Dan died last Tuesday

He began simply as my patient – 42 years old battling a male version of breast cancer that had metastasized throughout his entire body. But, after two years, Danny became my friend. A truly close friend – we mutually valued each other. When I was down, I usually headed his way for a visit.

Dan was a fighter – the powers that be in the medical world had told him he had six months to live – that was three years ago. But we knew something was wrong in mid-December – suddenly he lost his vision. The brain tumor was growing – it was pressing against his optic nerve. Right after the holidays he would need some palliative radiation to shrink the tumor. He had crashed before, but he always came back – Danny was the comeback kid…

Last weekend, he continued to worsen and wound up in the SCC HH 24. I just happened to be covering the HH for the last three days of 2008 since Bob was on vacation. Dan was the first person on my Monday morning list. I was shocked! Danny’s decline was remarkable! Suddenly the truth hit me like a ton of bricks – there wasn’t going to be a comeback this time. I was blessed to spend a lot of time with Danny and his family throughout the day as he slipped into an unconscious stupor.

I went directly to Cranberry #10 on Tuesday morning. A bunch of Dan’s family from Indiana had arrived and were sitting with him. He was gurgling as he fought for each breath – the death rattle. I sat with him until about 11 a.m. and then I went to visit other patients. I had a sinking feeling when the nurse came and got me – a crisis in #10. Danny died at 11.40 a.m. His family was gathered around – we hung out together until the body was picked up at 3 p.m. We told stories, we laughed and we cried together. Our hearts were broken – Danny was too young to die. And then, the family began to thank me! Danny talked about you all the time – he was a different person after he met you! We had given up on him – we had no contact – and you helped to bring him back into our lives. THANK YOU! I found it impossible to fight back the tears throughout the rest of the day…

So why did Danny get to me so deeply?

There were many reasons, but one stood out from all the others…

Danny really did change!

As recently as one year ago, he was scheduled to come to our house for Christmas dinner because he was so estranged from his family – no one wanted him around! When he wound up homeless last year, no one opened a door for him. What a difference a year makes! This year, Danny shared both Thanksgiving and Christmas with his family. His sister invited him to move into her house. And he died on December 30 surrounded by family and friends…

What brought about the change?

I trace it back to a kairos moment at the end of 2007 when I looked at Danny and took a chance: Danny, do you want to die alone? He got very quiet and finally said NO! Several factors coalesced to make his transformation a reality…

Danny faced his terminal condition – he realized time was getting shorter. Suddenly, he was more motivated to deal with unfinished business more than ever before – especially the trail of his self-centered life that was strewn with shattered relationships! We decided to start with his family… Guess there is nothing like harsh reality and bitter suffering to give a prodigal a wakeup call!

Danny’s faith moved to front and center – his walk with God deepened. Our prayer times took on a deeper meaning. We read the Word together. We went to worship together. Danny began to act on his faith – joining me to feed the hungry at The Banquet in the inner city and collecting clothes for the homeless. Danny began to reach out to his family – he made amends at almost every point where he could. He discovered life in his spiritual journey with God…

Danny committed to a relationship – we invested in each other – we pursued a spiritual friendship. In the good times and bad, we told each other the truth – we were honest. We encouraged each other. We yelled at each other. We were thrilled with each other. Sometimes we never wanted to see each other again. We shared our lives with each other – we chose to walk our spiritual journeys TOGETHER! And, it made all the difference in BOTH of our lives…

In the end, Danny did not have to live alone or die alone – he was surrounded by family and friends – what a difference reconciliation makes…

One more afterword I would like to share. The bottom line message of Christian faith is life-change and transformation – the good news is that Christ followers become new creations. Paul’s words in 2 Corinthians 5.17: What this means is that those who become Christians become new persons. They are not the same anymore, for the old life is gone. A brand new life has begun! [NLT]. I have heard this all my life. I have preached this my entire ministry career. I have wished for it over and over – both in others and yes in myself as well. But, I have seldom actually experienced it. Sometimes I even wonder if it is true – I doubt whether or not it is even a possibility! Can people really change? Is the transformation of a human person even possible? Is the message really so?

Yes, I believe it is!

And I know this because I shared my life with Daniel Dailey #176957…