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Many of you who have heard me speak live (I regret those times when some of you had to hear me speak when I seemed dead!) will remember the time I had a bear come at me just before my accident, when the paramedics on the scene estimated I had 48 hours to live. Well, let me tell you, as scary as it was to run into a tree at about 55 mph and to have a bear walking toward me down a dead-end corridor (I was actually surprised that I was so scared because the bears I had seen at the zoo always looked very friendly, as well as the bear at the circus wearing the pink Tutu while riding a unicycle. AND I grew up watching Yogi Bear. Me and Yogi were tight but as it turned out, this bear did not know Yogi! I know what you’re thinking now..... I'll bet he forgets to end this dreadfully long digression with an end parenthesis. Well..... there!), neither of those two events is even close to the horribly traumatic nightmare we were faced with on Thursday July 28th. It’s a day that I will never forget as it was the day my wife Kristen and I got the most devastating news of our entire lives.
Kristen had a precautionary biopsy. We were pretty sure it would be negative because of similar situations in her family, which had turned out negative. Unfortunately, this result was different and totally unexpected. We were stunned to find out that it was cancer. Initially, we did not know if it had spread or how serious it was so it was natural for our minds to go to possible dreadful scenarios. We had dreamed and planned on growing old together and now this diagnosis could prevent that from happening. I have speculated on how I would feel if and when family members would die before I did. Intellectually, you know it will be traumatic and you try to prepare yourself but nothing even remotely comes close to the way it actually does hit you. It's kind of like hearing about thousands of children dying of starvation and being sad, but nothing even close to how you feel when someone you know personally dies.
I have often contemplated my own death over the years. Way before my near fatal car accident, as a teenager with a new and growing faith in Jesus Christ, I was really looking forward to being with Him and spending all eternity in this perfect place of bliss called Heaven. I remember once in college riding in a car with some friends when the driver lost control of the car on a 2-lane highway at a pretty high speed. The car spun around on the road and if a car had been coming in the opposite direction it would have been tragic.
Now you may have speculated what your reaction would be when faced with death. I had assumed I would be ready but then again I just might scream like a junior high girl at a Justin Bieber concert when actually in that situation. As we were spinning, I remember calmly praying and saying to God that if it was time to see Him, I was looking forward to it. Unfortunately, the car only spun off the road into a ditch and I was still stuck doing homework and experiencing the aches and pains of this mortal body. Fortunately, no one was injured. I mention all that because it is a totally different story when you contemplate losing the human love of your life..... the one you have spent the last 20-plus years with almost every day for better or worse, in sickness and in health. Kristen is an encouragement and support like no words can explain. She is so unselfish and loving and such a great human being with such unbelievably healthy genes (her grandpa on one side is currently 103 years old and Opal, her grandma on the other side, passed away last year at age 98) that it did not seem possible to even imagine her leaving this planet before me. If you have ever eaten a few meals with me you will understand that statement even more!
Compounding all these emotions is the realization that I could do absolutely nothing in my own power to help this situation. Sure, I could pray and be an encouragement to Kristen, but I do not have the power over life and death. Of course, none of us do, but it really hits you at a time like this. Prior to my car accident, I always thought I was athletic enough, with such quick reflexes that I could pull myself out of any potentially harmful car accident. I discovered that was not the case and when I examined the accident scene later, I knew there was nothing I could have humanly done to prevent it. I was only alive by the grace of God. In a way, that is how we should look at life every day.
Spiritually, we can do nothing to earn ourselves the ability to live forever….. eternally. We have no power over death. Jesus is the only One in history who was successful in that area! You can inject all the Botox you want, visit psychics, chant “Hare Krishna” or have your body cryogenically frozen, but you cannot defeat death on your own. We are all at the mercy of God’s grace as the Bible so eloquently says: “It is by grace that you are and will be saved, not of yourselves, it is a free gift from God and not from any works you can do.” (Eph. 2:8,9) We need to realize that & act on it by calling on God (Rom. 10:13) to allow the life of Jesus, who conquered death, to live in us and be our highest priority. “Whoever has the Son (of God) has life, whoever doesn’t have the Son, does not have life.” (I John 5:12)
When Magic Johnson announced he was HIV positive, I think most of us thought it was a death sentence. But he has continued to live his life and is still doing fine today. We could choose to live under the cloud of cancer and be depressed and shake our fist at God and say, "Why? This isn’t fair." OR we could remember that we could just as easily die in a car wreck going to the store the next day. By God's grace we chose not to mope around and fear death, but rather to celebrate the life we have and thank God for this gift of breath He alone has given us.
The first thing I remember Kristen telling me after she shared the cancer diagnosis was, "It rains on the just and the unjust." That is a Bible verse from Matthew 5:16, which is saying that just because we are followers of Christ and try to live decent, unselfish lives, it does not mean we are exempt from bad things happening to us. We choose to live life serving God and doing our best to help others and alleviate the suffering on this planet regardless of what physical condition we are in. God never said it would be easy, but He did say it would be worth it.
After many tests, doctor visits, research, tears and prayers, Kristen had a very successful surgery followed by radiation. We specifically prayed for Kristen and the doctor during the surgery and that the cancer had not spread. Those prayers were answered! The surgery took less time than they predicted, it had not spread, and even though there were a few strange and unexpected incidents (potentially scary, disturbing and unsettling things that happened just before the surgery) Kristen said she had a peace and a calm that she knew was only from everyone’s prayers! We would appreciate your ongoing prayers as she continues treatment and healing. Thanks
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