Hope for a reunion
I'll never forget the date: December 22, 1987. My mother came into my room to wake me up in the middle of the night, something she had done often in the previous weeks. But this time it was different, "You don't need to get up and help me anymore, your Dad just died." That was the very painful end to my father's short and intense illness – a time of struggle and suffering which seemed to last forever to us as family.
His death was more of a release – for him and for us. Doctors discovered the cancer just eleven months before his death. The first operation took place on January 26th. From that moment on, we began a life-changing process, which left its mark on each member of our family. We lived on an emotional roller-coaster of hoping for an improvement only to have those hopes dashed by a new negative diagnosis with an uncertain prognosis. By March the doctors already said, "Mr. Staehli, we're very sorry…!" I don't know how much more time they gave him then, but God gave us another nine precious months. This time brought our family closer together and gave us lasting memories. My father was able to be at home the whole time, except for a few hospital stays, primarily when he was operated on.
One of his last diary entries was written about three months before he died: "Today I had just enough energy for myself. Dear God, please give me the strength again to be a good husband and father." Unfortunately, things did not get better. He got weaker and weaker. He soon even had to give up his diary. He was the kind of father every child dreams of: a role model, a man of integrity, loving and caring. How hard must it have been for him to watch his strength slipping away over months and to be forced to accept that he was no longer able to care for his family! How painful it must have been for him to realize that he would soon have to leave his wife and three children behind, as long as God didn't step in and do a huge miracle! Thinking about all this causes me pain to this day.
We struggled together until his final day, praying and trusting God because we knew He was able to heal my Dad. But God chose a different way than we hoped for, and He allowed the cancer to take my Dad away from his family at the young age of 45. Even today, after so many years, I can’t understand why or really accept it. The loss of my Dad left a huge hole in my life and I still miss him more than 20 years later. The "why" question and a profound sense of loss remain, but I am not bitter toward God because I have also been richly blessed.
When I think about my Dad's life, my heart is filled with thankfulness, joy and pride. I received more from him in our 17 years together and have benefitted from him more than many people get from their fathers in a whole lifetime! His unshakeable trust in God, even in medically and humanly hopeless situations, is something that has developed in my life too. Statements from his diary like, "I trust God to provide for my family when I am gone," or "If I had to choose between cancer of the body or cancer of the soul, the choice would be simple," show how my Dad believed in eternity with God after his earthly life was over. He was a role model and motivation for me in terms of living a life that honors my father’s memory and is pleasing to God.
I share his faith in Jesus' words from the Bible in the Book of John, chapter 11: "Anyone who believes in me will live, even if he dies." What a privilege it is to have the hope of life after death! And what a joy it is to know that it’s not a final goodbye and that we will see each other again in heaven!