Shayne Looper: Moving through uncharted waters with courage and grace

Shayne Looper

My cousin Bev’s husband, our friend Tom Williams, died this past Saturday. He was in his 50s, had five children (the youngest still in high school), and was, until August, a specimen of health and vitality.

Tom died well. In fact, his and his wife’s faith and conduct have been wondrous to behold. Bev kept us and many other friends informed (sometimes daily) with e-mails. I was often moved to tears by their transparency, courage and grace.

Tom found out he had cancer in the second week of August. Two days later he learned that the disease was in its final stage – and was incurable. Below are some excerpts from Bev’s e-mails, given mostly in the order we received them. Space restrictions have forced me to leave out much that would inspire, as well as the many references to pain, nausea and breathlessness.

"We must daily renew our commitments and that’s to align with what God intends us to be thinking and believing. … We are moving into uncharted waters for us."

"I’ve come up with a 100 percent cure rate that I decided we should share when people ask for a prognosis: We are guaranteed a 100 percent ‘cure rate’ for our salvation from sin … and it is not cost prohibitive (to us; it was to God the Father and Jesus his Son!)

"Quote for the day … (from a study in Job): ‘The God of eternity works out His plan from the perspective of eternity … Pick an unfair situation from daily life and look at it from God’s perspective.’"

"Well, the day we could hardly wait to arrive [seeing the specialist at the James Cancer Hospital] came and went in not the way we had hoped or anticipated. The prognosis is v. grim. … We arrived … at 10 a.m. to meet the doctor at 11. At 12 w/ buzzer in hand, I went in to see if they had forgotten us. … (Tom was, by this time, laying on the floor of the waiting room … in utter agony with nausea, and back hurting, and hard to breathe, etc.)."

"I keep feeling so bad for all the helpless-looking people who wander around the hospitals, like the [name withheld], with no hope for eternity. Pray for J.S., Tom’s roommate. … Tom told him he would be praying for his healing, but that even if he is healed, he will have to face death someday and he needs to ask Christ to be his savior."

"The head doctor called yesterday at 5:01 p.m., and said [Tom] was not a candidate for the operation or the procedure they had chosen for him."

"Sometimes I read his Bible to him as even reading is not easy. … He’s still keeping a journal (that he started when he was 20) of the things God is teaching him and things he is thankful for. The last entry states: PRAISE: ‘Praise you, Lord, that your plan, whatever it is, is best for us.’"

[Note: About this time, Tom and Bev’s college-age son, Luke, e-mailed the following words to a song he discovered]:

"It is not death to die, to leave this weary road, and, midst the brotherhood on high, to be at home with God. It is not death to close the eye long dimmed by tears, and wake in glorious repose to spend eternal years. It is not death to bear the wrench that sets us free from dungeon-chain, to breathe the air of boundless liberty. Jesus, thou Prince of Life, Thy chosen cannot die! Like Thee, they conquer in the strife to reign with Thee on high."

"Today Tom was ushered into the presence of the Lord. … We started to sing "Amazing Grace." Tom opened his eyes … and started moving his mouth as if he were singing along. … When we finished the last verse, his mouth stopped moving. It was quite evident that he entered the Lord’s presence singing with his heart a song that was his pure testimony of faith in Him."

The Williams family has shown us how to face death with courage and grace; that is to say, they’ve shown us how to face death through faith in Jesus Christ.

The Daily Reporter; Colwater, Mich.