The occasional, often ill-considered thoughts of a Roman Catholic permanent deacon who is ever grateful to God for his existence. Despite the strangeness we encounter in this life, all the suffering we witness and endure, being is good, so good I am sometimes unable to contain my joy. Deo gratias!

Although I am an ordained deacon of the Catholic Church, the opinions expressed in this blog are my personal opinions. In offering these personal opinions I am not acting as a representative of the Church or any Church organization.

Thursday, October 11, 2018

John Hathaway - Our Newest Saint

Our dear friends, Nancy and Joe Hathaway, have been staying with us at our home in The Villages, Florida. Nancy, who is battling leukemia and more, is being treated by the wonderful people at Moffitt Cancer Center in Tampa. Because the Hathaways live in South Carolina, they needed a place to stay during Nancy's treatments. And so our home became their home away from home, a far greater blessing for us than for them. 

I'm also the driver, tasked with ensuring they arrive in Tampa (75 miles from our home) in time for Nancy's frequent appointments. I am more than fairly compensated for this since I drive for pizza -- my daily reward is a single slice from the hospital cafeteria, along with a diet Coke, and is reward enough. Of course Diane and I have tried to make this challenging time a bit less difficult for our friends.

But then today everything changed. Early this morning their son, John Hathaway, the youngest of their four children, died at the age of 41 in South Carolina. The call came in the predawn darkness, just a few hours before we had to leave for our drive to Tampa. As you can imagine, it was a time of tears and prayers, a time filled with phone calls and text messages from family and friends, and a time for more tears, and more prayers.
John Hathaway, Heaven's Newest Resident
Indeed, as I write this, Joe and I are shuttling between Moffitt's many waiting rooms while Nancy undergoes transfusions, biopsies, and tests. Yes, it's been a very hard day and I suspect more will follow. But Nancy and Joe, a couple with a deep and living faith, will make their way through this sorrowful time. It's a journey they must make together, but not alone, since they are strongly supported by family and many dear friends. Diane and I will certainly be there for them, able at least to hold a hand, share a comforting word and prayer, and give a hug. 

During my 74 years on this beautiful planet, I've known many saints. Some have returned to the Father and a few are still with us. John Hathaway is now among the former. Truly a most remarkable young man, John suffered his entire life from Marfan Syndrome, a rare genetic disorder that affects the body's connective tissue. Because connective tissue is just about everywhere in the body, Marfan Syndrome and the many disorders that stem from it often affect the heart and the body's blood vessels, as well as lungs, bones, joints, eyes, and skin. It can be a devastating illness. (Click here to read more about Marfan Syndrome.)

But despite the pain and the suffering John did not let his illness define him. Once, asked if he were angry with God because of his illness, John replied, "Of course not. Why would I be angry at God for the greatest gift He's ever given me?" Unlike most of us John realized early in life that everything is a gift, especially life itself. And he was always thankful that God in His wisdom knows what is best for each of us, what will lead us to the salvation He has planned for us. 

John Hathaway's life was the very personification of those famous words of St. Paul: 
"We know that all things work for good for those who love God, who are called according to his purpose" [Rom 8:28]. 

And, oh, did John love the Lord his God and strive mightly to fulfill that purpose, God's holy will. (If you'd like to read John's own view of his illness, written in 2010, read his brief essay on The Ministry of Suffering.)

Interestingly, although I have known John's parents for at least a dozen years, I met John only once, back in 2013. He was a patient in a Charleston, SC hospital recovering from one of his many surgeries and medical emergencies. At the time he could hardly speak but seemed truly happy to meet Diane and me. I gave him a blessing and asked for his prayers. He no longer needs any blessings, but I still need his prayers and trust he will continue to intercede for all of us who know and love him.

The photo below shows John surrounded by his wife, Mary, and their wonderful children. 
John, Mary and their children
All four of their children -- Allie, Gianna, Josef, and Clara --are young people of deep faith, thanks to the loving example of their mom and dad. How blessed this family is to have a husband and father who rests now in God's embrace. I know John is asking the Father to shower His goodness and grace on the family he loves so deeply. 

Diane and I have a special affection for John's eldest daughter since we got to know her when she accompanied her grandparents on one of their brief visits to our home. Allie is now a senior in high school and, like her father, has Marfan Syndrome. But I also expect that, like her father, she will be the strength of her family during the days to come.

John's funeral will be celebrated next Friday in South Carolina. Diane and I will head north with Nancy and Joe so they can say good-bye to John and be with their other children and grandchildren. Given Nancy's health issues this will be a most meaningful visit for the entire Hathaway family. Please keep them all in your prayers.

Oh, yes, one more thing: John posted regularly on his blog, The Lewis Crusade. It overflows with prayerful, funny, thoughtful, and thought-provoking words and is certainly worth a read.

Thank you, John, for touching my life.

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