Our daughter died. – 2/19/2016

How do people live without hope? Rather . . . how do people live without an assured hope? I regularly meet skeptics (atheists, agnostics) – even this week – who have no hope for life after death, living in the moment, somehow believing that the strength of their youth is more than just a vapor that vanisheth away. And I meet those who have just a vague hope, a mere “I hope so” – even this week – who suppose that their religion, their church, their nominal faith in a nominal god will “hopefully” get them into Heaven.

My wife (Bonnie) and I (Dave) just lost our daughter, Elizabeth, to brain cancer. Not really ‘lost’ though . . . it’s just that she went on Home a tad before us. Assuredly Home, no doubt, saved by God’s grace just nine years ago, not very long after we thought we had truly LOST her . . . but I’m already ahead of myself. We want to tell you something about Liz’s life, hoping that it will be an encouragement to you if you, too, have an assured hope of Heaven or, if your hope is vague, that it will be a challenge for you to wake up. A ‘vague hope’ is no hope at all.

In the account to follow, Dave’s comments will be in italics and Bonnie’s in plain text.

June 5, 1988 . . . We had visited a large church in Ohio. On the way home, Joshua (age 7) said, “I have a headache. I always have a headache when we come home from church.”
“How come?” queried Dad.
Lizzie (age 4, almost 5) said, “Probably because there’s too many words in church.”
Dad asked, “What kind of words?”
“Words from the pastor,” she said.

Typical of many American families, our children had grown up in church. Elizabeth was born on a Thursday and within days she was in the church nursery. We belonged to Baptist churches and went faithfully Sunday morning, Sunday night, and Wednesday night. We worked on bus routes, the children right along with us, and taught in Junior Church. In short, we were very busy doing the kinds of things an active church needed done.

Early on we realized that Lizzie had a very strong will. At the same time, she went through a number of years (ages 2-5) where she was quite clingy to us and not at all sociable to people outside our immediate family – even to grandparents, to their dismay. She was very well behaved and I could take her with me anywhere – shopping, to doctor and dental appointments, or to visit friends – and she would sit quietly when instructed to do so.

I do recall a brief conversation when she was quite young (about 4) when she asked me questions about Heaven and Hell and how one gets saved. I answered them, hoping she understood, and that was that. We moved every 3-4 years since Dave was an Air Force officer, so we were in many different churches over the years. Liz continued to attend and participate in youth activities, but we were quite sure that she was not a true believer, but rather just going along to get along.

Even in her high school years, she was pretty regular in attending with the rest of us. She would go to summer camps and make “decisions” for the Lord, but it was never real. (Lots of words, but the will wouldn’t budge.) There were several times when we challenged her behavior, imploring her to examine herself, because we saw no evidence in her of conversion, genuine repentance, a new spiritual life.

These were tough years for us as parents, but especially difficult for me because I wanted a daughter who was godly, kind, helpful, one that shared my interests and had common ground with me. My most serious concern was that if she died, she would end up in Hell, dying in her sins and her stubbornness, without forgiveness and without hope.

It wasn’t like she was worried about being a false convert, a “Christian” in name only. She, like many other church-going youth around her – and most adult church-goers today (perhaps you) – insisted that she was “OK” because she believed in Jesus and had asked Him to save her. But superficial profession without true repentance doesn’t save, as is evident in the lives of many ‘professing’ Christians.

Liz and I would have serious shouting matches that were hard on the whole family. Especially on me, which contributed to the aggravation of my Tourette’s symptoms in my adult years. She wanted her way and was very determined to have it. Don’t get me wrong, she was often very helpful, kind, smiling, funny, well behaved, but there was always an undercurrent of rebellion. I cried many tears over her, pleading with God to bring her to salvation.

She resented my home schooling efforts, so in 8th grade we allowed her to go back into public school. In later years, when she was a believer and had reconciled with God, she admitted that she would have gotten a better education if she had stayed home with us. I appreciated her admitting that because it showed me that she had a complete change of mind and heart in so many areas.

When she was in 9th grade, she was moved by the pastor’s appeal at the end of a sermon and asked me to go forward with her. (Dave was out of town.) She stated to him that she hadn’t really believed before, and now she wanted to come forward and publicly say that she had gotten things right with God. The pastor said we would talk about baptism later. She and I stood up in front of the congregation and many people came to shake hands and tell us how happy they were about her decision. I hoped this was sincere, but knew that only time can tell whether an individual has really been born again into God’s kingdom. In retrospect, I think it was to appease me, although she may have been sincere in the moment. These emotional decisions rarely last.

Genuine repentance is a change of mind and heart that leads to a change in action, a change of direction in life, a recognition that your sins are wicked and Hell is deserved, a heart cry to God for mercy. When coupled with trust in Jesus Christ, whose shed blood washes away your sins, whose resurrection gives you an assured hope of eternal life, you’ve met the conditions for God to regenerate you, give you a new heart, and indwell you with the presence and power of the Holy Spirit to actually live like God intends you to live.

Elizabeth lived with us at home during her college years. She worked a lot and went to school full time. On rare occasions I got her to go to some church function with me. In the summer of 2004, there was an incident where she was only a hair’s breadth from death. We won’t share details, except to note that it was a pattern of sin in her life that brought her to crisis. God was trying to get her attention, and sometimes it takes extreme measures – with any of us. Tragically, most lost people refuse to respond to circumstances that God provides to provoke them to repentance. In Liz’s case, it was another two years before this event bore fruit, but it was the starting point.

After things had calmed down a few days later, she and I and Dave sat at our dining room table and had a long and difficult heart-to-heart talk with her. Dad did most of the talking. He spoke of his own difficulties in growing up Roman Catholic and then becoming an atheist at age 13. When a young classmate of his befriended him and talked to him about Christ and how to be born again, he eventually became a believer and his life was totally changed. He now had purpose, hope, peace, and the assurance of eternal life.

Dave cried, he pleaded, he explained. Never have I seen him so passionate and concerned about one of the children. The passion and concern is always there. I confess it’s not as visible as it might be. She listened and took it all in. He encouraged her to read the Bible, to think about all he had said, and to ask him questions. There is no doubt that she knew we were absolutely sure about our beliefs and what the Scripture said. We were genuine children of God in her eyes. But she was still resisting.

I believe that this was the point at which Bonnie and I finally got in sync about our daughter. While Bonnie certainly had doubts through the years about Liz’s spiritual condition, what I observed was that my wife was usually in denial. That provoked conflict within the marriage. She would, on occasion, block my efforts to challenge Liz’s heart; sometimes she would take offense when Dad sought to reprove her little girl. None of that was good for my neurological health, either. I confess that I yielded at times to the temptation that many dads suffer: if mom insists on taking charge – Or else! – it’s often easier to let her do so. That violates God’s order for the family and everyone suffers.

At the end of 2005, Dave and I were preparing to move down to Rockford, Illinois, to be near her brother and his wife. Elizabeth was setting up an apartment near the campus so that she could finish school. She was due to graduate in the Spring of 2006. The railroad offered her a job upon graduation and she was going to Portland, Oregon. We went up to the graduation ceremony and then she traveled west to her new position.

This job did not go well. She would call and talk to me about everything, but crusty old boys at the railroad had no use for a young, attractive blonde just out of college. They made things difficult for her. Sometimes I dreaded the calls because all I could do was listen and try not to get upset myself.

My wife is blessed with a gift in this area. I marvel at her ability to listen patiently while someone needs to vent. I don’t have that gift – my talent is to generate solutions to fix the problem! But that’s not always helpful.

In the meantime, our son Joshua and his wife moved from the Rockford area to Urbana, Illinois, where he had a job in the computer department at the university there. Now they were a three hour drive south of us.

In October of 2006, Dave and I were driving down to visit Josh and Kristie for the first time since their move. We were getting close to Urbana and decided to stop one more time at a rest area. Dave went in to the facility and I was still sitting in the car. My phone rang and it was Liz. She sounded stressed, emotional, and on the verge of tears. I think to this day that the Holy Spirit told me to say these words, “Liz, do you think that what is really wrong, is that you need to get right with God?” A pause, and then, “Yes, I think you’re right.” At that point, I saw Dave coming and I told her to hold on, I was going to put Dad on the phone.

He talked to her a good while, telling her what to do next. Sometimes, a solution is exactly what is needed. In the course of the conversation he told her to get with the pastor and his wife from the church she was attending and talk with them also. Dave encouraged her to do serious heartfelt business with the Lord. The main issues, of course, were between Elizabeth and the Lord. But since she was across the country, she also needed to get face-to-face encouragement from a couple she could trust. One has to be broken in spirit to repent and turn to God, to ask His forgiveness for sin in your life, to turn your life over to Him completely. Later that day, after she talked with that couple, they told her to call us and let us know how it was going.

It was about 10:00 p.m. that night when my phone rang and it was Liz. She was excited, happy, emotional, but she said, “Mom, I just wanted you to be the first one to know that I’ve gotten things right with God. I feel such relief, and peace. I know it’s for real this time.” She was going to be baptized at the church and the pastor and his wife would continue to befriend her. Dave talked to her a bit and then she said she would call again the next day.

By December, she had amicably left the employment of the railroad for a job in Columbus, Ohio. When I look back now, I remember seeing great changes in her and I was almost afraid to hope that our relationship would be the kind I really wanted with my daughter. For the first time she actually seemed to share our values and talk ‘just like us.’ There was a great interest in attending church and finding Christian friends there. She was faithful to a church where she made at least one very special lifelong friend, a lady somewhat older than herself that she stayed in touch with in the years to follow. They sat together in the services and were both an encouragement to each other outside of church, too.

Elizabeth is a very loving person and does many thoughtful things for her friends. We had not experienced that side of her for a long time. Now, she was concerned about us, sent things that she thought we would like, and called me every day to talk. A lot of that talk was now about spiritual things. She would ask me questions about the Bible and doctrine and tell me about the preaching and services at her church. I would share bits of Scripture and talk about things I had read. There were days when I marveled at her transformation from rebellious young lady to kindred spirit. She began to love hymns again. We sent her tracts to pass out to people and encouraged her to share her faith with others, which she did.

That Spring, she ended the job there and came home to spend the summer with us. For the first time I looked forward to that, but still wasn’t sure how it would go. She got a position with a job placement agency, working with a friend of mine who was a believer and they encouraged each other. That job didn’t last long so she applied at Chrysler and was hired for the Summer to work on the line at our local plant. In the meantime, she was a vital part of our home church group which met several times a week for study, prayer, and fellowship. We have long been a family that likes to take walks and she and I would do the trail whenever we could. It was pleasant, we enjoyed each other’s company, and talked a lot on those walks.

She told me how irritating Dad and I had been in her growing up years, but now she saw things differently. She was thankful that we had challenged her and never given up in trying to help her get her spiritual life right. The difference in our relationship and that with her dad was like night and day. Her conversion made all of the difference. She was happy and productive and looked forward to whatever would come next. That Fall, word came about a job she had applied for quite a long time before this. It was an entry position in Wells Fargo Bank and she accepted. This meant moving to Phoenix, Arizona.

She found an apartment, finished her training programs, and settled down to life in Phoenix. She called one day in January to say she had met a man that she liked a lot. Now, here’s what is interesting about Andy. He is an engineer, so right away we thought this was more promising than associations she had earlier in her life. However, Andy wasn’t a believer. She began talking to him, giving him things to read like tracts, Ray Comfort books and materials, and listening to some talks and preaching on CDs. He seemed interested. Right up front, she said to him, “I can’t marry someone who is not a Bible believing, born again Christian, and I can’t marry someone that my dad disapproves of.” When she relayed this to me, I danced a little jig on the other end of the phone, because I never thought I would hear her say such things!

Of course, we started praying for Andy’s conversion. In April, I flew out to Phoenix to visit. Liz and I had gone to church one Sunday, had dinner with a family from there after the service, and on the way home to her apartment, we talked about Andy. She was scheduled to play tennis that afternoon, so I asked her if she thought he would come over to her apartment and spend some time with me so we could get to know each other.

We spent a lot of time talking about spiritual things. I explained our family background and what it means to be born again. We talked a lot about how many, many people in churches are really false converts because they have never fully repented (a change of mind that results in a changed life and a new direction) with the broken heart and spirit that God requires, and put their faith in Christ. I knew that he came from a Catholic background (like Dave) so we talked about that as well. Andy was not a practicing Catholic. There had been a good bit of heartache in his past and he was very interested in what I was saying. I also reiterated that Liz couldn’t marry a man who didn’t know the Lord. We had a great time talking. I went back to Illinois and told Dave that I really liked him and if he became a Christian, he would be a great match for Elizabeth.

To make a long story short, Andy did become a follower of Christ (see Appendix 1 below), they did get married (after he had made a solo trip to Illinois to state his intentions and ask for our blessing), and they settled into married life. The future looked bright and for the first time, I thought, life was peaceful, happy, and fulfilling for both of them.

Sadly, in February of 2011, Elizabeth was diagnosed with stage IV Glioblastoma Multiforme, a brain tumor about 6 cm in diameter, that needed immediate removal. Wow! What a blow that diagnosis was. Despite a successful (first) surgery, we were told she may have only a few months to live, because of the aggressive nature of this cancer — it’s basically impossible to remove it all — it just keeps growing back . . . fast. Here she was, a fairly young Christian, a new husband, big plans for family and career and the bomb fell. Surely there were tough moments in the beginning, but overall her attitude was just remarkable. I knew that I had to be strong and supportive. I knew Dave would be and he would know how to give good solid advice each step of the way. This phase of life would test all of us.

There were moments early on when I wondered why we must go through such tough trials. A Christian understands that God’s Word teaches that trials will come. They can be used for God’s glory. The result can be more strength and faith. God does not necessarily send these into our lives – this is a fallen world under sin’s curse, after all – but He may allow them for His own purposes: “All things work together for good to them that love God, to them who are the called according to His purpose.” Liz cited Romans 8:28 regularly. She was never one to wallow in pity or to give up, but to pragmatically accept the situation and then make the best of it.

She once said to me, “Mom, do you think that the Lord might let me live longer if I use this disease to talk to people about Him?” “Yes, it’s very possible,” I replied. That was her mind set. She wanted to use this cancer to talk to people about how they, too, will die at some point, and they need to reconcile and do business with God before that physical death, to have eternal life with him after the body dies. This hope and certain knowledge of our eternal future as a child of God is the foundation of all of our hope and the fact that Jesus Christ, God’s only begotten Son, is the only one who has defeated death in His resurrection.

I won’t go into great detail about the disease except to say that Elizabeth had a total of four brain surgeries, participated in three research trials, and was blessed by God to live almost 5 years from the onset. For most of the last 5 years, she functioned as a normal, witty, loving, beautiful young woman. She played tennis several times a week, went on trips with family members, took care of her husband and home, and talked to everyone she could about getting born again. Yet each surgery took a lot out of her, and her energy level dropped lower and lower – all of her medications certainly took their toll.

Summer of 2011 - a few months after her 1st surgery

Often people would say to her,” How do you cope with this terrible thing?” That was her cue to tell about her spiritual walk with the Lord and how she got strength from Him. She had the hope of Heaven so death was not the end, but a beautiful beginning of life with the Lord and other family members and believers that were also saved. She urged people to take tracts, look at our website, read the Bible, ask her questions, and discover for themselves the truth of the Scripture so they could have everlasting life, too.

She was always right up front about what was happening, what the disease was about, the lack of support for brain cancer when breast cancer steals the show for public support and funding. “Not to diminish the cancer experience for breast cancer sufferers, because I know it is very real and painful, but after all, you can live without some body parts, but not without a brain.”

In the last 5 years, she traveled with her husband on a month long trip all over the country, went to Washington D.C. (where she was born) twice with me, enjoyed being with friends and playing in tennis tournaments and using her wit with her medical team out in Los Angeles. They said her case was rare because a lot of tumor patients lose personality and function early on. She never changed until after the last surgery, from which she didn’t really fully recover. When the last experimental trial came up and her sister-in-law Kristie decided to open up a fund for her to help offset the costs, we were all thankful and amazed at the response, and you will all never fully know what that meant to us.

Liz and Sherisa - see Appendix 2

She was truly an inspiration to many, a great blessing to her family, and a stellar example of how not to let a terminal disease ruin your life. Her one disappointment is that she did not really see other people come to Christ because of her words and work, but that story is not ended yet. We will leave you with an appeal in her own words on that subject. The best thing any of you can do to honor her memory is to carefully and prayerfully consider what she says.

In 2011, Liz asked her dad what book he would recommend for someone to read – something bigger than a tract. Dave decided that he wasn’t entirely happy with anything available at the time and so decided to write his book, One Heartbeat from Hell – Plus 11 other compelling reasons to become a Christian. (That’s a free e-book you can download from the free bookstore on this site.)

For quite some time, Elizabeth had been playing tennis regularly with J…… . She had talked to him about salvation and faith in Christ, but he was not responsive. He admitted that his parents were born again believers. The book that her dad wrote was the book that she had in mind to give to J…… . Here is the letter she wrote to go with her gift:

Dear J.…..,

I sincerely hope you will take some time to read this book. I have a deep concern for your spiritual well being and I have been feeling a weight to share this with you for some time. I know your parents have concerns as well, but please know that this is coming from a friend, someone who views you and respects you on a completely different level than your family.

For many years, I was in complete and utter rebellion towards God and His Word. Deep down, I knew the truth as well as what I needed to do in order to have assurance of my salvation and a relationship with Jesus Christ. I pushed Him away and found myself alone and in despair. I was 2500 miles away from anyone and anything I knew before I realized that I needed Him and did not want to feel lonely any longer. I repented of my rebellious ways, my horribly sin filled life, and gave my life to Christ on Friday, October 13th, 2006. I had trials shortly after my conversion, but I believe that they were a test of my new found faith. Over the next few years, I had no idea how much I would learn to rely on God in prayer, other Christians, and my Bible.

This year, as you know, I received the diagnosis of Stage IV Glioblastoma Multiforme (brain cancer). I am ashamed to admit it, but there were some days early on that I did blame God. I wondered, “How could this happen to me? Is this punishment for my previous life? Was I living so out of God’s will that this had to happen?” But it didn’t take long for a complete sense of peace to settle over me.

Because I am a born again Christian, not only had my heart changed, but also my mind, my life, and my perspective . . . on EVERYTHING! God is not punishing me with cancer, He is helping me make my days count. He has given me an open door to share the Gospel with complete strangers, family, and friends that I would not have had the courage to otherwise. God controls my health, He can take me today, or keep me around as long as I am fulfilling what He had commissioned me to do. If my faith rested in the doctors I see for treatment, my prognosis would be bleak to say the least. My faith rests in God Almighty who created every cell in my body, including the mutant ones. You see, I would much rather be a Christian, one who is assured of their eternal life in Heaven, and have a deadly disease, than someone who is lost and has no hope. I have hope! I have a future that I am looking forward to!

Many people wonder how God has allowed such suffering to happen in the world today. God did not wish this upon us, He is simply holding up His end of the deal, which man rejected. We minions on this earth will never fully understand everything, and I look forward to my arrival and meeting with my Heavenly Father to gain some clarity . . . who knows, I may not even care at that point!

Ultimately, J……, I am asking you to consider what I have said, consider some of the points in the book I am giving you, and soften your heart to be receptive to God and His message.



– drdave@truthreallymatters.com
– bonnie@truthreallymatters.com

Andy & Liz with Ernie Haase

Appendix 1

Below is a love note sent from Andy to Liz not long after his conversion . . .

Hi Sweetie!

Good morning.

I slept for a while after you and I talked on the phone, then I woke up sweating. I wanted to ask you something that you would promise me. If for some reason God takes me from the Earth before I get to talk to my family about becoming Christians, would you talk to them or send them information? I would really appreciate it. I guess this all started when I looked at the Birthday list my Mom sent me today and my subconscious started going and thinking about them while I was sleeping.

I also wanted to send you a list of Promises I have for you:

I promise to keep God first in my life.
I promise to be loving and kind and treat you according to the Bible.
I promise to keep you and our future family safe.
I promise to financially take care of you and our future family.

Overall, I promise to do my best every day for God, you, and family.

Love you,


Appendix 2

My name is Sherisa Victory. I met Liz in the fall of 2007 when she moved to AZ and starting attending my church. One of the first things I noticed about Liz was her sense of humor and quick wit. At first I wasn’t sure how to take it, but she grew on me, and I can say I don’t think we have ever spent more than a few minutes together where she hasn’t made me laugh. Liz and I grew apart when she met Andy and my life became busy, but we never lost touch.

I remember the night she caught me on Facebook and told me about the tumor and cancer. I quickly told other friends we had at church and we all went to visit her. I distinctly remember having selfish thoughts – how easy it would be to let the friendship fade so I wouldn’t have to deal with the pain of growing closer to her, only to lose her. I chose not to do that and I strongly believe the Lord led me to that decision. When Liz realized how short life is, she had more desire to spread the Good News of salvation through Jesus Christ to everyone she met. I watched her openly share her story of brain cancer and that she was certain of where she was going when she dies, because of her personal relationship with Jesus.

She would gladly share with the person she was talking to about how they could know for sure, too. She quickly pulled out tracts her father wrote and gave them away. We would get together often for lunch or some other fun activity and talk and talk and talk. We both definitely share the gift of gab. Through these many visits our views on the Bible and its truths were shared. It was a comfort to me to have a friend who enjoyed talking about her faith and even challenged me to search out the truths found in God’s Word.

I watched Liz grow stronger in her relationship with the Lord over the past few years. I am very thankful God placed Liz in my life and that I didn’t choose to abandon the relationship when she told me about her cancer. I remember being at a Cardinals game with her a couple of years ago and telling her how I had those thoughts, but was so glad I continued to get to know her and be her friend. I told her I would have missed out on so much.

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