a link to the video of the service will be attached to this blog when it is ready. Transcript for my talk is below. Thank you all who were able to come and also thank you all who couldn’t but would loved to have come. This blog is for both, for those who would like to leave a comment and for those who missed the service and would still like to see it. Thank you all of you who attended to celebrate my bride, Theresa.
Celebration of Theresa’s life
Thank you all for coming. I want to tell you a love story. A love story that began way before Theresa and I met. A story of our Father who answers prayer, walks with us, holds us, directs our paths, and whispers words of joy and comfort. A love story that many have experienced, and I want to share Theresa’s story which we wrote together. We wrote it in March after her hospitalization for Cardiac Tamponade. I added a postscript to this which is tacked on the end.
Theresa was born in Vancouver Washington. She was a latchkey kid, walking home after school, letting herself in the house, and spending the rest of her day alone or with her brother until her mother came home at 7pm. Her guardian angel, Grandma Kester, would take her on outings, to the mall, and just spend time with her. She became acquainted with Jesus and accepted his Lordship in her life when she was fairly young. Early on she got baby-sitting jobs so she could have money to buy clothes (a passion she carried all her life). Later at 16, she bought her first car and worked as a cake decorator until she graduated from high school. Knowing she needed a way to get out of the situation she was in, she knew she needed to go to college, though had no way of paying for it. She applied for scholarships and received an Air Force ROTC scholarship in nursing.
During Nursing school, Theresa not only performed well in her studies, she also was busy with ROTC classes, drills, weekend events, and worked two jobs. Finally, with graduation closing in, Theresa chose to go to Alaska to work as a nurse. As God has done many a time, he knew Theresa better than she knew herself, knowing she couldn’t tolerate cold winters, and he had other plans for her. She ended up being a nurse at Travis AFB in California for 4 years. Through all this time, Theresa sought to honor God with her life and prayed for guidance, direction, and a help mate.
After she had been at Travis for a year working nights as a medical floor nurse, I arrived at Travis AFB as well. God had been in the practice of guiding me too and made it certain that despite my plans to desire a residency slot in Tacoma, Washington, His will was done and made it, so I chose and was chosen by the family practice residency program at Travis. The beginning of my second month as a very green intern, I was woken up by a nurse, Theresa, in the wee hours of the morning. She explained that a patient had died, and I needed to come and pronounce that she had indeed died (due to autopsy protocol at that teaching hospital that I was unaware of). Still sleepy and green, I stated instead that she had already said the patient had passed, why was I needed. I got a firm response back and so got up and went to the patient’s room. I talked with the family present and asked, despite finding out they were agnostic, if I could pray with them. They agreed so we prayed. During this time, Theresa was told the intern was in the room and she came in to give me a piece of her mind and make sure I didn’t upset the family. When she entered, she only saw my back in a long white coat praying with the family. Without seeing more than my back, her heart melted at my prayer for the family, and she heard God tell her this would be her future husband.
A few weeks later some other interns and I were meeting with our attending physician to discuss patients. After we were done, someone asked if I had a girlfriend, which I didn’t. They then would point at different nurses from behind the glass window of the chart room and ask, “what about her?” After each, I just shook my head “no”. Then Theresa came up to the front desk in civilian clothes. I didn’t remember her from our initial interaction, but just watched her and didn’t shake my head “no” this time.
Two weeks later the same physicians without me asked Theresa if she had a boyfriend. Theresa was confused as both physicians were married and wasn’t sure why they would be asking. She told them she was single and then they started asking her questions. They asked where she was from, and Theresa told them Washington state, and then they smiled and told her this other doctor was from there. Asked her what she liked to do in her spare time, she liked to hike, and again they smiled, telling her I liked to hike too.
A week later she was finishing charting and I quietly sat next to her until she was done and noticed me. I then said, “so I hear you like to go hiking”. Theresa immediately started laughing. I asked her on a hiking date to Point Reyes California. She said yes and wrote her name and phone number on a scrap of paper I still have today.
It became clear after dating for 6 months that God was blessing our relationship and I wanted to marry her. I proposed to Theresa February 14th in front of 400-500 people on stage at our church valentine’s day banquet and shyly she accepted. We were married 5 months later. In taking her hand in marriage, I felt God telling me He was entrusting her into my care, and that she was precious to Him.
Early on in our marriage, I realized that we both had some really rough areas and that Theresa was actually vulnerable and fragile and my rough areas could cut her deeply. She was not affirmed growing up, had a father who was an alcoholic who raged, and a mother who stood by her man. Theresa was a quiet, gentle soul, who had a hard time with trust because of broken trusts as a child. It cut me so deeply when I unintentionally caused her deep pain. Many times, I was on my knees praying, many times asking Theresa for forgiveness, and through the years our rough areas, and ability to read each other and communicate to each other’s hearts improved. (Theresa wanted me to make sure to recognize she also had rough areas that needed honing).
We took to heart scripture, took to heart the need for God to make us Christ-like, and our need to serve each other completely, putting the other first. We came to this independently but spent the past 25 years making it our top priority. Theresa brought out the best in me and I brought out the best in her. I so wanted to love her as God needed me to love her. And I was able to provide the tenderness she needed to bloom and bloom she has.
We have not stopped holding hands, having our hearts skip a beat when the other come in the room, hugging, back and head massages, daily saying I love you many times, many many kisses. Even in our disagreements, we apologies before we sleep and rub each other’s backs.
When I was hospitalized before we had kids, she stayed in the hospital room with me the whole week watching over me and helping me. I did the same for her three years ago and again in her two hospitalizations this year, taking care of her and bathing her.
God wove us together in Christ in a cord of three, inexplicably connected, soul mates for life. We are each other’s best friends, want to do everything together, and are each other’s cheerleader. She would say I am her best part and I would say she is my best part. Either way we can’t contain our love for each other.
Though the past four years have been hard, and the last months harder yet and Tuesday agonizing, we both have been humbled and blessed so much. Our intimacy of soul, our love has deepened, our reliance on God stronger, our confidence in him firm. We did not want or choose this, but we know submission to God’s will always turns out the best. Through anguish of heart, through the loss of my dearest bride, my soul mate, I have a greater understanding of how God feels for us and anguishes over those who don’t choose Him.
During these past 4 years, God has shown up right on time, not a minute early and not a minute late. When she was hospitalized early on for a collapsed lung from a port placement, she was at peace and ready to be with God, but God convinced her it wasn’t time yet. God also came through when she couldn’t take it from the all-over painful nerve pain caused by chemo and found a way to relieve it. When she had her breast MRI before her surgery, she asked for God’s peace despite her claustrophobia and He came through and took her on a 45-minute rollercoaster ride. And then when her heart was about to stop from the cardiac tamponade, she asked to be put to sleep, but was told she was too unstable, and it needed to be done immediately while she was awake in the outfit she came in with. She said she felt the loving arms of Jesus around her, was at peace, though felt all the pain. In her peaceful state, she saw herself outside her body and thought I don’t want this to end like a bad western with my boots on. There were many more times where God showed up over the years, but the best was yet to come.
Father, thank you for trusting me with loving Theresa. Thank you for molding me to truly be the man she needed until you took her home. I have been honored to serve You through serving her and my family. Thank you for how she cared for my heart too. Thank you for a soul mate, a best friend, and satisfaction of knowing I have loved her back to you. Father, into your loving hands I entrust her.
Theresa and I talked much about this talk. We both wanted to make sure we recognized all of you as a vital part of who we are. You provided a community of love and support we needed. We are grateful for the love and prayers extended to our family. We know we are truly loved. Theresa cherished the cards, texts, and responses to the blog posts that you all provided. Thank you for loving us. She hopes to see each one of you again, celebrating in heaven.
Thank you, to God be the Glory, our King of Glory, and our only Hope. So let it be.
Post script: I am indebted to my sister, Sheri Keahey, for managing Theresa’s final 24 hours with skill and compassion as a Palliative care nursing supervisor. She took my call at 7:15 am and diverted going to work and spent the next 24 difficult hours loving Theresa. She allowed me to be Theresa’s husband as I anguished during her last hours. I want to thank Cynthia Waddell who came by for an hour visit and stayed to the end 16 hours later tenderly loving Theresa, and Pastor Mitch who came over despite his late evening and he too stayed to the end and offered songs, prayers, verses and brotherly love. I am indebted to my parents, friends, coworkers, patients, all of you who have loved us dearly and who have helped raise our children. I am broken and I know our kids are as well, be patient with us as we gain our confidence to live on without Theresa here, yet knowing she is now in peace in God’s loving presence. Thank you for Celebrating Theresa with us.
God has been working on me. In Theresa’s cancer and final hours, I was so aware of my inadequacy as a Husband, protector, doctor. I pleaded with God to show up and take her quickly. But that didn’t happen. The ravages of breast cancer spread to her throat and neck slowly had its way and the medications we had could only keep her comfortable not stop the agonizing long process for us. I was a little upset because I felt inadequate and I wanted her rescued. I prayed for God to come and take her the way I wanted. He came the best way, a way I didn’t expect.
After 12 or so hours of anguish watching my bride painfully pass (at least for me), I pleaded with God to take her quickly, and Pastor Mitch similarly prayed. But for three hours the process continued until it finally was over. I wondered why He didn’t answer our prayers. But in reality, He had. I expected one thing and He provided another. In hindsight it was obvious after the prayer, despite the basic functions of the body still going on, she had left, no more struggle, the Tent was empty and just winding down.
This whole process showed me how inadequate I am, how inadequate human love is, how inadequate human knowledge and response it. We crave what God is. He alleviates suffering, he heals, He provides all that we are searching for. We can easily misinterpret anything, but God makes the invisible, visible if we listen.
Everything we do is inadequate, an approximation of the desire or hope. Human love wants to be unconditional but isn’t, we want to protect and help but we really can’t, we desire more, but everything we do is an approximation of the hope. And that approximation is a chiasm far distant from what we need. We desire so much more, and Jesus is the road to that so much more. We crave what God alone can provide, life without end, no suffering, no pain, no sorrow, just joy, peace and excitement that will never end. We look to this world for what it cannot ever provide. Theresa’s verse on her military grave marker says it all: John 3:16. “For God so loved the world that He gave his only son that whoever believes in Him shall not perish but have life eternal – with Him.
Video – Ciara dancing to Love like this