Monday, April 16, 2012

a life well lived

in a post a few weeks back i told you about a friend of ours who has been battling cancer for 16 years. defying all medical odds, he endured four separate stage 4 cancer diagnoses, multiple surgeries and 16 years of different treatments. today was tom's funeral. the battle is over, the pain is gone, the needles, tubes and treatment all behind him now.  and this morning his life was celebrated well.

my oldest three children were in attendance.  as a mother, how grateful i am for them to have a chance to hear the words and thoughts shared in this morning's service. how blessed i was to listen to the beauty of his story. tom maiwald's body may have been taken by cancer, but his life was lived for Christ and everything, absolutely everything shared today, pointed to that end -- pointed to that victory.  in a day where there seem to be few role models and even fewer heroes, i am thankful that tom maiwald and his family have intersected briefly with mine.

for 16 years tom battled cancer hard, but proclaimed Christ even harder.  tom was an exceptionally articulate writer.  his caringbridge site has blessed and encouraged thousands of people over these years -- me included.  a year ago when i was dealing with my own diagnosis, tom's words and fighting spirit were an incredible inspiration to me. in post after post, he declared God's purpose and plan.  he declared peace. even in the midst of his excruciating pain and bitter disappointment, tom and his authentic words pointed always to Jesus.  though our world tries to come up with flimsy alternatives, there is no other answer.

i remember the day he stopped over to return a bike he had borrowed from rick.  it was just a week or so after my diagnosis.  he stood in our driveway, a medical mess himself, and asked me,  "jody, how are you doing?  i mean, how are you really doing?"  i almost felt foolish with him asking me.  my diagnosis paled in comparison to what tom had been through and was going through.  my prognosis was clearly a thousand times better.  but something about the authentic way in which he asked and the sincerity clear in this man's eyes, wiped away all feelings of foolishness.  he genuinely cared and he absolutely empathized.   both rick and i were blown away by that exchange over a borrowed bicycle.

but that is tom.  from all that has been shared in the past few days of remembering him, these are the stories of tom maiwald.  a man who, because of his deep love relationship with Christ, has been able to love others deeply even in the midst of his own incredible and intense suffering.  really, my words cannot do justice to this man's life and testimony. but because i know so many of your stories and know the encouragement so many of my readers seek, i am taking this opportunity to point you in the direction of tom's caringbridge: ( there's little doubt in any of our minds that his site will someday be published in book form.  be prepared.  it is deep and driven with the passion only Christ can inspire.

to give you a taste, i'll share a tiny piece from one of his posts last month.  tom writes about hardship.  and who in in this world doesn't understand at least something about hardship?  few of us grasp it as well as tom, but all of us have suffered in some degree and each one of us stand in need of encouragement when we struggle in this place of earthly pain. 

tom's words:
What if this hardship we call life today is just a pause between the original perfection of Eden and the ultimate restoration of heaven on earth?
It is. It’s as if a beautiful fabric of infinite value were torn in half, leaving loose strands hanging with no hope for repair. Perfection seems lost. But alas, the God of living hope steps in and the tattered fabric of our lives is repaired. God is up to something, even if we don’t experience it until after we die. But what is amazing is that God doesn’t just patch up the fabric of our lives leaving seams and stitch marks. He makes us beautiful.  No holes. No seams. Perfect.  That is the picture of peace that I hold on to. Although I’m far, far from it today, the Bible’s description of God making all things new encourages me and gives perspective on the bigger, more glorious work of His grand plan that I’m unable to fully see now.

this from a man who knew his days were numbered.  a man who rejoiced even in this knowledge.  a man who continued to live life fully and joyfully to the very end.  what a treasure for those who knew a man who so deeply knew God.  tom's funeral service this morning was beyond inspiring.  i was told he planned and wrote much of it himself.  i know i will not be the only one forever changed having attended such a celebration of a life well lived.  tyler's entire 8th grade class sat a few rows behind me.  they were there in support of their classmate, nate, tom's son.   i couldn't help but think of the impact on these 14 year olds sitting in these rows, sitting on the edge of their future. 

a couple of tom's friends shared the story of how tom walked around always with a packet of seeds in his pocket. these seeds were his reminder of his life's mission. he believed in something called the "harvest principle."  you reap what you sow.  you reap more than you sow. and you reap much later than you sow.  i looked around our sanctuary at the large number in attendance... a harvest indeed.

tom leaves behind his sweet wife amy and two children, abby and nate.  please keep this precious family in your prayers.

one of the verses tom chose for today.
"therefore we do not lose heart.  though outwardly we are wasting away, yet inwardly we are being renewed day by day.  for our light and momentary troubles are achieving for us an eternal glory that far outweighs them all.  so we fix our eyes not on what is seen, but on what is unseen.  for what is seen is temporary, but what is unseen is eternal. now we know that if the earthly tent we live in is destroyed, we have a building from God, an eternal house in heaven, not built by human hands."  ~ 2 corinthians 4:16 - 5:1


Aus said...

Tom - we never met - but I'm better for having known about you. And thanks for having a life well lived, for touching and caring about our mutual friends, and for simply being a Man who knows and understands both himself and our Father.

And Jody - thanks for introducing us!

hugs - aus and co.

Monique said...

Jody your writing is always so beautiful and such a blessing. Thank you for sharing your special gift of writing with us . Our God is a god of Comfort. I am thankful that He is there for Tom's family - to be their strength and peace during this sad time.