dad, heaven, and a story

God hates death. Death is the enemy that Jesus defeated, proving the victory with his own resurrection. But even in this sudden, unforeseen experience with the death of my dad, God is turning even evil into good and bringing beauty from ashes. I hope this story encourages you as much as it has encouraged my family and me. 

On the morning of Tuesday, May 23rd, 2017, Dad was rear-ended on his motorcycle on the way to work and left this earth. The whole day was a blur from there on. 

On the morning of Wednesday, May 24th, 2017, Mom received an email from a woman named Angi. She had found us through a chain of mutual friends. She was there at the accident and hadn't been able to rest until she found us. Her email read: 

Dear Nancy and Kids,  
You don't know me, and I am not sure that our paths would have ever crossed if it hadn't been for yesterday's deeply tragic turn of events.  My name is Angi, and my friend, Daniel, and I were on our way to a work class when we witnessed the accident that took your husband from this world.  We immediately stopped and ran back to help in whatever way we could.  Daniel, an RN, went to work on John, and he was beside him for the last minutes in his life, working tirelessly until the EMT's arrived and confirmed that John was gone.  There were two other ladies who were medically trained who also assisted, and I want you to know that each of them went the distance for John, and never left his side.   
Each of the people involved in the accident, from the drivers to the police and fire department, were compassionate and did every single thing they could for your beloved husband.  I can tell you first-hand that John did not suffer at all, and I do believe that he felt no pain as he passed into the arms of Jesus.  
When I approached the cars and motorcycle yesterday, what I saw was kind man lying there, and I honestly knew that he knew the Lord.  I don't know how, but I knew.  I knew that he was going to live forever now.  
While I do not at all begin to understand what happened yesterday, and I keep asking God why such an unfair act was allowed to play out, I believe that we were all there for a reason.  I am grateful that I was able to know your husband, even if just for a few moments before he was gone, and I am so grateful for the opportunity to support you and your family in whatever way I can.  I am praying for you always, and sending all the love my heart can project to you and your children.  
With Love, 

On the morning of Friday, May 26th, Angi and her husband came to our home. We had all begun calling her "our angel Angi" because she seemed like such a gift from God already, and her appearance only confirmed it. We all fell in love with her sweet and loving personality, someone who would so fully dive into grief with us, even over someone she never knew. 

Sitting on the couches in our living room surrounded by friends and family, Angi gave us even more details about the events of Tuesday morning. Some of those details have been anchors for us to hold on to in the aftermath of all of this. 

Angi said she was in a panic, heart racing, as she ran to the scene of the accident from her car. When she came to Dad, she said she saw his eyes flutter, and then a smile spread across his face, and then he was gone. He was seeing his first glimpses of heaven, and she was able to witness the moment. She said that his smile sent peace through her, and she was able to go and help others involved in the accident while her friend Daniel performed CPR faithfully and heroically until authorities arrived. 

In the past couple of months, Dad had read the book Imagine Heaven by John Burke. Anyone who was around him much recently likely heard him talking incessantly about the book which takes a scientific research approach to near-death experiences and what the many accounts can tell us about Heaven and God's promises. Dad thought it was incredible. I can't help but wonder if that smile on his face was a smile of the joy of heaven, or a smile of a jokester who wants us all to know, "Look, I was right!" 

Angi said that in the midst of the chaos of the accident, Dad's face was the place of peace. 

She said that the morning sunlight was blindingly bright that morning and may have contributed to the accident. We all marveled at the thought that it may have been light which ushered Dad into Heaven. His favorite phrase, both for photography and for life, was "It's all about the light." He meant that because he knew that the light will make or break any photo. But he also meant that because his sought to shape his life around the Light of the World, Jesus. 

John 1:5 says of Jesus, "The light shines in the darkness, and the darkness has not overcome it." On May 23rd, it felt like darkness had overcome. It seems like there was no good that could come from this. It seemed like a horrible story, a story I didn't want any part of. And to be honest, I still don't want this story - I don't think I ever will. But a story like Angi's helps us begin to see the the darkness has not overcome the light. Death aches because we miss Dad so much. But there is light because we will see him again. There is light because we know he is with his savior. There is light because we know God aches with us. There is light because Jesus died and rose again to prove that death is not permanent if we follow him. The light shines in the darkness, and the darkness has not overcome it

If you are walking in this grief and pain too - either with us or in your own story - Jesus is the light. God made a world in the beginning where he dwelt with humanity and everything was as it should be. He gave us the choice to follow Him or to follow ourselves, and He still gives us that choice. We made a mess of the world, we introduced death, and we see the mess in every facet of our lives. But God loved us still. He sent His Son, the embodiment of Himself, as a human to dwell with us. When Jesus was killed by the religious and political authorities, He was taking the punishment of death that we deserve for our rebellion against God. When Jesus rose from the dead three days later, he proved that the power of death was broken. He promises that we who believe will also rise with Him. So if you have yet to believe, this is the day. Jesus has done everything needed to save you, to be in relationship with you, and to bring you home with Him someday because He loves you. Don't put this off; our time is so short. If you have questions, there is nothing I would rather do than introduce you to a historical, rational, reasonable, powerful Jesus who is more compelling than anyone I have ever known. Email me at 

We are in so much pain. But oh, we have so much hope. Thank you Jesus for taking this evil and turning it into a beautiful story. Thank you Jesus for being with us. 


  1. My eyes teared up as I read this, Shelby. It's a beautiful testament to God's faithfulness and the comfort He brings in our darkest times. I imagine that smile was from your father's first glimpse at his Savior and the perfect, beautiful light of heaven. I'm praying for you all! Love, Ruth Pike

  2. Oh Shelby. I cried as I read this. What a gift to get Angi's first hand account to be able to bring at least some closure and understanding of the last moments of your dad's life - and the impact he had on others up till the very end. I ache with you so much. But your words, your hope in Jesus, your clinging to the Light is so very beautiful to see.

  3. When a broken heart is bared in spite of pain, because of pain, the truth shouts loudly and gracefully, compelling all to listen! Your testimony is tremendous, may God's glory continue to pour out through this sorrow, in ways greater than we could ask or think!
    Rachel Muilenburg

  4. Shelby, I sobbed reading this, both for your family's loss but also for the absolute truth that this is not the end. May many come to know this Light of the world, Jesus, through your dad's life and passing. To God be the glory. God is truly leveraging your grief for His glory.

  5. So sorry for your loss, tears streaming down my face, our Son in law passed away in January, we miss him every day,my heart breaks for you praying for you all.

  6. Shelby, God has gifted you incredibly, and your Dad's home going is part of your destiny to share, to spread the Light and love of Jesus and to give HOPE. I will be praying for your family, and thank you for your precious sharing. I, too, cried reading it. We lost our little 3 1/2 year old 43 years ago, and God also did amazing things through his home going. Though its hard for us left behind, heaven is nearer, dearer, and for all eternity!

  7. Thank you for sharing this part of your story. It helps my heart. My son Dominic was killed in a motorcycle accident 4/12/14 and while someone was with him, they did not give me the details you are blessed to know about your dad. I pray that Dom's experience was as your father's. I will be praying for your family too. This is a hard journey. Death is awful and living with the death of a loved one, even in light of the promises of Christ is hard. May the Father wrap His loving arms around you and may He fill your hearts with His grace and mercy.

  8. Shelby, the kindness of Angi, the kindness of God to let their be SOME type of peace-giving story, makes me speechless. You have been on my mind constantly and your dad....for so many ways, he helped me be where I am today in business. I am grateful. I am heartbroken with you. Love this post. Thank you for sharing and for being so amazingly brave.

  9. Yes, I totally agree with you. Thanks for giving information about the valuable tips on: Motorcycle Accident, Car Accident . If you want more knowledge about Car Accident , browse this website Iowa Motorcycle Accident Attorney.


Post a Comment

thoughts so far

Popular Posts