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This work is a tribute to my dad now struggling with stage 4, non-smoking lung cancer. Everything in the work is from the garden he and my mother have worked on for the last 40 years. He is a man of God and the Lord blessed me with a great earthly father. I love you, Dad.
Dad is now with the Master Gardener, June 19, 2012
"For this is God. Our God forever and ever; He will be our guide even to death." Psalm 48:14
Several photographs taken with my Canon T1i, and processed using The Gimp with Wacom Tablet.
In January of 2011 my lovely father, Vance Gutelius (guh-teel-yus) was diagnosed with bladder cancer. He was a strong family man, but for some time before his diagnosis he had been withdrawing from his family. Bladder cancer seemed to explain the reason why.
Cancer is such a scary word and thought and because I was very close with my Dad I asked him about his walk with the Lord. To my knowledge he believed in God, but didn't talk about it much. You can imagine my horror when he said he was an agnostic.
I started crying and praying earnestly and though Dad's opinion of God didn't change, he healed from bladder cancer and was given a clean bill of health. Dad continued to struggle physically through spring and we all felt he was just taking a long time to recover, and I figured there was time for him to come to the Lord. By March I had become complacent and life plugged along until July 2011 when he was diagnosed with stage 4 lung cancer with 1 months to live, maybe 2 months with chemo.
Our family was stunned and shocked beyond belief. My soul was anguished and I desperately grieved for my father who was a true father of his family, a man who valued truth, loyalty, love and integrity, who loved his family, and always said 'Do right be right'.
The stunning diagnosis had me on my knees in prayer every day, but the only thing I could imagine was my Dad eternally separated from God, and the only prayer I could utter was 'not my dad'. I couldn't sleep. We put Dad on all friends' and family's prayer chains, people at work, friends of friends, Bible Study friends, the post office lady, people far and near, though email and face book. I soon realized when I couldn't find the words to pray, God's family had me covered! Those who weren't so close with Lord began to draw closer and Dad was amazed at how many people loved him and were actually praying for him.
During this time, through prayer, friends, family, sermons, devotionals, radio the Lord showed me I needed to trust Him. That my high anxiety and sleeplessness was a lack of trust in the One who created Dad and loved him even more than me. I apologized to God and I apologized to Dad, and my prayers changed to 'I trust you Lord', even when I wasn't sure how things were going to turn out. I started to relax and sleep. I realized it wasn't my salvation, but Christ's, and I was called to pray, speak boldly of Jesus, and then step back and let the Holy Spirit work.
After plenty of discouraging talks with my Dad he finally said he believed in God but still was not sure about Jesus. He said he had a feeling that God was going to get him on his knees. That was on my birthday, September 11, 2011. I remember racing home to tell my husband and we rejoiced, we felt it would only be a matter of time when Dad would say he believed in Jesus.
Immediately, my father started chemo and he grew sicker and sicker, but he was always cheerful to all who visited and called. I continued to tell him he was being prayed for and he would nod his head in thankfulness, but he just wasn't able to commit to Christ. He made it through Thanksgiving and Christmas, but was very sick and miserable from chemo.
Right before Christmas at an oncologist appointment to get results of a test I told the dr. I was scared of bad news. The oncologist looked me right in the eye and said 'God told His Son bad news and what did He do? He went to the cross.' I was stunned but the words sunk into my heart. The Lord had suffered just like me, just like Dad. I knew then the Lord picked Dad's oncologist out Himself.
Knowing what a scientific, deep thinker my Dad was the Lord, in His great mercy revealed Himself in a powerful way to my father right after Christmas. He was with his granddaughter, Maddy, who was part of the witness. It was so powerful neither spoke of it, and I didn't know about it until January. Words cannot describe the thankfulness I felt to the Lord for His mercy and love toward my Dad. In this act, God also gave me much needed time to relax and focus on a father/daughter relationship with Dad, instead of worrying about his salvation. Best of all, Dad could no longer deny or wonder who Jesus Christ is. He had the wonderful gift of salvation! With tears in his eyes Dad realized what the prayers had done for him.
It was then that Dad started doing things that he realized was the Holy Spirit working through him. Finding a lost key in a restaurant that no one else could find. Buying eye glasses for a granddaughter. Simple things in human eyes, but magnificent acts for this new man of God. For each miracle my Dad said 'it's above my pay grade'. Meaning God had a higher plan, calling, knowledge than him and the things he did were because of the Lord. He also said how he loved it and wanted to feel God all the time, he wanted the Lord to work in him more and more. He said he should have been dead in the fall, but it was nearing spring and he was still alive, he knew it was because of Jesus.
In March he went to the hospital with pneumonia and after a week was released and went on Hospice. During his time on Hospice he ministered to the nurses, volunteers, bathers, even the chaplain! He prayed for and over friends and loved ones, blessing them, and encouraging them. He never focused on the fact he was dying, but always on working as a servant of God to bless others because the prayers that had worked for him he wanted to pass on to others.
He had a t-shirt fashioned with his chance of surviving his type of cancer 'less than 1%'. And on the pocket he had a gold cross embroidered by one of the hospice volunteers whose husband had been a military chaplain. A lady who had been given golden thread that day and had no idea what she would use it for, realized she was intended to use it for Dad's cross.
By mid-May and Dad continued to be a servant of the Lord even though it was getting harder, for his mind was shutting down and his body was failing. When he wanted to acknowledge God he would point up. I was thrilled when we had opportunities to have heart to hearts and I wrote many of those precious words down. I would lay with him in hospital bed and I rejoiced when we spoke of Jesus, prayed together, and read Scripture together. He said he was fading like the wildflowers, but had an assurance in Christ, that whatever the Lord had in store for him in heaven he would take. How bittersweet to know we were losing Dad, but oh, what he would gain in Christ!
On June 11 my father was baptized in his home, by then he had trouble keeping his eyes open and he was in a wheelchair, but he was outside in amongst his flowers where he loved to be. The Holy Spirit was so strong that day He brought tears to all, even the non-believers, as Christ showed His power, faithfulness, mercy, love and the promise of His salvation. It was a thrilling day and one we talked about for days to come!
Sadly, the next day my father asked me 'where is God?' and my heart broke as I realized Dad was struggling to think rationally. I was shocked to realize that where I had always been welcome in Dad's life, he was now on the part of his cancer journey that I could no longer be a part of. I felt suddenly excluded. That day his body started to shut down.
Caring for Dad the last days of his life was the hardest thing we have ever done. I continued to tell the Lord I trusted Him, even though I could see His plan wasn't to miraculously heal Dad from cancer, but to take him home. On June 19th the Lord did come to take my Dad home.
I had hoped to see Jesus in all His glory with His angels and a great trumpet of welcome for Dad. But Dad died quietly, peacefully and without any fanfare except for the anguish in our hearts voiced out as cries of grief. He was wearing his T-shirt.
At his service and reading cards and notes of sympathy we realized just how much Dad touched other people's lives all through Jesus Christ. The books of Acts continued in my Dad. Chapter 29 had been written in Vance Guteliusís life, and through Jesus Christ his less than 1% chance of survival had turned into a 100% absolute guarantee of live ever after with his Lord and Savior.
His Lovely Daughter, Erica Gutelius Hanel
April 21st, 2012
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