Posted on Tuesday, September 18, 2012
in Emotional, Relational, Social, Spiritual, Sports, Values
Curtis Eichelberger’s new book Men of Sunday reviewed here recounts the story of Trent Dilfer, his son, and his family’s heart-aching, heart-breaking, and inspiring saga. Part 1 was yesterday.
While Cass could patiently sit in the room for hours, Trent had a hard time with it and would go to the hospital’s rooftop garden or to the chapel for prayer.
Dilfer had made millions of dollars. He’d been to the summit of the game he loved. Was God saying, “Wait a minute. Not so fast”? Dilfer says he never went there. He’d recommitted to Christ in college; he’d repented and never looked back.
When Trent and Cass returned from Easter services, there were doctors from the intensive care and cardiac units in Trevin’s room. It was bad news. He had a systemic infection and probably had only a few more days to live.
On April 24, Trent told Cass he’d sit with Trevin so she could spend her birthday with the girls. For Trent, it was time to be alone with Trevin and to say his good-byes. He sat next to the bed and, through periods of heavy sobbing, composed a two-page letter to his baby boy.
Of all the memories Dilfer has of Trevin’s sickness, this is the one that still makes him cry when he speaks of it. It was the most intense, emotional period he ever experienced.
“I woke up early that morning and spent a lot of time in solitude, pouring out my heart to God,” he remembers. “I prayed with Trevin. I talked to him and told him how much he meant to me and how much I loved him.”
Up to that point, Dilfer says, he had dealt with a lot of his own pain, but he had never confronted his wife’s pain or his family’s pain. They were all suffering, but he’d been doing everything he could to keep it together. He needed a clear head to make decisions about his son’s medical care. He had to compartmentalize his feelings so he could be strong for his wife and daughters and allow them to experience their own pain. This required him to keep some emotional distance from the events surrounding him.
But on this day, it all came crashing down. And what Dilfer remembers the most, and the reason he believes he still gets so emotional, is that for the first time in his life he had an inkling of what God must have felt when He watched the life drain slowly from His Son suffering on that cross.
“It was in those moments that He revealed to me His pain for mankind,” Dilfer says. “It is so much more painful to hurt for others than to hurt for yourself. That was the day that I allowed the pain of my wife and my girls and Trevin to hit me. God painted this incredible picture through this experience of His pain for us. Of His sacrifice for us. And it was so intense and so life changing. God allowed me the experience of not just knowing my own pain, but the pain of the ones I love the most.”
In those final days, Steve Stenstrom, a former NFL quarterback who runs a campus ministry at Stanford, put Trent and Cass in touch with a man who had lost his daughter a year earlier. He gave the Dilfers a piece of advice that they have followed ever since.
“He told us, ‘The same spirit that lives in you, Trent, and in you, Cass, is not divided. There is no conflict in the Holy Spirit. So when you are asking for peace on a decision, it’s not the right decision until you both have the same peace.’
“It’s so simple, but it’s so enlightening,” Dilfer says. “That was the day I developed a peace and decided it was the right thing for Trevin to turn off his life support.” Doctors had said that Trevin could live another two weeks at most, but that he’d be in pain until the very end.
“[Cass] was like, ‘No, no, no, we’re going to keep fighting.’ And I was wise enough to realize my decision was not the right decision because we were not unified. So we kept praying together for unity.”
A day passed, and they were still holding vigil at Trevin’s side, waiting and praying, when Cass went into a back room the hospital furnished with bunks and other items.
She had been gone for a bit when suddenly Trent heard terrible groans, followed by screams and shouts coming from inside the room. He grew concerned and ran to the door where he heard furniture being moved and objects thumping on the floor.
She was in the room by herself, but she wasn’t alone. The heavenly Father she’d loved and trusted all her life had come to wrench her son from her arms, and she wasn’t about to let go without a screaming, clawing, knockdown fight.
“I was scared,” Trent admits in a tired, emotionless voice. “I had never heard this from my wife. It was so painful to hear her wrestling with God.”
The room quieted. Cass was drained.
“She came out with a peace of ‘OK, it’s good now.’ And it was at that time, after she had dealt with God on a personal level, that it unified our hearts that this was the right thing to do.”
The morning of April 27, Trent and Cass took the girls to the garden on the roof of the hospital and told them they were going to let Trevin go home to God.
The oldest, Maddie, screamed and told her parents they were ruining her life. Once things settled down, the family went back down to Trevin’s room and played his favorite song for him. It’s called “One of These Days” by FFH and is about dying and going to heaven.
There were four people in the room: Trent, Cass, Trevin, and a nurse. Trent turned off the machine. And Trevin passed away quietly. From the time he got feverish to the day he died, it was forty days.
Trevin passed, but that’s not the end of the story. More tomorrow.