A closer Friend

Tim March 2010

The young woman beamed. Stepping to the podium she almost sang the announcement.

Ladies, listen up. You are all invited to Friday night’s baby shower for, Jerry Lout! 

My brother’s wife Geri – pronounced ‘Jerry’ – would soon be giving birth to their first child, Todd Benjamin Lout. Excited female voices rippled through the Chapel while the elbow of a buddy seated next to me found it’s target. My ribcage flinched as he teased, I hadn’t heard the news, Jerry. . . and you’re not even showing!

After high school and a stint of vocational training Tim had begun work as a draftsman in southwestern Oklahoma. He met Geri there. She became the love of his life.

The Lout brothers moved with our brides to San Antonio within the year of our respective weddings – that occurred just two weeks apart. Each of us felt God’s call to service – not sure what that really meant.  Our first stint at training came at International Bible College.

Though my brother modeled gentleness and goodness, Tim saw early on that his heart wasn’t at home in God – a form of limping common to all at some point. He needed rescuing, needed what the Bible calls training in righteousness.

Clinging to news of a real Savior coming for him at great personal cost, he yielded his life over to Jesus Christ.

A draftsman concerns himself with two things – construction and its detail. Tim’s draftsman-to-minister shift was logical. Wherever he served as pastor, as counselor or friend, he brought his heart. Each person counted, and their unique concerns (detail). He also  built people, aiding their progress in spiritual formation (construction). Leaning into Christ he entered broken lives of others patiently. In faith. With compassion. Among those was Karena, who attests with tender frankness, He saved my life. Karena – the bride of Todd Benjamin Lout.

Once when he was little Tim swallowed a roofing nail. Almost. An image of this is branded in my memory.

Six-year-old Timmy suspended head-downward, his ankles secure in our daddy’s grasp. Shake. Shake. Third shake. The nail bounced twice on the living room floor. Breathing resumed – for Tim and the rest of us.

Memories from childhood can rekindle pain or con prompt feelings of remorse. But some memories, thankfully, evoke humor, warmth, smiles.

  • Seeing young Tim recklessly bounce along, approximately straddling a runaway Shetland Pony.
  • Witnessing his just-opened, warm Dr. Pepper explode upward – redecorating our kitchen ceiling. Followed by his self-conscious chuckle. . . (Tim never outgrew his chuckle).
  • Regaling  his mimics of Inspector Clouseau . . .
  • Teaching himself, then me, guitar. And singing. Lots of Singing – carrying actually through all his lifetime.

The abdomen pain started in his sixth decade near a birthday. Tests followed. Procedures were scheduled, pancreas surgery undergone. And chemotherapy. The regimen blurred the calendar. Praying people prayed. Cards and calls came in.

The decline advanced. His wife summoned Hospice Care. Geri primarily attended him, at times with the aid of  my RN wife, Ann and me.

The end drew near, his promotion looked close at hand and the family was conflicted over a likely parting. Family members hurt seeing family members hurt.

An early afternoon I brought a stool to his bedside and took his hand once more. He seldom spoke now. But with eyes still closed, his lips formed the half-sentence and he sounded the words clearly,

There is a friend who sticks closer. . . Just that. A partial sentence.

 Yes, Tim.

 I completed the verse from Proverbs he began. It would be the final exchange between us.

Yes. . Closer than a brother, Tim.  And he is here for you and he’s here for me.

He had asked if I would officiate a service should it be needed.

I would be honored.  Meanwhile we keep looking to the Father.

I rose early Saturday, July 10, 2010.  Heaven had received my brother home four days earlier. This morning we would worship God and celebrate Tim’s life.

I made my way to the coffee maker in the kitchen. Reentering my sleeping quarters I reviewed some notes. The room was still. I was reflective.

Consulting the ancient scripture for solace or wisdom never disappointed, I thought. Opening my One Year Bible I had brought from Oklahoma I turned to this day’s reading. July 10.

My breath caught slightly. Familiar words – especially of recent days – tenderly seized me from the page. They embraced my heart.  Of all the Scripture verses – tailored by a random editor of a random Bible-reading program. I double-checked the reference and the date. Yes, this is for today:

There is a friend who sticks closer than a brother   Proverbs 18.24

 I savored its special message a moment longer. For myself. For all who would take it in. And looked upward.

Thank you, Father. Thank you for Jesus. Thank you for my brother. Tim.

To be absent from the body is to be present with the Lord   2 Corinthians 5

©2015 Jerry Lout