OBy Thomas Callahan ’17
On Tuesday, January 10, 2017, the world lost a great man. Detective Steven McDonald was no doubt an extremely unique individual, a modern saint, and an example for all mankind. One needs to look no further than the immense outpouring of love and compassion displayed in his final days to understand the unbelievable impact he had on millions of lives. Anyone who met him, even briefly, considers himself or herself to be lucky beyond belief. But I was more fortunate than most. I consider myself to be a member of the most privileged class in human history because I was able to call Det. McDonald a friend.
It feels cliché to write that “actions speak louder than words,” but this is a message that somehow becomes more true when you reflect on the life of Det. McDonald. Despite the respirator that physically quieted him, Steven McDonald was the loudest person I have ever met. And so, I can think of no better way to commemorate his great life than by recounting one of the loudest things I ever saw:
Our story begins during the late spring of 2011. On May 26 of that year, my father passed away due to a stroke induced by colon cancer. The stroke destroyed his brain, leaving him with control over only a small portion of his body and depriving him of most forms of communication. The images of my father in this condition still haunt me to this day. No man could live under these circumstances. Eventually, my father’s body gave out.
Relatively speaking, his fall from health was nearly instantaneous. His death was sudden, brief, and it absolutely decimated me. Looking back on it now, it is impossible to not shudder at the similarities between the death of my father and that of Det. McDonald. It chills me even more to think that each man died in the same wing of the same hospital.
Through Det. McDonald’s intercession, I began to see a purpose to my pain. Simply put, he restored my faith in God and gave me the courage to keep living.
When my father died, I was only a sixth grader, just under two weeks away from my 12th birthday. Unfortunately, as I have witnessed many people do when they face the death of a loved one, I immediately began to search for a scapegoat. I felt such an odd mixture of inconsolable grief and unadulterated anger in my being that I needed an avenue through which to express it.
Initially, I blamed the hospital staff. I felt that there must have been something extra they could have done. Then, I blamed myself. I told myself that if I had been there with him when he had the stroke, I might have been able to help him. Then I blamed my father, believing that if he had only gone to doctor earlier, he might not have died. But just as fast as I erected these scapegoats, each was cut down by logic and reason – except one. Eventually, based on my misguided understanding, I was left with only one person to blame for my father’s passing – God.
While at the time I had little-to-no grasp on the limitations of human reason, I refused to accept the clear absence of logic in my father’s death. I was entirely convinced that God hated me and wanted me to suffer. I became angry – furious, in fact – with God. I felt that He had killed my father. That was until Det. McDonald got involved.
He helped keep my faith alive in a time when I needed it most, and he helped me accomplish the most difficult thing I have ever done – forgiving God.
Although I had known Det. McDonald and his family my entire life, I never thought much about his dedication to forgiveness. Truthfully, I never even understood it. But in the weeks after my father’s passing, I began to comprehend what it meant. Det. McDonald reached out to me, and through our many talks, I began to realize the true extent of God’s love. Through Det. McDonald’s intercession, I began to see a purpose to my pain. Simply put, he restored my faith in God and gave me the courage to keep living. One of the phrases I vividly remember him using – one that would serve as a source of personal strength over the next several years of my life – was “God never gives you anything you can’t handle.”
Without the help of Det. McDonald, I would never have survived my father’s passing. He helped keep my faith alive in a time when I needed it most, and he helped me accomplish the most difficult thing I have ever done – forgiving God. Whether it was taking me to see a college lacrosse game or verbalizing just how much he felt God loved all of us, Det. McDonald changed my life, and for that I am ever in his debt.
I am but one of the thousands of individuals who was personally touched by Det. Steven McDonald, and one of millions who has been transformed by his message of forgiveness.
Although I would very much like to believe my story is a special one, that cannot be further from the truth. I am but one of the thousands of individuals who was personally touched by Det. Steven McDonald, and one of millions who has been transformed by his message of forgiveness.
Through my own experiences, I believe that no other person has better exemplified the teachings of Christ than Det. McDonald. And like Jesus, while Det. McDonald’s body may have left us, I am confident that his undying spirit and eternal faith will forever remain with all of us who knew him.
I will miss Det. McDonald quite a bit, just as I feel the loss of my father each and every day. And though it hurts, I know I’ll be okay, because God never gives me anything I can’t handle.