He Died Standing Up

Norman O. Jordan died standing up. Probably many people die in that position, but for Norman, it was an amazing way to leave this earth. For most of his life he struggled with polio and its debilitating effects, confining him to a wheelchair in his later years.

Some three hundred attended his memorial service in North Carolina on July 5, 2008. Norm’s only daughter, Beverly, told us that early on her father triumphed over polio and was able to walk cane-less and work for his family. A businessman, he managed mobile home parks. Strikingly handsome with bright, clear eyes, he was a visionary and a very optimistic man. Her dad grew up in the depression in Maine, she said, but that couldn’t keep him down.

Norman showed us a whole new meaning to “walking with Jesus,” a chaplain remarked. Then Norm’s pastor prayed, “Lord, our knees get shaky when we think about Norm’s life. We are amazed at how You enlivened these dead legs to … stand. To get out of the car on his own, his feet would slip and he would press, unwillingly, on the horn. But You helped him to persevere, to keep on keeping on.”

Amazingly, in the little country church where Norm and his wife, Muriel, attended, this cheerful man served God by playing the organ—with hands, and, of course, feet! His pastor went on praying, “We could always hear the bass, the pedals—displaying that special purpose You had, Lord, for those legs that seemed to be so dead, and yet bringing glory and honor to You.” We saw what the pastor meant when son David showed several video clips of his beloved dad playing and singing his favorite hymns.

In the challenges of his life, Norm always found the positive side. Beverly explained that as Norm’s grandchildren grew up, he couldn’t run and romp with them, but he had a lap and lots of love. In his dry Maine humor, he insisted he could not get up and play because he had a bone in his leg. Grampa Jordan and his wheels (wheelchair) were always a fun combination. He once borrowed a white hearse to transport the family on vacation … so now we friends could imagine him forever going out in style, Beverly concluded.

David said, “Dad had three passions: to see people come to Jesus; to discuss end-time events; and to see Jesus one day and receive a new body—healthy and whole.” David knew that his dad had now received that body. “I can see him praising the Lord in music and in dancing,” he said.

Son Barry compared Norman to the Old Testament Caleb, who trusted God in a special, deep way. “My father had a different spirit and followed God wholeheartedly,” Barry said, referring to Numbers 14:24. Barry observed four things that his father loved: God, God’s people, God’s house and God’s Word. Norm was a gifted Bible teacher. The church was his second home. And he found absolute delight in fellowshipping with the saints.

Norman Jordan also knew how to suffer with a willing heart. For him, God’s mercies were new every morning. Norm was an encourager. Out of the overflow of the heart, the mouth speaks (Luke 6:45). Beverly said that at one difficult point in her life, her father was oil floating over the waters of grief.

In retirement, the Jordans moved to the JAARS Center, the technical arm of Wycliffe Bible Translators, where Norman served as a host in the entrance lobby and dining room of the main building. At his memorial, one woman said it all: “When I received news of his home-going in an e-mail message, I could only stare at the screen. It was hard to believe, because he was such a constant presence here. We could count on his smile, his prayers, and the candy he shared from his wheelchair basket! When we all get to heaven, we’ll dance together and rejoice with him.”

Bob, who ran the elevator, would often ask Norm as he arrived in his wheelchair, “Going up?” and Norm always replied, “Someday!” He looked for Christ’s second coming with eager expectation. He longed for the day he would rise to meet Jesus. But as one woman remarked, “He didn’t wait for the Second Coming. He went on ahead.”

It seems people do not really know an individual well until they attend that person’s memorial service. Memories and impressions shared there meld into a revealing, integral picture of a man or woman and the kind of life they lived.

Norman died standing up, Muriel said. One evening, preparing for bed, he called her for help and shortly after … he was gone.

“He must have just stood up and been embraced by the Lord,” one friend remarked. Norman Jordan died standing—standing on the promises of God and His Word.

Norman O. Jordan

November 17, 1923 – June 5, 2008