Never Forgotten

Remembering

When I was younger I never gave thought to my legacy and how I would be remembered after death. Now that I am beyond mid-life I think of it quite often and am reminded that each day I live is a day that might be shared in my eulogy.

We want to remember the lives of those we love and we do many things so that they might not be forgotten. This week I will transplant Jacob’s memorial tree from our old house to our new home.

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Jacob’s tree

Last week I had a memorial tattoo put on my right arm of a sticky note that Jake secretly placed in my bible. People have memorial events, establish memorial scholarships and give donations to charities in the name of the ones they love. All of this is good and comforting to do because we never want to forget nor do any of us want to be forgotten.

I visit the graveyard where my son and other loved ones lay in rest for the great day of Christ’s return (John 14:1-6). I remember their lives, I walk around and I see the names of many unknown and forgotten people. There are people who have been resting there for over a hundred fifty years and I ponder who they were and does anybody remember their life? Unless you made a huge dent in human history it is likely that people will forget all about us after about 3 or 4 generations. My life is a vapor, I am here today and gone tomorrow (James 4:14). The most I can hope for is that I leave something behind for this generation and the next that was meaningful and eternally significant.

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Rewarding

 I expect to be forgotten and I am just fine with riding into the sunset and disappearing like a morning mist. Perhaps in a hundred fifty years somebody will look at my headstone and wonder, “Who was this Mike Fekete and what was his life like?” I am OK with that but what I am not OK with is to be eternally forgotten by my eternal God. Thankfully, with God, there is a legacy believers are currently living in this life that will never be forgotten and better yet will be rewarded by him. “For God is not unjust to forget your work and labor of love which you have shown toward His name, in that you have ministered to the saints, and do minister.” (Hebrews 6:10) Let us not forget that when we love and serve our Christian brothers we love and serve our Lord. Let us work, let us labor in love, let us persevere to the end for the name of Jesus. FullSizeRender-9

Therefore, as we have opportunity, let us do good to all, especially to those who are of the household of faith. (Galatians 6:10)

In ancient temples the wealthy memorialized people by purchasing a marble pillar in the name of the deceased. Jesus knew this and said to the church, “He who overcomes, I will make him a pillar in the temple of My God, and he shall go out no more. I will write on him the name of My God and the name of the city of My God, the New Jerusalem, which comes down out of heaven from My God. And I will write on him My new name.” (Revelation 3:12) Those who overcome are never forgotten and always rewarded by Jesus. When we honor him on earth he promises to honor us in paradise.

 

 

Best wishes

Our beloved Jacob Michael Fekete would be 25 today.

In my minds eye I see 25 imaginary candles on a make believe cake that will never be baked. 25 imaginary flickering flames to blow upon, to extinguish and to wish on better things. I remember your hopes, I remember your dreams son. I remember with a heavy heart and wish that those hopes and dreams for you had come true.

I wish to wish, if I could wish, if it were possible, if reality were not so real and birthday wishes really did come true. I would wish to blow out those 25 candles and these 25 things are the wishes I’d wish for you.

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I wish you could see your sister. I wish you could see her smiling face at her wedding to one of your most loved friends. I wish you could see their love and I wish you could meet Oakley their one year old puppy. I wish that you could visit with your Bo and again share joy and laughter with your siblings.

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I wish I could hand you tickets to the NCAA wrestling finals your brother will compete in next weekend. I wish you could cheer for him- you were always his biggest fan. I wish you two could sit and catch up and I wish you could see what an incredible man he has become. I wish you could stand as his best man this June and I wish you could see his bride and the beautiful person she is. I wish you could meet their enormous puppy named Pine.

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I wish you could speak to your mother’s heart and I wish you could still her soul. I wish you could see her strength, her faith and her perseverance. I wish you could write an assuring love note and tuck it under her pillow like you used to do. I wish you could could walk through the doors of our new home in Beulah and lay a big Jacob hug on her. I wish you could walk with her down Center street to the beach and to the shoppes downtown.

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I wish we could all sit as a family once again. I wish I could hear your voice, your gargled laughter and I wish I could see that thin crooked smile again. I wish you had found that simple girl you wanted to marry in a pretty yellow sundress. I wish you had found love.

I’d wish for your peace. I’d wish for your joy. I’d wish for your contentment.

I want you back but I would never wish you back Jacob. 25 candles and 25 birthday wishes for you but of those wishes only three have come true. You are at peace, you have pure joy and you are completely content. Best wishes and happy birthday in heaven son.

We love you.

 

 

 

 

When hope is lost

Life is difficult. Pain is real. Grief, sorrow and trials are experienced by all in this world. We live by the golden rule, we walk by faith…or so we say, or so I have said. Yet lately, for longer than I want to admit to myself I have lost my hope. Oh, I say that I hope in God but that hope is mingled with a hope for better things in this life. I had dreams, but they died. I had desires for good things but they were cast down. I suffer pain, grief, sorrow and loss and I feel disheartened and crushed. I must admit that the death of my son Jacob has crushed my spirit to hope for better things.
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Therein lies my problem. I have fallen into the trap of placing hope in this temporal life, for passing earthly hopes that disappear as quickly as they appear. Oh, I would say that I was also looking to heaven for my eternal hope, but when my eyes fell again on the horizontal plane towards my hopes in this life I have been repeatedly disappointed. In these past three years I have guarded myself from hoping for better things in my life. However, when I let my guard down many times I was crushed again by another disappointing and difficult life event. I had forgotten and lost my sight of the promises in the valley of the shadow of death. “Surely goodness and mercy shall follow me all the days of my life, and I shall dwell in the house of the Lord forever.” (Psalm 23)
We have faith in God, we have love for God and we have good hope in God. Faith can be turned to fear, love can grow cold, and hope will be shaken when the eyes of our soul turn away from Jesus to the things of this life. God has corrected my eyesight in the last couple of days with the help of some of his servants. I had lowered my spiritual eyes and turned away from the only eternal and unwavering hope. I still desire, expect and hope for good things from my gracious and merciful savior in this life. I will hope and wait for his goodness but whether in the pain or in the pleasure my hope is assured by an anchor in heaven. When hope in this life is robbed by trials I have learned, and have been recently been painfully reminded again that earthly hope is a mirage and a dissipating vapor.
For this light momentary affliction is preparing for us an eternal weight of glory beyond all comparison, as we look not to the things that are seen but to the things that are unseen. For the things that are seen are transient, but the things that are unseen are eternal. (2 Cor. 4:17-18 ESV) There have been times I have wanted to put a choke hold on people who quickly respond to trials by saying, “Everything happens for a reason.” While this is true it is of no comfort to the sorrowful, in fact it can be maddening. I have been in the fire, I am in the fire and I expect be in the fire again. This verse assures me that the my afflictions are temporal and no matter how bad life gets they are considered light and purposeful. I can rejoice in hope in the fire that prepares me for my future glorious inheritance in heaven. This is assured and this is our unchangeable and eternal hope.
I have been comforted by God and my hope has been restored because my eyes have turned heavenward where Christ my hope is seated at the right hand of God. “Now may our Lord Jesus Christ himself, and God our Father, who loved us and gave us eternal comfort and good hope through grace,  comfort your hearts and establish them in every good work and word. (2 Thess2:15-17) Turn your eyes upon Jesus, look full in his wonderful face, and the things of earth will grow strangely dim in the light of his glory and grace.
 

An unexpected and inexpressible gift

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I received the most amazing gift from my wife this Christmas. I was caught a bit off guard when I received it because we decided not to exchange gifts with each other. The gift came unwrapped, without a bow but was to me the most beautiful and thoughtful thing I have ever received. I say it was thoughtful, actually I am certain it was deeper than that. Though the gift was spontaneous, impulsive and emotional when presented to me I have come to realize it came from the deepest part of her heart and soul.

From Thanksgiving to New years day we endured the holiday season for the third time without our son Jacob and Stacey’s mother. Linda died suddenly six weeks after our son and I can see in my wife’s eyes the grief she carries for both of them. I struggled again to get through this holiday season but in my heart I believe Stacey’s struggle with heartache may be double what mine is. There is no way to measure this and most people haven’t a clue-but I do.

Not many words are shared between us about the pain we feel during the Christmas season. Yet volumes could be written from the unsaid words that our souls communicate to each other. Sometimes by just the meeting of our eyes and other times the holding of our hands we say it all.

Grief always finds a way to be released. It builds, it creates pressure and eventually that pressure finds it way out. It could be expressed by tears, in anger, in frustration, by sullenness, isolation or a myriad of other ways. It was New Years eve and Stacey’s grief came to a head and when released (strange as it may seem) it became the most amazing gift she has ever given to me.

I will spare you the details of how and why we came to this point on the last day of 2016. Suffice it to say that it was a difficult grief day and there was a moment of painful release. Moments later she gave me the gift. She said, “I know you love me and I know that you will do anything for me.”  I can die a happy man knowing that this came from the deepest place of her heart.

For better or for worse, for richer or poorer, in sickness and in health, in happy times and times of grief her words have become very precious to me. They are the greatest gift a Christian man could ever receive because this is how Jesus loves me and this is how he instructs me to love my wife. He loves me perfectly, infinitely and sacrificially. I am just a mortal man, imperfect on my best days yet Jesus loved me and gave his life for me. Somewhere deep in the heart of my wife she knows I love her and will sacrifice all for her just as the Lord did for his church. I am called to love like this and it warms my heart to know it is sealed in the heart of my wife.

“Husbands, love your wives, as Christ loved the church and gave himself for her.” (Ephesians 5:25a)

What Stacey gave me was affirmation that in all my short comings and failures I am loving her the way God has called me to love her. This was her great gift to me but it pales in comparison to the greatest gift given to mankind. The free gift of eternal life through the name of Jesus Christ of Nazareth. I know he loved me and he demonstrated the love of God towards me by sacrificing all for me.

“Thanks be to God for his inexpressible gift!” (2 Corinthians 9:15)

Grace to you and peace in 2017

 

 

What love cannot do

Yesterday, after 28 months, we cleaned out Jacobs bedroom in preparation to sell our home. It is a terrible feeling to box up a life of memories and to bag up items for the trash for goodwill and for storage. The room smelled of my son. Everything we handled told a story that broke our heart as we made choices as to what box or bag to put it in. Jacob loved deeply and was deeply loved in this life but love has its limits. Our love for him was powerless to save his life from both physical death or spiritual death.

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God is love and the greatest commandment is to love him with all our heart, soul, mind and strength and our neighbor as we love ourselves. Yet love is powerless to deliver us from our greatest fear and enemy death. If love had this power your loved one would not had died of cancer, or a car accident and my son would not had died from an overdose. No matter how much we obey the golden rule and love our loved ones and neighbors there is no power in love to deliver anybody from death.

Do you think, if it were possible, I would have made efforts to prevent my son from dying? Your right. We did the best we could by giving him the right instruction, family life, church, friends, education, etc… We poured love in his life, we demonstrated it yet there we were yesterday boxing up a life that we deeply loved but were powerless to save. Have you ever considered that the love of God by itself could not save us either? The love of God alone could not save us from sin and death nor sorrow and pain. But grace, mercy and love combined can if we only would believe the following.

“For God so loved he world that he gave is one and only Son.” (John 3:16a) Gave is a word of grace, and my God is the God of all grace. His love for you and I by itself could not redeem us, but he demonstrated his love towards us in that while we were yet enemies and sinners Christ died for us. (Romans 5:8) What love could not do for ourselves or for others God did by sending his Son to die for sin.

“But when the goodness and loving kindness of God appeared, he saved us, not because of works done by us in righteousness, but according to his own mercy, by the washing of regeneration and renewal of the Holy Spirit, whom he poured out on us richly through Jesus Christ our savior, so that being justified by his grace we might become heirs according to the hope of eternal life.” (Titus 3:4-7)

What would be the greatest demonstration of love you could show towards your family, to your kids or grandchildren? Is it time? Is it stuff? Perhaps a fat inheritance? Would it be that they see you in the bleachers for every game or that you send them a nice card with words of love on special occasions? No, all our love and affection is powerless to save anybody, but God is mighty to save. So perhaps we should be sharing his love, his grace and his mercy if we truly love them. Point them to Jesus and proclaim the Son of his love, “And whosoever believes in him should not perish but have eternal life.” (John 3:16b) This is the greatest love story ever told and sharing it is our greatest expression of love.

“The Lord God is in your midst, a mighty one who will save; he will rejoice over you with gladness; he will quiet you with his love; he will exult over you with loud singing.” (Zephaniah 3:17) 

Even so, come Lord Jesus

How insignificant things become meaningful

Selling a house is an emotional experience. A house becomes home because of family and years of created memories within its walls. We are getting ready to sell, we want to downsize and prepare for our future retirement. The emotions are greatly increasing for us and are much more intense than most sellers because of Jacob’s death.

It has been 2 years and 2 months since we said goodbye to Jacob. His bedroom door is closed and we have yet to go through his things. Soon we will be forced into tasks we have put off till the right time. I can’t say that the right time is here but the unavoidable day of packing, pitching and painting is coming fast. It’s still our call as to when, but one thing is for sure, we can no longer keep putting it off.

I got a taste of the pain last weekend while repainting his brothers room. Tokens of Jake’s life and the love these brothers have for each other was everywhere. It made me cry. These were the first tears I shed in connection to our decision to sell our home. I expect more, I expect harder days and am preparing myself as best I can for the hardest day to come; the day we open Jakes bedroom door. The day the door swings open our hearts will be opened as well, opened to love, opened to memories, opened to grief and opened to the pain.

There are many insignificant things in life that suddenly turn incredibly important upon death. Once meaningless items now speak a story and evoke thoughts and emotions. This really made me consider the meaningless treasures that I will leave behind someday for my loved ones. What story will they tell about me? What emotions will they drum up after my passing?  Most of the time I make efforts to avoid personal items of Jacob’s because of the emotional trauma it ignites. But in preparing for moving there is no place to hide and with every item handled there is a memory, a story, there is a smile, a laugh and much sobbing and tears.

Jake parked his 1998 Honda CRV for the last time on March 25th 2014. It has sat unmoved for two years but last weekend time came to clean it out and let it go. He was not the tidiest college student on the planet and his car reflected that.I found his hat and used it to contain his sunglasses, his Adidas cologne and his safety vests from Pro Build lumberyard. I smelled the bottle and remembered how I helped Jake get the job, he really loved working there. Then I threw away some MacDonald’s bags which represented some of the last food he tasted in life-poor kid! I collected his change from the console and discarded a losing scratch off lottery ticket that was with it. There were the tires in the back that I asked him multiple time to have installed which obviously he never got around to. Then I found a well worn senior picture of his friend Gail, I read the message she wrote him on the back and put it in the hat with the other treasures. Then, Under the floor mat I found the most insignificant treasure of the day.

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There on the floor lay Jacob’s once insignificant college ID. The plastic card has 2 corners missing and I wondered what the story was behind that. Then I realized he couldn’t find a guitar pic so he made some out of his ID. I smiled, my heart warmed a bit as I thought about how he loved that Big Baby Taylor we bought for him in the 6th grade. The ID is now in Jacobs treasure box that rests on my wife’s dresser. The forgotten and insignificant ID told me a story and has now become a priceless item to me of the life of my son.

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There were more insignificant treasures found while I painted his brothers room. I found a notebook with bible study notes and lengthy prayer lists that belonged to Jared. I seen Jacob’s name on the list and felt the love he has for his brother and just began to cry. I am crying just thinking of it again.

Then there, on the desk, laid 4 pages of sheet music that belonged to Jacob. He printed off the music to sing Amazing Grace and the Old Rugged Cross at his great granny’s funeral just 3 months before he died himself. He had notations on the paper but what he crossed out again made me shutter inside and begin to weep again. It was a contemporary version of Amazing Grace which had words he crossed out and did not sing. These are the words he crossed out.

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There are indicators when people relapse into their addictions. Jake was no different, we knew when his anxiety was high that he was in danger of relapse and we would love him trough the rough patch. But when Jake overdosed his indicators were hidden well, he was happy, life was very good at the time- apparently too good. This is why his death was so shocking, we knew the signs but the signs didn’t show themselves.

I can only assume what Jake and God only know. Why did he cross out these words? I guess he was feeling the weight of the chains that December before he died. It’s possible that couldn’t sing the words because he was using prescription meds, he was hiding, he was chained again. On March 26th he was set free from it all.

I took the papers  upstairs to the treasure chest and left them with the other things, each having a story of their own.

Very soon we will open his door and reopen the wound. We will discover and rediscover things that once were once insignificant but now have a priceless treasured story.

What will my things say to others when I am gone? What will become treasures to loved ones when fly away? Kind of an odd thing to think on but truly every object has a story and is leaving a legacy for others to remember us by. What will that legacy and story be for you; what will it be for me?

A legacy of love

There is an account in the bible that tells of the very thing I write of today. It occurred in the days of the apostles and you can read it for yourself in Acts chapter 9. It tells of a kind and loving woman who had died in Lydda. Disciples sent for nearby Peter to come quickly which he promptly did. When he arrived he walked into the following scene.

“All the widows stood beside him weeping and showing the tunics and other garments that Dorcas made while she was with them.” (Acts 9:39)

Why did the widows cling to the clothing? Because the clothing was the emblem of the loving kindness of Dorcas and they clung to it as they mourned the loss of love. This is why  simple, seemingly insignificant items makes us grieve. They retell a love story.

A promise of hope

The apostle Peter had seen Jesus risen from the dead. There is no doubt that Peter believes in the resurrection of dead people, he seen it many times in the three years he spent with Jesus. With confidence in God, he puts out the women, kneels at the bed and calls Dorcas to life through the power of the Spirit of God.

“But Peter put them all outside, and knelt down and prayed; and turning to the body he said, “Tabitha, arise.” And she opened her eyes, and when she saw Peter she sat up. And he gave her his hand and raised her up.” (Acts 9:40-41 ESV)

I am sure that I am going to grieve much as I cling to Jacob’s things in the coming months. Unfortunately, Jesus, Peter or Paul are not next door to call and solve this death problem. Yet, I have hope that my son will someday come out of the ground and be given a new body much like the risen body of my Lord Jesus Christ. He promised it and assured it by his own victory over our greatest enemy death.

A comforting promise

Jesus left behind a cross. It is emblem and legacy that I cling to that brings me great comfort. I will cling to the old rugged cross because there, and only there was sin, death, and hell defeated in one fatal blow. The serpent’s head was crushed and I can have real comfort and real hope in  his resurrection from the dead.

“But we do not want you to be uninformed, brothers, about those who are asleep, that you may not grieve as others who have no hope. For since we believe that Jesus died and rose again, even so, through Jesus, God will bring with him those who have fallen asleep. For we declare to you by the word of the Lord, that we who are alive, who are left until the coming of the Lord, will not precede those who have fallen asleep. For the Lord himself will descend from heaven with a cry of command, with the voice of an archangel, and with the sound of the trumpet of God. And the dead in Christ will rise first. Then those who are alive, who are left, will be caught up together with them in the clouds to meet the Lord in the air, and so we will always be with the Lord. Therefore encourage one another with these words.” (1 Thessalonians 4:13-18)

Be encouraged, be comforted, be hopeful, and be ready my friends!

Behold, I come quickly-Jesus

Death benefits: part 2- faith, hope and love

Some months ago I had a conversation with a person whose sister was brutally murdered. He said to me that he rejects the notion that everything happens for a reason. He feels that the death of his sibling was pointless and without purpose. As I listened to him speak my mind was at the other end of the spectrum. I thought to myself that there is reason why my son died, it is not meaningless and it has purpose. This is quite a juxtaposition. How do two people view death in two very different extremes? Was I just looking through rose colored glasses and was he looking through dark shades? No, I don’t think so.

It wasn’t that I am an optimist and he is a pessimist. The fact of the matter is that I view death through the lens of faith, and he, being without faith in Christ, cannot see what I see. If a person doesn’t know the meaning and source of life he certainly will never know the meaning behind death. But the bible answers both if a person is willing to listen and be enlightened by the truth concerning these confounding questions.

Why did Jesus allowed his friend to die?

Lord, if you had been here, my brother would not have died (John 11:21&32)

Have you ever pleaded with God for someone to get well but God didn’t show up and your loved one died? Have you ever considered that maybe God actually ordained the sickness and allowed death to happen for a much greater purpose? Some very close friends of Jesus find themselves in this very situation a short time before his own crucifixion. Mary and Martha sent for Jesus to come and heal their brother Lazarus but Jesus purposefully delayed going for two days so that he would die.

There was a greater purpose in the death of Lazarus that could not be realized by healing his terminal illness. Jesus said, “This sickness will not end in death. No, it is for God’s glory so that God’s Son might be glorified through it.” (John 11:4) This is a sobering reminder about our prayers and petitions that seem to be ignored by God. Father knows best! “For my thoughts are not your thoughts, neither are your ways my ways, declares the Lord.” (Isaiah 55:8)

Some might call into question the love of God in permitting such a thing, so John records that, “Jesus loved Martha and her sister and Lazarus.” (John 11:6) Love would certainly become evident to all when he arrived, he was troubled when he saw his friends and even his enemies grieving at the tomb. “Jesus wept” (John 11:36) He groans over the toll that sin has taken on his creation. Who can free the world from the chains of death? Christ and Christ alone! “We groan inwardly as we wait eagerly for the adoption as sons, the redemption of our bodies.” (Romans 8:21-25) This is our blessed hope and this miracle of the raising of Lazarus is a prelude to the hope we have in Jesus who possesses the keys of death and the grave. How did he obtain the keys? He has destroyed the one who had the power of death through his own death, burial and resurrection from the dead. (Hebrews 2:14)

What miracle would give God most glory; the healing of Lazarus or the resurrection of Lazarus? This resurrection miracle is the crown jewel of all the miracles done by the Lord. It puts the glory and power of God on full display. But there is more that Jesus will accomplish in his delayed trip to Bethany. He is actually joyful over the fact that he was not going to heal Lazarus. Yes, Jesus was glad that he was not there. “Then Jesus told them plainly, “Lazarus has died, and for your sakes I am glad that I was not there, so that you may believe. But let us go to him.” (John 11:15) The glory of God is the primary purpose behind this death but building up the disciples faith is of great importance as well.

Death and other various trials will cause our faith to grow; The Lord finds joy in this and we should as well. This funeral built a deeper faith in God, a confident hope in the resurrection of the dead and a deeper love for Jesus to the glory of God. “So now faith, hope, and love abide, these three; but the greatest of these is love.” (1 Corinthians 13:13)

What we believe should move us to action. What Jesus asks the family to do next is almost unbelievable if it hadn’t actually taken place. He says, “Take away the stone.” (John 11:39) For a more contemporary understanding of this I pictured Jesus handing me a shovel at the headstone of my son Jacob and saying, “Dig.” Martha objected for obvious reasons and I am sure I would have had the same concerns. But the Lord wants a faith and trust that obeys even the absurd and things we fear. He reminds Martha, “Did I not tell you that if you believed you would see the glory of God?” (John 11:40) Faith went to work and the eyes of everyone witnessed a dead man come to life and exit his grave. All this to the praise of God and his Son Jesus Christ.

What we know about God is not what gives God joy and pleasure, it is what we do with what we believe that delights the Lord. “And without faith it is impossible to please him.” (Hebrews 11:6) The disciples seen the glory of God because they believed and rolled the stone away. I ask myself the question, “What stones do I need to roll away in my life, by active faith, that I may behold the glory of God?” The Lord knew his beloved disciples believed in him but he engages their faith in essence by saying, “Don’t just say that you believe. Prove it! Put your hands to the stone and roll it away.”

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