I sat in the church with scores of people all feeling the loss so deeply. It was the Celebration of Life service for my friend’s little boy, Elijah, who died of brain cancer six days before his second birthday. Of course, knowing that Elijah was no longer in pain and instead running, laughing and playing in heaven in the presence of God brings incredible comfort and peace. But our thoughts this day were with his parents and the difficult days ahead as they would try to live life without their precious son. As their friend, and also as a mom and grandma, the loss of Elijah was hitting me especially hard.
Elijah’s parents and one of his doctors stood courageously in front of us and shared story after story of how he had inspired so many as he endured two life-threatening brain surgeries, seven rounds of chemo, and many months in the hospital. He was known for his smile, his sweet disposition, and his love for Jesus. His joy in the midst of his own pain encouraged everyone around him. He blew kisses to his doctors and nurses whenever he had the strength to do so.
With tears streaming down her face his mom shared that one night a few weeks earlier as she was praying with him before he went to sleep (something they did every night), he stopped her, put his little hand on her cheek, looked in her eyes and said, “More, Mama!” She asked, “More what?” He replied with a big smile on his face, “More Jesus!”
This story has continued to echo in my heart and mind since I heard it that day. In the midst of his pain and discomfort, Elijah’s close connection to and relationship with his Savior made him want more Jesus when he could have asked for anything—relief from pain, to run and play, toys, or ice cream. Not even two years old, Elijah had learned that the way through his pain, the way to true joy and peace, is in knowing his Jesus and depending on him. He wasn’t old enough to have had the opportunity to study about Jesus or about what faith should look like. Elijah knew Jesus from experiencing his love and care firsthand. And he wanted more.
In closing the service, the pastor said, "In his short life, Elijah impacted many lives for eternity by loving others with the same love he had experienced in truly knowing Jesus."
Elijah’s life has inspired me to daily seek to grow in my own relationship with Jesus and to truly know him. Jesus himself wanted this for us when he prayed these words: “And this is eternal life, that they may know you, the only true God, and Jesus Christ whom you have sent.” (John 17:3). My prayer is that I will never be satisfied with where I am in my faith journey but instead will be eager to say, "More Jesus!"