My dear grandpa passed away this afternoon. He just celebrated his 90th birthday a month ago. Cancer and then pneumonia had wrecked their havoc, and he couldn’t fight them any longer. I am treasuring the memories from our time with him this past Thanksgiving.
Grandpa, you are so dearly loved. Thank you for the past forty years of being my number one fan club. For your love. For your prayers. For your kindness. For your adventurous spirit. For your example of life filled with a sense of curiosity and wonder. For your unfailing interest in your great-grandchildren. For your life of service—for our country in WWII and for God on the mission field and at home in the States for the duration of your life. How fitting that you should pass on to heaven on the Sunday of Memorial Day weekend.
You and Grandma will be in our hearts for always.
On this occasion, I would love to share again the letter that my grandpa wrote back in October, 2011. I think you can get a sense of his spirit here.
Toward the end of a full life with a lot of wonderful, exciting and fulfilling activities, now at the age of 86 the Lord has programmed for me a “Double Whammy” health situation which has been somewhat overwhelming. Increasingly, however, He has graciously given indication in small as well as large ways how involved His gracious hand has been in it all.
The “Double Whammy” came in the form of two very serious health problems which I would never have expected: Late in 2010 and into the early part of 2011 severe fatigue and “just not feeling well” sent me to our family doctor and a series of examinations and blood tests. More tests resulted in a referral to a highly regarded oncologist practicing here locally. Within two visits he diagnosed me with having “Splenic Marginal Zone Lymphoma”, a form of cancer. With this, a mutation occurs in the marginal zone or outer compartment of the affected B-cells of the white blood cells. It is slow growing and very rare. So in February, 2011 I began having a series of infusions of Rituxan each week, one per week for 4 weeks. This was whammy number one. After two months I noted my spleen was enlarging again. It resulted after the fifth infusion in my completely passing out in the doctors office and ending up with a couple days in the hospital (May11).
Later in June while in the hospital again my cardiologist said ,”now that we have you in the hospital we’re going to check out the heart murmur we’ve been hearing“. This led to Whammy Number Two. On June 16 I was undergoing open heart surgery to replace my aortic valve with a bovine (calf’s heart valve) as well as one bypass. So now I’m recovering from open heart, the ultimate operation, where they take you apart and put you back together, leaving an eight inch long “railroad” incision on the chest and another one on the inside of the right thigh from where they took the artery.
There was the two month recovery period during which, as predicted by the medical people, I hit one the lowest periods in my life. It drove me to God’s Word! As can be expected the Word was a constant encouragement. You require 60 % of your energy just to recover from open heart surgery. I’d often fall asleep with my Bible in my lap. What a comfort it was to cast myself on the Lord as he would lead me to special passages of great encouragement and blessing. One of those verses was Ps. 27: 14, “Wait on the Lord; Be of good courage, and He shall strengthen your heart; wait, I say, on the Lord! (NKJV) I printed it out, memorized it, recited it and always found comfort as I rededicated my life in faith believing. I can tell you, I got a lot of praying done as I’d go around the world praying through my prayer list.
As this healing process was going on, however, whammy number one, the lymphoma, was reasserting itself in the form of my extremely enlarged spleen. That was where my system was storing the damaged white blood cells. So, it was back to my oncologist and another series of chemo infusions. That reduced the size of my spleen decidedly but also hindered the process of my bone marrow to produce the various blood’s normal components (white, red, platelets, etc.). This necessitated a two week serious of daily shots to help the bone marrow do its work. At the next doctor’s appointment he said: “your spleen is greatly reduced, we have accomplished what we set out to do. Spend the next two weeks working at building up your strength and then we’ll do a blood test and see where we go from there”.
One of the marked things during this entire “Double Whammy” process has been how the Lord has, even during the deepest valleys, constantly reminded me of His Faithfulness. Always through the wonderful Scripture verses that remind us of our assurance as believers of eternal life through the death and resurrection of our Lord. As well as the security of the believer and the loving sovereignty of God. As I grew up, all the profound Biblical concepts were regular topics of discussion around the dinner table. They were the “givens” of growing up in a pastors home during the depression and then entering WW II and fighting across Europe in Patton’s 3rd Army. (Scriptures like: John 3:16; John 1: 1 - 5; Rom. 8:28 -39; Eph. 1: 3 - 14; Ps.1; Ps. 23, etc.)
These truths were not just what we talked about, they were put into practice on a daily basis and then I saw them work out in little events and on the world scale as I went along in life. We won’t know the full picture until we’re with our Lord in eternity but He graciously gives us glimpses of how He is working and arranging things even in advance. The Lord brought a few of these events to mind even at the lowest points in my recovery:
I’ll never forget the disappointment our family felt when at the height of the depression (I was 9 years old) a key supporter had to back out after a financial setback and we were not able to go to the Congo in Africa as missionaries. But over the succeeding years medical people confirmed that our mother’s health would not have stood up to the rigors of that land. The Lord used the depression even before we knew it to lead in our lives.
The memory during WW II of how my being color-blind caused me to be rejected by the air force which I wanted so much to be in. And then realizing afterward how the Lord used that physical limitation to place me in just the place He had for me.
Even events which affected many other people, like when the troopship, Queen Mary, had an accident which delayed by two months our entire 80th Infantry Division from reaching England and thus our unit was delayed from entering combat by two months. There was still a lot of combat ahead but not with the intensity that took so many lives just after D-Day when our Division was originally scheduled to have landed on the Beaches of Normandy.
In the little town of Ettelbruck, Luxemburg, during the Battle of the Bulge, I was assigned to guard bridges that we were to blow up with the TNT which was in place if the Germans were to counter attack. So, when the order came to bring in the large anti-tank mine field which we had put out earlier, I was not available to take part in that work. As I was following orders, guarding the bridge, we heard a terrible explosion. A German artillery shell hit one of the mines as it was being worked on and caused a chain reaction detonating dozens of the mines and killing nine of our men and wounding several others. It was not just “chance”, but the Lord’s hand that had me carrying out my duty guarding a bridge instead of clearing the mine field where I could have been killed or severely wounded. The Lord took me through nine months of combat without a scratch.
And so, it was a “Double Whammy” with many deep valleys but I can testify that the Lord is bringing me through as I daily lean on His Word and allow Him to bring to mind all the times He has proven Himself faithful over the years of my life.
A recent kind of last minute example of how He goes ahead and prepares the way, knowing the end from the beginning, was the end of last year TEAM, our mission, had to stop all our health insurance coverage. This was a huge concern as we made new arrangements with the help of TEAM having no idea the Double Whammy was on the way. But, our Lord knew and planned our way, Double Whammy and all. Because unbeknown to us He had led us to an even better Medi-gap Insurance program than we had before which has covered all our massive medical expenses. So, even with the Double Whammy the Lord has shown us in this little way that He was in it with us before it even began.
Talking about being with me all the way, I can’t adequately express my gratitude to the Lord for teaming me up 64 years ago with my wonderful wife, Helen, who has been with me through thick and thin. He has used her to be such an encouragement every step of the way through this Double Whammy experience. Thank you Helen!
The two week period referred to above, ended yesterday. After a full blood test and doctor’s examination he said continue working at building up your strength with walking and eating well, I’ll see you in five weeks. So, the Lord is showing His gracious hand as we wait on Him and look to Him for courage on a daily basis.
It is with a thankful heart that I am reminded of God’s faithfulness even through this Double Whammy. His WORD as well as so many experiences from life have sustained me all the way.
I just wanted to express my gratitude to the Lord which led to writing an account of these experiences which is my testimony of how the Lord is bringing me through this Double Whammy orchestrated by HIM.
With gratitude to the Lord, Paul J. (Jim) Pietsch