband to Jan; father of Eric and Kirsten, grandfather of four.
About five years ago Roger was diagnosed with something called Amalodosis, a disease in which your body manufacturers too much protein and leads to a thickening of your organs. It=s always fatal, but Roger, ever resourceful, found an experimental drug through Mayo Clinic and of the 50 or so people in his control group. Roger lasted longest.
It was excruciating to watch this active, vibrant man slowly slide downhill.
I served at Pinnacle Presbyterian Church in Scottsdale from 2013 to 2016 and became acquainted with Roland and Kay Skelton who attended there. They asked me to stop by their home. They told me that Roland had stage 4 leukemia. Death wasn’t imminent but it was certain. We planned out his memorial service. And let me just interject that if you haven’t planned your memorial service go home and begin today: the hymns you want, the scriptures you want, who you want to speak, where will your final resting place be.
Roland said that when he was first diagnosed four years before he thought he would make it. But come what may he would enjoy life as much as he could, live one day at a time and especially relish being near his beloved Kay.
“When did you realize you would=t make it,” I asked?
“Six months ago, I felt lousy, aches, pains, nausea, upset stomach bad taste in my mouth, felt very weak and unstable”.
“What advice would you pass on to other patients who have a terminal illness?”
“Hang on to hope” he said. “It’s hard to not lose hope, especially when you are feeling lousy. At at the lowest point of my illness, I prayed that God would take me with a heart attack.”
Understandable, isn’t it? As cheerful and brave and valiant and resourceful as Roger was—and I’ve never known anyone with more determination and courage– he had many days of darkness with no discernable light.
At my age it isn=t surprising that my contemporaries should die.
The Psalmist said, Lord, I know that my days are but a few inches long….they are but a puff of wind. And now, Lord, what do I wait for? My hope, my trust is in You.
There was a sign outside a church in Detroit, ARemember that automobiles are not the only thing that can be recalled by their Maker.
Here’s how someone described it: Everything turns to dust; everything; the house I live in, the clothes I wear; my money, my property, the dog that follows me, the hand I write with, the eyes I read what I write, the people I love; the people I have hated or been afraid of; the things that were great in my eyes upon the earth; whatever was insignificant; all, without exception, will fall back into the dust.
When we accept and embrace our mortality, it isn=t something frightening or morbid, but it can add depth and seriousness and joy to life. It can help us do what we all want to do most: to live upright lives, to put others first, to get our priorities straight, and to trust God in all things.
By now you will have understood that this sermon isn’t so much about Roger Capps but about each of us, to remember that from dust we were created and to dust we shall return.
I miss Roger already. There is no one in my life who can replace him. And the other day I was taking a flight of fancy, and I was imaging that there is a cell phone network in heaven and that I phoned him up. When he saw my name come up on the screen he answered, “Hey Terry.”
“Hey Rog, how are things?”
“Never been better.