I Lost a Friend Today (But that’s not the end of the story)

My heart hurts. My head is splitting. It’s been a long twenty-four hours of grieving.

In a tragic accident yesterday, my friend, Bob Stoker, was struck by a van while riding his bicycle.

Bob was active and fit. He loved riding. He loved getting on the back roads with the wind in his face. He loved life.

I was expecting him to walk through the church doors to a staff meeting about to start. Instead, his dear wife, Debi, called and said Bob had gone out for a ride and she was concerned. He was late, Bob is never late, and she couldn’t reach him on his cell.

About an hour later I was in the emergency room at Sacred Heart. Crying. Aching. Trying to absorb the words of the neurosurgeon, “Bob has suffered severe brain damage and has, at best, a 1-2% chance of survival. And if he does survive, he’ll never be the same man you knew.”

I’ve been here before with friends and family.

It’s surreal.

It’s agonizing.

It’s never is easy.

Something deep within you screams this can’t be happening! Bob just came on staff at Eastpoint. We just had them over for dinner a couple of weeks ago. He just retired from business a couple of months ago. He should have decades left. A long life with his family, and friends, and me.

But today, I’ll be planning his memorial service. And I’m mulling over how this unexpected loss of a great man, a good and trusted friend, a loving husband, father, and grandfather is ever going to make sense.

My mind is reeling.

There are no words, but somehow, trying to put it to words is therapeutic for me. Somehow, my soul connects with this plastic and metal keyboard in a way that helps me process and reflect.

While processing her grief, Ann Voskamp wrote in her book The Broken Way, “Be brave and do not pray for the hard thing to go away, but pray for a bravery that’s bigger than the hard thing. Grief is the guaranteed price we always pay for love.”

As I’m praying, I remember . . .

Bob’s gone, but not forever.

He’s not with us now, but that’s only a temporary situation.

This life, this precious, short, and often confusing existence on earth, is not the end of his story.

The last time we talked we discussed arthritis and creaky knees. We laughed about our bodies getting even with us for all the years of physical abuse we put these earth-suits through. I loved Bob’s knowing smile and gentle laugh.

But that won’t be the last time we talk. Another encounter—without the constraint of time—is coming in another and far better location. A place without broken bodies or broken hearts.

And I wonder . . .

How can anyone live without looking forward to heaven?

How does anyone face such heart-wrenching loss without understanding that we don’t grieve like the rest of mankind, who have no hope?

How can anyone tolerate this life without embracing eternal life?

I’m hurt. I’m devastated. I have no simple answers. I have no idea why this happened.

But I am not consumed by grief; I’m obsessed by hope. I’m not overwhelmed by sorrow; I’m gripped by grace, and by the One who holds tightly to the brokenhearted.

On this side of eternity, very little makes sense, but this side is not all there is.

For a few years or maybe a few decades, I will miss Bob, but one day we will be together again, forever. How I long for that day.

Hold a spot at His table for me, Bob. See you soon my friend.

 

“The Lord is close to the brokenhearted
and saves those who are crushed in spirit.

Psalm 34:18 (NIV)

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31 thoughts on “I Lost a Friend Today (But that’s not the end of the story)

  1. Oh my gosh, I am so sorry to hear this brother.

    Sadly, I understand the pain of loss and so my heart hurts with you and I am lifting you up to our Savior right now.

    I love you brother.

  2. We are so heartbroken… we’ve only known bob for a year, but they mentored us and it was an intimate year. The stokers have a deep and special place in our lives. I lovrd what you said today about heartbreak, I tried to write it in my phone when you said it, but didn’t want to look like i was texting you said something like heartbreak must be important because God let’s it happen to himself too…is that close?
    What an amazing service today. I didn’t want it to end. It was so beautiful to hear all about Bob and talk about him. Each person spoke about his faithfulness and how he MADE time for people. We love bob and debi. We feel so fortunate to have been mentored by such a great man (&woman too!) We love and miss Bob so much….soooo much.

    1. Thank you, Krystn. He was an amazing man and friend. Here’s the quote: Ann Voskamp, wrote, in her book, The Broken Way: “Who knows why God allows heartbreak, but the answer must be important because God allows HIS heart to break too.

  3. My deepest condolences Kurt. What a beautiful way to remember your dear friend.

    May our great Lord watch over you and the family as you grieve.

    Something tells me that there will be great party one day when you see each other again.

    Prayers, love and hugs

  4. I didn’t know Bob, but my heart weeps as you share your pain. I know grief and the hurt that it brings. Kurt, this was so well expressed.Sending prayers and hugs for your heart as you minister to the loved ones.

  5. My father and my best friend.

    He will be missed dearly on earth, but his life and legacy live on while he celebrates the entrance to eternal life. If I can only be a small fraction of the man of God he was I will call that success. God, my Jesus, is welcoming him into His arms saying “Well done, good and faithful servant.”

    I thank the community, friends and family that have come alongside during this tough and surreal time.

    God is good people. Love much and hug often.

  6. Bob was my oldest nephew. HE was my older sisters son. When we had the opportunity to be with him and his family it was always a delight but always to short of a time! Many memories flow through my mind about the time I was 13 and Bob was just a little guy I was playing with as l was tending him. He was a great guy who loved his lord and his family. Im sure there is a celebration in heaven as he sees his mom and dad. I look forward to seeing them all again. We do not go from life to death, we go from death to life when we go to heaven. Blessing to all of his family, Aunt Shirley

  7. …From the day I met Bob years ago at Valley Fourth…always a heart for leadership…leading others to the Cross

  8. Jesus wept, and I am weeping for you and Bob’s family at this most unexpected time of loss. In spite of your overwhelming grief, God gave you the very words we all need to hear when a loved one passes. You have blessed so many, Kurt, by baring your heart and your sorrow.
    May God’s comfort surround you now and forever more.

  9. Thanks Pastor Kurt, That was a beautiful description of Bobs life. We enjoyed both Debbie and Bob friendship. Looking forward to seeing him when we all meet again. It truly is our loss but, his gain.

  10. Pastor Kurt. So well said and our hearts break for your loss and for the loss for those who knew and loved Bob. He was an amazing man and we struggle to know why he was taken so soon and so suddenly. Knowing the answers to that wouldn’t bring him back……..but filling our hearts and minds with thanksgiving for his life and knowing him will give us comfort. Thank you Jesus for the blessing of Bob’s life in ours…….and now…..till we meet again. “The centerpiece of the integration of grief is not the mind, but the heart” Alan Wolfelt.

  11. Well said Pastor Kurt!! We are all in shock but the hope of seeing him again is what keeps me going!

  12. Sitting in the hospital while I read your blog. My husband is going thru a tough time and we don’t know what the long term prognosis will be for him but I am praising the Lord that we do know where we are going when we leave this earth. Bob was a good friend to a great number of people and will be missed. Our prayers are going up for Debi & family.

  13. Powerful and true words!!! I am so sorry for your loss! Praying for you and Bob’s family! Love you!

  14. I’m so sorry for your (our) loss. My prayers go out to Bob and Debi’s family. I guess we will never understand why some are taken from us too soon until we are at the feet of Jesus.

  15. This is beautiful Kurt. My heart is aching for Deb and his family. The wondering why. Thank you so much for writing this. It helps my heart as I know it will help others as well. He was loved and so are you.

  16. Kurt,
    Know that I am praying for you and for Mrs. Stoker in this time of intense hurt. Thank God we can cling to the hope that we will one day reunite with our loved ones and enjoy eternity together in the presence of our Lord.

  17. Kurt
    I am so sorry my friend, Its such a hard thing but as men of faith, we know this is not the end Kurt.
    I didn’t know him, as I knew of him. I hope and I pray Kurt That this pain we feel is just one more step getting to know Jesus ! And knowing we are not alone.
    On this travel we endure many things we would rather not go threw. Like Death, divorce, ext. GBY His family, wife kids, and the Church family!

    Dave Taylor sr

  18. I knew Bob but a different side of him. I have cleaned their home for over 4 years. God has allowed me an intimate relationship with the stokers home and the things that take up the space and corners of their castle.

    I have always felt blessed to play such a role in the lives of Bob and Debi. The warmth of family, friends, and love always radiate as I move through their home while cleaning. There just does not seem to be words, it seems impossible to comprehend such tragedy.
    Bob was a neat and tidy man but there are still things I will miss.

    Most all all, I will miss seeing his workout shorts hanging on his shower head and lifting up to dust under that new endearing love card to his wife. Watching Bob and Debi work together in such a rare capacity …. they are the definition of a team. My heart grieves for his team mate and all the cheer leaders in his life.

    What an incredible legacy of love left behind. What a Godly man. Heaven surly is rejoicing at the doors of heaven as we yearn to understand here and learn to move forward.

  19. HI Kurt,
    I didn’t have the pleasure to get to know Bob. I wanted to send you our families love and to let us know if there is anything we can do to serve the Bob’s family.
    I pray for the many broken hearts.

  20. Beautiful Kurt, I saw Christ when I talked to Bob. His heart full and giving. We lost a friend but heaven gained a great angel. As you put it, it’s not goodbye, it’s see you later friend.

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