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Bigger Than Big and Bad

Updated on October 27, 2013

for my Father

“Therefore everyone who hears these words of mine and puts them into practice is like a wise man who built his house on the rock. The rain came down, the streams rose, and the winds blew and beat against that house; yet it did not fall, because it had its foundation on the rock.” (Matthew 7: 24-25, NIV).

“Things happen to people every day,” my friend warned me. “Big things. Bad things.”

She was only 17, but already she’d learned that hard lesson; she’d just suffered an accident that left her paralyzed for life. By contrast, I had just received a glorious, miraculous healing and was still basking in my joy. By sharing what she’d learned, my friend was challenging the naïve assumption she sensed in me, namely: God will never let big, bad things happen in my life.

My friend and I graduated from high school and went our separate ways. I forgot her words for 30 years; I had no need of them. Nothing Big and Bad happened.

Then one day I pulled into his driveway and saw my big, strong steelworker father kneeling on the ground as if he’d lost something in the grass. I pulled alongside and laughingly asked him what he was doing down there.

“Nothing, I’m just resting,” he told me. “Go on inside.”

So I went.

I noticed, however, as time went on, that he was kneeling in the grass more and more. When we went to the mall together, he favored his right leg.

Sometimes he dragged it.

I began to watch him. My mother began to watch him. Neither of us knew precisely what we were seeing, but whatever it was, it was getting worse.

“Bill, you need to go to the doctor,” my mother urged.

My independent father poured scorn on this idea. “Shah. I just have a little trouble with my knee.”

At the time, it didn’t occur to me that something Big and Bad could be happening in my sheltered world – to someone I loved. But I began to pray vague, uneasy prayers that matched the disquiet I was feeling. Please, God, help Dad. Please heal his leg.

I was sure that God would respond. He always had. Once during a sweltering Atlanta summer I’d prayed that God would make the steel mill cool for Dad, just like the first day of fall. The next day, a baffled weatherman had shrugged, ‘I can’t explain it…a freak Arctic blast…it’s like the first day of fall!’ And it was just one answered prayer among hundreds. So I prayed hopefully for Dad’s leg to get better.

But Dad’s leg got worse.

Still -- it was normal to have a few problems at his age. Whatever this one turned out to be, I was sure he’d handle it. He’d always been tough.

So I didn’t worry.

Until he began to fall. One minute he was walking along, seemingly fine. The next he’d collapse as if he’d been shot.

“We’re taking you to the doctor,” my mother told him, and this time Dad gave in.

I went along with them. I sat in the waiting room, pretending to read a magazine, while some doctor I’d never met gave my father a laundry list of possible diseases. I pounced on him the instant he returned.

“What did he say?”

Dad was unusually quiet. “He told me it could be several things,” he replied, and gave me the list. I went straight to my computer and began trolling the Internet for information on a parade of neurological diseases, checking them against Dad’s symptoms. None of them matched exactly.

Except one.

“Dad needs to go to a new doctor,” my mother was urging me. “We need to get some answers. Our doctor just looks at us. He won’t tell us anything!”

“Don’t push him,” I replied.

The Time Gone By

How I long for the months gone by, for the days when God watched over me, when his lamp shone upon my head and by his light I walked through darkness! (Job 29:2-3, NIV)

The epiphany I received as a teenager goes by many names in the Christian experience: rededication, baptism of the Spirit, mountaintop. Dad had helped me reach it. Because of a talk I had with Dad, I gave my life completely to God. As a result, for a time my relationship with Him had been luminous, ecstatic. My prayers were conversations. My praise was so heartfelt that I wept.

I experienced a healing.

When I went to my doctor a week later, he couldn’t believe his own x-ray. I had scoliosis, a curvature of the spine. But my spine had straightened by 10 degrees as compared to the previous film.

“What did you do?” he yelped. “I’ve seen people who’ve had surgery who didn’t get this good a result!”

“Jesus healed me,” I told him.

He looked at me, and looked again, and finally shrugged, “Well, we doctors don’t know everything.”

I began to pray that the Lord would work a similar miracle for Dad.

This is the Victory

This is the victory that has overcome the world, even our faith. (I John 5:4.NIV)

But my father's health did not improve.

As Dad’s condition deteriorated, I became increasingly more desperate to recreate my own long-ago miracle. I spent hours on the web begging others for prayer; researching medical journals for experimental treatments; poring over every word about healing in the Bible. I was fighting a losing battle and would lie awake at night crying.

But somehow, in spite of all these things I didn’t blame God or indulge in self-pity. Maybe that was because my father didn’t. He was still the same strong, patient man he always had been. He continued to read the old black Bible he’d worn soft with a lifetime of use. He continued to go to church for as long as he was able.

He told us he was ready to go.

A Simple Answer

...It shall be as when a sick man pines away, or a standard-bearer faints.(Isaiah 10:18, Amplified Bible)

My father’s mysterious ailment had now put him into a wheelchair. I helped Mom take him to a specialist.The doctor was a young man, thirtyish, chipper. “We have your test results,” he told my father. It’s ALS -- Lou Gehrig’s. We’ve ruled out everything else.”

My father looked up at him. “Is there anything you can do for me?”

“No.” The doctor’s voice was brisk. Almost cheerful. Dad thanked him for his help and we left.

Dad now required help to dress and eat, and caring for him was an increasingly demanding task, even though my brother and I took shifts to relieve Mom. A nurse began visiting every week. Ladies from the church brought covered dishes.

Dad was dying.

Get Up and Go Home

He said to the paralyzed man, “Get up, take your mat and go home.” Then the man got up and went home. (Matthew 9:6-7, NIV)

I never met my paternal grandfather. He died years before I was born. Dad had told me the story of his passing many times: “I kept asking, ‘What can I get you, Dad? What can I get you?’ He fixed those big blue eyes on the ceiling, as if he saw something tremendous. He told me, ‘…not a thing in this world, son.’”

On my own father’s deathbed, I received no such revelation. Dad was in ICU, surrounded by machines. He was on a breathing tube and couldn’t talk to us. Occasionally he would squeeze my hand.

As the hours passed, I noticed that the hand I’d held all my life was changing. “Look,” I told my mother. “His fingers are straightening out.”

Dad’s heartbeat gradually slowed…faltered…and then stopped.

We kissed his brow, one by one, and left the room, taking his flowers and balloons with us. When we got home, I waited until the others had gone inside. Then I took the balloon that read Get Well Soon and released it into the night sky.

Bigger Than Big and Bad

Blessed is he whose help is the God of Jacob, whose hope is in the LORD his God, the Maker of heaven and earth…the LORD, who remains faithful forever. (Psalm 146:5-6 NIV-UK)

I still wish my father could have been healed by God, as I was once healed. I prayed my heart out for it. I even told Dad once that I was believing in a miracle for him. He didn’t object, but when I quoted the words of a well-known faith healer, he waved them away: “If that man was right, none of us would ever die.”

Dad was a practical man.

He saw God more in the everyday things than in the miracles, and in the end, that practicality served him better than all my well-meaning mysticism. Because over the years my father had built up thousands of small acts of trust in God. They accumulated like the quarters he saved in sock drawers, or squirreled away in jars, or tucked into jewelry boxes. By the time adversity found him, they were everywhere. Taken together, they added up to something far bigger than Big and Bad.

Big enough, even, for me to borrow from…both now, and on the day I will need that example most. Because even in death, my father taught me. Watching him taught me that we die as we have lived.

I hope I do just one of those as well as he did.


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    • mollymeadows profile imageAUTHOR

      Mary Strain 

      5 years ago from The Shire

      Rebecca, I'm sorry for your loss. It doesn't matter how old a parent is, or how old you are. When they pass, you're always a child again. Thank you for reading.

    • rebeccamealey profile image

      Rebecca Mealey 

      5 years ago from Northeastern Georgia, USA

      You are right. I lost my Dad to cancer when he was just 71, so I know how you feel, and you expressed that well in this Hub. Thanks for sharing.

    • mollymeadows profile imageAUTHOR

      Mary Strain 

      6 years ago from The Shire

      Lastheart, thank you for your kind words. I'm so glad the hub spoke to you. Nothing pleases me more than hearing that my father's story touched someone else. He was a wonderful man and his faith is still encouraging others. :-))

    • Lastheart profile image

      Maria Magdalena Ruiz O'Farrill 

      6 years ago from Borikén the great land of the valiant and noble Lord

      mollymeadows I thought I was going into a hub that will make me laugh, but instead I came out of the article with a smile to know that out there somewhere are people fill with faith to a real God. Not everybody is able to write the words you posted. I have voted up and the rest and surely I will share for other's to get a spiritual banquet. You know what? Faith in God is so amazing that for those who love Him everything, including those big bad happenings, will come with a blessing.

    • mollymeadows profile imageAUTHOR

      Mary Strain 

      6 years ago from The Shire

      Jackie, I'm so sorry about your sister in law. It's very hard when a loved one passes. I know I felt so helpless in Dad's final months. When a family member is dying it's incredibly frustrating to just have to sit there and watch it happen. I thought I should have been able to do something, too, but there was nothing I could have done to save my father.

      Those things are in the hands of God, and it was our understanding and acceptance of that, that got my family through it. I commended my father to the love of Christ, and I look forward to seeing him again, along with so many other loved ones.

      Thank you for taking the time to read his story. I hope it brought you some comfort, and I hope the pain of your own loss lessens with time.

    • Jackie Lynnley profile image

      Jackie Lynnley 

      6 years ago from The Beautiful South

      My dad died so painfully too, but this makes me think more of my sister-in-law who I loved like a sister. She got cancer a few years back and we both felt sure she could beat it but she didn't and I felt so bad I could not do something. She called me, living in another state just a couple of days before she died and told me she didn't want to die. I just felt I should have been able to do something. I still wonder.

    • mollymeadows profile imageAUTHOR

      Mary Strain 

      6 years ago from The Shire

      Thank you for reading, Summerberrie. It was the most deeply-felt of all my hubs, and the most difficult to write. I'm glad it touched you. Both my earthly and heavenly Fathers have been amazing.

    • profile image


      6 years ago

      Mollymeadows, your hub has quieted me. I have stillness of the heart. What a wonderful tribute to both of your fathers...your Heavenly one, too.

    • mollymeadows profile imageAUTHOR

      Mary Strain 

      6 years ago from The Shire

      Irish, thank you. I'm so glad it spoke to you. I wrote it with tears, but it was very important to me to tell Dad's story without sentimentality. ALS is a brutal disease, and neither Dad's faith or mine negated that fact. What it did do was remind us that the old Scripture verse is true, that love really is stronger than death, and that God is stronger than all.

      I'm sorry for your loss. I can see from this one bare photo that you were very close to your Dad. I was a Daddy's girl, too, and losing your best guy is hard. I didn't blame God, but don't think I haven't had some heated discussions with Him! Like you, I regret them afterward, but I don't think He holds them against us. The Psalms are full of them.

      What it boils down to for me is that I've learned I can trust God, just like I learned I could trust my Dad when he told me to jump out into the water, or put down the cigarettes, or to try again after some romantic crash and burn. I've learned to trust His judgement and goodwill, even if I don't immediately understand His instructions.

      I've learned that He's a good Dad.

      Thank you for your kindness. I hope (and expect) that things will get easier for you with the passage of time. They did for me.

      Drop by anytime.

    • shiningirisheyes profile image

      Shining Irish Eyes 

      6 years ago from Upstate, New York

      Dearest Molly - I am responding after reading this with many emotions. First, I have to tell you what a great writer you are. You told this heart wrenching story very well and it had to be so tough. I cried through it all (and that isn't a bad thing, it's good writing on your part). I do have to say, I can relate to this all too well and I am amazed at the depth of your faith. Although I believe in God and my faith is so important to my daily living, I have to admit (with shame)when I was dealing with some major major heartbreaks (very similar to yours) I reached a point where I had some pretty heated discussions with God. Though I still thank Him every night for what I am thankful for, I still have those discussions with Him. Basically, why? I have to tell you how astounded I am at your grace during this time and even now, writing something so difficult to relive. You absolutely amaze me. God Bless your Dad, your loved ones and you and thank you for sharing this.

    • mollymeadows profile imageAUTHOR

      Mary Strain 

      6 years ago from The Shire

      Thank you, Oceansider. Yes, he was a wonderful man. I've gotten to the place where I can think about him, and not the ALS -- that took awhile -- but now I just look forward to seeing him again. Thank you for your kind words.

    • profile image


      6 years ago


      Thank you ....this was very beautiful and touching. Your dad sounds like he was such a good example for you..what a blessing to have a dad who loved the Lord. It must have been really hard to see him go through the ALS, but he's in heaven with Jesus and you'll be with him when you go home!

      God bless you!

    • mollymeadows profile imageAUTHOR

      Mary Strain 

      6 years ago from The Shire

      Thank you K -- I appreciate your kindness. Yes, in this case the answer wasn't the one I wanted, but then again, if I had gotten my way I would have kept Dad here forever. It's very hard to give someone you love back to God. I take solace in the fact that he's in better company.

    • KoffeeKlatch Gals profile image

      Susan Hazelton 

      6 years ago from Sunny Florida

      I was touchede by your faith and you all encompassing love for your family. God answers every prayer he just doesn't always give the answer we are hoping for so we miss it. Up and awesome.

    • mollymeadows profile imageAUTHOR

      Mary Strain 

      6 years ago from The Shire

      Thank you, Bill. I learned a lot from watching my father go through it. It changed the way I see the world -- I hope for the better. I hope I'm a more thoughtful person because of it. Thank you for your kind words.

    • billybuc profile image

      Bill Holland 

      6 years ago from Olympia, WA

      This is powerful stuff Molly! Your journey was painful and yet beautiful. I had a father like that, strong, silent, always moving forward despite pain. The lessons we learn from people like that are invaluable and I appreciate you sharing your story.

    • mollymeadows profile imageAUTHOR

      Mary Strain 

      6 years ago from The Shire

      You're very kind, Joe J. It was a labor of love. I'm glad it spoke to you! Thanks for dropping by.

    • joejagodensky profile image


      6 years ago from Milwaukee, Wisconsin

      This is one of the better Hubs I've encountered. Your format is clear and draws the reader in. Using biblical quotes to set the tone for the next part of the your story is wonderful. You called me with your clever title, drew me in with your love for your father and inspired me as your story drew to the end. Truly well done.

    • mollymeadows profile imageAUTHOR

      Mary Strain 

      6 years ago from The Shire

      Hi, Patty! Thanks for dropping by! Yes, Dad was a devout man, but also a very practical one. Thank you for your kind words!

    • Patty Inglish, MS profile image

      Patty Inglish MS 

      6 years ago from USA. Member of Asgardia, the first space nation, since October 2016

      I agree with glokr, so be glad for your dad; I'm glad he knows Jesus. And your dad is right - if we were all healed here on Earth each time we need that, we'd never die physically and perhaps have less desire for Heaven.

    • mollymeadows profile imageAUTHOR

      Mary Strain 

      6 years ago from The Shire

      Hi Glockr! Yes, I believe that with all my heart, and so did he. Thank you for your kind comments.

    • mollymeadows profile imageAUTHOR

      Mary Strain 

      6 years ago from The Shire

      Hi Kelley, nice to meet you! Thank you for your kind words. Yes, my father and I were very close.

    • mollymeadows profile imageAUTHOR

      Mary Strain 

      6 years ago from The Shire

      Thank you, Robert. I appreciate it.

    • glockr profile image


      6 years ago

      Your dad was healed - for all eternity - because he put his faith in God. Remember Jesus' promise:

      "I am the resurrection and the life. He who believes in me will live, even though he dies;"

      Even though you miss your dad now, you'll see him again in a place where there is no death, no sorrow, no hunger.

    • profile image


      6 years ago

      The relationship between a father and child is so special. I'm so glad i read this. Thanks for sharing! Take care, Kelley

    • Robert Erich profile image

      Robert Erich 

      6 years ago from California

      This is a powerful tribute to your father and a thoughtful realization of the power of God's love and the hope of eternal life. Thanks for writing. This hub is shared and voted up!

    • mollymeadows profile imageAUTHOR

      Mary Strain 

      6 years ago from The Shire

      Thank you, Perspycacious. Dad was a man of faith, and he encouraged us to have faith in God, as well.

    • Perspycacious profile image

      Demas W Jasper 

      6 years ago from Today's America and The World Beyond

      Thanks for commenting on mine, which led me to this one of yours. That's a 2 for 1 I really appreciate. Your choosing to illustrate this Hub with scripture made it so much more powerful and gave a clear picture of you the daughter, as well as to your descriptions of your Dad. The family devotion to providing for your Dad as he had provided for each of you, also spoke reams of what life in your family was like, and the family's faith shone through in your words. Thanks for the insights and for a wonderful read on this sabbath day.

    • mollymeadows profile imageAUTHOR

      Mary Strain 

      6 years ago from The Shire

      Thank you, RTalloni. I've been fortunate. I have a large extended family and have seen many older relatives in their final days. Many of them have inspired me with their faith and strength.

    • RTalloni profile image


      6 years ago from the short journey

      A marvelous read you offer here, thank you. Your ending is powerful in its explanation of what it means to live and die as a Believer. It's hard to know what to say in a comment for you've said it so well.

    • mollymeadows profile imageAUTHOR

      Mary Strain 

      6 years ago from The Shire

      Thank you, Xstatic. And thanks for the compliment, but not so much my strength. ALS is all it's cracked up to be, but the love of God is like the sea coming in. Everything negative falls before it.

    • xstatic profile image

      Jim Higgins 

      6 years ago from Eugene, Oregon

      Very well written and moving! It was a very difficult time. I know that is a terrible disease. I am glad your faith and strength brought you through it.

    • mollymeadows profile imageAUTHOR

      Mary Strain 

      6 years ago from The Shire

      Deborah, I'm sorry to hear about your Mom and your sister. Yes, it is very hard, but I like to think of Dad puttering around in a garden somewhere in Heaven. I told him before he died that I had put in a good word for him and had asked for a nice house next to a stream. He seemed to enjoy that, and I fully expect to see it when we meet again. Thanks for stopping by.

    • Deborah Brooks profile image

      Deborah Brooks Langford 

      6 years ago from Brownsville,TX

      Molly.. I am so glad to meet you and to read this wonderful Hub. You faith your fathers are wonderful we do serve a wonderful Lord. when my sister was dying. I just knew that God would heal her when she died real young it was so devastating but the Lord taught me a lot. It is hard when we lose a loved one. My Mom died this past July it was hard but she has been in so much pain for so long that she told me she was ready to go to the be with the Lord.

      Thank you for writing a wonderful hub


    • mollymeadows profile imageAUTHOR

      Mary Strain 

      6 years ago from The Shire

      I appreciate your kindness, Samantha. Yes, I adored him. We parted with great affection and I look forward to seeing him again in Heaven.

    • Samantha Gold profile image

      Samantha Gold 

      6 years ago

      Beautiful! I almost cried a number of times while reading it. It sounds like your father was a wonderful man and you are a wonderful caring daughter following in his footsteps. God bless you!

    • mollymeadows profile imageAUTHOR

      Mary Strain 

      6 years ago from The Shire

      Thank you, wordsmith. I still don't understand why some people are healed and others aren't, but I have learned that either way, Jesus is there. I heard a preacher once who spoke of people who had "the faith not to be healed." I think Dad was one of them.

    • wordsmith2418 profile image

      Veronica Lewis 

      6 years ago from Pocono Mountains, Pennsylvania

      How beautiful! As I read I felt almost like I was reading my own story. I lost my father to cancer 5 years ago. I absolutely did not believe God would not heal him. He healed me of rheumatoid arthritis and I thought he would heal my father. Your hub is extremely well-written and poignant. Thank you.

    • mollymeadows profile imageAUTHOR

      Mary Strain 

      6 years ago from The Shire

      Thank you, Hyph. It was the hardest time of my life, yet in some ways one of the most precious because of what I learned. My Dad gave me a great gift in his example. He was a wonderful man and I miss him every day.

    • Hyphenbird profile image

      Brenda Barnes 

      6 years ago from America-Broken But Still Beautiful

      Oh, what a gorgeous Hub. Your love and relationship with your Father and both of you with the eternal Father is touching in its integrity. If I ever find myself in such a struggle, I pray I exercise the strength, grace and faith your father and grandfather did. Your own determination to remain strong for your family is inspiring.


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