Often people share powerful stories how they came to know Jesus, how they were saved, or the day they gave their lives to Christ. My story begins in a mundane way. My mother was a nun in high school, and my father was raised in the church. As a result of their upbringing, they raised me as a Christian. I don’t remember not being a Christian. I cannot point to a day on a calendar and say this is THE day….the day I met Jesus or the day I was saved. I’ve always felt I had a relationship with Jesus.
For us, 2003 started out as a typical year. In February I went on the Walk to Emmaus, my wife, Cindy and I rotate going. This retreat drew both of us as close as we had ever felt to Jesus. Little did we know God prepared us for the greatest challenge of our lives.
Soon after the retreat, we took the kids to Disney for the first time. With a pregnant Cindy, we were excited to experience Disney World with our five-year-old daughter, Kaitlyn and two-year-old son, Jay. We spent five days trying to squeeze in every possible attraction in the parks.
In the hustle and bustle of 12-14 hour days, we didn’t think much about our two-year-old tripping and falling often. We chalked it up to long, exhausting days in the park. Over the summer Jay began showing other strange signs something was not right. We noticed he slept twelve plus hours every day, he didn’t want to use his left hand, and he had balance issues.
All of these things we could explain away as a growing boy couldn’t we? Preschool started in the Fall, and surely things would “normalize.” The first week of school Jay’s teacher pulled Cindy aside and asked if Jay had been having balance issues. This devastated us to have someone else notice our son struggling. Within a couple of weeks, Jay had an MRI. The words no parent ever wants to hear “your child has a tumor” changed everything.
The thoughts of punishment and “why us” flooded our minds. Our hearts were breaking, and questions pounded us. Were we being punished for something we had done or not done? Other people’s children have cancer. These things happen to non-Christians not Christians, right?
Our Son’s Fight
Surely God-loving, God-fearing people are not punished like this. I begged and pleaded with God to let this be a nightmare I’d wake up from. Let me trade places with him, Lord. I’ve lived 29 years on this earth, and he’s only had two. It felt like my prayer fell on deaf ears.
October of 2003 we moved Jay to St Jude to begin our two and a half year journey with cancer. Through the years there were extreme ups and downs, remissions and relapses. Personal health issues and concerns arose but we pushed them to the side for the sake of focusing on Jay and his wellbeing. In December of 2005 St Jude told us the next worse thing a parent never wants to hear “there is nothing else we can do for your child. Go home and enjoy the days you have left.”
What Good Could Come From Cancer?
As a dad, you never want to feel helpless or out of control. Here I was with a five-year-old with terminal cancer unable to do a thing for my son but love him. Doubt crept into my mind. What was God doing?
He says in His word “All things work together for those who love God.” What good could come of this cancer? What good could possibly come from our family losing Jay? Didn’t God love us? Didn’t God love Jay? The depths I was sinking to seemed insurmountable. How will our family function moving forward?
Jay passed away in March 2006. Just as we thought our journey was ending, we realized a new beginning. God laid on our hearts to create a foundation, an organization to minister to families going through what we had experienced.
Due to God’s leading and blessing Jay’s Hope has served thousands of children and their families. Through the gracious giving of others, we have been stewards to over $4,000,000 during the last twelve years. We have had the privilege and opportunity to stand in the gap for hurting families all over the state of Georgia. God uses Jay’s Hope Foundation as his conduit to reach the lost and minister the saved.
I Found Focus From The Painful Journey
The painful journey came into focus. Standing in Riverside Cemetery in April 2006 we could not see anything good coming from our son’s death. God had bigger plans for Jay’s life.
While we enjoyed five years with him on earth, God leveraged his life for the last twelve years to minister to countless others. So while I can’t point to a date on a calendar as to my salvation, I can point to an event which solidified my faith. Jay’s life and death brought my purpose and my family’s purpose into focus.