At 12:30 on Saturday morning of November 21st, my brother Mitch died of a heart attack in Cambridge Mn. He was 49 years old. He is survived by his wife Anita, and three boys, Matthew, Aaron, and Ryan.
It has been five days since Mitch's passing and I am still in shock. I would have posted this news earlier, but the truth of Mitch's death has just sort of sucked the life out of me and the things that were fun before have become dreary and joyless. By the grace of God I know that over time I will heal, but I will never forget my precious brother. I know with absolute certainty he is in Heaven in the very presence of his Lord and Savior Jesus Christ. You see, Mitch died a Christian man.
Since I became a Christian in 2000, I had shared the gospel with him on a few occasions and his response was always one of cold indifference. He just didn't seem to have any interest in spiritual matters. I was worried about Mitch because he had smoked his whole life and I thought he would die from cancer as our father did over forty years ago. He tried to quit on many times, but could never do it.
In 2006 Mitch suffered a serious heart attack, and by God's mercy, he survived. He quit smoking for a few months afterward, but soon started up again, rolling his own cigarettes because he was usually too poor to buy packs from the store. Mitch always struggled with drinking, and seemed to go through cycles where he would quit, then start up again, quit, then start up again. His drinking caused problems in his family, but could not seem to quit.
Eight months ago, during one of those difficult periods in his life when he was drinking, he called me up out of the blue and told me he found salvation in Jesus Christ. WOW!!! The Lord had turned on the switch and Mitch understood the horrible spiritual predicament he was in; he was doomed to Hell for breaking God's laws, and Jesus Christ was the only way out. Mitch bowed to the Lordship of Christ, confessing he had not done very well running his own life. From that point on Mitch was a different man, a joy-filled and peaceful man. It was so obvious he was a believer just from talking to him. He loved Jesus. And the light of Christ manifested itself in very tangible and significant ways by his undying, self-sacrificial love for his family whom he had hurt many times with his drinking. I an absolutely certain Mitch is in Heaven right now in the presence of his Lord Jesus Christ.
The wake and funeral were on Tuesday, attended by well over a hundred wounded and teary-eyed family and friends. There were people there I had not seen for many, many years to say good-bye to Mitch. The death of Mitch is a stark reminder that we are all mortal. We are swallowed up by the fact that we shall all one day become a cold and lifeless corpse. I am so grateful that the gospel was proclaimed at Mitch's funeral, and it is my prayer that friends and relatives will think about their eventual demise and what awaits them on the other side of death. May the Lord cause the lost who attended Mitch's funeral to be "born-again", as He did to Mitch.
Here are a few observations on my awesome brother Mitch, although not exhaustive...
Mitch was a simple man, a man who never desired great wealth or personal recognition. He never graduated from high school, so he spent his time going from one low paying job to the next. He never had a fancy house, car, boat, equipment, or clothes...that just wasn't Mitch.
Mitch was a complex man who had a lot more going on under the surface than he showed. I am certain he often wondered, as I did before I became a Christian, the true meaning and purpose of life.
Mitch was very family oriented. He loved family gatherings and game nights. Although he struggled with drinking, family was very important to him.
Mitch had a great love of the outdoors and fishing. He spent considerable time on the upper St. Croix river, camping with his family, fishing, and enjoying the solitude. He was a very accomplished fisherman.
Mitch was extremely intelligent, and any task he undertook, he did very well. He was a problem solver and strategic thinker who could fix just about anything that was broken.
Mitch also had a great sense of humor. He loved to say and do unusual things that would make people laugh. Even when life was tough, Mitch's kept seeing the humor in things nobody else could.
Mitch would help anyone in need, even in his drinking cycles he would help anyone who had a need.
Mitch was tough as nails. He had survived a lot of sorrow and pain in his life. He never complained about his situation. He just lived life on life's terms.
Mitch, I have cried many times just thinking about you over these past few days. I love you and will miss you dearly in this life, but praise the Lord that I will see you again in glory!
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