My brother-in-law fought the good fight, stayed the course, and won the crown of glory - all in one relatively brief lifetime of 38 years. He has definitely won my heart as I watch him on that bed heaving his last breath last night.
In fact, I saw how he left this world. It was one of those rare moments where I witnessed a brave fight to the end.
I always wonder what is a good death, and I found the answer in Joel. Since his tumor in 2009, he never let up. He was as faithful and as hopeful as the cancer was as painful and as dreadful.
And last night, he let go and let God. Yet the foreign invasion took nothing of the Joel I knew. My brother-in-law gave nothing good and inspiring of himself away. He kept to the end the best of himself even when life has given the worst of itself to him.
He even dictated the terms of his own demise. In his afflictions, Joel ceded no concession to pain, morbidity and death. He told them off and got them to stay on their side of the line.
He loved ceaselessly. He didn't let pain and hopelessness destroy over him. He still wrote to others to encourage them in his dying days. He sent them songs in the Whatapps to tell them in no uncertain terms that God is still as real to him when he was well as when he was sick.
He passed away living an authentic life as a father, a husband, a friend and a believer.
Death could have changed him. It could have made him bitter, withdrawn, broken, angry, and lost. But it did none of that.
Death's schemes flopped big time. In fact, Joel turned it around last night. He valiantly changed death, he transformed it into life.
Death was supposed to signify the end, but Joel transformed it into the beginning. That is, the beginning of life, eternal life. Death was supposed to take away faith, but Joel added more of it to his fight.
Death was supposed to rob hope, but Joel saw the things of the world growing strangely dim while the things of eternity growing brightly as the morning rise.
And death was supposed to bring pain and sorrow, but Joel stood in the gap with the Lover of his soul and converted all that to deeper love, greater hope and a brighter tomorrow.
Indeed, death is not for the dying. It is for the living to contend with. For Joel, death lost its sting and hold on all that is joyful, faithful and hopeful in him.
Joel conquered it by not letting it take his spirit and soul away. He in fact lived again to tell of his glorious victory. This time in a more firm and permanent place - our hearts.
Last night, I kept my tears to myself until my father-in-law went over to his son, hugged him intimately, and broke down like a baby. It was there, that image, that moment, that I kept my tears no longer.
No amount of pretenses and false bravado could withstand the demonstration of a father's love and devotion for his child. It was a transforming moment and I was reminded of my own love for my son and daughters.
And love had the last word that night. Love told death off. Love lived on because love never give up, let go and fail.
On that deathbed, I did not see a dying man. I did not see a departing brother-in-law. I did not see Joel's final hour with his loved ones.
On that deathbed, I saw family. I saw tears of endearing memories. I saw hearts poured out in love and devotion. I saw even more life than the expiry of it. So, death has indeed been defeated. I have no doubt of that. Death died that night and life lived.
Goodbye Joel. Your words of encouragement will linger strong. Your life testimony will never fade. Your songs of grace and love will resonate in the quiet chambers of our hearts.
We will miss you because we love you. But don't turn back now because there is a greater joy waiting for you. A celebration prepared for you. A gathering of saints rejoicing with you. A love unconditional, surpassing everything on earth, waiting to embrace you.
Run away Joel. Run towards it. The author and finisher of your faith awaits. We are here merely to send you off to a better place. A place you have prepared all your life for.
Take care bro. Have a wonderful trip. Go home in perpetual peace and glory. See you when I see you. Cheerz.