Those of you who are involved with FaithTree likely know that George Haynes, who had been very involved with FaithTree for much of its story as part of the worship team (percussion), a behind the scenes helper and simply a smiling presence, had been battling brain cancer since last fall. While the brain cancer had paralyzed George on his one side and forced him into a skilled care facility, he had continued to be active via online means and was largely physically OK. Sadly, despite his facility going into lockdown towards the beginning of the coronavirus crisis, George somehow contracted it and had spent the past few weeks in the hospital; the last few days his situation had grown worse and — it still feels hard to believe I am writing this — George went into the presence of his Savior this morning.
Even though he had not been involved at FaithTree events recently, he still asked about all of you and cared deeply about those there. I am grateful for the times we got to share with him worshipping our Lord. Please keep Melanie, who serves as one of our two worship leaders, and their kids, Leo and Ellie, in your prayers as they grieve. While the cancer was terminal, this took George much sooner than any of us expected.
On a personal note, I had the joy of knowing George for about seven years and counting him as a dear friend. He was an active presence in classes I taught at church, always engaging with the topics at hand in thought provoking ways, and was encouraging to me with the work of FaithTree and, more recently, the planting of Little Hills as well.
Even when he started having these major health issues, he always wanted to know how I was doing and was eager to try to be an encouraging friend. I will never forget him worrying about how I was doing while he was laying in his hospital bed after being diagnosed with cancer. Another memory springs to mind from a few years ago: when my family went over for a pizza party at the Haynes a few years back, right after my dad’s stroke, my dad was struggling with light sensitivity; George put paper shades over lights he thought might shine in my dads eyes around the kitchen just to make sure they would not be a bother. That was George.
In recent times, with the lockdown making it impossible to visit George, he and I had taken to playing chess online. Whenever I asked how he was doing while we played, he would mention trying to adjust to the “new normal,” and yet seemed positive — we talked about topics we were looking forward to discussing in person when the crisis ended and we talked of a get together a mutual friend, George and I were looking forward to having, too.
It feels so incomplete that those things will not happen. George’s last maneuvers on the chess game were an unlikely series of attacks chopping away at my pieces after I had what looked like a sure victory. I hoped and prayed George would do the same with the cancer and the virus. That game remains, now permanently, unfinished.
I’m thankful George’s story is not, however. George had a strong, clear faith in Jesus and while we mourn his absence, we know he is restored and rejoicing in the presence of the One whose defeat of death we celebrated this past Sunday.
“But we do not want you to be uninformed, brothers, about those who are asleep, that you may not grieve as others do who have no hope. For since we believe that Jesus died and rose again, even so, through Jesus, God will bring with him those who have fallen asleep.” - 1 Thess 4:13-14 (ESV)