I didn't know Heath Huberg personally. I only knew knew him through the stories I read and the things his friends told me.
I know he was an accomplished singer from the Lakes Area. I know he was married with a young daughter. I know he was diagnosed with a rare form of cancer. I know all this because I wrote a piece about Heath and a fundraiser his friends organized after his diagnosis. So I felt truly saddened when his obituary came across my desk this week.
There was a sense of pride in the community when I saw some 97 people had donated more than $10,000 in a little less than two weeks during an online fundraiser to cover expenses for Heath and his wife. That account eventually hit $15,000 and there was still a local concert benefit to come. His loved ones were behind both him and his family as they sought experimental treatment.
Unfortunately, in some cases, support doesn't necessarily end the way we might hope – and I genuinely hoped Heath would beat his cancer. I know I wasn't alone in this and I'm sure our community isn't the only one to have been disappointed by what God had planned for those around us.
In fact, I know it isn't.
In a coffee shop just two hours and some change to the east of here, there was a small, framed photo of a young man not yet ready to graduate high school. Beside him stood a wresting referee, holding the young man's hand high in victory. The young man's name was Dustin Palmer.
I knew Dusty. Not as well as others did, but I knew him. He'd had bone cancer before I even crossed paths with him. He fought his cancer hard, and he was winning for awhile, but it eventually took his leg, and later it took his life. Yet, he had a seemingly perpetual positive attitude, which served as a reminder of the faith which helped fuel it — much like I understand Heath to have done.
Up until the day Dusty passed, I had believed he would be healed again — that he would finally kick his cancer to the curb, that he would live, that he would graduate. But he wasn't, and he didn't. Dusty died at the age of 16. He had been part of my youth group, and I remember the heavy silence as some 20 teenagers or so prayed earnestly for Dusty's family that week. It was hard to comprehend at the time why God would allow the cancer to win. So many of us had been praying for him to be healed, and so many people were feeling his loss very deeply.
Perhaps the answers will never fully come, but I feel I was offered a hint some years later. You see, I worked at that coffee shop where Dusty's photo hung, and one day a couple I had just served asked about the black and white photo on the wall — they knew the ref, but didn't recognize Dusty. For those few, brief moments, telling the story of Dusty's faith and perseverance fell to me. And as the brass bell above the door chimed, that couple carried Dustin's story home with them — to what end, I'll never know.
I imagine Heath's story will be spread through similar means, and that's as it should be in my opinion. There is no reason the brilliance of a faith-filled life should end with death. In fact, in many ways, the continued telling of how faith and death intermingled is an indication of just how well placed that person's faith was.
The stories of the loved ones we've lost are no light burden to bear. It may not be often we are given the chance to share the story. We ourselves may only share it a handful of times, but in doing so, we pass on hints of the faith, trust and belief that was central to our loved ones and, in doing so, even their passing becomes a benefit for those they had yet to meet.
Like I said, I didn't know Heath personally, but you might have. If you did, I challenge you to keep a weather eye out for opportunities to share his story and point others toward the faith he held. I promise, not only will it help heal your own hurt, it will be something someone else needs to hear.