That was when four year-old David Paul Wilkerson III, son of David Paul Wilkerson Jr. and Susan Wilkerson, died. Little D was born with Down Syndrome and at 18 months was diagnosed with AML, a form of leukemia. He endured three rounds of chemotherapy and a bone marrow transplant before he was granted a reprieve- a little over a year of absolute joy for his family, indeed for all of us who prayed for him.
During his treatment and afterward a community of prayer and support grew up around David and his family that was as close to a pure spiritual fellowship as anything that I have ever known. It happened largely over the internet but was never confined to that, because it kept breaking into the real world in gifts and prayers in fund raisers, telephone calls, prayer circles and visits to Little D and his family.
I will not attempt to tell you the whole story in this essay. I couldn’t. No one could. You can read about 150,000 words of the story on his Caring Bridge site (see link at the bottom of this article), but even that won’t tell you the half of how knowing that child changed our lives. It couldn’t tell you how even his death became a living example of St. Paul’s profound assurance, “But we have this treasure in jars of clay to show that this all-surpassing power is from God and not from us. We are hard pressed on every side, but not crushed; perplexed, but not in despair; persecuted, but not abandoned; struck down, but not destroyed.” II Corinthians 4:7-9
I tell the story every chance I get and I must tell you that I couldn’t write anywhere for any length of time, much less on a website that has the audacity to call itself Faith Village, without attempting to share something of that experience.
So today I am including a Caring Bridge journal entry I wrote about five weeks after little David died.
I hope it conveys something of the indescribable sense of longing and joy, of gratitude and strength that we were feeling in the heart of our grief during that time. And if you, the person who is reading this right now, are in the throes of your own grief, I pray that this small sliver of Little D’s story may offer you a sense of God’s nearness to and love for you in the midst of your sorrow.
Dec 31, 2009 6:37pm
I went to Floyd's Barber Shop today to get my hair trimmed. It was the first time since Judy Garland Cantrell cut it the week that Linda and I were on Maui. Since I can't fly back to get my hair cut by Judy every two weeks, I'm looking for a regular barber.
I'm not sure if Floyd's is going to be the place for me. As a matter of fact it seems to be aimed squarely at a demographic that is, well, let's see, slightly younger (20 to 30 years younger, judging from the clientele), a little bit lighter (30 to 50 pounds, it appears) and well, what's the word I’m looking for?
"Single," that's it. At least judging from the barbers.
So by the time I was summoned to my chair by Robin, I was feeling a lot like a fish out of water. Robin's first two questions didn't help.
"Got big plans for New Year’s Eve?" No, not really. I imagine I'll be in bed by the time the new year comes in. Seriously. I hardly ever stay up.
"What will you do this afternoon?" Hmmm, well, I am going to Petsmart to look for a bigger litter box for our cat . . . But I'll probably meet some friends later on, early in the evening for supper. O.K., well that was a bald faced lie, and me a preacher. Robin didn't look at all convinced.
Hey, don't feel sorry for me. It sounds a little duller than it actually is. Between Maggie the cat and Caleb the dog I've got lots of quality company. And truth be told I'm fine with the quiet life, especially since Linda and (my daughter) Meg are in Mauldin visiting David and Susan and the rest of the family.
They arrived yesterday and went shopping with Susan for eight hours today (what!?). When I called Velma gave me a blow by blow update on the supper she was preparing for everyone-- vegetable soup for Meg with chicken cooked in in a separate pot for the meat eaters. I swear there is not a circumstance in life for which Velma would not figure the perfect menu. To listen to her describe this meal just about left me weeping from hunger.
Linda, her siblings and her mom got Paul a new Kindle for Christmas and it seems to be just what the doctor ordered for his macular degeneration.
As you might expect there have been lots of tears and laughter, intense memories and sadness. David and Susan put together photo collections of Little David as gifts for (grandparents) Paul and Velma and Roy and Annalee.
A little earlier tonight I took some time to look back over pictures we accumulated from this year. It is impossible to describe the feelings that came up, since my heart still seems to be intent on imitating that big super conducting super collider in Switzerland, only in the realm of emotions. All sorts of emotions race around the track, smashing headlong into each other, leaving vapor trails of sorrow and joy, gratitude and petulance, careening off of one another to go racing around the track again and heaven only seems to know when next they will collide and what the result will be when they do.
As improbable as it may sound, there is also a sense of resignation, or maybe detachment that seems to pervade the whole show these days.
As I said a moment ago, these feelings of desperate sorrow and unreasoned joy, anger and disappointment, unreality and absurdity have a life of their own and seem intent on running their crazy circuit at breakneck speed. It also feels, though, like the mute that Miles Davis put on his horn just before blowing one of those sad conversations of his into a room. I hear the same thing in Linda's voice as she describes her conversations with her family.
Listen to Miles’ "Blue In Green" and you'll see what I'm talking about.
O.K., well, I'm starting to sound a bit too hip, a little too mysterious now, and we all know that ain't me, Mr. Better-Hurry-Over-To-PetSmart-To-Get-The-Litter-Box guy.
I know I've said it before, but bear with me while I say it one last time for this incredible, miraculous, ecstatic year, this year full of amazement and wonder, this year that gave us so much before it took the best away, this year that saw the one we all love find the healing that no one in this world could give him.
I thank you--- we all thank you. We love you for the love you've given to all of us, most of all to Little David. We couldn't have, wouldn't have wanted to travel this road without you.
Someone long ago wrote about that love. “The Lord is close to the brokenhearted; God rescues those whose spirits are crushed.” Psalm 34:18 We have felt that these last five weeks, in ways beyond describing.
So this New Year's Eve I am praying that God's Great Love, the same love that kept Little David while he was storming the gates of hell, the one that we saw guard that indomitable spirit of his even as he shared his love and joy with anyone who dared come near to him, the Great Love that finally gave him peace and an escape from suffering when no one on this earth could help him, may that Great Love keep you every step of the way on your journey through the year ahead.
To read more about Little D, go here.