Within the same week, Clarence Stone, a good friend from church, was also diagnosed with terminal cancer. So, my brother and my "brother" fought their killer along similar paths, though separate by perhaps 1,000 miles.
The differences, my brother a converted Jew, and Clarence a born-again Christian, sparked the following poem, which I had the privilege of reading at Clarence's funeral:
I have two brothers who come to mind
As I sit and stare .. and then I find
I love them both as God loves me
But very, very differently
One of them is flesh and blood
We wrestled, fought, and played in mud
As mom and dad observed our noise…
And watched their sons stop being boys
One sunny day we left their side
Each had his separate train to ride
I went South and Art went East
We seldom visited, to say the least
But even though the miles were long
The love of brothers continued strong
Until this day when I’m sad to say
He’s yet, the sinner’s prayer, to pray.
The other guy I see in church
And he’ll not be left in the lurch
For when that heavenly trumpet sounds
Ol’ Clarence heads for higher grounds!
And that’s the sad part, don’t you see
Forgiveness like God’s given me
Has not enfolded Brother Art
And when this life he does depart
I fear his face I’ll never see
And he will never visit me
For where I’ll be he cannot go
The bible, sadly, tells me so
But as for Clarence, him I’ll see
For the same grace God had given me
He’s given Clarence in the past
When from his broken heart he asked
That God would save, for Jesus’ sake
His soul, and then his life would take
And make it into something sweet
That ends with Clarence at Christ’s feet.
So what’s the difference, now, my friend?
It’s how their lives will finally end
They both endure the same disease
But the difference shows in who they please
For Clarence serves the King of Kings
And gladly tells of all the things
The King has done and yet will do
For every single me and you
If we will do as he has done
And trust our being to the One
Who saves and helps and sets us free
Of things that keep us from that tree
Where blood and grace came streaming down
And made that mountain hallowed ground
Where brother Art, would he but ask
Could find a freedom from his past
Of sin and shame and darkness deep
That damns us to eternal sleep
Where fire and brimstone do abound
And we cannot travel to that ground
Where peace for all was given out
And joyful people sing and shout
Of Him Who saved us by His grace
And gave us victory in this race.
I fear that Art has no such joy
For while I found God, as just a boy
My Brother Art did no such thing
And, I’m afraid, will never sing
Of Jesus love and grace so free
That wraps His arms round you and me
I pray that Art is saved, at last
But I’ll not know, ‘til life is past.
So now it’s up to you and me
Which brother are you going to be?
The one who’ll sing no joyful songs?
Or the one who to our God belongs?
The choice is up to you, dear friend
For only you will know the end
Which punctuates your time on earth
And puts a value on the worth
Of what you live and how you touch
And finally reveal how much
Of God you carried on your way
Each precious hour, each precious day.