Thirteen years ago tonight I was sitting in a hospital waiting room in Wichita Falls, Texas, with my mind whirling, spinning like a wounded plane in a nosedive. My good friend, Keith Layne, was lying comatose in the next room fighting for his life.

And I was fighting for answers.
And his wife and kids were fighting for a different reality.
And eternity and time were fighting over Keith.

Keith’s body was 20 feet from where I sat, but his spirit had started down the one-way road to eternity. His 49-year-old aorta had ruptured and the doctor had done his best to stitch it back, but the stitches were leaking.

As the stitch leaked, so did our hopes.

The waiting room was filled.
Filled with church folks who dearly loved their pastor.
Filled with preacher friends from Texas and beyond.
Filled with Keith’s sisters and their family.
Filled with his wife and kids, Ginger, Carmen, Shara and Ryan and their friends.
Filled with doubt and hope.
Filled with pain and laughter.
Filled with clarity and blindness about the future.

We all hurt deeply, questioned profoundly and hoped faintly, and there was nothing I could do.

What we saw and what Keith saw are different perspectives on the same incident.
• As we counted DOWN while watching Keith’s life numbers tick to nothing on earth, Keith counted UP while finishing the last steps on the stairway to heaven.
• As we saw the heartbeat slow DOWN on the hospital monitor, the heartbeat of heaven began picking UP the beat as Keith approached.
• As we felt the inky darkness pulled DOWN sharply over our hearts like rough, coarse bedding, Keith kicked off the soft blankets of humanity to walk UP to the brightest light.
• As we pushed a nurse to the side to lean DOWN to hug Keith with our goodbye, Keith pushed an angel to the side to reach UP to hug Jesus with his hello.
• We walked DOWN the steps and pushed open the door to leave the hospital, and Keith walked UP the steps and pushed open the gate of heaven to streets of gold.
• As we said, “Good night,” Keith said, “Good morning.”

He is now in a place eternal where days cannot be measured, so it’s doubtful he knows how long he’s been gone from us or how much we miss him. I have thought of him many of the 4745 days he’s been gone.

He pops in my mind at the oddest places:
• While eating in a dive.
•  He would have loved the show Diners, Drive-In’s and Dives
• While weeping and singing driving down the road
• While laughing with friends
• While listening to good vocal harmony
• While hugging my beautiful granddaughter
• While crying when telling my kids an “Uncle Keith” story
• While patting caskets goodbye as they roll out of the church
• While worshiping Jesus

I am quite sure I miss my friend more than he misses me. The Lord has given him an agenda that I can’t even understand, so he is involved in the Master’s work on a level I’ve not comprehended. But I miss him. I am richer for being Keith’s friend. I honor Joel Keith Layne today.

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Comments (15)

  1. Thank you for posting these words Pastor Brett! Through your words, I feel as though I was right there in the waiting room with you and the others. Thank you for being such a great leader, mentor and friend. You are a true writer.

  2. I'll never preaching for him in Mesquite. We'd be driving down the road on this errand or that, and suddenly he would break out in the first few lines of "Misty."
    Thanks for bringing back amazing memories and truly honoring a great man.

  3. “Wow” is all I can say. You put into words what we, his kiddos, feel but cannot say as well. Thank you for remembering my dad. Love, Carmen

  4. I will never forget Bro. Layne. To this day he is the only example of a Godly father that I have. I cherish the memories I have of him as my pastor. He was definitely a one of a kind man…larger than life!! I named my newest son Lane, in his memory.

  5. Beautiful words. Every June 21st I shed a few tears for the greatest Pastor that walked the Earth. Like you, I think of Pastor Keith…when I hear George Jones, when I see touring bikes, when I think about what a Pastor should be…I remember his hugs, his deep voice, his beautiful singing. Heaven is a better place with Keith Lane there. Can’t wait to see him again!

  6. This post is full of wisdom and comfort as we remember our loved ones in that great cloud of witnesses–Thank you, P. Brett

  7. Keith Layne was my pastor for many years and married me and my husband. He was an amazing man that can never be duplicated…heaven is richer with His presence. Your post was powerful and while it made me cry, it actually left me with a feeling of peace. He was blessed to have a real friend like you, Pastor Brett. Thank you for taking the time to write this and pay honor to this great man. His legacy lives on.

  8. How in the world do you describe Keith Layne? He wonderful ,Marvelous, Incredible too. Now he can sing with the angels, what am I saying he has been doing that for 13 yrs. now. Two of the most wonderful memories I have other than church is. First coming over at our house at an late hour at night to pray for my children while they had to drive to WV. for a funeral . He didn't just come to pray he gave them 200 dollars because they were just kids. That's something you don't forget. The second thing that stands out is so sweet and funny. We invited our youth to come swim at our home. He and Sister Layne came and the kids beg them to swim too. It wasn't hard to push Sis Layne in but it took all to push Bro.Layne in. His tall body stood way out of our four and a half ft. pool, but he played volley ball with them. He was wanted by both teams because he was so I could go on for hours but the main thing is to just say We love you Bro. Layne and always will. RIP


  9. He was a great friend to our family! Everytime I pass Peace Tabernacle, flood of great memories overwhelm me. I miss you Bro. Layne! How I would love to go back to the "STYLE" days and play the "Pass Me Not" song that we did back then. Wonderful memories!

  10. WOW! Sitting on a couch in the mall (as you enter Macy’s) waiting on “you-know-who”… I am having my ” socks-blessed-off”! I did not know Pastor Keith Lane… BUT I DO NOW… Thanks to you & your superb blog. Ms Naomi & I send our love…

  11. Beautiful & heartfelt comments. Reminds me of the times I waited for loved ones waiting for the ultimate healing. It so expressed my feeling as I waited for Mom to go with eyes opened which were closed for a week, looking up seeing something we could not see, we felt God's presence as we cried & praised God. Finally Home with Jesus. Memories comfort us.