Life After Life

I have a very close friend. His name is Albert DeStephanis but most of us just call him Al or, a lot of the time, Big Al. At church he had his own special greeting. It usually didn’t matter what was going on when he walked through the door someone would call out, “Big Al!”.  In 2011 Al had some heart trouble and doctors gave Al a new lease on life with a new technology called an LVAD or Left Ventricular Assist Device. It’s a heart pump.

In 2011 Al went into the hospital for a bypass and, after the surgery, had two massive heart events. Al slipped away  twice that night and the doctors and nurses at St. Mary’s in Richmond fought hard all night long and brought Al back. A few days later, after Al had his new heart pump installed, he said to me, “You know I died twice during all this right?” Then, very contemplatively, Al said, “Someday, when I die for real I don’t think I’ll be that worried about it because I’ll just say been there, done that.”

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Big Al Sept. 30, 1939 -eternity!

I recall being very impressed with Al’s attitude about the episode. And so as time went on Al recovered and went back to a fairly normal life. He attended his grandchildren’s swim meets and came to church on a regular basis. Al is the rare type of person who, when you meet them, you wish you’d known them your whole life. He is as kind and gentle a man as you could ever meet. I simply adore him!

So last week Big Al transitioned from this life into the next. He passed into what C.S. Lewis called the full Weight of Glory and now knows Jesus more intimately than any of us here. In fact it was just yesterday that a large number of people attended his memorial service.

Paul the apostle says death is swallowed up in victory and defeated. Athanasius says, “Jesus it is Who has destroyed death and freely graced us all with incorruption…”

Death is not a reality. How can anything that has been defeated and destroyed by Jesus be a reality? Indeed death is not real- life is real. Jesus is life and Jesus is real. Jesus has given us new life and new birth through his life, death, resurrection, and ascension.  We are seated with Him- in Him- at the right hand of the Father in the communion of the Holy Spirit.

There is no life after death. Did I shock you? Keep reading. There is no life after death because; how can there be anything after something that is not real? We may as well ask whether there is life after magic Pegasus unicorns. Death is not real so there can’t possibly be life after death.

There is only Life after Life. The life that was given to Al was the very life that originates in, flows from, and is the life of the Father, Son, and Spirit. The life that Al was given in 1939 was the very life of the eternal Triune God. That life has no end!

We may not see Al the way we used to, we may not actually see him walk into the room, but Al is very much alive… in fact I would posit that Al is more alive than he has ever been!

A prayer: Father, we grieve the loved ones who have gone to Glory. We sense separation but know it is not real. Comfort us Holy Spirit. Teach us to honor our grieving, to know that grief is evidence of love and that deep grief is evidence of even deeper love. Show us the beauty of our tears and the joys that await us when we, someday, catch up with our loved ones who have passed into the full weight of glory. Jesus, thank you for including humanity in the life you share with your Father from eternity. Amen

~Bill Winn

5 comments so far

  1. Tony Marra on

    WOW…Awesome!!

  2. Ivan on

    Big Al was one of the “special ones”. Father, Son and Spirit shared that “special something” with Big Al. He will be missed.
    C ya on the other side Big Al!!

  3. Fred De Stephanis on

    Thanks for these wonderful comments Bill. Al was my brother. I knew him all my life and he is as you describe – “a kind and gentle man”.

    • Bill Winn on

      Fred, Indeed your brother Al was as fine a man as I have ever met!

  4. Ted Burgos-DeStephanis on

    Bill,
    Thank you very much for all that you provide for us during this time of grief and mourning. What you wrote is beautiful and powerful.


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