God showed up in a surprising way for my extended family in the midst of grievous circumstances.
My 51 year-old nephew Norman Barry, who appeared to be in good health, suffered a heart attack while riding his bicycle in a race on 9/16/17. The Tour de Troit Ride explores some of the city’s historic areas, takes in many of its breathtaking sights, and provides bicyclists a unique opportunity to legally “take over” the streets of Motown. Norm was unable to be revived at the scene and passed away.
His death shocked the entire family and his large circle of friends, all of whom loved him dearly and liked him considerably. All experienced shock and disbelief at the jarring news.
The point of this post is not to recount his funeral or even his serious, yet gregarious personality. He was beloved, admired and left a positive impact on all who knew him as evidenced by the crowded service and long procession to the cemetery full of people from all places and backgrounds. His cousin, Anne said it best: “The bagpipes and the heartfelt tribute given by his friend, Glenn that captured Norm’s genuine, courageous, loving spirit as a connector of people were a consolation. He will be missed deeply by many. He has left a legacy of all the good he did and the example he has set to make relationships a priority.” Obituary
It’s now a ten days later and I’m sufficiently composed to share the amazing thing that God did for Norm’s immediate family at Holy Sepulchre Catholic Cemetery in Southfield, Michigan.
Norm was interred two rows directly below his paternal grandparents. What makes this unusual is that grandpa John James Barry died in 1953 – so these two plots were purchased 64 years ago.
When asked if any plots were still available in this section, they were uncertain, dispatching workers with metal poles out to probe the ground for vaults.
Six available burial plots were discovered (two rows away from John and Mary), bordering an access road. Plots they did not know existed – that they surely would have sold over the past 64 years had they known.
As if this was not incredible enough, Norm was an avid Detroit sports fan. He rests across from and within sight of the mausoleum of Detroit industrialist Robert S. Brown graced by two bronze lion statues. While not associated with the NFL team, these lions hold significant memories for his father, Mike and other family members who played on them as kids.
So our Norman is surely smiling to know he has a preferred, 50 yard-line seat of the Lions and is a mere baseball throw from the two tigers statues nearby. God’s hand emerged in surprising fashion during a dark week for the Barry family, bringing comfort and knowledge of His nearness.
Personally, this news brought me unexpected joy.
Initially, I wept at hearing the story, choking up at the tenderness of the Father’s kindness toward us. Later in reflection, it dawned upon me that Normans final resting place is a sign that Jesus is restoring relationships in the Barry family. By connecting the graves of grandparents and grandson, God is linking three Barry generations as in Malachi 4:5 “See, I will send the prophet Elijah to you before that great and dreadful day of the Lord comes. He will turn the hearts of the parents to their children, and the hearts of the children to their parents.”
Norm was known for his ability to connect with people within and outside his family.
Norm knew his grandmother (my mom) well, but never met his grandfather, so this placement is especially poignant. Even in death, Stormin’ Norman is still connecting.
May this be the beginning of restored intergenerational family relationships on a deeper level.
Do you have a story of good arising amidst the death of a loved one? If so, I’d like to hear it.