Saturday, November 6, 2010

Literacy on the Most Important Matters

Just a few weeks ago I accompanied my eighth grade daughter to one of her last volleyball games of the season. Her team wanted to celebrate the end of a good season by taking the volleyball coach out to pizza just prior to the game. After dinner was over, they presented him gifts of appreciation for all the good work he had done. As he was thanking the girls, his eyes became teary-eyed. He said that it had been exactly ten months since his son, Dan, had died of cancer. Dan was either 19 or 20 years old at the time of his death. Among the gifts that were given to him was a little bit of money. The coach expressed his intention to invest the money into a foundation, the purpose of which is to give care and treatment to adolescents who suffer from cancer.

What to say? After taking it all in I noticed he was sitting by himself while the girls were chatting amongst themselves. I sat down next him and told him that I heard many good things about his son and that someday I was hoping that he could sit down and tell me all about him. To my surprise, the coach who had just collected himself from an emotional speech, began to recount his son’s death. Coach went on to tell me that Dan was flown to the Philippines for treatment in late 2009. In order to make a long story short, as a last ditch effort to stop the growth of Dan's cancer, his extremities were amputated…but to no avail. It was a real heartbreaker. Towards the end of our discussion, he mentioned that Dan had a tear in his eye just before his passing. The grieving father seemed to think that it was a tear of joy. Perhaps, Dan saw heaven closing in on him.

Interestingly, the coach concluded our conversation by saying that he wished that “God would hit him over the head” to convince him that Dan, his son, was in a better place. It just so happen later that evening I sat next to a lady at the volleyball game who knew Dan very well. Dan happened to be friends with her daughter. During the few months of his cancer treatments, Dan would come over to her house quite a bit to visit. According to her, Dan never complained. Indeed, he was a good Catholic boy who was quite accepting of his condition. Needless to say, my talking companion on the gym bleachers thought that Dan was in heaven. I do agree that people now days are too quick and presumptuous to canonize their deceased loved ones; but it would seem, from all accounts, that Dan died as a friend of God.

As I was driving home I got to thinking: What do you tell a grieving father who had just lost his son to cancer? What could possibly put a father's loss in context? In hindsight, I wish I was more literate on the subject matter of heaven. I understand there is only so much you can say. But the thought occurred to me that the hope of seeing a deceased loved one again in God's presence is something that I, as a Christian, should be able to articulate.

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