Jump directly to the content

Already a subscriber?

Home > 2012 > April Web Exclusives > Walking Like Steve

Steve couldn't die. He was young, with two teenage boys at home. As a geologist, he practically lived outside, and looked perfectly healthy.

But one Friday, Steve came home early from work. He had a bad headache. Sunday he had a seizure. Monday he went into the hospital for tests. Thursday we heard the results: three inoperable tumors at the brain stem. They gave him eight to nine months.

But surely God would heal him.

Points of Connection

As a pastor, I had no idea what to say to Steve or his family, or even how to pray in light of his diagnosis. Sermons you can plan for, but not a friend's terminal illness. And Steve was certainly a friend.

A few years ago, Steve and his wife joined a small group of us for an eight-week Bible study. We met at our house over chocolate-chip cookies and coffee. During those times Steve and I discovered that we had more in common than just our church.

We were both pastor's kids for one thing. Both of our parents went to Moody Bible Institute, and were involved in the General Association of Regular Baptist Churches. As a result, both Steve and I were raised with strict family rules—no movies, dancing, cards, rock-n-roll, or even fashionable clothes. "Come out from among them and be separate," meant "if they are having fun, then leave!"

Thanks in part to our bizarrely parallel upbringings, we became good friends. Steve was fun. He had a first-year (1985) Toyota MR2 sitting in his garage. We talked about getting it running. He and his wife Janet had dated in that car. The brown trim matched her eyes and they just couldn't bring themselves to sell it. Steve was frugal though, and couldn't justify spending money on parts. But it was fun to talk about all the same.

An Uncommon Prayer

While visiting at the hospital I told Steve that I didn't know how to pray for him.

"Just pray I will walk the walk God has for me," he replied. Throughout the days that followed, Steve never asked for healing. He didn't mind us praying for it, but he seemed to believe it wasn't the path God had for him.

Steve didn't fear death. He feared dying. He was afraid of the difficulties that cancer and its treatment might require. His greatest desire was that he would "walk the walk." He wanted to die well, to leave a strong legacy for his boys. He did, and he left one for me too.

We recruited a few guys to help take Steve to his radiation appointments in the following months. My day in the weekly rotation was Tuesday. During our time in the car, I struggled with how to talk about the future, about his boys and wife, about the process of him leaving us. Knowing I'm better at fixing cars than awkward conversations, Steve often helped me out. On our first trip he went through the list of songs he wanted at his funeral. This was difficult, but our conversation the following week was downright bizarre. Janet was driving; I was sitting in the back. Steve spoke from the passenger seat

"Hey Dan, know what I found on eBay?"

"No idea."

"Urns, Dan. The coolest urns ever! There's this guy in Washington State that makes them out of maple wood. Beautiful. They are half the price of what a funeral home charges, and you can specify how you want them made. I think I'll order two, so Janet will have one too." Janet was crying, but Steve kept going on about the urns. The next week Janet took Steve to radiation alone. I fixed the MR2.

PreviousFirstPage 1 of 3NextLast

Posted: April 30, 2012

Not a Subscriber?

Subscribe Today!

  • Monthly issues on web and iPad
  • Web exclusives and archives on Leadership Journal.net
  • Quarterly print issues

Print subscriber? Activate your online account for complete access.

Join the Conversation

Average User Rating:

Displaying 1–3 of 3 comments

Daniel Cooley

June 26, 2012  5:43pm

I'm thrilled the encouragement Steve was to me could be passed on to others. Pretty cool that his last days can live on after his death.

Report Abuse

Ron McClelland

May 15, 2012  1:52pm

What an encouraging article! I was diagnosed 16 years ago with a fatal cancer. I had 2-4 years left according to the averages. After a few months of semi-depression I started looking forward to Heaven. I had people praying for me and anyone who claimed "the gift" of healing was welcome to pray but very few seemed to understand my desire for Heaven. I've asked people to pray that I would die well. It seems that prayer will be answered soon. I used up all potential treatments 7 months ago and was given 6-9 months to live. I loved this article and so does my "brown eyed girl". Phil. 1:21

Report Abuse


May 09, 2012  7:45pm

First time I ever cried reading the words to a Van Morrison song! Thanks Dan. My bro-in-law only has a short time left to live and I'm trying to be an encouragement to him during these last days. Isaiah 57.1 was a help. Thank you.

Report Abuse
Use your Leadership Journal login to easily comment and rate this article.
Not part of the community? Subscribe, or on public pages, register for a free account.
Editor's Pick
The Prodigal Daughter

The Prodigal Daughter

When a pastor's daughter strays, what did I need to say publicly?
Sister Sites
Engaging ImmigrationBuilding Church Leaders

Engaging Immigration

Lee EclovPreaching Today

Yet . . .