God Moves In Mysterious Ways
God moves in mysterious ways and I have the wonderful honor of sharing some of His ways with you. Today’s blog is in remembrance of my late brother, Joseph Anthony Duby. On September 17, 2009 he took his last breath on his 40th birthday. Joe was my baby brother and he lived with AIDS for almost 20 years, but in the end, it was colo-rectal cancer that beat him. I remember the day he said, “I beat AIDS all these years, but cancer is going to kill me in the end.”
September 17, 2009 had been a long day, and we had celebrated my brother Joe’s birthday as much as we could, given the circumstances. After all, he lay lifeless, barely holding on, eyes in a fixed stare.
That morning I went to the local grocery store and bought him the best roses I could find as a birthday bouquet to celebrate his 40th birthday. The cost wasn’t a factor because I knew they would be the last flowers he would enjoy.
Time was of the essence that morning, not knowing how much longer he would be here. Things had been progressing as expected over the last several days, and I knew we were very close to the end. How close, only the Lord knew.
So with beautiful roses in hand, I entered his room to find the same stare. Setting the roses in front of his gaze, I watched for any sign of acknowledgment. There was none, but that was expected.
A few hours later, several staff along with family gathered and sang happy birthday to Joe for the last time.
He made it
His desire ever since learning of the colo-rectal cancer was to make it to his 40th birthday. That was at least eight months prior. But on this day, we stood to celebrate his 40th birthday in a way none of us imagined. After all, it isn’t every day you’re standing in a hospice room celebrating a birthday, but on this day we had the unique opportunity to do precisely that, and we did it with smiles on our faces.
Later that evening, he breathed his last breath.
When I look back, one of the things I am always reminded of was the blessings during those difficult months. I was a big-time journaler back then, journaling every day. As I read back over my notes of those days, I saw 56 good things happen – blessings that had I not recorded, I might have missed and long forgotten.
Blessings amid heartache
56 Good Things – 1 Bad Thing
Here’s a list of all the beautiful things God did during this traumatic situation:
- The cancer brought Joe and me back together.
- I was able to witness to Joe about Jesus Christ.
- Joe allowed me to play the role of health surrogate which helped me learn what mom went through with my dad.
- Mom was able to take a break.
- Mom went to counseling to deal with all the pain in her life.
- I was able to set boundaries with the two of them.
- This situation brought my other brother back into my life.
- My other brother and his ex-wife were talking again, together with their kids.
- My brother was being a father to his kids again.
- Mom and my ex-sister-in-law apologized to each other after many years.
- All of us, except Joe enjoyed dinner together for the first time in ten years.
- We met Joe’s caseworker of eighteen years who turned out to be a very loving and compassionate black man who genuinely saw Joe like a son. That guy put up with a lot over the years. Joe was not an easy patient.
- Met Joe’s friend, who I got a chance to speak to about his relationship with God. He also was there for Joe several times.
- The wonderful staff at the hospice facility were kind and compassionate.
- My family, friends, and church family prayed diligently for us for almost a year.
- The meeting we had at the nursing home opened the director’s eyes to patient neglect.
- All the kind things people said about Joe and the kind things he did. I didn’t know so many people thought well of Joe and liked him – it was comforting to me.
- Mom witnessed my tenderness and compassion with Joe and him relating to me in return.
- I got to witness to a friend who still lived in West Palm Beach and attended church with her while I was in town.
- I met up with another local lifelong friend and got to spend time together talking about all that God had done in our lives. When we first met years prior, we had no interest in what God could do in our lives. All that changed for both of us, and we didn’t realize it till we met up again.
- I had the chance to pray for the other sick and dying which led to other opportunities to bring comfort to someone there at the hospice facility.
- God gave me the strength and abilities to get through it all.
- Work was so supportive during these difficult times.
- My ladies Bible study gals prayed for and supported me.
- I made a new friend through all this who was in the medical field and was able to testify to her through all this to help us both grow spiritually.
- Having a medical friend in my life at this specific time and being able to draw on her medical advice regarding Joe and my health issues was crucial. Being able to talk to her in the middle of the night while she worked was another blessing.
- God spoke to me back in June 2009 when I was trying to decide when I should do my surgery. The Holy Spirit whispered to me and told me to do the surgery over the summer because September would be the month for Joe. O God, you spoke to me through your Holy Spirit.
- Joe’s wish came true. He made it to his 40th birthday, even past the time he was born. Who else could ordain but God?
- The witnessing of love we showed the staff at hospice by keeping vigil at Joe’s bedside was encouraging.
- A film crew came in and filmed Joe receiving final communion so they could show the film in Japan. The Word of God would be shown in Japan through Joe’s illness. A hospice facility was opening in Japan.
- A single rose stayed alive in a vase at work and was being watched by my co-workers for two-plus weeks. I am thankful for what it showed some unbelievers and doubters about the power of God.
- Sending my friend Ray to help get cigs for Joe while he was in the nursing home helped me so much.
- I was able to mend some fences with my mother.
- Joe and mom were alone together in the end just like they were in the beginning.
- The strengthening of my mother, having her go through this, and being there for Joe and getting the quality time with him before he died will always hold a special place in my heart.
- The staff and friends he made at the various nursing homes are countless and special.
- The compassionate weekend manager who happened to be working Labor Day weekend and all she helped us resolve brought much needed peace to our family.
- We were kept healthy through it all.
- My daughter received great care from my friends during this time.
- The honor I received being chosen to officiate his funeral and the lessons learned I hold dear.
- The forum, Facebook, allowed me to share what God had been doing.
- I was able to show Joe dignity.
- God kept me safe, allowing me to get back and forth to West Palm Beach several times in my old car and providing me with a free place to stay.
- This tragedy brought our family back together.
- Joe confirmed his belief in Jesus to Chaplain Nino. I was able to witness to him, read the Bible to him, and sing hymns to him about Jesus in those final days. We got some real tender moments together.
- I cherish the tender moments with Joe in those last six days of his life; him holding my hand and kissing it, him telling me he loved me; me reminiscing with him about when we were little and how he was an annoying little brother; moments that will always remain in my heart.
- God spared me the pain of watching Joe’s final moments.
- I was able to celebrate his 40th birthday, the first I recall spending with him in many years. I witnessed all the love others poured out on him that day.
- Being able to wake him up at 12:01 am the morning of his birthday and be the first person to wish him a happy birthday and tell him he made it; who else could make that happen but God?
- I met and talked with Chaplain Nino and he comforted me about Joe’s situation and he assured me Joe was ready to go spiritually speaking.
- The cremation guy who came to get Joe was very compassionate to my mother and me.
- My stepdad was with us and took care of my mom. He loves her so good.
- For all who reached out to me in love during those times, I’m so grateful for them.
- My wonderful, loving daughter, whose smile when she saw me was worth it all. I’m so blessed to have her for a daughter.
- I got a chance to apologize to some folks for my past mistakes, and I am glad I did.
- Joe received a Bible from my cousin and her husband. I still have that Bible.
- God has worked all those things for my good through a dying young man.
- To God, be the glory forever and ever. Amen.
56 Good things – 1 Bad thing
“And we know that in all things God works for the good of those who love him, who have been called according to his purpose.” Romans 8:28
“I will praise you, O Lord my God, with all my heart, and I will glorify your name forever.” Psalm 86:12
Through the process with Joe, I look back, and I can see that God was working through that horrible situation, but none as prevalent as in those last several weeks and months of Joe’s life. I have no doubt God took a horrible, painful disease in my brother and brought many good things out of it for my personal growth. For all those things and the role I got to play, I am eternally grateful.
What has the Lord done for you? Can you recognize his goodness in your life?
Have you experienced the Lord’s goodness in painful situations? If so, did you write them down so you never forget what the Lord has done? I hope so.
Until next time, blessings to you! God is good!
The Teaching Lady
Bridge to Grace – a nonfiction novel – I wrote this book to record our journey.