I said goodbye to a Superman this weekend.
He was certainly an unlikely superhero. And if you didn't know my friend Dalton, you certainly wouldn't view him that way.
When my husband and I first met Dalton nearly 10 years ago, he was in the beginning stages of developing a baffling combination of crippling, degenerative diseases.
Slowly but steadily, these relentless predators ravaged his once vibrant, athletic body, finally confining him to a wheelchair and an oxygen tank for the last two years of his life.
But disease could not ravage Dalton's spirit.
At his moving memorial service, an endless stream of family and friends talked about Dalton's Colgate smile and his unwavering faith and deep love for God despite excruciating pain and broken dreams.
As one of his seven siblings so eloquently expressed, "Dalton always had a verse on his tongue, the joy of the Lord in his heart and a suitable prayer for any occasion. He ... continued to speak of the goodness of the Lord even in his final moments."
My most vivid memories were of Dalton the parent at the soccer field. All four of his children inherited his athletic genes and Dalton never missed a practice or a game. In fact, he had his van specially equipped so he could drive his kids to the fields, often nightly.
He always sought to lighten the burden his illness placed on his family, despite his limitations. His happy, well-adjusted kids are a testament to his and his amazing wife Angela's selflessness and perseverance.
One of the last things Dalton told his sister Edith in his last few days of life was this: "Live like the birds."
Puzzled, she asked him what he meant. He directed her to Matthew 6:26-27: "Look at the birds. They don’t plant or harvest or store food in barns, for your heavenly Father feeds them. And aren’t you far more valuable to him than they are? 27 Can all your worries add a single moment to your life?"
Dalton didn't worry. Despite the physical and financial hardships of his condition, I never saw him anxious. And I never saw his family go without what they needed. Dalton would be quick to point out that he couldn't do this alone. The God he trusted was the One who gave him the ability to face each day with optimism and resolve.
At his service, we were each given a card with a picture of Dalton's face superimposed on the body of Superman with these words: "My name is Dalton Chase. I love the Lord and Jesus loves me. Therefore, I am FREE! Are you? To infinity and beyond!"
Dalton, my friend, your body may have been slowly ravaged by disease. But your godly legacy will live forever.
The soccer fields will never be the same without you, Superman.