EUGENE — Knowing my brother just died, my friend wanted to know, “How can you be so happy? I would be sad.”

“Ken had a hard life, and I knew he was going to heaven.”

“How could you be so sure?” she asked.

The feeling filled me. I had no question. I was joyful even following trucks at night in the pouring rain. It lasted for days after his death.

But this isn’t the start of the story. Six months earlier, I suddenly felt I should say an extra prayer every night for Ken. Then Ollie, his board-and-care mom, called me: Ken was very sick, in the hospital, and might die.

When I called Ken, he was very weak. He was concerned for me, saying, ‘You don’t have to come this time. Come to see me next time I’m sick. If you see me this time, don’t come next time.’ I got a lump in my throat.

When I saw Ken, his eyes were glazed. He was barely conscious, but I moved near him and said, ‘I love you.’ Ken’s lips barely moved to say, ‘I love you,’ but that was enough.

The nurses were caring, moving him to a private room, away from his loud roommate. Then one asked if they should resuscitate him. There was nothing they could do for his aggressive brain cancer, so I said no. Then the bombshell hit: Ken’s insurance would pay only for hospice, and he had to leave.

I argued that he was doing well there, I had no place to take him, and I couldn’t care for him. While they looked for other options, I asked for a priest. None were available, but a nurse said the Divine Mercy Chaplet with me. It helped.

Exhausted, I got the last room in the Kiwanis Family House. On the bus back to the hospital, a passenger told me about her near-death experience. She had seen Jesus in a white tunic, behind a wall, planting roses. A friend of hers had a near-death experience like this, but the friend saw Jesus’ face.

Somehow the staff found a room. It was for people with large families. They set up a bed for me, but I sat for hours with my hand on Ken’s arm, praying for him. All that I could think of was that he was going to heaven. Ken died peacefully.

After all this, I wanted Ken’s eulogy to show why people cared so much about him:

“My brother, Ken, lived a very simple life. He didn’t do any of the things that the world thinks are important. He did not win trophies; join organizations, or coach soccer. He never married.

But when I think of Ken, I have a clear, strong feeling: Ken was a very good person. I had this feeling sitting by his bedside, trying to hold his hand over the bedrails. I have this feeling now, as I talk about him.

At 14, Ken was diagnosed with schizophrenia, and it changed his life. It did not change his values.

Things were never very important to my brother. When I arrived at his board-and-care to pick up his things, there were only two small cartons of clothing. Ken had kept his life simple, believing, for example, that he only needed two pairs of pants. (He did like backpacks, however, and had a couple.) He was always buying small gifts for Ollie and his housemates. When Ollie told him to spend his money on himself, he ignored her. And when he gave you something, he insisted that you take it.

My brother’s giving wasn’t limited to things. Whenever there was a problem, he helped out. He even did the dishes most nights for Ollie. (In contrast to his avoiding them as a kid.)

Ken kept a disarming kind of honesty and innocence from his childhood. He really wanted to help people and the world, so he was always writing up his ideas and asking people to read them. (The Governor’s secretary kindly accepted his many manuscripts.) He could be adamant about what he thought was right. I remember one phone call where he told me to stop interrupting him. After all, it was his birthday, so it was his turn to talk.

Ken kept his concern for others to the very end, doing kind things to make the nurses’ work easier.

Luckily for Ken, he spent his last 25 years in a place that valued small things. I was told that his housemates, and the neighbors, all loved him. I asked Ollie to buy a cake that said, “In memory of Ken,” to make it easier to tell his housemates that he wouldn’t be coming home.

Ken hated hospitals. He refused to go to the hospital until two angels — his and mine — told him that he needed to go. He didn’t understand it when they said he wouldn’t be coming back. Ken walked the several blocks to the hospital before collapsing at the reception desk.

My brother, Ken, took a very small place in this world. But I don’t think that the size of his place really matters. I and others who experienced Ken knew he didn’t play games, he valued people over things, and he wanted to make this a better world.

If I had to, I would sum up Ken’s life as a success: He was a very good person.”

These experiences show me that God is much, much bigger, more loving, and more active on the earth than we think.

You can experience this. Just talk to Him.

Hostetter is a member of St. Mary Our Lady of the Presentation Parish in Eugene.