I’ll meet you there
Death is unnatural. We were formed in the image of God and designed by a loving Creator to live free of pain, sickness, sin, brokenness, and most importantly, separation. Death is not in our original DNA because it isn’t in God’s. Existing outside of time, he never intended that we experience the horror and pain of separation that death inflicts upon our fragile hearts.
The last words my loving husband said to me were,”The dry ice machine is out at camp. You will need to unlock the gate and here is the code,” which he then proceeded to tell me. It was about 5:00 a.m. I thanked him and fell back asleep completely unaware that 7 hours later he would breathe his last breath as he lay on my side of our bed surrounded by our children and beloved friends. The shock and disbelief I felt at that bitter moment cannot be expressed by the carefully chosen words I now pen. Death had made an appearance again, this time taking with it the love of my life.
For those of you who do not live near or are unaware of the details, the story of Tyvin’s death is as important as the story of his life and so though it has taken me over two months to write about it, I must.
Tyvin died well. He died in faith.
Last winter gathered around the fire Tyvin said he wanted a “Kathleen” production. Many know the story of how we met in a traveling theater group, fell in love, and eloped ten months later. For the past 32 years, our passion for telling stories through the arts continued. He wrote plays, and I directed them. Even in the midst of tremendous suffering, his vision and desire for people to hear the life-changing message of truth never wavered. And so we made plans to present his original play entitled, Angel Flight 777 on the weekend of Feb. 25-26, 2017. Of course his last words would be uttered out of concern for my needs. That’s just the way it was with us. He took such great care to make sure I always had what I needed for each and every creative endeavor. He was the reason for my success.
Amidst rehearsals and caregiving, our entire family compelled by authentic faith and purpose filled vision carried out his desire. He even called a “family meeting” one night after hearing me say I wasn’t sure we could fulfill our family’s commitment to go to House of Hope in Orlando on March 1st because of the strain it might cause his weakening body. After hearing what each of us had to say he boldly stated that if he was going to go out he wanted to leave this world as a warrior in the midst of a battle. Not going to House of Hope was out of the question. The impact Aaron and Christy Fielder made on his life as a 17-year-old living at the group home they ran for boys, changed him forever. He wanted the chance to reach out yet again giving all he had to love and serve the youth at House of Hope. We all agreed. We were going.
Each day Tyvin lived battling the effects of cancer, he lived wholeheartedly. His pain managed through natural methods, and nausea kept at bay with peppermint essential oil allowed him to be free of all unnatural medications and completely himself – which meant occasionally becoming impatient with the girls who would try to match his skill of making the perfect pancake.
Hugs were a regular part of his daily therapy and often lasted for over an hour. He would speak of the visions he saw of heaven, pray for suffering people, and engage in lengthy dialogues about the beauty and love of God’s redemptive nature in our lives both past, present, and future. He saw and experienced the riches of eternity while being perfected before our very eyes. As he pulled closer and closer to God, I felt him slip farther and farther from me. It wasn’t as though he didn’t love me as much as ever, but his deep intimacy with our heavenly Father became more real than what we could see around us and more necessary. Looking back now, I can see how tenderly God was preparing him for heaven.
One night before drifting off to sleep he said, “It would be so sweet if Jesus took me tonight in my sleep.” I quickly responded, “Babe wouldn’t you want to say goodbye?” He gently closed his eyes and whispered, “Sweetheart, there are no goodbyes…” He knew where he was going, and we were one.
Pleading with God to bring him back I begged Bethany to check her dad’s heart to see if he was still breathing. He was not. We all began to wail raising our voices to heaven in deep gut wrenching sobs. Our hearts, broken. My world shattered.
Tyvin died in the early afternoon on Thursday, February 23, 2017. The very next day we gathered the cast together for a dress rehearsal to prepare for our 3 performances of Angel Flight 777. We struck our set after our Sunday evening show, cleaned the church, and began making preparations for Tyvin’s funeral service on Tuesday. This is the way he would have wanted it. He really believed and lived the mandate Jesus gave when he said, “Seek ye first the Kingdom of God and His righteousness, and all these things will be added unto you.” We desperately needed God’s grace to be heaped upon us so that we could faithfully endure our sorrow, considering it a gift to share the cup of our Lord’s suffering for the sake of the lost. Tyvin’s steadfast belief in God’s promise was not in vain. I can’t even begin to explain the grace that enabled us to carry out our call so soon after his death or the impact it had on those who came. It was not of this world.
I am so very proud of the way each of our 4 children spoke of their father and his great love for them before the hundreds who came to his funeral. How he taught them about Jesus through suffering. How he built in them an unshakable faith and spirit of adventure. How he loved people, (especially the crazy ones). How devoted a father he was. But it didn’t stop there. During the hours that followed, friends and family members, co-workers and Ragamuffins shared bits and pieces of his legacy on this earth. We wept and laughed but mostly wept. It meant so much to us to have so many take time out of their busy lives to honor a man who always made time for others.
Much of grief is hard work. It requires raw honesty and open communication with God as well as with those closest to you. All I could do for weeks was to scream and cry, “I begged you God, I begged you. You broke my heart…” I miss him so much most days I feel I can’t breathe.
My journey of grief will last the rest of my life, and so from time to time, I will share my thoughts on this website. As you have witnessed through our actions following my husband’s death, his body may have failed, but his spirit never did. Tyvin’s war cry is still loud and vigorous resonating in the hearts and lives of his wife and children and the many others he mentored and loved. We did in our shock and pain present Angel Flight 777 and saw God bring lost sheep home. We did go to House of Hope, less than 2 weeks after he died. We did carry our torches into the dark and hardened hearts of kids who had lost hope. We honored Tyvin’s passion for sharing the love of Jesus with every soul he met, and will continue to do so until our race is run and our time on earth comes to an end.
Laying beside his still body, I placed my hand on his breathless chest. My daughter Brooke came into the room and said, “Look, mom. Look at where your hand is.” Gazing down I read the words on his shirt as though they were coming straight from his heart, and so they were.
“There is a field; I’ll meet you there…”
We both sobbed and held each other tightly. I know Tyvin will indeed meet me there holding bucket loads of freshly picked wildflowers just like he brought home to me every summer after hiking in the woods.
For those who were unable to make it to his funeral service, I’ve included the video we put together highlighting bits and pieces of his life. There is no way to sum up a person’s life on film but the glimpses we see often reflect the beauty of their love for life, God, and others. I also want to thank you again for your continued prayers and support. Our entire family is hurting and each day that goes by without Tyvin’s presence in our lives is harder, not easier. We love him so and feel so robbed and cheated. I’ve heard it said that when one person is missing from your world, it feels as though the whole world is empty. True…
Until next time,