Honoring John Hopkins: William’s Leukemia Battle Buddy Died Today

A man’s greatness can be most accurately judged not by his own mirror’s reflection, but by the impact on lives that outlast his.

A great man died today.

I suspected John was a great man on the day I met him. My husband was deployed, so I visited my parents in College Station, Texas. One Sunday morning I went to 50+ Sunday School with my parents for three reasons: 1) It is refreshing to see the model and hear the wisdom of my parent’s faith 2) I am benefited my decades of experience, study and wisdom and 3) They can have fun without fear of scarring their children.The older class is a blast.

John Hopkins was teaching that morning. He kindly and lovingly greeted me and teased my parents. It was a great first impression.  I studied his hands– a smooth wedding band and a well worn gold Aggie Ring slid over weathered hands which strongly gripped and tenderly stroked the leather of his bible.  He taught the Bible with the conviction of a man who believed and trusted in the word with every fiber of his being.There is unquenchable fire in men like that.

I learned that this man  worked with young men in the correctional system, in law enforcement, in classrooms, and loved to fight for the fierce and scrappy underdogs. I think that is why John loved William. One year later, John and William became battle buddies in a fight against leukemia.

On many days his inspiring wife Sherrie and I would post that the boys were getting a day of chemotherapy or receiving platelets. For a few months they were even on the same treatment schedules, states apart. We spoke the same language of counts and ratios. We understood the depths of the term, “hard day” or “feeling weak”. Sherrie was a care-giving trench sister to me as the boys battled together. A man who had lived a full, valuable life cheered and prayed alongside my two year old, who has known nothing but struggle. Knowing someone was loving us and fighting the same fight was healing salve to my heart. My parents, who were often states away and flying in to help with our cancer-care, would balance between reports of John and William.

When you walk and take up residence in the Valley of the Shadow of Death, you see the Almighty God in the land of the living.

Today John Hopkins saw Jesus both in the land of the living and in Glory. Now The Ache sets in–in which one lies down as if  into bed, exhausted and feeling broken, yet full of hope that the dawn brings joy.  John Hopkins’ legacy will be felt for decades in the lives on many people, for he reflected  the Light that shined on him. In suffering, he taught and encouraged. John and Sherrie reached out in the dark and found our hearts. We whispered to one another, “You are not alone. We are going through this together. You aren’t left behind.” Suffering shows us how far we have fallen. It made me long for Heaven and desire the perfection and glory of Christ that John now sees.

I’ll never be able to adequately answer why some live on while others do not. Answers, no matter how adequate, do not instantly heal sorrows of the heart. Any attempt to do so is like trying to tell war stories of the heart to those who have never fought. One day death will have no sting, but today is not that day.

Mrs. Sherrie and I will revisit the trenches of the heart over and over, and each time will be different. The victory is won, but the battles remain. I am locked and loaded, for battle buddies are forever.

I am most honored to believe that William the Conqueror will live a life that honors his fallen battle buddy. William Erkkila 007john hopkins

Greatness does not come from doing great things. Greatness comes from humbly walking before a Great God.