Motivated by Memories

Luminary bags at the Relay

As a cancer survivor, one of the hardest things is the memories. Every year I attend the Relay for Life, sponsored by the American Cancer Society. This is an event that both raises awareness and money for cancer research. At the Relay, participants walk along a school track while participating in activities.

The most powerful part of the Relay for Life is the luminary ceremony. Lining the whole length of the track are white paper bags decorated in honor of, or memory of, someone with cancer. For the ceremony a candle is placed in each and every bag, and lit. Participants walk around the track in silent remembrance.

This is always my favorite part of the night, as well as the most difficult. As I walk in silence memories assault me.

I remember the moment after my biopsy, looking at my parents, asking them the results, yet already seeing the answer in their faces. I remember my first night of chemo, lying awake throughout most of the night as my nurse Jen kept me company from myself.

I remember being so tired I could barely move. I remember showering being a full day event. I remember throwing up at nearly everything I ate. I remember waking up at 4am with a fever on Christmas day and driving to the hospital.

There are good memories, too. I remember my parents doing everything in their power for me. I remember my friends showing up to keep me company, even when I wasn’t very good company. I remember the laughs my nurses and I shared, even in the midst of chemo treatments.

I remember those who journeyed beside me, losing their own battles after fighting hard. I remember Laura Jahnke teaching me that having a reconstructed knee can actually be a good thing. I remember Ryan Shuman sharing a hospital room with me through the good times and the bad. I remember Alex Aubmets and the passion he had to see cancer destroyed forever. I remember my neighbor Karen supporting me through my battle before hers began.

I also remember those who survived their cancer while fighting beside me. I remember Steve Symons, winning the battle yet losing his leg. I remember Liz Kaiser, a lot younger than I, braving the battle with the kind of courage I admired. I remember Marcus Offerdahl only a child but also a favorite roommate of mine, facing something no one, especially not a child, should ever face.

Most of all, I remember how the Lord Jesus never let go. Through the sorrow, through the pain, through the thick and the thin, God guided me and gave me strength.

Memories are a powerful thing. They grip at us, causing pain, sorrow, grief, and any other number of emotions. We can’t let the past hold us back and cripple us, but we can’t not look back. To not look back is to forget, and we must never forget. Instead we must remember and celebrate the good times, and the lessons learned. We must take those memories and use them to give us the strength to face the future.

Memories, both good and bad, are a powerful motivator in our lives.

What memories are motivating you?

5 thoughts on “Motivated by Memories

  1. Thank you Derek for sharing these memories and giving us all a chance to do the same.

    I remember that December 28 will be two years since our son Jairus passed away.

    I remember Meg saying, “Mark, wake up, my water broke.” After the light was on we saw a bed covered in blood. I remember Laura Steinhorst coming over at 2:30am to be in our home as our children, Emma and Hazen, awoke to see Mom & Dad were gone.

    I remember the doctor looking at the ultrasound and saying those unforgettable words, “There is the heart, it’s not beating, I’m so sorry.” I remember Steve Treichler making no delay to come to the hospital and pray with us. I remember Meg going into labor quickly and naturally. I remember looking in the mirror and asking God for the strength to coach my beautiful bride to labor and deliver a child that had already passed away. I remember saying to her, “It’s not goodbye but our chance to say ‘hello’.”

    I remember a delivery room that was empty of the sound of a baby crying. I remember seeing the lifeless body of my son and understanding, in a small way, what it was like for God the Father to see His Son lifeless on the cross. I remember presenting my child to my wife saying, “It’s a boy.” I remember my bride saying, “His name is Jairus.”

    I remember spending that morning, the only morning, with Jairus. I remember singing hymns and reading God’s good word to him. I remember realizing, for the first time, how much I hate sin. Looking at Jairus made me realize the collateral damage of sin, in general. That sin brought death into the world and now into my hands.

    I remember going to the funeral home the next day with Rob Thompson, my father-in-law, and Steve Treichler to plan the service for New Year’s Eve. I remember ordering a 19” casket, the smallest available.

    I remember 150 people showing up for a funeral service for a child they’d never met. I remember Tim Johnson leading three beautiful songs all the while he and Jess were days away from welcoming Asher into the world. I remember this as a true act of courage.

    I remember the cemetery being cold and blustery. I remember Abraham Piper telling me he wished he had watched their daughter, Felicity, be lowered into her grave. I remember standing there in stunned silence as I watched. I remember the Elders of Hope Community Church standing there with me. I remember saying to Steve Treichler, “This is so fucked up.”

    I remember many meals with Cor Chmieleski, Stan Oawster, Graham Nelson, Paul Ireland, Cory Wessman and John Knight (to name only a few). I remember no judgments but only grace for my “Words for the Wind.”

    I remember the gift of music from Roger Messner.

    I remember the countless meals, for over three months, and the scheduled home cleanings for six months from the people of Hope.

    I remember that Meg’s sister, Shelby Flannery, came to saving faith in Christ because of Jairus.

    I remember dunking people at a Hope baptism just three months later. A sense came over me that I was singing praises to God while my son was doing same in His very presence.

    I remember Smile Again Ministries and seeing how God can use wounded people to bring His healing.

    I remember the honor of preaching about this at Hope on New Year’s Day 2012. I remember Joe Wax from our Hope I softball team coming just to hear it.

    I remember that God gave up His own Son, something I would never do, in order to bring His creation to a day without end, where there will be no more tears but only fullness of joy.


  2. I have attempted to forget more than I could ever care to remember.

    “Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind” & all that.

    Reading what Derek went through & being there with Mark reminds me that I am but a mere boy that walks amongst giants.

    I don’t say that lightly, or in jest.

    Living in the consequences of my choices I remember that it is that by amazing grace of God in Christ & the power of his Spirit that I am able to stand at all.

    And, when I forget that fact or rather “don’t feel that fact” I am surrounded by a cast of characters in the family of my friends who hold me up.

    I am knocked down, picked up, & sent out back into the game by my beasty boomin brothers the Men of Hope.

    I am encouraged & served by the amazing leadership of my beautiful sisters the Women @ Hope.

    My daughters, by their mere being, remind me that God is good & he does love me. And that is just the tip of the ice berge of their blessing in my life.

    So I guess to answer the question i guess you cold say I am motivated by the memories of how God has provided an amazing community of people to remind me of his love for me at the exact moment I made choices that denied that defining love.


  3. Derek,
    You are a fine young man with a strong faith. Laura’s faith was a rock in her battle with cancer for her and all of us around her. Thank you for keeping her memory alive.
    Doug Jahnke
    Laura’s Dad


  4. Some powerful testimonies here. God is so freaking awesome! He can take our pain, our hurt, our frustration, and use it to glorify Him all the more.


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