Precious in the sight of the Lord is the death of His godly ones~Psalm 116:15

It was 1959 when I first met Jack Irvine while attending Monterey Bay Academy in California. We played in the band and on the baseball diamond together. Our friendship grew and deepened over the years in spite of living some distance apart. We watched our children grow and our careers go forward. Besides our common love for family, jobs, and sports, we shared common spiritual interests.

I have always known that life is what happens while you make other plans. Early in Jack’s career he developed testicular cancer, which was treated successfully. Part of his treatment included prophylactic radiation to his mediastinum. This procedure was done because the mediastinum is a common site for the spread of testicular cancer. Decades later, he developed alveolar cell carcinoma of the lung. This cancer threatened his life in spite of chemotherapy and surgical removal of one lobe of his left lung.

As his situation became more serious, with the cancer spreading to the other lung, my communication with him became more frequent. During the last six months of his life we talked nearly every day. At one point I went to his home and spent several days with him talking about life, death, and the future. Though his universe had shrunk to the length of an oxygen hose, he seemed to have a peace about him.

I asked him about his tranquility. He simply said that he only focused on the present moments he was given without worrying about the future. His desire was to pack the present with purpose and every moment with meaning.

I wanted to know more about his relationship with God in the face of his short life expectancy, so I asked if he was assured of his eternal future. We discussed everything from humans as possible victims of collateral damage to physician-assisted suicide. He told me that his hope was not based on present circumstances, the promise of eternal life or on an event such as the coming of Jesus. I asked him to explain further and he told me that he was certain of one thing: God would give him the desires of his heart. From our conversation it was clear to me that what he wanted was an eternal friendship with Jesus. As I watched him fighting for every breath, I could sense his soul breathing God’s peace. His trust in God was palpable.

As I reflected on these conversations with my friend Jack, I was struck by the importance of maximizing meaningful living in the moments we have. It also became crystal clear to me that the desires of our hearts really matter. If the greatest desire is a forever friendship with Jesus, we can face whatever life brings with a calmness and peace that difficult circumstances, including death, cannot take away.

Trusting Jesus completely, as it pertains to our future, is the only thing that gives us peace. In many ways Jack not only showed me how to live, but also how to face my own mortality with hope and assurance.

-David L. Wilkins, LLUSM class of 1970, is an associate clinical professor in LLUSM department of ophthalmology and a wellness consultant.