If memory serves me well, it was ten years ago, to the day, that I last spoke with Brother Witness Lee. Brother Ed Marks was there. I can never forget the conversation that we had with him.
April 15, 1997, was a Tuesday, and I was, as usual, in my office at Living Stream Ministry. Ed Marks was in his office across the way, and I suppose that we were hard at work on our respective lines of ministry materials, he on editing Brother Lee’s messages for publication, I on the revision of the Old Testament Recovery Version. For some months Brother Lee had been quite ill, and Ed and I both knew that Brother Lee had little strength to do much more than lie down and perhaps fellowship and pray for short periods of time with some few saints. My understanding was that Brother Lee slept much of the day by then and that for the most part he was comfortable in spite of his debilitating disease. For some months prior to April 15th, though not for some weeks immediately preceding that date, a small group of brothers, perhaps ten or twelve, had met with Brother Lee about three times a week for an hour or so to fellowship and pray. These had been memorable times with Brother Lee and were more in character like small group meetings than times where we received direction and guidance from our brother, as one might expect. Of course, there was significant fellowship about the going on of the Lord’s recovery, and even pointedly about how that might be without our brother among us, but in the main these times were vital group meetings in which we all enjoyed the Lord and fellowshipped the truth. We sang hymns and prayed together, and on some few occasions there were tears (at least in my eyes, and I recall at least once in Brother Lee’s eyes). I cannot recall exactly when Brother Lee ceased to have the strength for these small gatherings, but by April 15, 1997, I had not seen Brother Lee for a little while, and I did not know if I would ever see him again. There was a general sadness at Living Stream Ministry, we all expecting that our brother would soon go to be with the Lord.
I cannot recall what precipitated the conversation with Ed that morning, but I do remember vividly Ed standing in my office and saying, “Kerry, I miss Brother Lee so much. I just wish we could see him.” I shared the very same sentiments, and for some strange reason Ed’s voicing of these sentiments inspired me to suggest that we be quite bold and try to see Brother Lee that very moment. Hence, I suggested to Ed that we go over to Brother Lee’s house at Grace Gardens and ask Sister Lee if we could see Brother Lee. I felt that it wouldn’t be likely that we could see him—he may not be awake or he may not be feeling strong enough to have visitors—but it was certainly worth trying, if only to have the attempt allay our sadness. So then, with no more than a glimmer of hope of seeing him, we drove over to Brother Lee’s house and knocked on his front door.
Sister Lee answered the door and was, as usual, smiling and happy to see us. We apologized for disturbing her and Brother Lee and told her that we were wondering if it would be possible to visit Brother Lee for just a few minutes, if he was able to and up to it. Sister Lee smiled broadly and said she would go and see if he could see us. She asked us to wait at the door. I was encouraged that we had gotten this far and felt that seeing Sister Lee was comfort enough. If we got no further than that, the drive over had been successful in my eyes. After a few minutes Sister Lee came back and said, “Yes, Brothers, Brother Lee can see you.” She led us into the house and to the front living room.
Brother Lee would go to be with the Lord 55 days later, so on April 15, 1997, he was quite weak and generally confined to a special recliner that the brothers had modified for him. With the help of this motorized recliner, Brother Lee could go from standing position to full horizontal recline and back up to standing position without effort or strain. When we entered the front living room, he was in this recliner lying peacefully and was seemingly asleep. A clean white sheet covered him from the shoulders down and draped over the arms of the recliner to the floor. I could see that he was wearing a light jacket and had on a white shirt and a dark necktie. Even in illness he was found in fashion to be the most respectable of men.
As we neared him, Brother Lee opened his eyes sleepily and recognized us. He lit up at our presence, which was alone a great comfort and encouragement to us. I believe that Ed spoke up first and for the most part did the talking for both of us. There did not need to be two voices for the one feeling we had and wanted to express. The years have eroded the memory of the exact words, but I can still recall Ed telling Brother Lee that we just wanted to come by and say Hello and tell him that we loved him and missed him. I do not know how Ed felt at that moment, but I felt like we were two grandkids with our dear grandpa, and though we have no physical relationship with Brother Lee, in some ways we were just that, his spiritual grandkids. We had both been raised up in the churchlife by brothers who had been raised up in the churchlife by him, and we had both been able to be around him for some years, to come to know him and to learn from him. He had brought us both into the publication work with him, and we had had the honor of serving as helpers for some time then. Brother Lee asked us how we were doing and what we were working on in the ministry office in those days. Ed told him about his work, and I told him about mine. He was quite interested and seemed happy to hear that we were laboring in the same ministry that he had labored in for so many years. I do not remember when it happened in the conversation, but I do remember that at one point tears welled up in his eyes as he peered at us while we spoke, almost excitedly, about the work we were continuing to do in his footsteps. It was, of course, a very touching moment, and I felt then that he was slipping away from us, that we would not have him much longer as our steady companion and faithful guide in the church and for the work. My heart was sad, even if it was a great joy to be with him again. He was very weak, and one could tell that even having his eyes open was tiring to him.
Soon the words ran out, and I think that Ed and I both sensed that we should go and let our brother rest. I believe Ed said something to that effect, and we started to leave. But before we could turn to go, Brother Lee spoke these final words to us: “Brothers, I’m still in the dream.” His words were sparkling and clear, as if from another place and by another strength. The allusion was not lost to us at all; he was referring to the dream he had had when he was imprisoned by the Japanese in World War II. It was the dream that had guided him in his ministry until the end, and it had been fulfilled by the Lord before his eyes. At the end of the dream there was a bright sunset before him with an open way toward it, and at the end of his life there was an open way for his ministry throughout the earth and a bright shining of the divine truth because of it. In that moment he was again ministering to us and encouraging us on; for a moment he was again our steady companion and faithful guide. We both brightened in his sunset, and Ed gave him our common response: “And now we’re in the dream too, Brother Lee.” With our eyes upon his living face one last time, we spoke to him our parting words, “Goodbye, Brother Lee.”