Tomorrow I will preach the funeral for a dear friend of mine. He was the definition of a selfless person. I truly appreciated all that he did, but, when I was meeting with the family on Wednesday a memory came to me suddenly and I was suddenly overcome with emotion. Let me back up a little bit: After my stroke in December, 2008 my license was revoked for obvious reasons and it took me some time and practice before I was able to drive again. I finally got my license back in February, 2009. But, shortly after I got my license back the reality of the severity of my stroke became evident: my stroke had seriously impacted the PONS area of my brain stem, and therefore, a lot of my nerves were negatively impacted. One of the nerves that was damaged was the nerve that controls my eye movements; my left eye would would twitch, at times almost uncontrollably, and that made it really difficult to drive, particularly at night. That brings me to the memory that left me so emotional. Fast forward to about 2010. I had come to Stratford (I was still Senior Pastor at New Covenant Church at the time) to preach a funeral; after the funeral I stayed to talk to some people and catch up with good friends. Finally about 6 pm or so my family and I decided to leave to drive back to Knoxville, about 120 miles away. After we left I looked in the rear view mirror and thought I recognized the car, but, there are a lot of cars that look the same so I forgot about it. When we got back to Knoxville, I pulled up to my house, and the car that had been following me pulled in behind me...Don and Sharon Peterson had followed me all the way from Stratford, 120 miles. Don, who had been a truck driver for over 30 years at the time, knew that I had trouble seeing at night so he followed me to make sure I was safe! He did that on several occassions. He did not come to Knoxville for any other reason than that he cared for me and wanted to make sure my family was safe. Mahatma Gandhi once said, "our fingerprints never fade from the lives we touch..." Don is not a person that will be highlighted on the Today show, he is not going to be memorialized with a statue somewhere, but he definitely left fingerprints that will not fade!
On December 8, 2008, my life changed forever. I had a double sided cerebellar stroke with 2 brain stem compressions. It was not until December 10, 40 hours after my stroke, that surgery was finally done to relieve the pressure. Dr. Piper, the neuro-surgeon from Iowa Methodist hospital in Des Moines, told my wife that surgery was nothing more than an attempt to save my life, but that it would not erase the deficiencies as a result of the stroke. Although she admits that she did not really understand what Dr. Piper had just said, my wife, Laura, agreed to the surgery and the care team performed a decrompessive craniotomy, to hopefully relieve the pressure and allow my brain to function somewhat normally. For those who have followed my blog for the last 14+ years, the surgery was successful, I returned to the church and I now live a relatively normal life, although I do have some pretty severe, though not always visible, defieciencies. I really thought that life could not get any worse th