My Darkest Hour - My Brightest Day

The Doctor, a personable young woman, went out of her way to compliment us on doing “everything” a good parent could by getting the child to a doctor and on to the hospital. Later we realized she was just trying to ease the pain we would surely face when daybreak found the baby no longer alive. But there were forces at work the likes of which this doctor was not aware…

In April 1987 I was blessed with the birth of my second child; a man-cub I named John Reece. When you have a girl and a boy they call that a millionaire’s family. And I think I know why. I felt like the richest man on earth. But nine months later I found myself facing the darkest hour a man could know. My baby boy was sick - and getting sicker.


I found myself facing the darkest hour a man could know. My baby boy was sick - and getting sicker...


All weekend long he cried. His mother and I tried everything to ease his pain, and when the meds knocked him out he slept. But when he woke up he cried… and cried. And I cried. Then he quit crying. He went to the sitters on Monday, and she said he just wanted to lie in her lap and sleep all day. When he wouldn’t wake up on Tuesday we decided it was time for him to be seen by a doctor.

The doctor drew some blood and did a quick test. Then he said something that grips my heart to this day, “Drive him to Children’s Hospital as quickly as possible. It would take too long to get an ambulance.” The Doctor called ahead and they were waiting for us. And a spinal tap confirmed every parent’s worst nightmare. My baby boy had spinal meningitis! Now there are two types of meningitis, viral and bacterial. His was bacterial – the kind with the highest mortality rate.

I must now confess that if John Reece Kepler had to rely on the faith of his father alone to live and not die, he probably would not have seen another sunrise. I looked at the pale white complexion of that lifeless ragdoll of a child and it took all the fortitude I could muster to keep from collapsing on the floor. But thank God I was not alone in this battle.

After a short while family began to arrive at the hospital – praying family. First my parents, then my sister Linda and her husband Dan, and then my brother Joe and his wife Brenda. We stood in a circle around John’s bed to pray. But I didn’t have any prayer in me… I was whipped. And dad was whipped. He’d stepped into the room, and at the first sight of John he lost his color too. You know, it’s wonderful how God puts the right person in the right place at the right time. My brother-in-law Dan Oden led the prayer. And he prayed a bold prayer, a powerful prayer, a Word of God prayer… the kind of prayer you want when you’re at that place in life you hoped you’d never see.

And my spirits started to lift. A slight hint of boldness began to eek its way back into my heart again. In warfare there sometimes comes a point where the shift in momentum is obvious. Soon the doctor came in to check on John. “This child is 100% improved over the last half hour!” he declared. And we rejoiced.

But the battle was not yet over. It was actually at this point the personable young doctor offered her words of encouragement that failed to mask her expectation of what the night would bring. And when she came in the next morning and found the child still alive, her amazement was just as evident.

All in all John spent 10 days and nights in a bed in Children’s Hospital. And during those 10 days we were counseled on what we might encounter as a result of such a devastating illness. We were warned of the possibility of deafness, epilepsy, learning or behavioral disabilities as well as decreased intelligence. But all I could think was, “I don’t care! I don’t care what condition he’s in. I just want my boy to live!”

Now I might sound like a father without objectivity if I told you that John is perfect. So I’ll just say that his recovery was 100%. I’m not aware of a single lingering hint of the terrible battle he fought and won. His healing was and is complete. To God be the Glory!

I’ve heard people say, “God must have something special for him to have saved him from such a sure death.” But I don’t agree. Oh, I believe God has something special for him… but no more than he has something special for you and for me. So why was John healed to go on to a full and happy life when others die? I don’t pretend to have all the answers, but one thing I know – spiritual warfare was waged… and our side was victorious!

So John, know that God loves you and He has a plan for your life. And son, it’s a Wonderful Life!

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