I seem to get lost every time I leave the Earl May Boat Basin in Bainbridge, GA. I have participated in the Kiwanis River Run there quite a few Januarys, and have gotten lost on the way out almost every time. The year that Paula O’Neill, Arlene Feril, and I rode together (2012) was no exception. We decided to follow the car in front of us because it had running stickers (you know, that age-old indicator that the individual knows where they are going!!). Turns out we were following Dustin Rhodes, who was just as lost as we were. We eventually all figured it out. That January 2012 conversation in Bainbridge was the only time I ever spoke to Dustin face-to-face*.
However, an enjoyable Facebook friendship ensued, especially once we figured out that Dustin, his wife Rebecca, my daughter Tenley, and I had all been at the very same village and church in Guatemala on mission trips (although he and Rebecca were there before Tenley and I were). Once you have been at the church in San Lucas, met its ministers and its people, you never forget.
Our last messages to each other were on my birthday (November 28). Dustin had asked about the Jingle Bell Run (how “low key” it was) and I assured him how family friendly (and non-competitive) it would be.
The following Sunday, Fr. Tim Holeda at Blessed Sacrament added at the very end of the service “please pray for Dustin Rhodes who has been diagnosed with brain cancer.” I could barely believe my ears, since Dustin and I had literally just spoken lightly of a fun run. Unfortunately, it was true.
Everything moved at lightning speed after that. Dustin, Rebecca, and their son Michael moved back to Pennsylvania to be with friends. Surgery was performed at Duke University in early January. The list of therapies, medications, challenges, and diagnostic procedures is lengthy. So, also, is the list of people who rallied around Dustin, fundraisers that were held (including a skydive/ultra race combination), and compassionate love that was shared.
As of the most recent update on Facebook, the family has shared that the cancer has spread to Dustin’s cerebellum and brain stem. As a result, radiation is no longer going to be part of his treatment plan and the family is evaluating their next steps.
As I was processing this information, I ran across this prayer from the Society of the Little Flower among one of several devotionals that cross my social media stream each day. Something about it intersected (to me) with Dustin’s journey:
God of Miracles, You are amazing! Out of our emptiness and sterility, You work Your wonders. Help us to be comfortable with our empty sterility so that You can shine. Circumcise into the flesh of our spirits a deep faith in You and Your covenant betrothal of us. As Jesus touched the leper with healing power, touch us. Make us whole and healed. Make us fruitful so that we can be a blessing to others and productive in working for Your reign of justice, peace and life. You can bring life from where we create death. Thank you for being the miracle God of Life. I need Your healing life today!
Time and again over the course of this illness, Dustin and Rebecca have seemed to be the ones ministering to us, as opposed to the other way around. My friends and I have laughed about getting lost in Bainbridge, and the fact that we were following someone who was just as lost as we were. This situation is different and so much more serious. Dustin is not lost here; his unwavering spirit and tenacity have shone brightly. In one of our Facebook conversations, Dustin shared this with me:
God’s work will be done, despite the odds, if we continue to be His hands and feet.
I never had as many face-to-face conversations with Dustin as I would have liked (Lord knows Dustin was so much faster than me that we certainly were never running together!). I feel like I have just scratched the surface of what could have grown into a really wonderful friendship. I fear that in embracing the cause of supporting Dustin, all of us ran the risk of tromping on privacy and personal dignity at a time when this young family needed only to cling to one another and their God. But I suppose, as Dustin said, God’s work will be done…..
….and I’m pretty sure the guy who couldn’t lead three women out of Bainbridge has a very good lock on the Divine.
Thank you, Dustin, Rebecca, and Michael for being just exactly who you are and letting God’s work be done through you.
NOTE: If you are interested in helping Dustin and his family, either financially, by sending a card (appreciated!), or learning more details in order to continue praying/sending good intentions, visit the website at www.dustrhodes.com. Thank you.
*That’s not technically true; I spoke to Dustin face-to-face when I delivered food to his family after his diagnosis. I am so glad I had that opportunity to see him before he moved back to Pennsylvania.
Wife of one, Mom of two, Friend of many. My pronouns are she/her/hers.