Wednesday, December 9, 2009

BREAKING the Silence!

Alex White

We had a wake, a viewing of Jackie's body, the night before her funeral. The wake was just for family and close friends. Jackie looked like she was peacefully sleeping in the casket. She looked cherub like in her beautiful white dress and ruby red slippers. Reality sinks in quickly when you see your little angel lying in a casket on a dark Spring night. Our family had been at the wake for a couple of hours and we were getting ready to call it a night when my sister Suzy and her husband Mark, along with their month old baby Alex, walked into the Lassila Funeral Home in Auburn, CA. There was a noticeable silence in the room when the White family entered. Jackie, the life of any party, was lying still in a little white casket. You could hear a pin drop. Then out of the silence came a loud cry from Alex which pierced the stillness and broke the silence. It was music to my ears!!! In the midst of our despair there was hope! One child dies, another one is born. One child's last breath is taken, another one's first breath is given. The circle of life was staring us in the face. Jackie had died. Alex was alive and full of life!  

Alex is now 9 years old and a beautiful little girl. I love her dearly and she touches my heart with her interest in Jackie. Alex recently made a cover for my book I hope to one day publish on Jackie's life and death. She called it "Jacqueline Brooke Page" by Dave Page - A true story!"

Thank you God for Alex and her loud cry that night,


Monday, November 16, 2009

GETTING THROUGH THE HOLIDAYS ... 10 Tips for Those Who Grieve

I remember our first Christmas after. Our nightmare began when our five-year old daughter Jackie, our baby and the life of any party, was diagnosed with a brain stem tumor in January 2000. She passed away in my wife’s arms and mine six weeks later on March 4th. She took our hearts with her when she left. Spring turned into summer, summer into fall, fall into winter, and then came the dreaded holidays!

Holidays are difficult days for the bereaved. Bereavement literally means to be robbed. The holidays are a time of giving but all we could think about was what was taken from us. For many, the most difficult holiday of the year is Christmas. This day more than any other is synonymous with family being together. It is at this time that we became acutely aware of the huge void in our lives. How do we have Christmas without Jackie? To make matters worse, Jackie’s birthday was on December 20th. She was our Christmas baby.

At the time I was the pastor of a dynamic church in Auburn, California. Church services went on, Christmas carols were still sung, and people wished everybody a “Merry Christmas.” But our thoughts were on Jackie, fixed more on her departure than on her arrival six years prior. Christmas was different that year. We hung a stocking for her, talked about her, lit a candle in her memory, and shed many tears. Sometimes showing up for something is the best you can do. We showed up that first Christmas and that was good enough.

But now, nine Christmas trees and nine silent nights later I’ve learned a few things about this journey of grief and getting through the holidays. I’d like to suggest 10 tips that might be helpful to you this holiday season.

  • Develop a Plan

Be intentional and develop a plan in advance. It may be as simple as going to the cemetery to sit and talk with your loved one. Observe the holidays, as you want. Everyone has their own way of dealing with grief so be yourself. There is no right or wrong way to do this. It’s OK not to do what you’ve done in the past – be flexible. That first Thanksgiving or Christmas doesn’t have to become a tradition for all of the following years.

  • Talk About Your Loved One

“We talk about the weather. We talk about work. We talk about everything else … except the elephant in the room. We all know it is there. It has hurt us all. But we do not talk about the elephant in the room. Oh, please, say her name. Oh, please, say “Jackie” again. For if we talk about her death, perhaps we can talk about her life.” (Taken from a poem called, “The Elephant in the Room” by Terry Kettering).

  • Memorialize Your Loved One

Find a way to remember your loved one and memorialize them during the holidays. It might mean lighting a candle, writing a letter to your loved one and placing it under the tree, or creating an ornament with your loved one’s picture on it and hanging it on the tree. Make a memory book of your loved one or go to and develop a tribute of your loved one on the Internet.

  • Give Yourself Permission to Cry

Oftentimes, the bereaved are worried that they may cry during the holidays. Of course you will! It’s completely appropriate under the circumstances. Let it out. Crying cleanses the soul. Jesus wept. It’s part of God’s healing process and a normal human response to loss. Take lots of Kleenex with you!

  • Give Yourself Permission to Laugh

You may feel like it’s not appropriate to laugh or feel good while you’re grieving. Laughter does not disrespect the memory of your loved one and it doesn’t mean you’ve forgotten them. In fact, the Bible says, “Laughter is good medicine for the soul.” (Proverbs 17:22). Laughter is not only healthy; it helps to reinvigorate you for the hard work of grief that lies ahead.

  • Be Careful of “Shoulds”

As my friend Katie Brazelton says, “Don’t let anybody "should" on you!” Never let others take your grief away from you, minimize your loss, or tell you how you should or shouldn’t grieve. Avoid the “Tyranny of the Shoulds” yourself, as in: “I should send out cards, bake cookies, or go shopping.” Do what is most helpful for you and your family.

  • Be Kind to Yourself

You have been wounded and are not at full strength. Take care of yourself physically. Eat healthy foods even if you don’t feel like it and get some exercise. Walk 15 minutes down the street and then walk back. Avoid alcohol and get some rest. Do something you like to do each day.

  • Include Children

Children can feel confused, powerless, angry and anxious during the holidays because of a death in the family. Be honest with them. Explain that it is OK for them to cry and for adults to cry and that although they are feel really sad right now, they won’t always feel this sad. See what part of the holiday tradition is most important to them. Try to involve them in memorial rituals; for example, by asking them to draw or write down their favorite holiday memories of the departed loved one.

  • Ask For Help

Realize you can’t get through this alone. Gravitate to where you are getting support. Allow people to help you. Now is the time to call all those friends and family members who said, “If you need anything – call me.” By allowing them to help, you are giving them a gift.

  • Remember You Are Not Alone

King David said, “Yeah though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I will fear no evil: for thou art with me; thy rod and thy staff they comfort me.” (Psalm 23:4). Jesus said, “I will never leave you nor forsake you.” (Hebrews 13:5). One of the names for Jesus associated with the holidays is “Immanuel” which means “God with us.” Jesus is with you in your grief, especially during the holidays. The Scriptures say, “The LORD is close to the broken hearted and saves those who are crushed in spirit.” (Psalm 34:18).

Happy holidays,


p.s. Remember that the anxiety and dread that you may be experiencing leading up to the holidays is often worse than the actual experience of the holidays without your beloved one.

Special thanks to Galen Goben and Forest Lawn for helping me formulate some of my thoughts on Getting Through the Holidays.

Will I Ever Recover?

I used to believe the lie that many psychologists purport …. that a person can never really recover from the loss of a child. After reading “The Grief Recovery Handbook” by John James and Russell Friedman, I now disagree with that statement and belief. The authors define recovery as “feeling better … claiming your circumstances instead of your circumstances claiming you and your happiness … finding new meaning for living, without fear of being hurt again … being able to enjoy fond memories without having them precipitate painful feelings of regret or remorse … acknowledging that it is perfectly all right to feel sad from time to time and to talk about those feelings no matter how those around you react …being able to forgive others when they say or do things that you know are based on their lack of knowledge about grief … one day realizing that your ability to talk about the loss you’ve experienced is indeed normal and healthy.”

Obviously, recovering from a significant emotional loss is not an easy task but certainly is possible. And based on the above definition of recovery, I think I have recovered. Oh, don’t get me wrong … I still miss Jackie immensely, talk about her all the time (which I’ve learned is very healthy) and hold onto the hope that I will see her again in heaven. But, I don’t feel guilty anymore for feeling good! I know now that feeling good is not disrespectful to her memory. It’s kind of like being injured physically but worse because you’ve been injured emotionally. The good news is you do heal. You may have a scar (which I do) but you heal up and you can recover! God is in the healing business. The Scriptures say, “The LORD is close to the broken hearted and he saves those who are crushed in spirit.” (Psalm 34:18). “The steadfast love of the LORD never ceases; his mercies never come to an end; they are new every morning; great is your faithfulness.” (Lamentations 3:22-23).

Where there is life, there is hope! What doesn’t kill you makes you stronger! With God all things are possible!

It feels good to feel good again.


p.s. The photo of the arm with the tattoo is Hebrew and says, "What doesn't kill you makes you stronger!"

Friday, September 4, 2009

"Will My Life Ever Be Good Again?"

I want to write a book called, “Life Can Be Good Again!” – Finding Meaning & Purpose in Your Loss.

After writing his best seller, A Grace Disguised, Jerry Sittser found that one question kept surfacing in the hundreds of letters and emails he received in response to his book – “Will my life ever be good again?”

People want to know if life has any joy in store for them in the future after suffering a catastrophic loss. I wandered the exact same thing immediately after losing Jackie because the loss was so devastating and overwhelming. I honestly didn’t know what to do or how to process it. I didn’t know how to grieve. I needed someone to help me frame my loss.

Out of desperation, I called Jerry Sittser at Whitworth College, and asked if he would come speak at the church I pastored in Auburn. It was totally for selfish reasons – to help me recover from my grief. Jerry came and helped me frame the loss. He became a model to me of someone who had suffered great loss (he lost his wife, mom, and daughter when a drunk driver hit their minivan) and yet had joy in his life. Jerry loved God, his family (what remained), other people and life. He had a smile on his face and a bounce in his step. I wanted to be like Jerry. I figured if he could do it, then so could I. I thought that if God could transform Jerry then maybe he could transform me too. I think we all need models, people to look up to, which have gone where we want to go.

I have found that life can be good again, really good! Life will never be the same again. Things are different now - but good! I have a new joy, which I believe is even greater than before. By experiencing such deep sorrow I can now experience an even deeper joy. I have a smile back on my face and a bounce in my step. I have a new found passion to help others who grieve experience joy in their lives as well.

Because of His mercy and grace,

His grace is sufficient, and his mercies are new every morning .... Great is thy faithfulness!


p.s. I recently saw Jerry Sittser speak in chapel at Westmont College in Santa Barbara. I thanked him personally for the difference he made in my life and for being my role model for living a healthy life after loss.

Thursday, September 3, 2009

Ocean Waves and Grief

I grew up in Southern California and one of my favorite activities was (and still is) going to the beach. When I was a kid my parents owned an apartment in Laguna Beach that we would frequent a lot. It was there that I learned about the ocean, waves, body surfing and boogie boarding. I learned to respect the ocean and it's power (water is the most powerful force on earth) and to never turn my back on it.

I remember one time when my mom and I were walking on some rocks looking at starfish and turned our backs on the ocean and a big wave came and knocked us over and dragged us across the rocks. We emerged bloody and bruised but learned an important lesson.

Turning your back on the ocean is like turning your back on grief and ignoring it.

I remember another time when a set of waves came out of nowhere and I got trapped in the set. I was thrust under water for what seemed like eternity but in reality was only a few seconds. I felt helpless, disoriented, and frightened. When I did surface I found another huge wave bearing down on me and under I went.

Losing a loved one and going through the grief process is like being caught in a set of big waves. Waves of anger, doubt, denial, sadness, depression, loneliness, helplessness, and confusion that keep crashing down on you. Despite what some experts say, the grief process is not a neat and tidy set of stages you successfully go through and move on from. Rather they are like emotional waves that come in all different sizes and shapes that knock the snot out of you. When they break, you are broadsided, and find yourself tossing, spinning, and bouncing off the bottom of the ocean with a mouth full of salt water and sand.

If you fight, it takes longer to get to the surface. But if you float with the current, you come right to the top. Floating when we are frightened is difficult. It takes trust, focus, and concentration. Dealing with the death of a loved one is similar. In order to cope, it takes TRUST. Trust leads to hope. Trust that God is in control even though it doesn't seem like it. Hope for a better tomorrow and that life can be good again.

We all need hope to cope.

"Trust in the Lord with all your heart and lean not on your own understanding. In all your ways acknowledge him, and he will direct your path." Proverbs 3:5-6


p.s. I know some people (and I'm sure you do to) who got caught in a set of ocean waves and it frightened them and now they don't venture into the ocean anymore. I don't know about you but I'm ready to venture back out into the deep end and live life to the fullest! I think Jackie would want it that way ... :-)

Wednesday, September 2, 2009

"Held" by Natalie Grant

What It Means To Be “Held”

Natalie Grant sings a moving song about grief, loss, suffering and hope called, “Held.” However, the writer of the song is Christa Wells. Her inspiration for the song came from 3 different women that greatly influenced her life. Each of the women experienced the loss of a family member.

1) Patti, a young widow with 3 kids, lost her husband

2) Vaneetha, experienced polo growing up, lost her infant son Paul from a heart defect. The first verse of "Held" refers to Vaneetha and her son, Paul. She shared with Christa about how knowing sorrow allowed her to also know joy and about the strange reality of feeling God's presence most keenly in the moments of deepest grief.

3) Sherry, Christa’s mother-in-law, lost her daughter Erica at birth. She spoke through tears about the pain of carrying a child to term and then having to let her go without even getting to take her home from the hospital. She told Christa about the still, small voice that spoke to her in the delivery room, “You have to choose how you will carry this loss after this moment. You can choose bitterness or you can choose to let me wrap you up in peace that can't be explained and that will lead to hope. You can choose to trust that you are not alone, and that everything you suffer here will someday be redeemed."

Because of the influence of these women, Christa realized that no person of faith since the beginning of time has ever lived without suffering. In fact, those who are students of Jesus have been promised that we certainly should expect pain and suffering in this life.


In the middle of that heartache, at every lonely, dark, lost moment ...the Truth. That in those moments, especially then, we are held, held up, held together, by the the One who has walked here and knows the pain, and who also holds all of time, every story, my story, your story, the Greatest Story in his hands.

Christa said, “Every word (of the song) was chosen with loving care, because I didn't write this song for a market, or any audience, but for those three women. I wrote it and recorded it with my old 8-track and made a cassette copy for each of them.”

Link to the Natalie Grant video/song “Held.”

Below are the lyrics to Held:

Two months is too little
They let him go
They had no sudden healing
To think that providence
Would take a child from his mother
While she prays, is appalling
Who told us we'd be rescued
What has changed and
Why should we be saved from nightmares
We're asking why this happens to us
Who have died to live, it's unfair

This is what it means to be held
How it feels, when the sacred is torn from your life
And you survive
This is what it is to be loved and to know
That the promise was when everything fell
We'd be held

This hand is bitterness
We want to taste it and
Let the hatred numb our sorrows
The wise hand opens slowly
To lilies of the valley and tomorrow

This is what it means to be held
How it feels, when the sacred is torn from your life
And you survive
This is what it is to be loved and to know
That the promise was when everything fell
We'd be held
If hope is born of suffering
If this is only the beginning
Can we not wait, for one hour
Watching for our savior
This is what it means to be held
How it feels, when the sacred is torn from your life
And you survive
This is what it is to be loved and to know
That the promise was when everything fell
We'd be held
We'd be held

This is what it is to be loved and to know
That the promise was when everything fell
We'd be held

This is what it means to be held.....

Sunday, August 30, 2009


The title implies a journey, a process, a progression. I am in process. I don't have the suffering thing figured out. I am certainly not a grief expert. But it was good for me to recently search the Scriptures to see what God had to say on the matter of suffering and how to face trials. Losing Jackie is by far the biggest trial that Carrie and I have faced in our lives to this point. We cried buckets of tears the first week after Jackie's diagnosis. We were in shock, we were sad, angry, depressed, confused, and just plain worn out but were trying our best to trust God and found great comfort in knowing that He was ultimately in control.

I delivered a message called, "TRIALS. TEARS. TRUST." today (August 30, 2009) at Vantage Point Church in Eastvale (Corona), CA. As I wrote this sermon and delivered it today, I was acutely aware that I was not the only one going through a trial, and realize that fact as I pen this blog entry. My heart breaks when I think about the heartache and pain many people that I know are going through right now! I had a number of people share with me about their losses after each service today at VPC. I have a passion to assist families and individuals who experience deep pain through loss. Some of you are going through some tough trials right now and I pray that you may in time progress in your spiritual journey from trials to tears to trust.


Proverbs 3:5-6

Below is a link to Vantage Point Church if you are interested in hearing my sermon. (Check "Resources" and go to the "Sermons" (Trials. Tears. Trust.) for August 30, 2009

Monday, August 24, 2009

"I Always Want To Stay A Kid"

This is the Life! (Pre-Diagnosis)

Jackie, age 5, was kicking back in a La-Z-Boy chair with her grilled cheese sandwich sipping her Sunny Delight while watching SpongeBob Square Pants on TV and announced to the world, “This is the life!”

She then said, “I don’t ever want to grow up! I always want to stay a kid! I don’t ever want to become a mommy (she saw how much work Carrie did as a mother of three small children) because a mommy’s work is too hard.”

When most kids are 5 they want to be 10. When they are 15 they want to be 20. Jackie was just the opposite. She never wanted to grow up. She always wanted to remain a child in the safe confines of her loving family, childhood friends, pets, church family and life of fun.

A Revelation (Post-Diagnosis)

After the diagnosis by Dr. Pang, Carrie, Jackie and I left Kaiser and drove to a local mall in Sacramento to grab a bite to eat. As we were sitting at an A&W restaurant my emotions became too much for me to handle so I excused myself and walked to our minivan in the parking lot. I got in the minivan, closed the windows and started to drive. I began to weep, yell, and scream. I was yelling at God for allowing this to happen. “Why?” It just didn’t make sense. “Why don’t you take me instead of her?” I remember pounding on the steering wheel in anger so hard that I almost broke my hand and the steering wheel. I must have driven in circles around that parking lot for about 20 minutes trying to wrap my mind around the fact that my baby had an inoperable brain tumor and was most likely going to die soon.

After gaining my composure I went back into the restaurant and Jackie was smiling. Carrie said, “Jackie has something she wants to tell you.” I asked, “What is it Jackie?” She said, “Daddy, I’ve figured out a way that I can stay a kid?” I said, “Oh, you have, have you? How’s that?” Jackie said, “I’m going to die young.” I looked at Carrie in anger and asked, “What did you tell her?” (Thinking Carrie must have told her about her brain tumor while I was driving around in the minivan) Carrie said, “I didn’t tell her anything. She came up with this all on her own.”

I believe God was already revealing to Jackie and to us what was going to happen in the future. Jackie somehow had an awareness that she wasn't going to grow up and she was O.K. with that.



Saturday, August 22, 2009

"... Give Thanks In All Circumstances"

“Be joyful always; pray continually; give thanks in all circumstances, for this is God’s will for you in Christ Jesus.” (1 Thessalonians 5:8)

Written 10 days after Jackie's diagnosis:

I THANK GOD FOR ... the one year of healing I had from my dad's death prior to this crisis, the hope for quality of life for Jackie, our relationship with Christ, the closeness with Carrie and the kids, the fact that Jackie is not in any pain, family and friends and their tremendous outpouring of love (I never really knew how many friends I really had), the Bayside Auburn (at the time Sonrise) church staff, for Dan and Steve for riding with me on the flight home to Auburn from Saddleback, my small group, Mike Bivins and Dave Harrison picking me up from the Sacramento airport, the people praying around the world, the 5 wonderful years we have had with Jackie, every day God gives (each day is a gift from God), God showering me with what really matters in life.

Random thoughts at the time:

As a result I'm not so anal retentive anymore. I'm more spontaneous. The house doesn't have to be clean to have people over. Last Saturday I went to the Red Wagon restaurant with our family and friends and had a great time. I bought Jackie a hamster and we keep it in her room! Carrie was snoring the other night and I didn't even wake her up to say, "Stop it."

I know what matters! What used to bug me doesn't bug me anymore. I'm thankful that Jackie received Christ on New Year's Eve. I'm thankful Jackie is asking questions about heaven - What will it be like? Will I get to see Jesus right away? Will I get to see grandpa? Can I take my hamster with me? I thank God that I've thought more about heaven in the past 10 days than at any other time in my life.

Written a couple months after Jackie's death:

I THANK GOD FOR ... the nearly 1000 people that attended Jackie's funeral service and for the many people who have come to Christ as a result of Jackie's life and death (both children and adults). I'm thankful that Dave Dravecky, James Dobson, Rick Warren and David Jeremiah all contacted me to encourage and support me. I'm thankful that Carrie and I are still together. We will celebrate our 23rd wedding anniversary on October 11, 2009! Our other two kids (Josh and Jess) are doing well. Josh is in college and works and Jessica just started her senior year in high school and then wants to go to UCLA. I thank God that we stayed at Bayside Auburn (Sonrise) Church for 6 more years after Jackie passed for a total of 10 years. I'm thankful that we were able to start a third church (Conejo Church) that is doing well. I'm thankful that I now get to work with many families at Forest Lawn by doing personalized funeral services. I thank God I now get to train future lead pastors (church planters) who start churches on the West Coast through the EFCA West. I also get to coach people in leadership skills and I am hoping to help people in the future through grief coaching.

I'm thankful that Jackie never lost any cognitive ability, experienced little to no pain, and that she didn't die in a hospital hooked up to tubes but she passed away peacefully in my arms. I'm thankful that I have a daughter in heaven who I am going to see again someday!


A Leap of Faith!

When Jackie was younger (say age 3) she liked to get up on our kitchen counter and leap, and I mean leap, into my arms! The first time she did it I stood only about two feet away from her. She jumped and I easily caught her. She then got back on the counter and waved her hand signaling me to move back. I moved back a foot and she waved her hand again so I moved back another foot. This time she jumped about 4 feet and I caught her. We did this on a regular basis and as she got older, bigger and stronger I would move even further back. It was a sight to see her just leap with reckless abandon fully trusting that I would catch her!

A few weeks after her diagnosis Jackie lost her speech and she was losing her ability to walk. One time I carried her into the kitchen to get something to eat and she motioned for me to put her on the kitchen counter. I placed her on the counter and she stood straight up, knees shaking the whole time. She then looked me straight in the eye as if she was going to jump! So I positioned myself about a foot away so that if she just fell I would be right there to catch her.

I was not expecting what she did next. She signaled for me to move back! So I took one little step back. She signaled again for me to step back. I had a tear well up in my eye at this point. I stepped one more step back and she just went for it with all the strength her little body could muster. She jumped (really just fell forward) into my arms and I caught her and we both laughed.

That moment was one of the most amazing moments in my life. I have never witnessed such courage ever before or since!

Whenever I think I can't do something I think of Jackie and I jump!
... into my Father's arms,
... knowing that He will catch me.


Quote on courage:

With courage you will dare to take risks, have the strength to be compassionate, and the wisdom to be humble. Courage is the foundation of integrity. KESHAVAN NAIR

Jackie's Favorite Song

Jackie's favorite song was "You are my Sunshine." I used to sing the chorus to her on a regular basis. She couldn't get enough of it - she even thought that I wrote it! When I told her I didn't write it she didn't believe me. Below are part of the lyrics to the song along with a couple neat links to a couple different video versions of the song.

by Jimmie Davis & Charles Mitchell

You are my sunshine,
My only sunshine.
You make me happy
When skies are grey.
You'll never know, dear,
How much I love you.
Please don't take my sunshine away

The other nite, dear,
As I lay sleeping
I dreamed I held you in my arms.
When I awoke, dear,
I was mistaken
And I hung my head and cried.

You are my sunshine,
My only sunshine.
You make me happy
When skies are grey.
You'll never know, dear,
How much I love you.
Please don't take my sunshine away.

Link to creative version:

Link to instrumental (piano) version:

Coach John Wooden's Greatest Trial

When I was in junior high school I attended a UCLA vs. USC basketball game at Pauley Pavilion in Westwood with my church youth group. The atmosphere was electric!!! I'd found my calling! From that day forward I wanted to be a basketball player. I ended up playing in high school and college and still play to this day.

Fast forward about 20 years .... I planted a church in the Antelope Valley and Bill Sharman's (former Laker coach) daughter and grandkids attended my church. Bill called me one day and said he was speaking at an event in my area with John Wooden and asked if I'd like to attend and meet Coach Wooden? You bet! Bill personally introduced me to John Wooden, my hero. I brought my Bible for Coach to sign and asked, "Coach Wooden, would you please sign my Bible?" He looked straight into my eyes and said, "Oh no, Dave, I don't sign Bibles. I don't feel worthy." I was in shock. I didn't know what to say or how to respond. I just looked down for a second and then looked up at Coach. Then he said, "But in your case Dave I'm going to sign your Bible." He signed it, "Thank you, Dave, for your interest. John Wooden. 1 Cor. 13" Wow!

Five years later I was asked to preach the weekend services at Shepherd of the Hills Church in Porter Ranch, CA. In my message I shared about the importance of taking responsibility for our actions and not blaming others. I used a Wooden illustration .... When UCLA's 88 game win streak ended, the media was blaming various players for the loss. Wooden stepped up and said, "It's my fault. If you want to blame anybody - blame me!" So I walk out of the third service into the lobby and I'm greeting people and up walks Coach Wooden who says, "Nice sermon Dave." Unbelievable!

That night I attended a UCLA vs Illinois game at Pauley with the executive pastor (Tim) from SOTHC. Our seats were right behind the UCLA bench. Just prior to tip-off, Coach Wooden and his daughter made their way to their seats which were one row behind ours. I glanced over my shoulder and Coach is about 10 feet away. He waves to me, smiles and says, "Hi Dave!" I thought I had died and gone to heaven!

Two years ago I attended a fundraising dinner for the Simi High School basketball program and Coach Wooden was the speaker. At the end of his speech there was a Q&A time and I asked, "What is the hardest trial you have ever gone through?" He teared up and without hesitation said, "Losing my Nellie." Nellie Riley Wooden was John's high school sweetheart and they were married for 53 years. At the beginning of every basketball game he would look up into the stands and acknowledge his love for her. Coach Wooden still grieves for his Nellie. He will always grieve for his Nellie and I will always grieve for my Jackie.


p.s. Coach Wooden, in my humble opinion, is one of the greatest people in the 20th & 21st centuries. He is a man of values, who loves his Lord deeply and models true servant leadership.


John Wooden reciting a poem called, "Don't Look Back"

Monday, August 17, 2009

NEW Website for Celebrant Dave

Check out my new website at the link below:

Enjoy, Dave

Saturday, August 15, 2009


Dr. Pang predicted that Jackie would suffer as the brain stem tumor became more aggressive. He said that she would probably experience headaches, vomiting, and possibly lose her sight, speech, and hearing.

The good news is by God's grace Jackie experienced little to no suffering. Prior to having a brain stem tumor Jackie ran everywhere she went. She continued to do so for about a week after her diagnosis and then went from running to walking to crawling. This progression went quickly so that by the fourth week after her diagnosis we were carrying her around to where she wanted to go. Over a few weeks she did lose her speech but could grunt and would point to where she wanted us to take her. However, she still could laugh and did so quite often. :-)

A brain tumor can be like roots on a tree that can grow in a million and one different directions in the brain affecting various motor functions and body parts as it spreads.

The amazing thing was that she never lost any cognitive ability. I was playing an ELMO video game with her two days before she died. Fortunately Jackie never experienced any headaches or vomiting. She never lost her sight although her eyes did become crossed. But she said they didn't hurt and that she could see just fine. She never lost her hearing. Hospice helped us the last couple weeks of her life and she was on morphine for the last two days. She passed away very peacefully on a Saturday morning in my arms.



A good friend asked what Jackie's symptoms were. Basically, you couldn't tell anything was wrong from just looking at her. It started with a little drool coming from the side of her mouth. Her gate was also a bit off. One time when we were at a Ross Store shopping for a dress she fell into a rack of clothes. She took it in stride and got back up laughing not realizing why she had done that. At that point we felt something was wrong so we took her to Kaiser. They did a full check up including a blood sample. Everything came back negative. They said there was nothing wrong with her other than she probably had a cold or head virus. Regarding the drool, they said that kids her age can regress in their behavior and that it was probably nothing to worry about.

Two weeks went by and nothing changed so we took her back and this time they did a spinal tap and a CAT scan. Again the tests were negative. Two weeks later she had and MRI. I was there with her the morning of the MRI and then flew from Sacramento to Burbank to speak at Saddleback Church. When my plane landed my mom called and said, "You better sit down." I said, "Mom, just tell me - what's up?" She said, "The MRI found a tumor at the base of Jackie's brain." I said, "I'll take the next plane home." I had a couple friends from church pick me up from the airport and drive me home. Carrie and I met with Dr. Pang the next day.

"Hi, this is Dave Dravecky"

The telephone rang. “Hello, is this Dave Page?” I wondered who was asking. I said, “Yes it is.” He said, “This is Dave Dravecky. A mutual friend shared with me that your daughter has a brain tumor …. I just wanted to call to encourage you.” Dave went on to share about how he felt when it was discovered he had cancer. We talked for a few minutes and I’ll never forget one thing he said: "Dave, most Christians in America pray that God would take the trial, disease, or pain away, whereas Christians in China pray that God would give them strong backs to sustain them during the trial."

I began to pray for a strong back.

Jackie passed away in my arms a week later.

Thanks Dave Dravecky,

There is hope,


P.S. If you’ve never heard Dave Dravecky’s story it’s worth hearing. He is a former pro baseball pitcher who lost his pitching arm to cancer, yet he is full of hope and offers help to others who are going through adversity. Below are links to his personal website and ministry website:

Wednesday, August 12, 2009

There's No Place Like Heaven!

Jackie's favorite movie by far was the Wizard of Oz. She watched it over and over again weeks before her passing. We would often watch it together. One time I shared with her that my favorite part of the movie was when it switched from b&w to color. After that, every time she watched it and it came to that point in the movie, she would come find me and say, "Daddy, it's your favorite part!" I found out later that the original movie wasn't in black and white but was done with sephia (brownish hues) tones. Whenever Dorothy was in Kansas it was in sephia and whenever she was in Oz it was in color .... I know, TMI.

Anyway, here is a wonderful comment from a dear friend (Lynda Mlynar) regarding Jackie and the Wizard of Oz and coming home. Used with permission.

"Hi Dave. I just read your last 2 blogs .... I was just thinking about Jackie last week. I took Lyndsay (Lynda's daughter) to see Wicked for her birthday last week. As we watched Glinda singing, I thought of Jackie and how much she loved watching Wizard of Oz over and over those last few months. For a while I was sad thinking about how much she would have loved to see such a show and would have found so much joy and amazement in seeing and hearing all of these other details and songs about a story she loved. That made me think about the place God has prepared for us. While we have an idea of what it will be like when we get where Jackie is, it is only a glimpse of the joy and amazement of heaven. What an amazing God .... I can only imagine you entering heaven and having Jackie once again come running, saying "Daddy's home!" . While I'm sure that day is a long time from now, the thought of it touches my heart. Give Carrie my love." LYNDA

I can only imagine,


BTW, Jackie loved the song "Over the Rainbow" from the Wizard of Oz.

Below are 2 links to my favorite versions of the song:

Eva Cassidy's version: