Michael Fechner Sr. had just shared the news with his son. He had cancer. It was terminal. Could he come over to the house where he would share the news with the whole family?
What happened next – as Michael Fechner Jr. shares in his new book, Lessons on the Way to Heaven, wasn’t quite what you would expect:
“I was coming home from college, and my dad called me and said what the doctor had told him. He said that, whenever I got to the house, he was going to sit the family down and tell everyone.”
“So I got there already knowing what he was going to say, and he shared the news with the whole family. Everybody was crying and he said ‘tonight we’re going to go out to the Cheesecake Factory.'”
“We’re just looking at each other, you know. ‘Is this like a last wish kind of thing? I want to go eat cheesecake factory?!’“
Despite the initial surprise, Michael looks back now and realizes it was exactly the way he should have anticipated his dad would react to the news.
“It was him saying, we’re not going to let this get us down. We’re not just going to sink to our knees. We’re going to fight. And we’re going to celebrate life.”
It was just the first in a series of instances that showcased Michael Sr.’s resilience and hope.
“The next morning I woke up – on a Saturday morning in the summer – and walked out to the kitchen area. I look outside, and my dad is in the pool on the inflatable. He’s got a drink in one hand & a phone in his other hand. He’s talking to people and laughing. Just enjoying the day.”
“I’m thinking – ‘You just got diagnosed with cancer. And here you are just completely trusting God.‘ It was just an incredible thing to see how he handled that entire situation.”
Michael Sr. set out to fight cancer, and he fought well. He beat his prognosis many times over.
“When he first got the diagnosis, they told him months. That was extended to almost five years. He was given about four years of borrowed time, and he used that time to do so much. It was incredible. It almost felt like he was just going 100 miles per hour the whole time during those five years.”
“He had to go to treatments in Germany, down in Houston, and in California. What was amazing was everywhere that he was, he used it as an opportunity to do ministry. He went down to Watson in Los Angeles. He started Chemo Church in Houston. He would take these medical treatments, and turn them into opportunities to say, ‘Hey. I’m going through a hard time, but I still trust that God loves me. And I want to share God’s love with others.'”