Everyone comes across people in life that impress them for some specific reason. They impact us with who they are, how they choose to live, and how they make us feel.
Joe Druckemiller was that kind of man. My friend.
I’d known Joe for decades. He was one of those people that entered a room and everyone smiled more broadly because Joe had arrived. He led with his smile and wacky sense of humor. But his knack for making anyone he talked to feel special was a unique gift he gave generously.
It didn’t matter who you were.
With his wife Alison and daughter Anna, Joe lived out loud with joy and exuberance from a heart of deep compassion and profound love for Jesus. He saw people for who they were, accepting them with a bear hug and genuine kindness because being seen and known was an offering from his heart that he gave others freely.
He sang with a voice that could move me to tears. He sang at our daughter’s wedding, a song performed by Andrea Bocelli called “Con Te Partiro”. It was in Italian, yet even without understanding the words, when Joe sang, the room was silent. His voice was like a warm hug wrapping around you with a richness that didn’t need understandable words. The melody spoke love clearly.
His last year of life was a huge challenge to him and all those close to him. A diagnosis was long in coming, but he had both ALS and dementia, two diseases that systematically and viciously stripped Joe of who he was. He lost his ability to sing. He couldn’t remember how to cook his favorite recipes. His mind wandered without a place to rest.
He never lost his smile.
Joe went home to be with the Lord on October 25. Five days after he and Alison celebrated their 30th wedding anniversary. A celebration that paled in comparison to the joy of all those in heaven awaiting his arrival. A place where his voice is restored, where his humor is enjoyed, and where he is all God ever meant him to be.
There are many who never even consider heaven until they are close to death or someone close to them dies. Death is the great equalizer–it will happen to all of us. What Joe understood was that by investing his life in people, helping them discover the love of Jesus and the hope of forgiveness, he was investing eternally.
Joe enjoyed life and lived it well. He knew life was worth living if you have a purpose. His purpose–to love Jesus and let others know how much Jesus loved them.
When good friends had just lost their brother to disease, they confronted Jesus and told Him that if only He’d been present, their brother wouldn’t have died.
“Jesus told her, ‘I am the resurrection and the life. Anyone who believes in me will live, even after dying. Everyone who lives in Me and believes in Me will never die.’” John 11:25-26
Jesus was speaking of eternity, living in the presence and love of God forever. Not separated from compassion and contentment but having every tear, pain, and grief wiped away.
Joe knew this life was limited. But his hope was in what is to come.
Where’s your hope?