R.I.P. Rest in peace. These have become our trite words of release. An acronym of farewell that perhaps helps us let go of those we love who have made the journey into eternity. During this past week, our dear friend Rob Greathouse, who paved the way for us coming to Hungary in many ways, crossed over through death into life eternal. And as his passing has caused me to remember the past and recall his great contribution to ministry here in Hungary, I find the old acronym RIP, strangely inappropriate.
Rob and his delightful wife, Carol, came to Hungary several years before my family did. Carol was the extrovert with a heart full of compassion and such extraordinary love for everyone. Rob played the role of the strong stoic background man, the homebody that held down the fort. Together they were truly a force to be reckoned with, a force that no doubt left Satan shakin' in his shoes. They hosted orphanage kids for special weekends away from the institution. They played a critical role in building the church that we all know as Golgota Debrecen (Calvary Chapel, Debrecen).
Carol was larger than life, calling everyone "honey bunny" and leaving all with the sense that they had a loving and compassionate Grandma in their court. Rob always proved understated. Saying little and at times coming across as a bit prickly. But his prickles were just a thin veneer that never successfully hid his GIANT heart. Generosity was second nature to him, and his giving was always without pomp and circumstance. He saw a need. He met the need. And that was that. The masses would never know he was involved.
After 10 years in Hungary, they decided it was time to return to the states. But before they left Hungary, they received news that fell like a bombshell. Rob had cancer and he likely would not survive three months. By the time they sold their house and he climbed aboard the plane, pain racked his body to such an extent that he doubted he would even survive the flight home. But then something remarkable happened.
When he got back to the states all the cancer disappeared. God had given this older couple a gift. They would be able to enjoy the treasure of each other for several more years. And enjoy it they did! A marriage rekindled with a renewed love, deeper than either of them thought possible. It was restoration. It was love. It was life at its best. But it was also on a timeclock. Last year the cancer returned, and as the months passed, it became increasingly clear that this cancer would be terminal.
About a month ago they visited the oncologist as they prepared to go into hospice. The doctor explained the process. Rob would receive medication for pain so he should not suffer. His body would grow increasingly weak and he would find himself sleeping more and more often until finally he would simply not wake up. And it would all probably conclude within a month's time. Rob left the meeting elated.
"Wow! That's great news!" he said. "I get to be with Christ in Heaven within the month, and I don't even have to suffer. I get to go in my sleep!"
And so it happened much as the oncologist described. The final weeks were speckled with indescribable moments of family affection, sparks of Rob's unwavering humor, giggles and smiles alongside tears and aches until finally last week Rob slipped into that final sleep.
Rest in peace? No, that's not for Rob. Rest is for the weary. Rest is what Rob needed as the pushed forward in life under the weight of human frailty in those final days. Rest is for those who walked this road at his side and now fall exhausted under the strain of what they've come through. For Carol and family I pray they will experience the "rest" of Hebrews 4 in all its fullness, and that includes the comfort and assurance of knowing where Rob lives right now.
But rest is no longer for Rob. Rob shed that heavy, faded cloak of human flesh last week, and when he did, he emerged with zeal and energy into the incomprehensible and boundless love of Christ. Basking in the glory of Lord, Rob is not wanting to rest. For him, now is the time to revel!
And so I do not say, "Rob Greathouse, Rest in Peace," because I know there's a heck of a lot more to the hereafter than slumber. Heaven is a place of exuberance where we come into the fullness of who we are because we have been made complete by Christ on every level. To be in the very presence of Christ, face-to-face, who could rest? Every fiber of Rob's being must be rattled with excitement.
Considering that, maybe I can still say R.I.P. But by those letters I do not mean "rest in peace." I mean something far more significant. So go ahead, Rob Greathouse, go ahead and revel. R.I.P. "Revel in His Presence!" We will join you soon!