October 7 – Vin, Tom, and Steve

This past Sunday Vin Scully, voice of the Los Angeles Dodgers, age 88, retired after 67 years of calling Dodger games on radio and television. The same day, Tom Brokaw, famed NBC newsman, age 76, wrote a piece for the New York Times about living with cancer.

Scully entered the radio booth for the Brooklyn Dodgers in 1950. He moved to Los Angeles when the team moved west in 1958. I grew up in Southern California, and Vin Scully is how play-by-play has always sounded.

Tom Brokaw moved to Los Angeles in 1966. I remember watching him read the news on channel 4. And, yes, his was the voice behind election nights and disasters and state funerals. Brokaw still works for NBC despite his cancer and hopes to be there this election night and maybe in Pearl Harbor on December 7, the 75th anniversary of the Japanese attack that drew the U.S. into the Second World War.

Vin Scully signed off for the last time with a little prayer to share with his loyal listeners. The moment was moving, and the prayer – I love Vin Scully – completely empty.

May God give you for every storm, a rainbow,
For every tear, a smile,
For every care, a promise,
And a blessing in each trial.
For every problem life sends,
A faithful friend to share,
For every sigh, a sweet song,
And an answer for each prayer.

Tom Brokaw’s cancer is in remission and he expects to live beyond the five years the doctors gave him three years ago. As it often does, cancer has taught Brokaw things he did not learn interviewing presidents and traveling the world. He has joined the fraternity of cancer survivors and those living with cancer. It is a remarkable fellowship, and, yes, we know things and see life in way we never knew or saw before.

While Tom Brokaw has learned new and important things about life since being diagnosed three years ago, he offers no evidence of having yet discovered the reality of the God who holds the lives of cancer patients and all others in his hands. The article is worth reading, but I was disappointed as it ends when Brokaw ponders the trip to Pearl Harbor or maybe just spending time with his five grandchildren. He’s not sure what he will do. Tom, there should be no question.

So, Vin Scully retired on Sunday, and offered a sweet but empty prayer. The same day Tom Brokaw wrote a column sadly incomplete, still missing the most important lessons to be learned.

On Tuesday afternoon, my friend Steve died. Steve was only 58, had been sick for most of the past decade and, save for a few precious hours, had been in hospitals, nursing homes and rehab centers for nearly eight months.

The world did not know Steve. But those of us who did were blessed in ways that the famous may never understand. Among the few hours Steve spent away from care facilities since February 11, were those worshipping with his LPC family in July on the Sunday grandson Gage was splashed with the waters of baptism. As the congregation sang “Jesus Loves Me” to Gage, Steve sat in a wheel chair and watched. I will never forget the love and joy I saw in his face that day.

Before Tuesday, the last time I visited Steve was a couple of weeks earlier. They had done a tracheotomy and he couldn’t talk, but slowly and with a lot effort, he could mouth words. He had something to tell his church family. There was no mistaking the words his lips formed. “Thank you.”

I don’t know Vin Scully or Tom Brokaw, but they have been around as long as I can remember. Both seem like really decent men. There’s probably more to Vin Scully than his sweet prayer. Tom Brokaw has written and spoken much and simply shows no indication of having probed the restlessness that persists until we find our rest in Christ.

But Steve knew that rest and the One who offers rest to the restless. He knew, and he lived with thankfulness in his heart to God.

Steve was thankful to the end.

See you Sunday