1. The Greatest Father
A Story about Father & Son
I try to be a good father. Give my kids mulligans. Work nights to pay for their text messaging. Take them to swimsuit shoots.
But compared with Dick Hoyt, I suck.
Eighty-five times he’s pushed his disabled son, Rick, 26.2 miles in Marathons. Eight times he’s not only pushed him 26.2 miles in a wheelchair but also towed him 2.4 miles in a dinghy while swimming and pedaled him 112 miles in a seat on the handlebars — all in the same day.
Dick’s also pulled him cross-country skiing, taken him on his back mountain climbing and once hauled him across the U.S. on a bike. makes taking your son bowling look a little lame, right?
And what has Rick done for his father? Not much — except save his life.
This love story began in Winchester, Mass., 43 years ago, when Rick was strangled by the umbilical cord during birth, leaving him brain-damaged and unable to control his limbs.
“He’ll be a vegetable the rest of his life,” Dick says doctors told him and his wife, Judy, when Rick was nine months old. “Put him in an institution.”
But the Hoyts weren’t buying it. They noticed the way Rick’s eyes followed them around the room. When Rick was 11 they took him to the engineering department at Tufts University and asked if there was anything to help the boy communicate. “No way,” Dick says he was told. “There’s nothing going on in his brain.”
“Tell him a joke,” Dick countered. They did. Rick laughed. Turns out a lot was going on in his brain. Rigged up with a computer that allowed him to control the cursor by touching a switch with the side of his head, Rick was finally able to communicate. First words? “Go Bruins!” And after a high school classmate was paralyzed in an accident and the school organized a charity run for him, Rick pecked out, “Dad, I want to do that.”
Yeah, right. How was Dick, a self-described “porker” who never ran more than a mile at a time, going to push his son five miles? Still, he tried. “Then it was me who was handicapped,” Dick says. “I was sore for two weeks.”
That day changed Rick’s life. “Dad,” he typed, “when we were running, It felt like I wasn’t disabled anymore!”
And that sentence changed Dick’s life. He became obsessed with giving Rick that feeling as often as he could. He got into such hard-belly shape that he and Rick were ready to try the 1979 Boston Marathon.
“No way,” Dick was told by a race official. The Hoyts weren’t quite a Single runner, and they weren’t quite a wheelchair competitor. For a few years Dick and Rick just joined the massive field and ran anyway, then they found a way to get into the race officially: In 1983 they ran another marathon so fast they made the qualifying time for Boston the following year.
Then somebody said, “Hey, Dick, why not a triathlon?”
How’s a guy who never learned to swim and hadn’t ridden a bike since he was six going to haul his 110-pound kid through a triathlon? Still, Dick tried.
Now they’ve done 212 triathlons, including four grueling 15-hour Ironmans in Hawaii . It must be a buzzkill to be a 25-year-old stud getting passed by an old guy towing a grown man in a dinghy, don’t you think?
Hey, Dick, why not see how you’d do on your own? “No way,” he says. Dick does it purely for “the awesome feeling” he gets seeing Rick with a cantaloupe smile as they run, swim and ride together.
This year, at ages 65 and 43, Dick and Rick finished their 24th Boston Marathon, in 5,083rd place out of more than 20,000 starters. Their best time? Two hours, 40 minutes in 1992 — only 35 minutes off the world Record, which, in case you don’t keep track of these things, happens to be held by a guy who was not pushing another man in a wheelchair at the time.
“No question about it,” Rick types. “My dad is the Father of the Century.”
And Dick got something else out of all this too. Two years ago he had a mild heart attack during a race. Doctors found that one of his arteries Was 95% clogged. “If you hadn’t been in such great shape,” one doctor told him, “you probably would’ve died 15 years ago.” So, in a way, Dick and Rick saved each other’s life.
Rick, who has his own apartment (he gets home care) and works in Boston, and Dick, retired from the military and living in Holland, Mass., always find ways to be together. They give speeches around the country and compete in some backbreaking race every weekend, including this Father’s Day.
That night, Rick will buy his dad dinner, but the thing he really wants to give him is a gift he can never buy.
“The thing I’d most like,” Rick types, “is that my dad sit in the chair and I push him once.”
2. Heaven's Special Child
By Mary Hapeman
We never allowed teaching or working with him to become a chore.
For example, Philly’s therapist suggested that a lot of physical stimulation be given to all areas of his body; so almost every evening John would wrestle with him. For both of them this was great fun, and something that they both wanted to do; but it also accomplished the therapist’s goals as well. As Philly grew, their games together developed. They played a game with Big Bird memory chips, and slowly Philly learned the alphabet.
In many ways I find that our society is extraordinarily competitive. So I guess that it was understandable that I felt some emotional pain and discomfort when I looked at Philly’s accomplishments through society’s competitive lenses. When I was able to resist the temptation to compare, and focused instead on the real person that Philly was; the sorrow melted away.
I came across a poem that gave voice to some of my growing feelings. It was posted on a hospital bulletin board.
A meeting was held quite far from earth!
It’s time again for another birth.
Said the angels to the Lord above
This special child will need much love.
His progress may be very slow.
Accomplishments he may not show,
And he’ll require extra care
From the folks he meets down there.
In many ways he won’t adapt,
And he’ll be known as handicapped.
So let’s be careful where he’s sent.
We want his life to be content.
Please, Lord, find the parents who
Will do a special job for you.
They will not realize right away
The leading role they’re asked to play.
But with this child sent from above
Comes stronger faith and richer love.
And soon they’ll know the privilege given
In caring for their gift from Heaven.
Their precious charge,so meek and mild,
Is Heaven’s very special child.
Found by Mary Hapeman
3. Prayer for One Another
True Father’s prayers are like rain, washing everything, giving moisture to the land so that life might come forth.
How To Witness 4-1-77
See to it that no one repays evil for evil to anyone, but always pursue what is good for one another and for all. 16 Rejoice always! 17 Pray constantly. 18 Give thanks in everything, for this is God’s will for you in Christ Jesus. 19 Don’t stifle the Spirit. 20 Don’t despise prophecies, 21 but test all things. Hold on to what is good. 22 Stay away from every form of evil.
One day [children’s television’s] Mister Rogers was making a trip to California and decided to pay a visit to a teenager with cerebral palsy. “At first, the boy was made very nervous by the thought that Mister Rogers was visiting him,” [Tom] Junod writes. “He was so nervous, in fact, that when Mister Rogers did visit, he got mad at himself and began hating himself and hitting himself, and his mother had to take him to another room.” Mister Rogers waited patiently and when the boy came back, Mister Rogers said, “I would like you to do something for me. Would you do something for me?” On his computer, the boy answered yes. “I would like you to pray for me. Will you pray for me?”
Junod says that the boy was “thunderstruck” because “nobody had ever asked him for something like that, ever. The boy had always been prayed for. The boy had always been the object of prayer, and now he was being asked to pray for Mister Rogers, and although at first he didn’t know if he could do it, he said he would, he said he’d try, and ever since then he keeps Mister Rogers in his prayers and doesn’t talk about wanting to die anymore because he figures Mister Rogers is close to God, and if Mister Rogers likes him, that must mean God likes him, too.”
Tom Junod asked Mister Rogers how he knew what to say to make the boy feel better. He responded: “Oh, heavens no, Tom! I didn’t ask him for his prayers for him; I asked for me. I asked him because I think that anyone who has gone through challenges like that must be very close to God. I asked him because I wanted his intercession.”
4. Paid in Full
By Susan Oliver
Dusk was upon us that warm September day in 1985. We lived in a sprawling one-story house in Jacksonville, Florida. My husband, Berlin, was the captain of a snapper boat that fished off the eastern Florida coast. He just happened to be home on that fateful day, along with his crew of four fishermen, who stayed with us until their next trip. Brigitte, the wife of one of the fishermen, had started preparations for a spaghetti dinner. We were enjoying the aroma of simmering spaghetti sauce, even our two year old daughter, Nessia and Abelin, our baby.
The twilight hour was enticing me for my nightly prayer walk. The sun gradually dropped toward the horizon, capturing the last moments of daylight. This wasn’t an unusual ritual for me. I enjoyed spending moments walking outside while praying. These solitary moments were perfect times to reflect and pray.
“Berlin, would you watch the kids while I take a short walk?” He always respected my need for alone time. “Nessia’s bath is ready, but Abelin might need a pacifier. He’s acting tired and fussy.” All appeared to be in order, so off I went to savor the last unique moments of the day.
As I walked I noticed a feeling of heaviness and foreboding. I had to concentrate hard to break through in prayer. My thoughts turned to Abelin, who was only nine weeks old that day. In a flashing moment I wondered if God had given him to us only for a short time. Why did I have such an ominous thought? Was God asking me if I would be able to release Abelin back to Him?
“Dear God,” I prayed, “our son came into this world through your love, blessing our marriage in such a beautiful way. May Abelin return joy to you, all throughout his life.” In this prayer, Abelin became our offering child. What greater offering could there be, but one’s own child? The trees, the high stratus clouds above and the air surrounding me, seemed to acknowledge these thoughts, as the sun rays slipped below the horizon. Night had arrived, but peace was in my heart, the internal darkness gone.
I returned home to a quiet house. Only Nessia and a few crew members were there. My pot of spaghetti sat on the stove, uneaten.
“Where is everybody”, I questioned Mattie, a Norwegian crewman. Mattie looked uncomfortable. “Um… they’re at the hospital. Abelin stopped breathing. Berlin tried to do CPR but it was not helping, so Brigitte went with him.”
It took a while for me to assimilate what he said. Abelin, not breathing? I stood frozen for a few moments. The prayer and my thoughts of “offering Abelin up” escaped me for a moment. I immediately lit a candle and prayed earnestly while my two year old stood nearby. “Please God. Don’t let anything happen to our little Abelin!”
Guilt crawled into my body, overtaking me from head to toe. I shouldn’t have left the house! If I had been there I could have kept this terrible thing from happening. I blamed myself totally. Psalm 51, especially verse 16, flashed through my mind and brought some comfort: “a broken and contrite heart, O God, thou wilt not despise.”
Stunned, I drove myself to the hospital and arrived about 8:30 p.m. Berlin had been there close to two hours. The doctor met with Berlin and me as soon as I arrived. “It would be wise to make funeral arrangements” the doctor told us. “There is only a slight chance that he will live.” The doctors didn’t know why he stopped breathing. He just did. As if trying to reassure us he said, “We get a case like this about once a year.”
Abelin lay in bed with twelve wires attached to him, swollen and lifeless. He could only breathe with the help of a respirator. Even with him looking so terrible, we still couldn’t believe what the doctors were telling us. “If he wakes from his coma, it is unlikely that he will ever walk or talk,” they said.
After 21 days, Abelin did wake up, and eventually the respirator was taken off. The fact that Abelin continued to breathe on his own gave us a glimmer of hope for more recovery. The weeks passed, prayers were said and tears flowed, before Abelin was released. Sadly he was not the same baby we took home from the hospital the first time.
We learned that during the fifteen to twenty minutes that Abelin had stopped breathing he lost brain cells. Along with the brain cells, his ability to function normally was also lost. The first noticeable loss was his sucking reflex. Berlin and I couldn’t bear the thought of feeding Abelin through a tube. We took shifts, feeding him with a bottle. An ounce of liquid would take hours to get down him. We never gave up working as a team, starting at the hospital and then at home. Gradually, Abelin’s sucking reflex was partially restored and with assistance, he began taking his food by mouth.
The day Abelin was born, the doctor had laughed as he held him up. Abelin was vibrant, kicking and punching as if he was in a boxing match. Now our child lay, limp in our arms, with an innocent spirit hidden inside the prison of his hurt body. I’ll never forget the day when I overheard Berlin’s sister, who was visiting us, talking in other room. She said to her healthy little boy, “Can you imagine having to wake up to this every single day!”
One day a menacing picture of a man stared back at me, scowling from the newspaper. It struck me. What irony that my son, born a potentially good contributor to society, would be captive in his own body, while this pathetic excuse of a man was out and about functioning freely as a walking and talking individual. I would never take the ability to walk and talk for granted again.
Throughout those initial years I held on to my love for God. It was this lifeline that kept me from falling into an abyss of self-pity. My prayer on that September day when I offered my son to God gave me inner peace and acceptance so I could go on. Eventually Abelin became wheelchair bound, as the doctors predicted, but our years of therapy when he was small helped him to develop an alertness and his own personality.
Many people think of handicapped people as God’s special gifts to us. I believe that all children are gifts from God, and that God does not single out certain ones to be handicapped or hurt, and then say, “Here is my special gift to you!”
No, what is important to God is our reaction to tragedy. Even tragedy can fulfill goodness if responded to with the right heart. The day Abelin became hurt was the day he became a special offering of love to God from me. God’s love embraced Abelin that day in a way unique for handicapped children, which through time helps their spirits to blossom.
Encouragement is found in Proverbs 13:12: “Hope deferred makes the heart sick, but a desire fulfilled is a tree of life.” The ultimate will of God is joy and life for all people. Even though our hopes were crushed on that September day, they were never extinguished. When Abelin was going on three years old, we were blessed with a third child that we named Beaumont Nicholas.
When Abelin turned five years old, I was exhausted from a very intense therapy program for Abelin that started when he was one. By chance, I found out while calling Day Care facilities in the area, that Abelin could attend public school. What a revelation! I had been so isolated I wasn’t aware of this. On the day Abelin left for school, I watched as he was lifted up onto the lift equipped bus. He looked so small and cute. Off went my offering child, to start a new beginning, enveloped in God’s love.
To all parents of severely handicapped children: Your child is a gift from God, as all children are. God wants to heal your grief. God is a parent too, knows your sorrow over your child’s tragedy. By putting your child back in God’s hands, you will be comforted. One day, your child will run and play, grow and develop, if not in this world, then the next. Your children will be the jewels of Heaven.
Abelin has now graduated from a public high school. We were blessed with a new living arrangement for Abelin, where he could get excellent continual care and attention from a loving staff, in a residential home called “Pony Bird”. When he was eleven, Pony Bird invited him, and we had to let him go once again, our offering child. Now, when we visit him his face lights up like a light bulb. He has developed an alertness and magnetic personality that draws many friends by his side. Abelin has taught us the spirit is ultimately more powerful than the body. He has taught us to appreciate the gift of physical life every day that we walk the earth.
One evening I went to Pony Bird, with Abelin’s favorite snack in my hand. The staff members were happy to see me. “Abelin had a visitor,” they said. “She spent a long time talking to him in the family room.” They described her as a lady with a pretty face and long blonde hair. She acted like she was old friends with Abelin. Try as I may, I couldn’t think of anyone that fit their description of the visitor. The staff was baffled.
As I approached Abelin, I saw something shiny hanging around his neck. The mystery lady had given him a necklace. It was a silver cross with the inscription “Paid in Full” on it. Someday I would love to meet this “angel” from heaven. She never came back again. Perhaps she only wanted to bring a message from the Heavenly Father. Abelin, and all children like him, had truly paid in full, sacrificing their physical lives on a daily basis. I went home that night renewed and comforted. Abelin is, and always will be, in God’s hands.
5. Renessa's Matching Testimony
By Keith Pihl
Each of us, in our own unique ways, experience GOD and the Heavenly World guiding both our lives and the lives of our families in such wondrous, profound,and clear ways, yet often in ways which are clear to us but in ways that no one else could possibly understand.
Reneé and I have 3 children. Our youngest, Renessa, has brain damage. Although she is 18 yrs. old, she is about 5 months old mentally, weighs about 35 pounds, and we care for her like a baby.
In the case of Renessa, and also her next older brother, Rolen who is presently on STF, I have given permission to MY HEAVENLY PARENT AND CREATOR to match them…since through HIS infinite love and wisdom, HE created them, I decided to leave their matching’s up to HIM.GOD is still working on Rolen.
Since I have given permission to God to arrange their matchings, dreams have come in which True Children have voiced their opinion about who to match with who,Jesus has made known his viewpoint, and GOD has systematically explained HIS reasons why HE would choose a particular spouse, etc., etc., etc. I am truly grateful that the opinions are the same….NOW if GOD and Jesus and True Children had different opinions… that could be confusing for someone with such a simple mind like myself. Basically I just want to LOVE GOD, HUG GOD, HANG OUT WITH GOD, and do my best to assist in getting this world back to HIS original plan.
In the case of Renessa, the discovery of her match was connected to Rolen, her next older brother. His sport, which is known in Canada as the sport of the Gods, was hockey. When we lived in the Detroit area for 10 years Rolen gave up all other sports to play hockey 9 months out of the year.
In the spring of 2006, The University of Wisconsin was in the Frozen Four (The final four for College Hockey Championships). I am the Midwest Regional Manager for Shining Ocean, and I had a very good customer whose son was on the team. I thought perhaps I could take Rolen to the championship game, both for his sake and for the sake of supporting my customer. When checking the price of tickets on the internet, I came to the conclusion that maybe $700/ticket wasn’t what I had in mind to pay for this extravaganza. Also my oldest son’s boss’s husband during his internship for pre-med was the head personal trainer for the Detroit Red Wings, and had given them prime tickets for the Red Wings game the same night.
Since it was impractical and beyond financial wisdom to take Rolen to witness the Wisconsin victory, (On Wisconsin) I decided to apply for the lottery the next year for the 2007 College Frozen Four tickets. It would be held in St. Louis, which was only about a 6 hour drive and I figured if I received tickets through the lottery, which I did, I could take Rolen for his high school graduation present.
There were some obstacles that appeared in the way though. The Frozen Four begins on a Thursday Night with the Semi-Finals and ends on Saturday Night with the Finals. Rev. T.L. Barrett Jr., who is very close to our movement in Chicago and was Co-Convener of ACLC, had a daughter, Kleo, who was murdered early in the week. Her Life Celebration and Homegoing was Saturday, the same day as the finals, and although I did not know Kleo, (though since that day she has become very close to me) and barely knew Rev. Barrett, God asked me to go to Kleo’s Homegoing.
Since I couldn’t take Rolen to St. Louis for the Frozen Four, due to God’s request….the decision was simple…sell the tickets on the internet and make a bunch of money. YEAH RIGHT!!!!!!!!DO you think anyone would buy MY tickets…even for less than what I paid for them through the lottery????? Come on now……what in the world is going on here?
Finally at the last moment with no other options, I asked my wife, Reneé, to take Rolen to St. Louis. She agreed. After all, she had been a real hockey mom, yelling and screaming and banging cans at her hockey son’s playoff games year after year. Her son was the real hero at those games you know….perhaps not to others, but most certainly in her eyes.
It was no problem for them to find housing. Rolen called his buddy, Mike Stoner in St. Louis and presto….they had a room at the Bill and Mary Stoner motel, ready to welcome anxious Hockey Travelers. WELL…..except the Stoner’s decided to go Indianapolis to visit the Triggol’s Friday Night and therefore we now faced a no room at the inn dilemma. I needed to find another dwelling place for my weary Hockey Travelers to lay their heads the 2nd night. OK, since they now had no where to stay I decided to call my buddy Carl Swears on. I didn’t realize he lived a little distance from St. Louis, but HEY….so what…..Reneé and Rolen should travel henceforth and meet together with my True Brother.
And thus they did. While they were there, Reneé went to meet Carl’s neighbor in this great Heavenly movement…..Berlin and Susan Oliver. Although totally unfamiliar to either of us, they are well known by GOD and many others. GOD had just led Reneé to the parents of Abelin Oliver, who HE had chosen to be Renessa’s Prince, and from my perspective, PROUDLY SO!
And as far as hockey goes, Michigan State was one of the schools in the tournament, which is where my older son, Kerent graduated from pre-med, and is now attending medical school. It only seemed providential that Michigan State came from behind both games, scoring 2 goals in the last 19 seconds of the final game to win the College Hockey Championship. That was pretty exciting for a True Hockey enthusiast and his mommy who have a brother and son in medical school at Michigan State.
Though there is a clear understanding that this whole orchestral arrangement centering on Abelin and Renessa was all directed by GOD, both to the Pihl and Oliver families, there is always a practical time period to finalize things. Prince Abelin and Princess Renessa were officially matched on the evening of September 9, 2008 at the palace of Carl and Georgianna Swearson.
How fortunate we are that God and True Parents have extended the eternal blessing to Abelin and Renessa and to others in their circumstance. We are eternally grateful.
When Renessa was 5 months old, we became aware that her head was not growing correctly. She had several tests done by doctors. On the day that we got the results of the testing and it was confirmed that she had brain damage, I was the one to take her to the doctor. We were living in New Jersey at the time. On my way back home from the Doctor’s office after viewing the CAT scan of Renessa’s brain and thinking deeply about her situation and her future, all of a sudden my car abruptly swerved off of highway 4 at an exit. As the car went off the exit I noticed The Shops at Riverside Mall at the exit and decided to take Renessa for a stroll through the mall. I casually walked through the mall with Renessa. As I walked by the Godiva Chocolates store, my head abruptly swung to the right. A thought came into my head as I looked in the Godiva Boutique. “That looks like True Mother, I thought to myself.” I turned around and walked by again. “That really does look like True Mother, I said to myself again.” I turned around and walked by again. THAT IS TRUE MOTHER, I yelled to myself!” It is always amazing to me how God and True Parents are always right there with us in this path that we walk. I waited until True Mother came out of the store and walked up to her and talked to her for a little while, although I never told her Renessa’s situation and that I had just found out 15 minutes before that she had brain damage and that she would never talk or crawl or walk. This may come as a surprise to you, but as incredible as this experience was, my memory does not recollect exactly who was with True Mother at the time. There were about 4 or 5 others with her. I think that Jin Sung Nim was with True Mother and mostly I was talking with Jin Sung Nim, but it may have been Jin Hun Nim that was there or perhaps both Jin Sung Nim and Jin Hun Nim and 2 or 3 other sisters. True Mother knows my wife, Renee well because she had the precious opportunity to personally serve True Parents and True Family for a few years at the New Yorker on the 30th floor. Reneé was standing gracefully and graciously on the merit of her ancestors, but then….. aren’t we all?True Mother gave me the bag that she had spent so much time carefully picking out before walking out of the Godiva store. In it were 2 pieces of the most incredibly beautiful and wonderful chocolates that I had ever seen, which I have always cherished. With this experience comes the awesome awareness that God and True Parents are always there with us through our struggles.
God and True Parents, I LOVE YOU AND I THANK YOU and so does Abelin and Renessa!!!!
P.S. Attached to my testimony is an article (click to go to the article) that Susan wrote for a publication for the general population (not our movement or it would have included many more providentially significant internal points) a couple year ago or so regarding Abelin. Abelin was matched to Renessa almost 22 years to the day that Susan speaks about in this testimony.