A Champions Calling
It was early December of 1996 when we learned of our son’s illness, when we learned our youngest son, Kevin, at age 21 had osteosarcoma, a rare but aggressive form of bone cancer, of his left upper arm and shoulder. So began a journey that no one ever wants to take and so began a journey that would put our faith to the hardest of tests and bring out character in a young man few people witness in a lifetime.
For six years he bravely fought to have a normal life. Following an x-
Kevin had told me once along the way if he was going to die he didn’t want to know it; he just wanted to live life to the fullest and then be gone. So the night he went into cardiac arrest, was revived and put on a respirator, sustained by intravenous medications only, the words he had spoken to me seemingly ages ago were ringing like church bells. Thus the decision was made to let him go and face the coming separation. It was not a hard decision to make for his sake, but as his mom it was unbelievable to have it ending in such a manner. I had picked up a promise card out of my “God’s Promise Box” that morning to take with me to the hospital, as I often did in the hard places of life. It read, Fear not, for I am with thee… and in that moment as I clutched the scripture in my hand and read it over and over, God gave me a great sense of peace and strength to face the unexpected loss of my precious son and to make a choice parents are never equipped to make, but as his parents we could see his race was run, his battle on this side was over.
At Kevin’s funeral our pastor told of a time he had been called to go see Kevin and have prayer with him. When he arrived at Kevin’s house he lingered at the door trying to gain composure and find the right words, words perhaps to give Kevin some encouragement and bless him in some way. The pastor related that as he walked in and saw Kevin so ill, lying on his bed, he asked Kevin how he was and Kevin simply smiled and said he was okay, leaving the pastor shocked and amazed at this young man’s overall demeanor and inner strength in the midst of ravaging illness. The pastor prayed with him and talked with him and upon leaving the pastor said he was the one who was blessed. A man of God who had gone to comfort a sick and dying young man came away blessed himself. That was Kevin’s way with people and that was Kevin’s legacy for the suffering he endured so bravely as if this life was only the beginning for him, and in his heart I think Kevin knew his time in this life would be short.
The funeral was a few days before Christmas, Kevin’s favorite time of year. As we were gathered under the awning saying our last goodbyes someone brought me a ring that had been found in the way. I glanced at it and said it belonged to our pastor as I recognized it as like the one our pastor always wore. But the pastor said it was not his so the ring was brought back to me. I can’t say why this person was troubling me with a lost ring at such a time and I remember being a bit irritated at this moment because of the seeming insensitivity to my grief. But there was an inscription on the ring that said “Always Will I Love You”. It was a new ring, bright and shiny. As I looked at it and realized what I was losing in life I recalled a few days before when Kevin’s dad had received a special Christmas card from Kevin, not to both of us, just to his Dad. Selfishly I had longed for something from Kevin personally to let me know the love and bond we had always shared was still intact so I took that ring and placed it on my finger where it remains to this day. Perhaps the one that brought it to me was actually an angel on a mission bringing me a Christmas gift from my son to always remind me of our love for each other and the special friendship we shared in life, as I could not recall the identity of the one that brought it, nor could the others standing with me.
A few weeks later as I tried to rest one afternoon, between wake and restful sleep I had a vision of my son. He came walking towards me all dressed in a cream colored robe with a cummerbund about the waist. His body was no longer swollen and bent. Both arms were swinging at his side. His hair, which had been buzzed during his illness at the end, was long and wavy, flowing as he walked as if angels were caressing every strand to allow the full beauty of his glorified existence to be seen. His walk and demeanor were of peace and authority, health and wholeness. And as I took all of this in for what was only a few seconds I noticed the sandals on his bare feet. Now for most folks sandals aren’t a big deal, but for Kevin, he never went without his socks because he didn’t want anyone to see his feet which he thought were most unattractive due to numerous problems with his toes. In a heartbeat he was gone, just as sweetly and quietly as he came, though it left a lasting impression of victory for that young man in my heart and mind that I shall never forget. God had in His own loving way given Kevin a glorified body, nothing lacking, nothing overlooked from the long and flowing hair on his head to the sandals on his bare feet.
On his marker we had written “Our Champion” because he suffered as a true champion in life. He bravely endured the greatest of hardships, the downturns and disappointments, the unending physical pain with little complaint. Though I am sure in his heart he must have wondered why this happened to him he never voiced this matter. He took the life he was given and left a legacy of a warrior strong and mighty, a true champion. It was obvious God had chosen a weak and ailing vessel to pour into him God’s strength and a special dispensation of grace, as it were, to be a witness to all who would know Kevin, of God’s faithfulness to be a very present help for us in times of trouble, as Kevin had few friends outside of family but the chapel was overflowing the day of his funeral.
I cannot say today that I understand why God that created all things, God that hung the moon and stars, did not come and heal Kevin completely and give him a healthy, prosperous life. Often I ask would healing not have given God a greater glory? Would it not have been more widely proclaimed to raise a terminally ill young man from the respirator and renew his body to wholeness? But to remember all the lives Kevin touched in sickness and in death, to see how God carried him when no one else was able, to know in my heart that God’s love sustained him to the very end, this too is deeply moving and life changing in and of itself for those of us who knew Kevin and who remain to carry on, and yes, an inspiration to all who read his story now.
When we played Kevin’s favorite song one last time, “Victory in Jesus”, under the awning beside his grave on a cold December day, beneath the crushing weight of my grief, I knew in my heart Kevin had at last won the victory in Jesus, and I too have been sustained and carried through the suffering of life without Kevin, but always praising God for allowing me to be the mother of such an unbelievably unique young man. To be the mother of that “one-
God gave Kevin a Champion’s Calling and Kevin met that challenge in simple but miraculously strong ways. He left a legacy that only a chosen few attain today, and he left all of us an example of suffering bravely and knowing that this life is not all there is. Yes healing is always the first and most desired answer to prayer but God can work His miracles even in the loss of loved ones if we allow Him to reveal His love and faithfulness in every situation in life.
A personal testimony of the love of God that sustains in every circumstance.
When God called home my little girl my heart was filled with sorrow.
I did not want to see the sun or face a new tomorrow.
The emptiness that overcame, along with bitter tears…
I watched as days turned into weeks and weeks turned into years.
But God in all His wisdom, His mercy and His grace,
sent me a precious baby boy, the sorrow to replace.
With freckled face, a smile so bright, and skin so very fair,
a happy heart and big blue eyes and baby soft brown hair.
He made me laugh, he brought me joy,
he eased the pain, this little boy.
And as I watch him sleep tonight in sweet and peaceful rest,
I lean and kiss his cheek, so soft, and know I have been blessed.
I kneel and pray beside his bed, and thank the Lord above
for sending me this child so sweet, and for His healing love.
(In loving memory of Kevin)
‘Tween wake and restful sleep one day you softly came to me.
Your hair was long and flowing, you were walking with authority.
Your eyes were still the deepest blue, both arms swung by your side.
Your feet were clad with sandals, from the mist I watched you stride.
There was a special glow about you, peace and wholeness rare.
I gazed into your eyes and saw the love of Jesus there.
For just a twinkling of the eye I saw you as you are,
a gift from God, an answered prayer, before I traveled far.
I longed to linger there with you and talk with you a time,
to tell you of my love for you, sweet youngest child of mine.
I saw your smile, felt your embrace, then from my sight were gone;
I called to you to no avail, knew you must travel on.
In that one glance I came to see ‘twas not unanswered prayer,
but God in all His faithfulness had kept you in His care.
He’d healed your wounds, restored your health, delivered you from pain,
brought you to His home on high and gave you rule and reign.
And though our separation oft’ for me is hard to bear,
I would not call you back to what you faced with such despair.
For now I know your life’s complete, your body glorified;
God’s faithfulness was shown to me and cannot be denied.
We that remain now live our lives in great anticipation
when we will meet again in heaven in joyous celebration.
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Philippians 4:13 I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me.
Dear Friends: It is my prayer that the following story about the loss of our son due to complications of cancer and the grieving process that followed will bring you comfort in your time of grief and loss, or perhaps just inspire you in some way to know that God is faithful in every circumstance. I pray the inspirational poems included will touch your heart and reveal God’s grace and love in even the most painful of circumstances.