Tuesday, July 12, 2011

3 Years ago today...

...one of the strongest men I've ever known entered eternity. 

I was in an ICU room @ MDA undergoing my first round of high-dose immunotheraphy, but had been kept abreast of happenings back here in H'burg via text, email, blogs, & facebook.

He suffered an extensive coughing spell (after-effects of chemotherapy) that resulted in him coding.  Medical personnel got him back in terms of a heartbeat, but nothing else.  3 days later, July 12, 2008, his race was declared finished, and victory--ultimate victory--was won over leukemia.  He left behind a much-beloved wife, and three very young children that he treasured deeply.

I'll never be the same because of his life's impact on mine.  And his family's impact on my life during his battle with leukemia and since his homegoing.

Every Sunday morning, I take my seat behind a computer in church to help with techie stuff.  This started when he was in the tech booth; I used to go in there & sit with him, back when it was an actual separate room.  (It's not now)  Thus, every single Sunday morning, I think of my buddy.

I'm not a poet.  Never claimed to be one, & never will.  But 3 years ago, I was in ICU @ MDA in Houston experiencing the, er, "joys" of high-dose immunotherapy.  It was there that I got the word that my buddy was on life support.  "Stunned" is in the right direction, but doesn't capture it.  "Devastated"..."Undone"..."Broken"...pick one.

I received word that the time of his departure was at hand.  At which point a poem of sorts came pouring forth from my soul.  As I said on this day last year, I've written 2 poems in my life.  This one, and another for another friend who died tragically.

Before reading (or re-reading) the poem, PLEASE hear these two challenges from my heart:

1) Register to be a bone marrow donor!

My friend was on regular chemo to keep his leukemia at bay until a marrow donor match could be found.  Yeah...

As a multi-time metastatic melanoma survivor/patient, I am no longer eligible to be a marrow donor, although I am registered.  Are you?  The test is not a big deal. 


(Another friend registered years ago & was a match for a guy out west who had NO HOPE.  My friend donated marrow...the recipient is alive & well with no trace of leukemia all these years later.  The cost?  My friend said his back hurt for a couple of weeks.  Worth it?  What do you think??  My friend has been flown out to spend family vacations with the guy whose life he saved.)

2) PLZ pray for the wife & kids & parents & brother & extended family today & these next few days as they remember what I shudder to even imagine.

(Now, the poem again.  It's appeared here before.  Stephanie had her Dad read it @ Jason's funeral; as noted by me previously, I will likely not have an honor that high this side of eternity.)

Mike Madaris, 7/12/08, on the coronation of my buddy Jason Weathers

Giants still walk the land occasionally.
I know this, because I knew one.
Physically strong and imposing
But that’s not the topic here,
For, he was not fearsome
Unless you lined up opposite him
On a football field
Or tried to throw him into a pool against his will.
Those aside, He got along with everybody.
Literally, everybody, as far as I knew.
Calm of demeanor, yet loved to laugh.
Quiet in personality, yet loved hard rock.
Intelligent, but not desiring to flaunt that.
Private, yet the son of a very public man
And later, married into another very public family.
In the midst of all, he was a giant.

The courtship. She was the only one.
They met when her Dad took a job at the giant’s church.
And his Dad’s. And his Granddad’s.
The realizing came quickly to most.
These two were a match.
They realized it too.
The courtship lasted until they finished college.
And he remained a giant.
Always loving, yet always honoring.
Serving. Cherishing. As it was intended to be.
Both of them Role models. Giants.
Who else marries a giant, but another giant after all?

10 years of marriage. A move to FL.
3 children deeply treasured.
One looks like her mother, yet like Dad in temperament.
One looks like his Dad, yet tempered like his mother.
And one too young to answer these questions
Though she surely looks like her Dad.
Each nurtured. Treasured. Celebrated.
Giants are like that about their offspring.

A servant’s heart.
Toward his lady. Toward his children.
Toward his friends. Toward his Lord.
Church service involved the out of the way
The behind the scenes
The un-glamorous
The invisible.
Sometimes giants stay in the background.
Perhaps that is why so few of us believe in them any more.

The servant heart spilled over into career choice.
Especially poignant to me this week
As I have been greatly served and blessed by multiple nurses
As a patient, the best in that field are wired as servants.
Others-centered. Paycheck almost incidental.
Towering over the rest of us.

The dreadful disease with the nasty prognosis
The treatment nearly as nasty
Uncertainty. Doubt. Fear.
In this case, for others more than self
Beloved wife and treasured children.
Parents. Parents-in-law. Brother. Brother-in-law.
Not wanting to burden others with the battle he fought so well.
The larger men among us worry about us like that.

7 months of desperate fighting.
Interspersed with time spent with family and with lesser mortals.
Like me. At Starbucks. Still dreaming of an earthly future that would never be.
Then the end; rather, the beginning.
What, after all, is a last, horrendous week against 30+ years of a towering-above life?
Faith became sight.
Death & disease forever vanquished.
Ultimate Healing. No more illness, no more treatment, no more pain.
“Well Done, good and faithful servant.” The stuff of dreams.
Thankfully, not of legends.
Hopes and dreams realized.
Sin not only defeated, but now utterly removed.
As has been sung, "I can only imagine." He need not imagine any more.
This makes me smile through tears.
Victory won. Decisively. Forever.
It is well…it is well with his soul.
In that land, there are only giants. Now one more.
And this land seems all the more empty.

Jason, my brother, I still miss you very hard on a regular basis.  Steph & the kids are doing very well, which would not surprise you.  Keep on rocking, dude, there in the land of the eternal "hello."  Can't wait until my own faith has become sight, & you & I can laugh together about how leukemia & melanoma are just a bump in the road as we celebrate the incredible grace that has two knuckleheads like us there forever in the presence of the One Who provides that grace.
Love you,
p.s. - Thanks for continuing to be my friend & hang out with me even after I got old.  *grin*  (Picturing your own grin & laugh as I type that...thanks for sharing all the laughs & prayers & smiles & tears & great rock music with me!)

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