Welcome to the first of what I hope will be many posts on Extraordinary People from all over the world – people who are somehow making the world a better place, people who inspire and encourage us, or otherwise have special stories that need to be shared. Do you know a truly extraordinary person? If so and you would like to nominate them, there is a contact form at the end of this post for that very purpose! Send me a bit of information about them, how you know them, and why you feel they should be featured. I can’t wait to read those nominations! There is enough bad news out there, right? Just like we want to expose our children to great stories of heroes to build character in them and to give them the fortitude and faith to make it through their own trials, we grown-ups need heroes too. And I believe there are many everyday heroes out there whose stories will impart courage to us to stand a little longer, to fight the good fight, and to finish well.
On that note, I want to introduce you to the first person selected to be featured, Byron Porritt of Alberta, Canada. We did not know when Byron agreed to be interviewed for this post that his story would be published posthumously, but God did. Byron went home to be with the Lord on September 4th, 2015. He was in the final stage of brain cancer and had outlived the estimates by several months. For the final stage of his journey, Byron was paralyzed from the waist down, and suffering considerably.
He and his wife Caroline (children’s pastor at their local church) had been married for 16 years and after a long battle with infertility, were blessed with two children, a boy and a girl. Their lives were turned upside down 5 1/2 years ago by Byron’s cancer diagnosis and subsequent treatment schedule which changed the daily reality of their lives.
I choose Byron not just because he was courageously battling cancer – each of you probably knows someone who is also doing that right now. Byron was chosen because of the choices he made in the midst of his fight. Byron did what I hope I would do in his place, and his wife Caroline and his two precious children, Jack and Katie, can always remember that their husband and Daddy finished well. His struggle was real, not theoretical. He lived through the grief of knowing he was leaving his wife and children, would never play catch with Jack again, never see Katie off on her first date, never teach them to drive, or see them graduate, or just be there to navigate the uncharted waters of the teen years with Caroline and to grow old with her. He lived through pain, trauma, exhaustion, and the extreme frustration and helplessness of paralysis. But up to the very end, Byron continued to share the message of his life, and that is one of “gaining God in the moments of life”.
Byron spent his last weeks encouraging others, speaking life to his friends and family, and with the help of some amazing people, seeing his lifelong dream of a children’s book about thankfulness turned into reality. Byron did not use his last days to complain about his sufferings, to rail at God about the unjustness of his fate, or to indulge in the insidious self-pity that is more lethal than cancer. Byron had grabbed hold of the life-changing truth that every experience – every moment, no matter what it holds – is an opportunity to gain more of Christ. He held firmly to this message, and combined it with the power of gratitude. That is a combination for victory over our circumstances, and an example of how to suffer with grace.
Byron is gone, but he still speaks to us today through the message he left behind for each one of us. These are the words of a man who from a hospital bed is looking into eternity and sees with the crystalline clarity of one about to leave this earth:
“This is my moment and I want to leave you with words from my heart: Life is not about accomplishments, success, job title, money or recognition; it is a journey. Gaining God in all of life’s moments is the success of life.”
“See Jesus in all of life’s situations. See His character and His nature in all circumstances….gain Christ, know Him. He is worth it all in this journey of life.”
Did you catch that? “See Jesus in ALL of life’s situations”. “…in ALL circumstances…” Even the hard ones? Even when our bodies are racked with pain and even the escape of sleep is elusive? Even when life is falling apart around us and we don’t know where to turn? Even in grief? Even when dying?
YES, my friends. Jesus is there. And there is more of Him to be known, to be gained, THROUGH those moments than ever would be gotten without them. He doesn’t leave us in the hard times, but invites us to seek the treasure of His presence in the dark, though we may stumble, blinded by tears. He is there. He is always there. Byron met Him there. He knew more of God through cancer and grief than he was able to know in ease and health. And he says without a doubt, Jesus is worth it all. Some people would say that on September 4th, Byron “lost his battle” with cancer. I suggest instead, Byron won his battle. Byron wins, because Byron died knowing that knowing Jesus is really all that matters.
The Sovereign God said through the prophet Isaiah, “I will give you the treasures of darkness, riches stored in secret places, so that you may know that I am the Lord, the God of Israel, who summons you by name.”. Are you in the darkness today? Do you need to know more of Him? If so, take courage. There is treasure to be mined in the depths, and the One who has summoned you by name is with you every step of the way.
Take courage today from Byron, who tells us, “Don’t fear tomorrow, God is already there.” What a comforting thought for Caroline, Jack, and Katie, and for each of us who are reading this.
Byron’s hope and prayer was that his simple book for young children would help to support his wife and children after he is gone. If you would like to purchase a copy of his book, please follow the link to this site’s Paypal account and leave your payment of $10 per book, and your mailing address. All payments will be gratefully forwarded to Caroline and your books will be sent with love as soon as possible! I personally think it would make a great baby shower gift! If you have any problems with this process, please shoot me a comment and I will attempt to remedy the issue immediately – never done this before. 🙂 When I tried to walk through it myself to be sure you could leave me your address, etc., Paypal informed me that I was trying to send money to myself and that is against policy. Really, I wasn’t!! I promise! And wouldn’t that be sort of pointless anyway…?
Blessings to each of you today,
P.S. – here’s that contact form you can use to nominate the Extraordinary Person you know!