Friday, May 7, 2004

May 7, 2004

9:32 PM Just back from a dinner date with Marlene at La Piazza, a new Italian restaurant on Circle Avenue in Forest Park. Several weeks ago I read a favorable review in the Chicago Tribune so tonight Marlene and I tried it out. Generally I’m not big on Italian food—mostly because my understanding of that particular cuisine was shaped by the Spaghetti Warehouse and Olive Garden. La Piazza is in another realm of authentic Italian cooking. I wouldn’t even begin to describe the dishes we had tonight except to say that we had stuffed calamari, Marlene had scallops on a risotti pancake, and I had Australian lobster inside blankets of fresh pasta. The presentation looked like something you would see on the Food Channel. Readers of this blog know that my taste in food tends more to Parky’s Hot Dogs (by the way, it looks like the Great Chicago Hot Dog Challenge will take place on May 22), but sometimes it’s fun to step up and try something new. Marlene was happy so I’m happy—a good way to start the weekend. 7:57 AM Terry Platt passed away early Thursday morning. When he was diagnosed with leukemia a few months ago, he knew he had rough battle ahead of him. Since January he had endured three extremely difficult rounds of chemotherapy—each one had caused intense sickness of varying kinds. He was in the hospital for the fourth round (of 8) when he died. Terry served on the Calvary pastoral staff in the 80s as the Pastor of Christian Education. Later he had a very successful career working for Gospel Light. His job took him all over the eastern US, speaking, teaching and leading seminars. Very early in my ministry at Calvary he befriended me. During my first few years we ate lunch every few months and I got to know him well. Later he and Barb returned to Calvary and every Sunday he was in town, he and Barb would be in the same pew, the last one in the middle section, sitting on the east side of the middle section, near the door. Often I would stop and chat with him between services. Always Terry had a joke, a quip, a story, and always there was a smile on his face. As Marlene and I were walking into the first Christmas Eve service, we saw Terry and Barb. “I thought I heard your voice,” he said with a chuckle. When I asked him how he was doing, he turned serious and said, “The doctors tell me I may have less than year to live.” He was wrestling with the big decision about whether to undergo the incredibly difficult chemotherapy when there was a possibility it wouldn’t work. He and Barb eventually decided to go ahead, and having decided, Terry never looked back. At times—many times, in fact—his pain was excruciating. Every bad thing that could happen, happened to him. Double pneumonia, sores in his mouth and throat, high fever, bad blood counts, his body becoming ice cold and then fiery hot, and much more. But he never complained. He told me on more than one occasion that he had said to the doctor, “I’d like to stay alive as long as I can because I’m going to be in heaven for a long, long time.” When he doctor asked him how he knew he was going to heaven, Terry laughed and said, “Now you’re in my territory.” And proceeded to share his faith in Christ. Every time Terry mentioned that story, he smiled at the thought. Early on he continued to work and strategize from his hospital. As he grew sicker, he had to lay his work aside. I called him on Easter morning from my office at church, just before the first service. His voice was weak when he answered the phone, but when he realized it was me, he immediately said, “He is risen! He is risen indeed!” And then “Happy Easter, pastor.” He was so full of faith and hope in the Lord. Before we hung up, Terry shared with me his own personal translation of John 14:6, based on his study of the Greek text. Later he wrote me a note that turned out to be his final e-mail to me:

4/24/04 Good Morning Ray, I am home from the hospital for a few days. Can’t believe the year is 1/3 over. I was so blessed weeks ago when I attended church. Along with you sermon I thought you might like the expanded version of John 14:6. This is a personal translation from Greek studies when in Bible College. “Jesus Christ Himself said, I am the way, and that is to say the only way, I am truth, and that is to say the only truth, and I am life, and that is to say the only life. It is absolutely impossible for anyone to go where the Father is unless they go through me.” That make it pretty clear! Blessings on you, Terry Platt

He’s right. That does make it pretty clear. Terry staked his life on the truth of those words—and now he has met the Lord face to face. Sometime in the early hours of Thursday morning, he closed his eyes on earth and opened them in heaven. He is more alive today than he has ever been. He lived as a Christian, he died as a Christian, and now he has gone to heaven. He was a man of faith who died full of faith. He often said, “I’m ready to die if that’s what the Lord wants.” When the Lord said, “Terry, time to come home,” he didn’t argue. He just went home to be with Jesus. Barb told me yesterday, “I’m so glad his suffering is over.” Thank God there is no chemotherapy in heaven, no cancer, and no more hospitals. There are no graveyards dug into the hillsides of heaven. For Terry, the worst is over, the bright sun of eternity now shines in his face, and somewhere up there, he’s holding court, telling stories, laughing, singing, praising, and saying to all of us, “Don’t worry about me. I’m fine. And I’ll see you soon.” Rest well, dear friend. We will see you again. There will be a memorial service in his memory on Monday at 1 PM in the sanctuary with a time of light refreshments following.

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