Young and old couples

REQUIEM FOR A GODLY MAN

David H. Mehlberg (Dave), beloved husband of Patricia Cochran Mehlberg (Pat), honored and esteemed father of Steve and Jonathon Mehlberg, went to be with Jesus Friday, April 21, 2006. He was a godly man who lived his too short life with integrity and humor.

He shared his life with me for 42 years as we supported and shaped each other and grew together toward the “high calling of God in Christ Jesus.” I don’t even know how to BE without him. I feel the everlasting arms and the prayers of our family and friends carrying me though this difficult time.

The last 34 years and a second wonderful son have been a bonus to me, because Dave died on the operating table in 1972. He went to heaven and talked to a man he believed to be Jesus. He was given a choice to remain there or return. He said Steve (his infant son) needed him, and he wanted to go back. He woke in the recovery room.

Thereafter, he had no fear of death and looked forward to “Graduation Day.” He wanted to be here for our sakes, but he longed to return to the indescribable place that he had seen and knew waited at the end of his journey. HE HAS ARRIVED!! Let us REJOICE for him even through our tears.

He requested to be cremated and scattered at Brasstown Bald, a mountain in north Georgia. His sons, siblings, and I honored his request on April 27, 2006.

With love and prayers for all who will miss him so sorely,

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(Updated May 2, 2009)

Dave and I were married in 1964. I was fresh out of college and he from the Navy. He acutely felt the lack of college, so we decided he should go under the GI Bill. When he was done (2 yrs. 10 mos.), I made him take me to a breakfast to get my PHT Degree (Put Hubby Through). He started graduate school at Auburn U; but, before the first quarter was over, he realized this was not what he wanted. We went to Atlanta, GA, to look for a job. He got a job as a detail man (salesman) with Pfizer Pharmaceuticals, and they sent him to Macon, GA.

In February 1969 he was diagnosed with Hodgkin’s disease. This is cancer of the lymph system. It is staged I-IV. He was stage I (localized). The internist told us there was no cure, and he had two years or less to live. I was devastated. Finally, I told God (I had joined the church at 12 but was not really acquainted), “Okay, if you have to take him, please, give me his child.” Dave went through experimental radiation therapy with the radiologist saying, “We are going for a cure.” (Hope should NEVER be destroyed.) He went into remission, and Steve (the answer to my prayer) was conceived. He was born three days before my birthday in October 1970.

Dave was very unhappy in his work as a pharmaceutical salesman and decided to go back to Atlanta to look for a job. He got a job with General Telephone, and they sent us to Dothan, AL. (We REALLY wanted to live in Atlanta. I had planned to go there after college to look for a job, but I had to go find Dave first.)

In 1972 the Hodgkin’s recurred. This time it was Stage IV (stem to stern–everywhere). He was sent to the University of AL at Birmingham Hospital and entered into an experimental chemo program. He had IV chemo two Mondays and was off two weeks, with approximately 40 pills a day as well, for nine months. They had him entered in an extension of this regimen for 18 more months, every other month. At the end of the first nine months, he was in remission; but he was so weak he couldn’t pick up Steve. He finally said, “I can’t take this any more. If I die, I die.” He dropped out of the program, and they had to drop him from the statistics. They still sent health questionnaires regularly for many years.

He slowly started to regain his strength. We rejoiced in that and went on with our lives, though we knew the sword still hung overhead. We decided if we wanted more children, it was time. Nothing happened, so we were thankful for the one we had.

I felt a great emptiness. One night when Dave was out of town (1973?), I put my Bible on the floor and stood on it. I said, “God, I’m standing on your promises. The Baptists say salvation is this way. The Methodist and Lutherans say it’s that, or the other. Whatever it is, let me do it right this time.” Immediately, a lady moved in across the street into a house that had been vacant for months. She invited me to a Bible Study, and prayed for me to receive the Baptism of the Holy Spirit. It was a new beginning.

Some time later I joined four other ladies in a prayer group/Bible study. We met weekly for 2-3 years, and the Lord graciously taught us experientially the things we had heard and read. We would get so angry at each other, we would say, “I’m never going back,” and the next week there we were again. (To learn forgiveness, there must be something to forgive.) The things I have written, and many others, we walked out together. We cannot base our faith on experience, but it sure makes our lessons more memorable.

In November 1975, Dave received the Baptism of the Holy Spirit. About March of ‘76 (the Bicentennial Year), he came home one night and said he was going to quit his job. I said, “Okay.” He was shocked. He expected me to try to talk him out of it, but the Lord had told me, if he didn’t quit, he would be fired; and I really preferred that he quit. We wanted to find our place in the Lord’s service, so we decided to sell everything, move into a 20-ft camper trailer (which we already had), and travel until we found our place. Steve had already had Kindergarten and was not old enough to start first grade in public school, so we felt a year of travel would not interfere with his education

Dave’s sister, Mary, wanted us to come to Seattle, WA, to attend a Bill Gothard’s “Basic Youth Conflicts” seminar. Our house sold (to our realtor) in the nick of time for us to drive up and pick up his mother, Eleanor, in Milwaukee, WI; meet his brother, Mark, in Montana (he drove from OR to meet us); and get to Seattle in time for the seminar. When we got there, Dave decided he didn’t want to go, but I should go ahead. (Money was a factor since neither of us was working, and what we had was all there was.) I said if he wasn’t going, neither was I. After the first night (it was a week long), Mary came home with free tickets for us. Dave said, “Maybe we are supposed to go.” I should say so!! God really used it for our good!

We ended up staying with Mary for a month. The first week we were there, I had pulled my neck out of line riding a bicycle [that’s a whole other story] and was unable to travel. When I was able to go again, we went to visit Dave’s father (a Lutheran minister) and stepmother in Coos Bay, OR. There were long-standing family problems, but by God’s grace we were able to stay six weeks amiably and left with tears of sadness for the separation all around.

I had read the writings of Bill Britton of Springfield, MO, and had tried for years with no success to get Dave to read them. I had Bill’s books with me, stuck in a corner of a cabinet under the dinette. Dave dug out Jesus, the Pattern Son and started to read. (We were in Moon Lake, OR, at a campground just after leaving Dad and Dinah.) He told me to take Steve and leave for the day; he had to read this book. When Steve and I returned about 5 pm, he had finished reading the book and looking up all the Bible references. He said, “This is the truth. We are going to Missouri.” I was thrilled. I had wanted to go to MO on the way to Milwaukee. This worked out much better, for we ended up camping behind the church (in foot of snow) for six weeks. On the way there, we stopped in Iowa to visit his step-grandmother for a week and a half.

From Missouri we went to visit his sister, Connie, in Richardson, TX. We stayed with Connie’s family for a month, while seeking the Lord’s direction. Dave decided to apply at a Lutheran seminary, so he wrote to Saint Louis, MO, and Fort Wayne, IN. The Ft. Wayne application arrived in about 3-4 days. He had received his acceptance there, before the application arrived from St. Louis about a month later. By this time, we had run out of money, so we sold the camper to Dave’s brother, John, and took it to him in Savannah, GA. We made it to Ft. Wayne in time to start the semester in February 1977. After a year and a half the seminary put out a letter, which they required all seminarians to sign, stating that the Gifts of the Spirit were only to prove the Bible and are no longer active today. Dave said, “I’ve been healed! I cannot sign such a statement.” They would take our money and allow him to graduate, but they would not give him a vicarage or a call to pastor a church, if he didn’t sign. He decided to leave the seminary and was able to go to work full-time, where he had been working part-time at an RV repair shop.

When he left the seminary, we left the Lutheran Church (again). I had been raised Methodist, with extensive exposure to Baptist through extended family. I had tried for years to get Dave to go to the Methodist Church with me, to no avail. He had been taught that only Lutherans had the truth. While we were in Auburn, the Lutheran pastor had set up Confirmation classes to coincide with Auburn’s quarter system. Though Dave was confirmed as a child, he agreed to go to the classes with me, so I joined the Lutheran Church. After each move, we would find a Lutheran Church. We were not happy with their exclusiveness; and, finally, Dave went to our current pastor and said, “If Jesus walked in your front door, you would kick him out the back door.” We left the Lutheran Church. Later, when Dave decided to attend Lutheran Seminary, he had to call that pastor and apologize.

For the next couple of years after leaving the seminary, we managed two mobile home parks and a Laundromat in Ligonier, IN, and then did mobile home repairs for another year. One night in 1981, Dave’s left arm and chest swelled up twice normal size. At 4 am he let me take him to the Emergency Room, so I knew it was bad. After taking a history, the doctor said it had to be Hodgkin’s. They ran every test in the book. No Hodgkin’s!!! They decided he must have had a spider bite or something. This confirmed for us that he was indeed healed from the cancer.

In 1981 Dave’s mother, Eleanor, had been diagnosed with cancer (non-Hodgkins Lypoma). She retired from teaching and moved in next door to us. She made regular trips to visit the other kids (there were five in all); and, after a Christmas visit to Connie, who had moved to Tyler, TX, she came home all excited about Wycliffe Bible Translators. We were still seeking “full-time Christian service,” so we decided to look into it. The economy in Indiana was terrible with about 25% unemployment. We decided, instead of doing things long distance, we would just move to Tyler, Texas. About this time I discovered I was pregnant with Jonathon (another confirmation of healing). The deal with Wycliffe didn’t pan out, so Dave started another mobile home repair business in Tyler.

An insurance adjuster, for whom he had done several repair jobs, offered to train him as an adjuster. Another downturn in the economy ended that job, and he applied with American Bankers Insurance Group, for whom he had done some adjusting as an independent. They hired him in 1985, and he worked with them through a buyout and several name changes until he retired in December 2005. In 1987 they asked if he would be interested in opening an office in the Atlanta area. At last!!! We tried for 20 years to move here. We have been here ever since. Jonathon was in the same school system all his life and went through college with kids he knew in kindergarten. He graduated from Georgia Tech in 2005 after spending his senior year at Bilkent University in Ankara, Turkey, as an exchange student.

Through all Steve’s school years, we moved a lot. When we moved to Georgia, they refused to accept some high school credits from Texas. This, coupled with some other problems, caused him to quit school in eleventh grade. We had several rough years. He finally got his GED and a job shingling roofs. From there he went to commercial, rolled-rubber roofing, then sheet metal work (installing downspouts and flashing), and then he worked in a metal fabrication shop. We are very proud of the way he has straightened his life out and has become a valuable employee. He is now with another roofing company as the foreman of the metal shop and installation crews.

Steve was two months short of twelve when Jonathon was born, and Jonathon was the answer to his prayer for a brother. I thought there were enough years between them that there wouldn’t be sibling rivalry. No such luck! They are typical brothers. Steve bought a house ten miles from us. He and Dave went trout fishing and “belly boating” almost every weekend for several years, and we would have him over for holidays and, occasionally, for Sunday dinner. I am very thankful that we were able to rebuild a good relationship with him.

When Jonathon was in third grade, I decided that, if I was going to spend all my time at school anyway, I might as well get paid for some of it. I became a substitute teacher in the Gwinnett County Public School System. This gave me some flexibility and control over my time, which was especially good with my parents aging, and Daddy’s illness and death in 1998. When people came or I needed to go, I could take time off. I wanted more time for my writing and computing, but when I had more, I didn’t always use it wisely.

Jonathon is my Webmaster. After attending his third ‘summer camp for computing’ the summer after middle school, he came home all excited about me putting my papers online. I said I knew nothing about ‘online.’ He said he would be my Webmaster; and, immediately, he started designing a website on Geocities. That was in 1997. Since then he has completely redesigned my website three times, using his new GT knowledge; and he convinced me to go to a paid host that gives him more control over my layout. He says I should learn to do my own paper programming, and I am, using Home Site to ready my papers for the site.

Dave and I both wanted God’s will in all things. We strove to empty ourselves so that He might fill us with Himself. All these years we thought we knew what was going on. We didn’t. Looking back we realized things often were not what we thought at the time. The trip that we thought was for seeking God, was to mend and strengthen relationships within the family (notice we visited almost everyone in Dave’s family and stayed longer than planned). Seminary was to teach me to keep my mouth shut, and to clean the Lutheranism (traditions not truth) out of David. [It had been pounded into him.] Each job along the way prepared us for the next step and brought us to where we are now. We wanted “full-time Christian service.” We have it! Christians serve where they are, and God has us right where he wants us. Halleluia!!!

When Jonathon graduated from Georgia Tech, he decided that he wanted to be a freelance photographer. He said, “When I finished high school, I knew what I wanted to do. Computers! When I finished college (with a degree in Computer Science), I knew what I DID NOT want to do! Computers!” We told him he could continue to live with us until his photography business got established. A few months later, Dave died (not from cancer), and I told Jonathon he could stay with me as long as he wanted. This has worked out well. He travels a lot for work, and I go to Mother’s every other week. One of us is usually here to take care of things; and, when we are both here, I’m not so lonely.

In November of 2007, my mother called my sister and me home. She had been adamant about living alone since my father died, but now her physical problems were escalating, and she thought she was dying. When Janice and I got there, we realized Mother should not live alone any longer. Since then Janice and I take turns staying with her a week at a time. When one of us needs more time for our own concerns, the other stays longer. I am writing this update in May of 2009. At this time Mother is doing better than she was a year ago. In July she will be ninety years old, and Janice and I have been blessed to have this extended time with her.

This was written originally for an on-line friend who wanted to know more about us. He felt it was worth sharing with others. I hope it has been a blessing to you. If you have questions or would like further information, feel free to email me. I promised the Lord I would share His dealings with me as He gave opportunity. It is my pleasure to do so. May God bless you as you continue to seek Him for yourself.

EPILOGUE

Dave and I celebrated our 40th Anniversary with a much-anticipated trip to Hawaii in September of 2004. In November 2005, we celebrated 41 years of marriage. At the end of December, he retired from Assurant Group (aka American Bankers Insurance Group) after 20 years of insurance adjusting. In February, he started a part-time job with a small adjusting company and was so excited to have all Christian co-workers. April 9, 2006, he turned 65, and April 21 he died.

As we walked together and drew closer to our Lord, we drew closer to each other. He and the Lord were the center of my life and my reason for getting up in the morning. Now I am having to reinvent myself and discover what the Lord has in mind for the rest of my life. The Lord has carried me through the three years since Dave’s homegoing, and I trust He will continue to do so.