We asked this question in our small group of junior high students at youth group last fall.. I expected all sorts of answers from “I hope I pass my test” to “I hope for an amazing boyfriend”, or even “I hope for a Steelers win on Sunday”
To my dismay, what we got in return was crickets…. Even from our “Sunday school kids”.
(“Sunday school kids are the ones who grew up in Sunday School… who “know” the right answer to give even if they don’t believe it or don’t feel it. Though I’m thankful for these kids and their background in the Bible, sometimes I find their the hardest to actually break through because they put on a facade, and sometimes don’t deal well with the messiness of life. I always encourage our kids to just share THEIR feelings honestly and to NOT always give us the Sunday School answer)
On this day, though, my heart broke as NOT ONE of our 20+ kids could articulate a SINGLE thing they hoped for…. Not one.
And lest you think perhaps we leaders just put them on the spot awkwardly, might I just say that this same group normally has had no problem sharing their thoughts and personal struggles.
I literally had to ask them if they understood hope… and we spent some time discussing what it means to hope. My heart was broken.
What are we doing to our next generation? have we taken away ALL of their reason for hope? To the point where they no longer even TRY to have Hope leave and dreams?
My friends, if that doesn’t break your hearts, I would ask you to check your heartbeat…
March, 2022: “We were going to come up to see you speak and we had rehearsal for my wake. Tom had it all planned… they even got me a new tie! I was all dressed up and they had me lay down in the casket to see if it fit. And we had to rehearse for the play.”
“Rehearsal for your wake??” Goodness, I thought, what kind of dream were you having? He kept insisting that was what happened after he was discharged from the hospital, before I found him barely conscious and certainly not coherent.
Blood text and toxicology showed nothing in his system, not even the pain pills he was prescribed for the cancer which now eats away at his spine. he was fine when his son left him Saturday afternoon. When I didn’t hear from him Sunday morning, I got concerned. As soon as I got back into town I went to check on him.
It was all so eerily similar to what had happened two and a half years ago, except this time we had proof that it was not related to alcohol or the immunotherapy drug he was taking for cancer. Sometime between 2 pm Saturday and Sunday morning, he lost his mind.
I’ve shared with you about my business partner and friend before… and the journey he’s been through has been nothing short of amazing! Clearly God loves him and is keeping him for some special reason. As I look back at all that happened in 2019 / 2020 with his health, and compare what happened them to what happened now, I can’t help but see the similarities. The docs really didn’t have an explanation then… they tested for all kinds of things, and, though they did find some issues, they did not seem to find anything that could have caused his confusion. They don’t have an explanation now either.
As before, I went to the hospital early each morning to try to catch the doc before I went to work. His doctor comes early in the morning. One morning when I went in, Dan looked at me and said, “ I am bouncing back and forth between two dreams”. And he told me all about the dream where he was rehearsing for his wake…. Multiple times Over multiple days, each detail the same…
I was the speaker at our youth retreat the weekend he fell ill. That was true. But there were never any plans for him to come and see me speak. In fact, he has spent the week before in the hospital because his only kidney had quit working. There was never any talk about him coming to see me speak, yet he insisted that was the plan when his son brought him home from the hospital.
Our minds are such a fascinating mystery. Ive heard it said that we only use 10% of our brain. I know we are spiritual beings…
1 Corinthians 13:12 says “now we see things I perfectly like reflections in a mirror, but then we will see everything with perfect clarity. All that I know now is partial and incomplete, but then I will know everything completely, just as God now knows me completely.”
Dan’s journey was a long and windy one… much like many of ours. I take comfort in the fact that he knew Jesus as his savior… and he knew where he’d spend eternity. Further, he can now see with perfect clarity visions that may have been unclear while on earth.
His “wake” was last weekend, August 13 and 14. Per his wishes, it included a day of music and celebration of his life at our studio, along with a memorial service at his church…. The church that welcomed him with open arms and came alongside him to shepherd him through the windy roads of his recovery and his journey of faith. Our worship team preluded the service with some of his favorite worship songs and his entire service spoke Jesus loud and clear to everyone who came.
I forever grateful to God who gave Dan the opportunity to get his life in order before He called him home.
The last several months have been what he called “the longest goodbye ever”. For a man who had made his peace with God, people he’d wronged, and gotten his affairs in order, he was prepared to go Home since last fall.
I’m the last several months of his life, he had a caregiver that we met from our church… a woman who retired from nursing last fall when the VA she worked for mandated the vaccine. She and her husband got to know Dan. On Easter weekend, 2022, she and her husband were baptized and asked Dan is he would stand with them. He was honored to.
For the last few weeks of his life, after he entered hospice care at home, Kathy was essentially round the clock care for him, and did a fabulous job! She and I kept close contact and watched for the signs of dying from the little blue handbook that the hospice nurses had provided.
My prayer was that I would be able to be with him when he left this earth and that I would know that he knew I was there. I was told that I’d have no control over either of those things, but I let my requests known. his prayer was that he would not die alone.
On the morning of Aug 2, Kathy called me to say he was congested and asked if I thought he might be allergic to his pain meds. I told her I didn’t think so and said I’d stop at his house before work, as I was working not to far from his home. On my way, I felt as if I needed to take the day off, so I messaged my boss to let her know. I arrived at Dan’s just before 9 am. He was lying very still but was responding to conversation with nods of his head.
At around 9:15, Kathy, holding his left hand, said, “Dan, those gates are going to open wide… and when they do, I want you to go on through!” He looked up at us and smiled and nodded his head while he said a very clear “uh-huh!” I was holding his right hand.
He breathed about 10 more breaths and then stopped, quite peacefully. I know that he knew I was there. He was not alone.
Kathy later told me that she really wanted to ask me to take the day off but was afraid to. She did not want to be the only one with him when he died.
God was so very gracious to have provided everything that each of us requested. As strange as it may sound, it was really quite a beautiful moment…. And knowing without a doubt where he would spend eternity made all the difference in the world! It is difficult to describe the peace and tranquillity that comes with absolute knowing where you will spend eternity.
I remember when Dan and I first got reconnected and I learned he had cancer, I thought, “really, God? That’s what you have for me? Not bad enough that I lost my dad to cancer, but Dan, too?” And yet somehow I knew that God would use this to bring further healing to my heart for losing my daddy all those years ago.
God is so good. All the time.
Be blessed today, my friends. If you don’t know for sure where you will spend eternity, let’s talk!God wants us all to know Him and spend eternity with Him!