Not long ago, doctors at St. John’s Mercy Hospital in St. Louis sent Dale Mueller home, to enjoy what was left of his time with his family.
Though he had set the cigarettes down nearly 50 years ago, it appeared there was no longer anything they could do to stop the advance of the cancer that had begun in his lungs and now spread to his brain.
Dale’s daughter, Stephanie, was talking about this one day while on the phone with Requelle Raley, a colleague of mine here at Thomas Nelson who lost nearly everything she owned in the Nashville flood back in early May. As the two of them shared their lives (Requelle’s was being rebuilt, as they spoke, by a volunteer construction crew from Texas … Stephanie’s, torn apart by the disease that was stealing her father), something happened that so often does when we share – the body of Christ was allowed to work.
You see, despite having been a St. Louis Cardinals fan his entire life, Dale had never been to a game. But, recently, he’d mentioned to Stephanie that it was something he’d like to do. She, of course, would make sure it happened. And that she went a dozen steps beyond his expectations to create an experience their family would never forget. She just wasn’t sure how.
Maybe she could wheel him out onto the field for batting practice? There
are few things that make a man feel more alive, after all than green grass, baseball chatter and the crack of a bat. Maybe while he was there, he’d meet his favorite player, Yadier Molina … and, when that was done, they’d stay as long as her dad was able. Requelle knew another of our fellow colleagues, Dave Schroeder, was from St. Louis. Maybe, just maybe, he knew someone who could help.
Turns out he did. And he sat close enough to her, in fact, that she could just about reach him with an outstretched arm. That someone, was me.
(God is incredible. Just days earlier, I’d gotten back into the habit of asking, specifically, in my prayers for Him to use me. And here He was, already, obliging.)
So, I immediately shot an e-mail to a friend and former colleague from my days in Memphis with the Redbirds, Brady Bruhn, to see if he could get the family five tickets for a game in early August. I e-mailed Melody Yount, who was, during my days as Media Relations Manager in Memphis, my counterpart in St. Louis (thinking she may be able to get the family onto the field during batting practice). And I told her Dale’s story. She could find out more about him on his Carepages blog (a hospital-hosted blog that patients’ families use to keep friends and family updated), I told her. She knew exactly where to go. She’d been using Carepages herself for nearly a year, having been diagnosed with breast cancer just last September.
(Again … how amazing is God?)
Everyone promised to do the best they could, though there were no guarantees. There wasn’t, after all, much time. For the Cardinals to put the necessary wheels into motion, or for Dale. I let Requelle know. And we prayed.
A couple of days passed and Requelle got a call. It was Stephanie. Her dad had taken a turn for the worst. Was there any chance – any at all? – that we could make it happen sooner? As in … tomorrow?
E-mails flew back and forth between Nashville and St. Louis.
Prayers were sent. And, via the body of Christ through some amazing people in the Cardinals organization, answered.
Stephanie, her dad and the rest of their family would have five tickets waiting for them to Friday’s game with the Los Angeles Dodgers. Dale would be on the field for batting practice.
Come Friday afternoon, the temperature in St. Louis was soaring. But, there Dale was, decked out in red. Big, strong, young men, with the world in the palms of their hands and their entire lives in front of them, jumped into and out of the batting cage, spraying line drives to every corner of the park and into the seats beyond. In a wheelchair, just a few feet away, a man, suddenly old, was beaming, absorbing every moment … but, tiring.
So, someone with the Cardinals took photos of the family together on the field and whisked them away to the locker room, where they’d find air conditioning – and visitors.
Afterwards and by that point, it’d already been an overwhelming and emotional day. Enough to excite and exhaust even the healthiest of men. And that description hadn’t fit Dale for some time.
He wouldn’t last into the late innings.
But today, he wouldn’t have to.
God had his rally cap on and a flurry of early baserunners brought Molina to the plate in the bottom of the very first inning.
It was then, with teammate Randy Winn on 3rd base and two out, that the Dodgers’ Vicente Padilla hurled a fastball towards the plate and the Cardinal catcher.
sending both Randy Winn and Dale Mueller … home.
NOTE: Dale Mueller indeed went home, and into the arms of his savior, nine days later on Sunday afternoon, July 25. For information and details on arrangements, visit http://www.carepages.com/carepages/STLJourney
Make no mistake … this is most definitely NOT a “hey, look at what I did” post. This is a “hey, look at what GOD did” post. I, and a number of other people, were just willing pawns. Just amazing, the number of things He orchestrated to make this happen. Stephanie shared her life with Requelle. Requelle, who at the moment has no home, wasn’t so wrapped up in herself, that she was unwilling to listen and be used herself for God’s purposes. I was in town and available. I was able to reach Brady, who is insanely busy, but was available and willing to play a role … and Melody, who may have been the most compassionate person I could have possibly reached in that situation. The weather was great, Dale and his family were all able to make it to the park, Molina and Wainwright (an outspoken Christian himself) were willing to give of themselves … and, the icing on the cake was the early RBI hit from Molina (who, not coincidentally, homered four innings later and had his biggest day of the season that afternoon) … all equaling a beautiful day for a family that needed one.
Again, I’m humbled and incredibly thankful for being given an opportunity to play a role in all of it. And, again, it just goes to show what can happen when you are willing to share your life with others and be used for God’s purposes.
Awesome, seeing Him work and this come together last week. And, I know this is ridiculously lengthy … but, wanted to share.
Praying for another opportunity tomorrow.
Put me in coach. I’m ready to play.