Anyone who has kept vigil at the bedside of a loved one can attest to the painful reality of waiting for the end and the myriad emotions its arrival brings. I’ve never understood the fascination with ‘reality’ TV. What a misnomer as there is nothing ‘real’ about it. If people want a dose of reality, why don’t they just LOOK AROUND!! Maybe they have and have decided watching a contrived reality is easier because true reality is more raw and gritty than most people care to admit or acknowledge. Bearing witness to someone else’s pain is difficult and makes many people uncomfortable. Even so, sometimes it is all we can offer. Often the most inspirational stories are those that often unfold right in front of us. Today, I’d like to share one of them.
It is the story of David Greig Hurst. He died last Saturday of brain cancer at the age of 43. His plight was brought to my attention by a relative who is a friend of David and his wife, Dana, in Waco, Texas. I’ve been following Dana’s blog and am in awe of the courage and faith in which this young family has faced death. The grace to choose to use their family’s pain to inspire others is a beautiful testimony of the couple’s faith, their love of God, and their love for each other. This was Dana's post the morning after her husband died.
by Dana Hurst
You read a story and you wait until it is going to end. A really good story you read so fast, you rush it, you can't wait to see what the finale is.
I waited for that Saturday. I kept trying to create that. I saw David going, we provided David with pain medicine. I did not leave his side, looking around that room, crazy thinking I was going to see some spirit coming to get him. Kept looking, but no supernatural experience:))) There was nothing. Just silence and his deep breathing. It was him and I. I told him everything I wanted to say. I read books on how you tell your loved one goodbye, what to say so they will let go. I made many promises, that now sit here thinking, “Oh goodness, did I really say that??” I can see David in heaven saying, “Oh yes you did!”:))) For the first time in 3 1/2 weeks it was just him and I in our home. He was peaceful, but he was dying. I wanted this experience to be beautiful. He was peaceful, our home was peaceful. I lit candles, I turned down the lights, I laid by his bedside and cried out to the Lord to take him with dignity, but still nothing.
It had been almost an hour after everyone left, and I remembered what I had told Parker just a few days earlier. How do we feel when we can't touch? I gave David a kiss and told him I would be right back. I walked out our back porch and sat in the grass. To do what I told Parker to do just a few days earlier. To sit outside and feel. I looked up into the sky and just asked God, what else do you want from me? What do I need to do? I felt God saying, stop looking for that perfect finale. I am that perfect finale. Stop looking and just listen. Many may ask. No, I didn't hear this big voice from heaven speak this. But, just like I tell my three year old, I felt God and he was telling me this. I closed my eyes and did what I told Parker just three days earlier. I listened. It was then that there was a breeze and I heard the front door slam. (remember I was in the back). I immediately looked back as I thought someone had walked in our house, saw the privacy of the moment and left. We have averaged 15 visitors a day in our home. But then it clicked, the front door was locked and then I knew. I ran inside and went in the bedroom and David was gone. He looked just like he was sleeping and I knew and felt, he was gone. He went right out the front door the moment there was no one in the house for the first time in 3 1/2 weeks. Even me. He knew that even though I wanted that experience to see his soul leave... it would freak me out for years to come:))) It also confirmed to me how beautiful, peaceful heaven is, that David simply walked out the front door, and I heard it so that I could have my closure that he was gone. My children were at a birthday party a few doors down. I believe with all my heart that he went out that front door so he could stop by that birthday party and see them one more time. It was the perfect finale, and I did not create it, it happened and it continued to happen.
For weeks I had told everyone I wanted to be alone when this happened, but sitting there with David's body, I realized I could not say goodbye without the support of friends. So, within minutes of hospice arriving, friends arrived. Right away they all said, go outside - you have to look above your house. With a bottle of wine, we took glasses outside, sat in the grass and looked up in the sky. It was the most beautiful sun, with blue clouds all over. Our pastor then showed up and offered to pray. We sat in a circle and began to pray and that is when the finale continued.......
(To understand the next sign, you need this backstory from Dana.)
One year, one month ago, I lost my dear friend Wren. Watching her die was the hardest thing to go through. The first person I ever saw pass. A mother of three young ones. Her faith was amazing. Many also know it doesn't rain in Central Texas very often. And in October we may get a shower or two, but not much if any. We are drought central. The day I held Wren's hand in the hospital and she decided to go home and start hospice, it poured down rain. We got her in the car, and I told her I wanted to walk in the rain. For me, many know, I feel rain is God's way of washing away all the tears and beautifying life all around you. I think rain is beautiful. That week with hospice Wren and I joked how we were going to get her rain boots and the next time it rains, we were going to take her wheel chair out and dance in it:) David knew this and thought I was crazy! But, he always thought I was:) The day of Wren's funeral it DOWNPOURED! I told David this was her gift to me. After the funeral, David and I walked to the car. We decided to just get wet. Embrace it. We laughed as we got in the car. It was two in the afternoon. We had a babysitter and we were soaking wet. We decided to go to a movie, a funny one. But, we were starving. Where could we eat drenched like we were? We went to Pei Wei. We had never been. We thought it must be fast! It's by the theater! And who cares if we are wet. We ate there.
So, back to our finale....October 26th. Friends and I sat there with a glass of wine out on the grass and looked at the beautiful sun and sky above my home. The pastor showed up. We sat in a circle outside, and he prayed. As he prayed, we held hands. Minutes into the prayer, it began to rain. It rained and rained. It began as a drizzle, just enough to feel and to continue praying. Hospice later told us as we prayed, it was just raining over our home. We finished our prayer and we began to cry. Pastor Brady said (he knew my thoughts on rain) “Dana, open your eyes to all the signs David is showing you.” And then it thundered! We all laughed, David would totally scare the day lights out of me with this. We sat in the rain and embraced it. It rained for three hours. Lightning, thunder, hail. Every funny story we shared about David, another thunder. It was BEAUTIFUL. And just when I thought it was done.....a neighbor called and asked if she could bring me some food....I was starving and said sure. At this point it was after eight. She showed up and I realized she never really asked what I wanted, but I didn't care. I could have ate a cow at that point. When she walked in, what do you think she was carrying – Pei Wei. She had no idea and that is when I knew David and God sent me more signs then I could have ever imagined. I also believe Wren was right there with David watching over every detail. It is opening your eyes to the little amazing things in life that God does for you to see the big picture, the finale....God had his finale planned. I didn't need to create it, it was created before David and I existed. David left with peace and love and let me know, just like I had asked, that he is OK and that he will love me forever and always......and we will see each other again.
From his obituary:
Although some may say David lost his battle with brain cancer, many that support and love him say he won and gained. By sharing his journey, he connected over 4,000 individuals through his story. David's is a story that is defined with living. He showed us to not let cancer declare your life, but to let your faith and love make your life. It is believed by his family, friends and TEAM HURST members across the country, that David is peacefully in heaven glorifying the Father he glorified on this earth.
When I showed Dana’s post to a friend, she thought it was too sad to share, but that’s not the message I saw. This story illustrates one of life’s mysteries that something can be so sad yet so beautiful at the same time. A beautiful death sounds like an oxymoron and probably is to someone without faith, but for those of us who choose to believe the best is yet to come, death is just the beginning. It’s still goodbye but with the knowledge that it’s just for now. As Bart Millard of Mercy Me writes "In Christ, there are no goodbyes. In Christ, there is no end." Despite their tragic circumstances, this couple’s testimony continues to be: God is enough – in life and death. I can’t think of a more powerful and affirming epitaph to choose to leave as your legacy, and I can't think of a better way to honor his memory than to choose to pass along his story, which is such an amazing example of faith lived out in love. If you would like to read more about Dana and David, here is link to her blog.
For anyone mourning the loss of a loved one: