A Life’s Journey: The Testimony of Bonnie and Dennis Deering
In October of 1975 I met Jesus Christ while listening to a Billy Graham Crusade on TV. I do not remember his message, I just remember hearing the words to that old familiar hymn “Just as I am” and thinking, “You have got to be kidding. You love me just as I am? I am such a mess!” No one ever loved me that way; It was always conditional. I got love by trying to please but that love was no comparison to the love I received from Jesus Christ that day. In an instant I was a new creation, born again by the precious blood shed for me by our Savior on the Cross.
Dennis and I had been married for about a year and a half and now had a new baby boy, Ryan. I had two older children, Tim, 6 and Kelley, 4, from my previous marriage but for Dennis this was his first marriage and first child. Dennis came from a very volatile family with much verbal and physical abuse. He carried a rage inside that would scare anyone when it was unleashed. Of course he couldn’t see it back then. He always thought he was so much calmer than the wrath of his dad. Two months after I received Christ as my Savior, Dennis saw the change in me and wanted what I had, which, was a personal relationship with Jesus Christ. He prayed and received Christ and we were baptized together in January 1976 thus beginning our journey together as new Christians. What a different life, cleansed by the blood of the Lamb but as they say, “Rome wasn’t built in a day.” We soon began to realize walking with the Lord was not for the faint hearted, it was and still is a daily dying to self and choice to pick up our Cross and follow Him. How faithful our God is and how patient to see us through the many trials we were to face through the years. He had to do a lot of major surgery, so to speak, putting us continually back on the Potter’s wheel. What a glorious gift to be given new life by the King of Kings and Lord of Lords, and to be personally molded by Him. I am eternally grateful for every trial because through it all, we learned to trust in Jesus and we would need that strong faith in the years to come.
During one of my many trips to the most wonderful retreat center, Pinecrest in Stony Brook Long Island, with a group of women from our little church, a word came and the Lord said “Whisper in my ear and I will give you the desire of your heart”. It almost knocked me off my feet it was so powerful. I knew that I had better be very careful what I asked for because as surely as I asked, it would be mine. I asked the Lord for Dennis to be restored to his rightful place in our home and that our children would love him. At the time, there was major healing that would have to take place in our family. You would have to have been a fly on the wall during the raising of our children to understand the miracle the fulfillment of this word would be.
In May of 2008 Dennis was rear-ended at a traffic light. He experienced a lot of pain in his back and began physical therapy, after several treatments he started having pain in his stomach. The therapist said it was probably just from the back but it got worse so we went to see his primary doctor to have it checked. He had his technician, Christine, who not only was a believer, but also attended our home church, do an Ultrasound. His doctor didn’t like what he saw. He sent us to a specialist who ended up also being a believer.
Dennis was a man who shared his faith wherever he went so of course he found out the doctor was a believer too. After he examined Dennis and reviewed the Ultrasound, he invited us into his office for prayer. Isn’t God amazing? His opinion was that Dennis either had Lymphoma or Pancreatic Cancer so without doing any further tests he sent us to a surgeon, Dr. Levi at the Sylvester Cancer Clinic in Miami who was synonymous with Pancreatic Cancer. He even called and made the appointment himself. Dr. Levi took one look at Dennis’ scans and immediately diagnosed him with a very rare form of Pancreatic Cancer called Neuroendocrine Carcinoma. He said Dennis would need to have a “Whipple” operation right away and scheduled him for this major surgery only a week after the diagnosis. We later found out that few people have positive results or even survive this operation. It ended up being a 10 ½ hour surgery where the doctors removed two tumors in his pancreas, rearranged just about everything inside and removed several other organs including one-third of his stomach.
My oldest son Tim and I just waited, being that we had originally been told the surgery would take six hours. The doctor told us later that they almost aborted the surgery several times because it was so complicated. God was surely on our side. Dennis spent several days in ICU and then was brought to a room where I slept on a cot next to him for the next 11-days. The strength my husband showed was amazing; He did everything the doctor and nurses told him and began his regiment of walking around the entire surgical floor. As we walked we sang choruses of praise, scripture and songs of thanksgiving. We met so many people that we were able to minister to and pray for. The Lord turned our mourning into dancing for sure and, as I look back, one of the highlights of our journey together.
The next seven years of our life became the best years. When you are faced with a life threatening illness, and you don’t know if you will have each other another day, your world changes very quickly and the silly things you bickered about don’t seem very important anymore. During this time my mom, 87 and dad 91 came to visit and ended up living with us due to their poor health conditions. My mom had a serious heart condition and dad worsening dementia and failing eye sight. At one point we were giving him eight different eye drops, morning and night, 10 minutes apart. The grace of God was upon me to be a caretaker to everyone, but I sure did get tired. I could never have done all of that without God’s amazing grace. Mom and dad could not be left alone so whenever we had to go to Miami for tests and oncologist appointments, we would have to find someone to stay with them.
Dennis gave up a lot when he lovingly agreed to have my parents move in with us, considering his own health issues and the restrictions it placed on us. He remained cancer free for the first 2 years following his surgery was back to work only 8 weeks after that major operation, not missing a day for the next 6 ½ years, except to go to scheduled appointments. Can you see the character the Lord was working in us through what originally seemed like such a tragedy? He never complained. Our doctor appointments became our dates together. We enjoyed stopping for meals afterward and even when he was hospitalized last December 2014, we were given a beautiful room on the eighth floor, overlooking Miami. “Date night,” I told him as we held hands and enjoyed the scenic panorama. God gave us a strength through these times that was supernatural. In September 2010 we got the news that the cancer had spread to a lymph node in the Pancreas in an area that was inoperable. They had removed 18 nodes during the surgery.
Dennis went through many treatments and drug combinations, Gamma Knife, Nanoknife, Microwave Ablation, Radiation, Chemotherapy over the course of 7 years. Throughout these times of illness, treatments, setbacks, we believed God would miraculously heal him. He lived the Word, was constantly reading and studying, right to the very end we continued to believe he would be healed. But God’s ways are not our ways. Healing came but not as we were expecting. I watched the heart of my husband transformed before my very eyes. When the Lord took him home he was the most tender-hearted, compassionate man you would ever want to meet. Our children, seeing God work through the years, observed the changes in him as well. They grew to love him in a way only our Lord could accomplish. Dennis was also able to see how his anger and harsh words had hurt them in the past. The Lord worked such a miracle of healing that he was able to humble himself and go to each of them with true repentance, own his behavior when they were young and ask for forgiveness. There is power in humility and forgiveness. Healing comes in many forms, our Lord is truly a miracle working God.
The day Dennis had to leave work at the prison, March 5, 2015 grown men were sobbing. He had poured himself out as a drink offering wherever he went, sharing Christ at the workplace with co-workers and detainees from all over the world. Other than the obvious weight loss, most of his co-workers had no idea how sick he was. The greatest compliment he received was summed up by a well loved co-worker, “Dennis, he was the real deal.”
I am sad for my loss but I know my honey is at home with Jesus, worshipping before the throne for all eternity with no more pain, no more sorrow, joy unspeakable and full of the Lord’s Glory. All praise and honor be unto the King of Kings and Lord of Lords for bringing us together, for saving us and for never letting us go.
Thank you for letting me share our journey and thank you from the bottom of my heart for all the prayers said on our behalf. I could feel them carrying us through and still carrying me as I now continue the journey with the Lord as my husband.