Archive for death

Luke Hansen: My Superhero

Posted in opinion with tags , , , , on November 29, 2010 by Kyle Fleming
Luke Densel Hansen (2003-2010)

Luke D. Hansen (2003-2010)

On Saturday, I had to attend the funeral of a seven-year-old. His name was Luke Hansen, and I met him this summer when he was one of my campers for Vacation Bible School in Hurley, South Dakota.

At the time I met him in mid-July, he was already four months into cancer treatment. In March, he was diagnosed with an inoperable brain stem tumor. Immediately, he began treatment: radiation, steroids, physical therapy, the works. For us adults, going through all of this would be rough. And at times, Luke hated what he had to go through to get better.

Yet if I hadn’t been told that there was something wrong with Luke, I never would have guessed. He sang the loudest, ran with the bigger kids, talked all the time, and was just your average seven-year-old, except with leg braces and limited mobility on one side. He was the coolest little kid, so full of life and energy. When he showed up to VBS on the last day with “Team Luke” bracelets for the staff, I was touched, and gladly accepted membership to the Team.

From that moment on, Luke became my Superhero. I subscribed to the Caring Bridge website, keeping tabs on everything going on with Luke. I cheered him on when I heard that he was able to play in a couple of baseball games, I wished him luck when he started second grade, and I became concerned when he wasn’t able to go to school because he was too weak.

Being so invested in Luke, I knew I was setting myself up for disappointment. Luke was able to do anything, and even though I was hoping he would be able to beat his disease, I knew every time I looked at my Hulk-green “Team Luke” bracelets that soon he wasn’t going to be around.

That day came the morning of Wednesday, 24 November. I got the email update that Luke had passed away. I’m glad I got it after I had arrived at home for Thanksgiving break, first because it meant that I could be in Hurley for the funeral, but also because I knew if I had gotten the news while driving, I would have had to pull over.

Luke’s funeral on Saturday was wonderful. Over 100 people showed up to send him off, offering so many memories that the basket was overflowing. The doors to the public school had the Incredible Hulk greeting everyone as they entered, and autographs and well-wishes from his sports heroes filled two tables. Luke looked as handsome as ever in his white casket, decked out in his favorite Twins jersey (no surprise there). Many wonderful memories were shared, including a touching poem by Luke’s older sister, Jasmyn.

As I sat back and let the tears roll, the topic of lessons came up. Someone mentioned that Luke taught her some important lessons, including to always be a cheerleader, and to learn the value of numbers. Important lessons as they are, Luke taught me an especially important one: live with no excuses.

For eight months, Luke had death looming over him. And yet, somehow, it didn’t faze him at all. He ran, he jumped, he climbed, he loved, he sang, he lived. And here I am, almost 21 years old, still making excuses for why I can’t do things: I’m not talented enough, it’s too far out of my comfort zone, I’m too old to do that, I’m too invested in what I’m doing to completely rid myself of it.

But Luke showed me that there can be no excuses in life. Life is way too short to focus on what you can’t do. Instead, focus on what you wish you could do, and do it. If it works, you have a new skill. If it doesn’t, then put it behind you and try something new.

Luke was, and always will be, my biggest Superhero, and I hope that someday, I can be like him when I grow up.

Heaven Can Wait

Posted in religion with tags , , , , , , on June 16, 2010 by Kyle Fleming

One of the biggest follies of Chrisitianity is the belief that if we are good, we will spend eternity in Heaven, a place of eternal bliss and pleasure. It is the same line of thinking that children have around Christmas time: if I’m good, I’ll get everything I want.

But to quote a friend of mine, in quoting a pastor that spoke at their camp’s staff training: “Heaven is bullshit.”

Most of us are taught at an early age that faith in Jesus Christ (and occasionally the addition of good works) will guarantee us a spot in Heaven after we die. But in the book What In The World Is Going On? by Dr. David Jeremiah, no one actually goes to Heaven when they die.

But what many people don’t realize is that since the death and resurrection of Jesus, no one in the Bible has died.

Take a moment to let that sink in: Since Jesus defied the laws of, well, everything, no one in the Bible, from the Gospels to Revelation, has died. Instead, it is said that they have “fallen asleep.”

Jesus says in John 11:11, before ressurecting Lazarus: “Our friend… has fallen asleep; but I am going there to wake him up.”

Stephen’s account in Acts 7:60 says, “Then he fell on his knees and cried out, “Lord, do not hold this sin against them.” When he had said this, he fell asleep.”

And later in Acts, in describing the end of David’s life: “For when David had served God’s purpose in his own generation, he fell asleep; he was buried with his fathers and his body decayed.”

Dr. Jeremiah describes later in his book the Greek word for the burial place of loved ones: koimeterion, meaning “a rest house for strangers, a sleeping place,” much like we would stay in a hotel in the modern age.

It’s an interesting thing to consider. All of this work that we’re doing on Earth to gain entry into Heaven, and all that happens in death is that we “fall asleep.” Why even bother doing good works anyway?

Because we don’t go to Heaven; Heaven comes to us.

It’s in the Lord’s Prayer that we all say but never really pay attention to: “Thy Kingdom come, Thy Will be done, on Earth as it is in Heaven.” In the time leading up to the Second Coming, everyone who has passed on in this life will be woken up with a great cry. All those believers who passed on will rise again, just as Christ had, and they will be called to Jesus in glory in a phenomenon many call the Rapture.

After the Rapture plus seven years of trials and tribulation, the Second Coming occurs. This is when Jesus returns to Earth, accompanied by a host of angels and the Kingdom of Heaven. The evil world will be replaced, and we will be translated into perfect bodies and live in eternal bliss and pleasure.

We don’t go to Heaven; Heaven comes to us.

It’s an interesting thing to consider, if only because it forces us to re-evaluate our actions. Are we doing good works because we want to help out the people around us, or are we doing them to go to Heaven after we die?

It’s not too late to change your lifestyle.

Free Will v. Predestination

Posted in religion with tags , , , , , , , on May 5, 2010 by Kyle Fleming

Last month, I got a chance to spend Easter Sunday with my girlfriend, who is a Presbyterian. Growing up a good Lutheran boy, I’ve never experienced Easter outside of the Lutheran tradition. It was an amazing celebration with a different denomination, and I experienced a new way of taking Communion, along with some amazing hospitality and some good talks with her church family.

During the six hour drive back, we had a great talk about our faith and church experiences. I mentioned that I thoroughly enjoyed the hospitality and friendliness of her church, because in my experiences with different Lutheran churches, Lutherans are pretty stuffy, and tend to look down on strange people that enter the church. I mentioned that, while I don’t really think I could leave my Lutheran upbringing, I would definitely attend a church that was even half as friendly and inviting as her church.

This then led to a doctrine discussion, and she mentioned that she loved every part of the Presbyterian doctrine, except for one thing: the belief in Predestination. Predestination is the belief that God, in his omnipotent power and infinite wisdom, created the entire Universe in all of time, meaning that every person’s life and every world event was created and determined ahead of time. With this belief, there is no free will, because whatever you’re going to do has already been planned.

On the other side of this coin is the notion of Free Will, which says that there is no interference from a Higher Power, and that we control our actions and our destinies. Our actions control our fates, and it is completely our own faults if we end up in riches or in poverty.

(Then again, in my Ethics class, we were introduced to the relatively new idea of Neuroethics, which introduces the idea that our brains make a decision milliseconds before we are consciously aware of it. Which means, if our brains are making decisions without our knowing, we don’t have a say in what we say or do, which completely negates the idea of free will. But that’s a discussion for another time.)

I’ve never really been sold on the idea of Predestination. I’m uncomfortable with the idea that my actions are not completely my own. If it’s already been decided ahead of time what I’m going to do with my life, my thinking is, why bother live it? It’s not really the “big picture” I’m opposed to, it is every little nuance in my life that has been planned out that I’m opposed to. I’m uncomfortable with the idea that every little thing I do is planned out: every time I blink, every time I eat, every time I pick my nose, it’s all been decided for me. I need a little wiggle room in my existence. It can’t all be so meticulously structured.

Then again, I’m not completely sold on Free Will. It is the other extreme in the spectrum. Where Predestination is God’s complete control over existence, Free Will is the complete removal of God from the equation. I like the idea of absolutely no structure about as much as I like the idea of complete structure. The idea that my life is completely under my control is frightening, because in the 20 years I’ve been alive, I’ve made some pretty stupid decisions. If my life were under my control, I’ll surely drive myself into the ground. I need some sort of guidance and structure, but not the complete structure of Predestination.

I believe that there is a middle ground between Free Will and Predestination, a sort of “outline” with which we run our lives. It is a blend of Free Will and Predestination: God created our lives, and God wants us to achieve a number of major life events, but it is up to us to get there. I like knowing that I need to do certain things in my life, but I also like the idea that it is up to me to achieve those things.

This belief also helps me come to terms with all of the death in the world. People who die young, even if it looks like they had so much to live for, have completed everything they needed to do in life. Meanwhile, people who seem like they’re never going to die are obviously missing something, and will continue to live until they achieve that goal.

This shouldn’t be confused with stuff you want to do. That is different. If it were up to us, none of us would die, because we would always have something new that we want to do, and cannot die until we do it. Instead, it is what God has planned for us, the people we are to meet and affect, the charitable things we are to do, and so on.

I believe we write our own stories, and like any good story or academic paper, it is the outline that must come first.