Call – Opelika-Auburn News
Today has been a special day
to us for 57 years
April 18 has come again. It is not a holiday. It is not the birthday of
a president or a Civil War general. For most people it is just another day on
the calendar. But for me and my bride it has been a special day for 57 years. Our
first son was born on this day in 1953.
Today being Sunday we will worship as
usual where I preach every Lord’s Day, Saint James United Methodist Church in
Montgomery. My sermon today will be about lessons we learned through the death
of our son. Old folks simply have to reminisce. And we never cease to be
thankful for those who will listen for a little while.
Many Lee County residents will
remember April 18, 1953 for a different reason. A vicious tornado ripped
through east Alabama that day, destroying several homes and damaging many
Dean and I began married life in an
upstairs apartment on College Street across from Auburn United Methodist
Church. But Dean was soon pregnant. After she fell down the stairs leading to
our apartment we rented a house at 818 Lakeview Drive in Auburn. The rent was a
whopping $75 per month. I was in my third year at API, the land-grant college
would soon become known as Auburn University.
Early in the morning of April 18 we
hurried off to the small hospital that is now called East Alabama Medical
Center. Dean’s sharp and increasingly rapid labor pains convinced her that
today she would deliver her firstborn.
Dark clouds and the forecast of bad
weather made us a little uneasy. But it was the turbulence of childbirth, not
the weather that got our attention that day.
The raging storm forced the hospital
to switch to emergency power when nearby power lines went down. Rain was
hitting the windows in torrents. Water even poured into the hospital through
the air-conditioning ducts. But several hours would pass before we heard that a
tornado had ripped through the community.
Our kind physician, Dr. Ben Thomas,
had to drive through a torrential rain from
When I returned home that night,
elated by the safe delivery of our first son, I found our house had been damaged
by the storm. The roof had been ripped off above the front door, allowing the
rain to soak some of our furniture. But the damage seemed incidental compared
to the total destruction of several nearby homes.
Weighing nine pounds and two ounces, our
baby boy was beautiful and healthy. His blond hair and blue eyes made him even
more special to us. We were thrilled to have started our family. Though we had
little money, we enjoyed life. The future was bright. We had the world by the
tail. I finished
But soon another storm descended upon
us just as swiftly as the tornado had come. Tests brought bad news. Our
doctor’s voice was breaking as he fought back tears and gave us the dreadful news, “Your
son has leukemia.”
He explained that there was no known
cure. The best he could do would be to keep David comfortable until he died.
“Perhaps,” he said, “a cure will be discovered soon; a lot of research is being
I asked how long David might live. His answer sent a chill up and down my spine.
“My best guess is somewhere between two months and two years,” he said. It was
the worst moment of my life – hearing that death sentence for our precious
little boy. David was two years old, five months into his third year.
That diagnosis shattered our world on
a day in September. David suffered. We
struggled with the burden. We prayed. We cried. We stifled our anger and
wrestled with our fear. Underneath all our frustration was the maddening
question: Why would a loving God let a beautiful little boy die like this?
Finally David’s suffering came to an
end on a day in May the next year. His
death wounded us but it did not destroy us. Though tested sorely by the loss of
our only child, our marriage lasted and became stronger. God met us in the hallways of hell and showed
us the way out. We refused to become bitter and asked God to make us better. We
tried to let him use our pain.
Over these 57 years our sadness has
given way to the overwhelming joy that is God’s gift to those who keep on holding
his hand through tough times.
each time April 18 rolls around, we pause to give thanks for the privilege of
having David for three short years. We
also give thanks that in his kindness, God gave us four other sons, each of
whom is very precious to us in these days.
This time, the 57th
celebration of David’s birth, we offer thanks that we are still together, still
able to remember his beautiful smile, and still thankful for the joy that was
ours on the turbulent day our first child was born.
I hope you understand why the 18th
day of April remains a very special day to us. It will always be so, as long as
we live. + + +