9:30pm On A Saturday Night

Dear Church,

I got a text a little after 9:00pm last Saturday.  I was doing what I usually do a little after 9:00pm on Saturday, watching TV on the couch with my sermon folded on my lap.  The text was from my neighbor and friend, Randy Moes.  The text read, “You home?  Dale Ter Haar is in rough shape and we could use your help getting him into a vehicle to get to Rush Hospital.”  I told Sarah to hit pause on the episode of Chicago Med as I needed to go down the street to Dale’s house to help Randy get him into a wheelchair and then on to Rush.  I guess I should back up.  Dale has brain cancer.  He has had six brain surgeries and two in the last two and a half months.  Dale owns the hardware store in town.  He’s a member of First Christian Reformed Church in South Holland.  He and his wife Nancy have two grown sons.  They also had a daughter with special needs who died several years ago.  Dale has been battling this brain cancer for over five years.  I visited him in the hospital a time or two when First CRC was vacant and Dale was without a pastor. 

When I got there I just let myself in.  As I walked into their mudroom, Nancy greeted me and ushered me to the hallway were Dale was lying flat on his back.  His head was shaven and he had a bit of a yellowish tint to his skin.  Randy, Troy (who is Randy’s brother-in-law who lives a few houses down), as well as Dan Svendson, the not-so-new anymore pastor of First CRC were there.  Apparently, Dale needed to use the washroom but didn’t have the strength and fell down.  Dale is a tall guy, so I could easily see how this was more than a one-man job.  Randy, Troy, Dan and I began devising a plan on how to get Dale up, into his wheelchair, through the living room, out the front door, through the path that Randy had snow-blown through their yard and into their car so that they could get Dale back to Rush Hospital.  We needed to be careful on Dale’s left side, since he had already broken a few ribs from a previous fall.  We also needed to be careful of the six inch scar on the top of Dale’s head from the last brain surgery.  We decided we would put two guys on each side, try to get Dale to sit up and then we would lift him from the seated position into the wheelchair.  We all decided this was a good plan.  After a half hour or so of carefully lifting and pushing, we finally secured Dale in their car.

During this entire process, a sister and brother in-law showed up, as well as Tim Smits, Dale’s good friend.  When Nancy drove Dale off to Rush, the rest of us just stood in their driveway!  It was cold and there had to be about a foot of snow on the ground.  We just stood there all having the same feelings.  How awful.  How sad.  How many times have they been to Rush?  How much can one guy, one family take?  How heart-warming to see Nancy hug and kiss Dale and tell him how much she loves him as we were hoisting him into the wheelchair.

As we were wheeling Dale through the living room, weaving between chairs and coffee tables covered with medications, information about medications and other hospital-like stuff, I noticed a sign that hung on their mantle.  It read “Always be Thankful.”  Always be thankful.  I highly doubt if I was the one on the floor with brain cancer that I would always be thankful!  But in the midst of this, I never heard Dale or Nancy utter one word of complaint.  In fact, Dale was making jokes about how much that hurt and not wanting to cuss in front of two ministers.  I told him I was just an RCA minister and didn’t care, but that Dan was from the CRC so he should probably watch his mouth.  As we were getting Dale into the car he told us how bad he felt that he was a burden.  Life is hard and not fair.  When I said my prayers that night I didn’t know what to pray for – Dale to be healed on earth, or for Dale to be healed in heaven.  Even so, come and come soon Lord Jesus.

Grace & Peace,

Pastor Matt

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