The Shout of Joy

by DanWolgemuth on October 27, 2023

It had been over two years since I had seen my brother, Sam, and his wife Mary Gayle face to face. We had stopped by their lovely home in Laurel, Maryland in September of 2021 and spent an overnight with them. During that time together, while enjoying long and lingering conversations, Sam let us know that he was struggling with the formulation of certain words. A new and troublesome development for a man I have admired from my earliest memories of him.

Sam is 12 years older than I am. A trailblazer in our family. Brilliant. Wise. Broadly knowledgeable. Focused. And admired.

Sam was six feet five inches at his prime. An imposing and handsome man, with a kind and gentle heart.

His success in business was surpassed only by his voluntary involvement in non-profit organizations that promoted the common good, and the cause of Christ.

After his retirement from executive leadership in large corporate settings, Sam bridged leadership voids at World Relief and Alpha USA, as well as serving as board chair for Youth For Christ International. He was sought after for his board expertise, and his decisional discernment. Indeed, Sam could do nearly anything.

But now… a new chapter was being written. An uninvited and unwelcome intruder was waging war on one of the smartest men I’ve ever known. My brother. My friend. My mentor.

While I haven’t seen Sam in 25 months, I’ve kept in touch with him through Mary Gayle. And while Sam’s cognitive proficiency has been assaulted, Mary Gayle’s caretaking capacity has expanded and flourished. She has been thrust into a role that no spouse could ever fully anticipate. And she’s done it, as she does everything… with class, courage, competence and love.

A week ago I was in touch with Sam’s oldest daughter, Amy. Sam’s four kids have elevated the importance of regular Maryland visits to the forefront of their lives. And last week, it was Amy who joined Sam and Mary Gayle. In anticipation of my time with Sam, I wrote to Amy and asked how Sam was, and how he does recognizing family? She responded thoughtfully, and then added… “I think he’ll know you for sure.”

Just after noon on Wednesday, I pulled into a parking spot across from Sam and Mary Gayle’s house. Their front door stands high above the street below, and as I exited my rental car, Sam stepped onto the front porch. In a moment my eyes caught him, even as he caught a glimpse of me, his kid brother.

My heart skipped a beat. I paused in anticipation of what would be next, and then I heard a shout of absolute delight and joy. He flung his arms wide in invitation, and a few moments later, after I had ascended the stairs to their front door, he swallowed me up in his arms. We hugged. Firmly. Tenderly. Powerfully.

As we separated, tears formed for both of us.

What the unrelenting impact of aging had depleted, love had replaced. He was there. A mind imprisoned, a heart unleashed.

Sam. Unconstrained kindness. Overflowing gratitude. Sam.

And like the refining of precious metal… when the heat of life burns red hot, what is left of a man like Sam is pure, pure gold.

The shout of joy said it all…

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