Ours was a divine connection for sure! God introduced Steve Donohoe to me in a dream around September of 2010.
In my dream I stood behind this man that I believed to be around 60 years old, unable to see his face. Placing my hands on his head, I prayed for his healing. As I prayed I became aware that he had undergone radiation to treat his brain cancer, unsuccessfully.
That same night I also dreamed of people sitting in a church praying for this man.
I woke up convinced that it was a prophetic dream and that God intended to use me to perform a healing miracle and posted on my facebook wall asking if anyone knew someone of that description with brain cancer. No one did.
I asked my mother if she knew anyone and she choked up telling me just days before she had heard a phone message from an old friend of my brothers saying he was diagnosed with terminal brain cancer. This friend was in his early 60’s and a staunch atheist.
Was this the man from my dream?
After a day or so in prayer I determined that it was and nervously called this total stranger to tell him of my dream and to tell him that God wanted to use me to heal him.
He hesitantly agreed to let me come by and lay hands on him to pray for his healing after I explained the details, complete with the failed radiation therapy, and so began our three year friendship.
The first time I prayed for him I was nervous. I thought perhaps then and there, right on the spot, he would be totally healed. I felt the power of God when I prayed. Perhaps he did too, but there would be no way of knowing if God healed him immediately unless his speech, which was sometimes slow in coming, had been improved.
His speech would only worsen over time; near the end, he couldn’t speak at all. By then I was firmly convinced God allowed his speech to be taken so he would stop speaking death over himself, as he did frequently, until he could no longer talk. I told him as much too.
He lived in a one room, low rent apartment for poor seniors in downtown Chattanooga. I could tell he was lonely that first visit and suggested we head out to the Chattanooga Market for snacks and conversation.
One of the venders at the market, a middle aged man with greying hair and beard, stopped us to say hi to Steve and ask how he was feeling. Steve said a word or two and lumbered on. He lumbered, slightly dragging one leg after the other that is; his walk further complicated by one shoulder and arm hanging loose having lost control of its movement in a squabble with his brother years ago when he had fallen from the porch.
By the prompting of the Spirit I slipped away from Steve and weaved my way back to his friend. A conversation revealed that he was part of the church congregation that was praying for Steve’s healing in my dream.
Confirmation on day one I had found the right cancer victim.
Aside from occasionally stopping in other times during the week, almost every Friday night I would get off work and head over to Steve’s apartment. Usually he took me out to eat, which was generous of him as I knew his finances were tight. I would end the evening by laying hands on him and praying for his healing. The prayers would last awhile at times and encompass much more than his physical healing; I prayed for his salvation, for our families, for God to make Himself real to us. Afterward we would sit in silence and bask in the presence of God that would fill the room. He always received my prayers eagerly.
Once, when his brother passed away, I remember pulling up in front of his apartment building bringing him home from an outing and holding hands while sitting in the car praying while tears streamed down his face.
This was not the same man that had once bitterly opposed God, religion, believers.
Steve had been given 3 to 6 months to live sometime in the middle of 2010, right before I met him. I remember how I scolded him when he bought a tombstone and had it pre-engraved with the year 2011, or the time he told reporters when interviewed on Christmas while hanging out with the Occupy people on the court lawn that he would be dead within a few months. The reporter sealed his words in print in a caption under his photo in the Chattanooga Times for everyone to read and believe. Frustrating!
It was an uphill battle for me to believe against his unbelief.
He had the most aggressively growing brain cancer but when he had the first MRI months after I had been praying for him he was told by shocked doctors that it had not grown. For awhile after that his faith and hope began to grow, but he still never voiced anything but his prognosis. (There wasn’t any growth shown on his next MRI either, and he opted out of checking again after that)
After miraculously making it through 2011, Steve asked my brother one day to give him a ride to Coolidge Park. He stated simply that he needed a ride there because he was going to get saved. My brother dropped him off there and some random believer approached him by the carousel and laid out the plan of salvation before leading Steve in prayer to accept the Lord.
I picked him up from the park that day and, beaming ear to ear, he announced to me he had been saved.
We walked by a friend of his selling shaved ice on the way to the car and Steve told him, ‘I just met a man that saved me! I am going to heaven.’
He didn’t quite grasp the theology, but I believe his heart was sincere and that Christ gave him new life that day.
Many months later he had a bad seizure that landed him in the hospital. This experience stole what faith he had in God for his salvation and for his recovery. He announced to me when I visited him there that he would not be having a Christian burial and refused my suggestion to be baptized.
I have many found memories of our time together. Once when he was dead set on moving into a hospice nursing home, which he eventually did anyway, I began cleaning his apartment on a regular basis in the hopes he would feel more comfortable to stay, he did. He had wanted to just speed things along; give up, die. I built a book shelf for him and tried to decorate his little room into a home. The mini Christmas tree I put up that first Christmas stayed put until it made since again a year later.
We ate out often. God bless him, he had the worst table manners. I guess he decided since he was dying anyway he didn’t care two beans what others thought. Perhaps he always ate with his fingers in public and slopped food carelessly all over his wrinkled and already dirty clothes prior to his cancer. I can’t be sure. I got used to his strange habits quickly though and we became odd but constant friends.
I was suffering deeply during that period of my life and spending time with Steve kept my pain in perspective.
I believed so strongly God would heal him, even though in my dream I never actually saw him healed, I only saw myself laying hands on his head while praying for healing.
Life happened and towards the end of 2012, after two years of no obvious deterioration in Steve’s health, aside from the siezure that landed him in the hospital that one time, my visits became less frequent and went from weekly to bi-weekly and once it may have even gone a month.
At the beginning of 2013 he moved into the hospice nursing home. I would go visit there, bring a Wendy’s burger or an ice cream. We would go out on the terrace and I would sit with him, often in silence. He could no longer speak. I still prayed with him. We still basked in God’s presence afterward. He still refused baptism.
I took Forrest to see him one day after church and as he was walking us out in his hospital gown, open in the back, bear butt showing, a nurse followed him questioning him like he was a child over and over, ‘Where are you going?’
His answer each time was only, ‘F-you!’
Forrest thought it was hilarious. I guess he still had the ability to speak a word or two after all!
At the end of July I got the news that my father passed away suddenly. I stopped in to see Steve before I left to go have my fathers body cremated and brought home for a funeral. Steve wasn’t doing good at all.
I again stopped to see him before I even came back to my house when I returned from SC. He was barely holding on then. As I was walking back down the hall of the hospice nursing home pondering if all the prayers had been in vain I noticed a door was open to a room that I had never seen in before. I saw this stained glass window and it gave me peace. I knew God was assuring me that Steve had eternal life. I didn’t know if I would see him again this side of heaven.
Not many nights later I felt strongly compelled to go visit after hours and had to slip in with one of the employees who had entrance keys to get in to see him. I spent an hour with Steve and The Lord. It was such a blessing to hold his hand and stroke his face and have one last prayer session with him. Even though he was somewhere between life and death at this point, I was believing and praying for his healing.
He had been wanting to go for some time though and made that clear to me when he made the decision to go into the nursing home. I stopped pressing him so much to believe for healing after that.
He died the next day, August 7th 2013.
I don’t understand all of Gods plans or purposes in our relationship but I know that in a very difficult season of my life, when I was feeling heart wrenching pain often, spending time with Steve, entering into his struggle with brain cancer and determining to do all I could to show him God was real and cared for him personally, was what got me through my own pain without self destructing into total self pity. It was a mutually beneficial relationship. We were an odd pair, but I loved him with all of my heart.
I learned that sometimes if you ask to do big things for God, and to walk in miracle working power, He may ask you to lead a very ordinary and hidden life growing in grace and learning patience through loving those He gives you to love.
This is my brother and I at his memorial service. I wore flowers in my hair all day in honor of his memory. He had been a grateful dead, tie dye making, hippy most of his life. When visiting him in hospice after his health began deteriorating, the nurses kept a dead CD playing on repeat. I’m certain he’s in heaven now. I am no theologian and won’t try to defend this knowing with anything other than the truth of God’s voice to my heart.
The whole of his life may have not been lived with a grateful heart or with a desire to glorify God, but I see how in his death God was glorified.
I am confident that day at the park he humbly accepted salvation and God remained faithful even when Steve was faithless. Satan lost a soul that day I’m sure he felt certain he had secured.
I believe with all of my heart Steve is in heaven and is grateful dead.