THE 11th HOUR(The Richard "Dick" Starnes Story)
It was September 4th, 2006 and our family would celebrate my wife
Donnaís 37th birthday at our home in Allen, Texas. The usual attending
suspects would include our three children, my father and his wife, and of
course my father-in-law Richard "Dick" Starnes. It was a typical Sunday
afternoon at our house, but little did we know that life as we knew it
would be turned upside down soon enough.
Dick Starnes was a 61-year-old father of two and grandfather of six
children. He was a professional car salesman of 40 years and one of the
most rebellious human beings on the planet for the whole 61 years. His
enthusiasm for going against the grain would be matched only by his
rejection of religion and as he would call them, "religious fanatics."
The so called religious fanatics included anyone trying to share the
gospel of Jesus Christ to him. The interesting thing was that Dickís
final job would be filled with professing believers of Jesus Christ and
that Dick would often say, "This is the best place I have ever worked
and they are religious fanatics like you," speaking to my wife. As I
reflected back, I could clearly remember the many times that my wife would
pray for her fatherís salvation and she would tell me, "GOD will save
my father, even if it is on his death bed!" Could it be that prayers
were being answered all along through a multitude of events that would be
carefully orchestrated by GOD himself?
As we celebrated Donnaís birthday, we would soon begin to take notice
that Dick had lost a considerable amount of weight. Donna would take
particular notice and had shown great concern for the health of her
Several days passed with growing concern. Dick was not one who would
openly discuss medical issues and he was also one that would avoid going
to the doctor at any cost. Donna would finally press her father to
reveal to her that he had been very sick at night for months. It was time
for Donna to assert herself as she insisted that her father go to the
emergency room. He arrived at the hospital and was quickly admitted. It
soon became obvious that Dick would need exploratory surgery to uncover
what was causing his growing sickness.
It was Saturday, September 9th at approximately 11 am, when I received
the call from Donna. She was much shaken and I could barely understand
what she was telling me. "My father has pancreatic cancer and he is not
going to live very long!" My heart sunk to the floor because I could
feel the sorrow of my wife, and I knew that she would have to be the one
to tell him the tragic news. The other variable that I had not
considered was that the spiritual time-clock was ticking and his soul was at
stake. Donna did not forget and would continue to pray fervently for his
Dick was released from the hospital on September 26th to go spend his
last days at home. He was diagnosed with advanced pancreatic cancer and
was given one week to ten days to live. During this time my wife would
give of herself in the most unselfish way possible. She would stay and
care for him day and night. There was no hospice, just her and her
father and what would turn out to be the most rewarding time of her life
During these days, I would come and stay with Dick for six to eight
hours while Donna would sleep to catch up from being awake all night with
her father. Dick would not fall asleep because of his fear of dying. As
I reflect on scriptures, I couldnít help but to think that as an
unsaved soul, he was in utter turmoil - becoming increasingly aware that he
would die with no hope of salvation and no hope of eternal life.
Of course! Why would you want to fall asleep and die if you thought
that there would be nothing after death? With this in mind, I would
purposely share the good news of salvation and eternal life with Dick. I
would share the gospel periodically and Dick would say, "When you die, you
are just like a dog; you just die!"
I remember distinctly feeling that Dick was so hard hearted -- feeling
that he would never accept Jesus Christ. That is when I quit pressing
him and chose to just love him unconditionally, just like his daughter.
Instead of trying to convince him of anything, I would just tell him
that I loved him and I would show my love by being there for him.
We shared many discussions in his last days. I would look forward to
our newly found friendship and our sure-to-be interesting discussions.
My wife would continue to pray scriptures over him and I would pray at
home with the kids. We continued to pray diligently for his salvation.
I remember my wife calling me one day and telling me that she prayed
all night. She told GOD that she would continue caring for her father in
the same manner for five months if it took that long to see his
It was a Saturday, October 7, 2006 -- I was working about 20 minutes
from Dickís home. I really felt the Holy Spirit impress upon me that I
should leave that second. Without even locking up, I headed towards
I entered the home and walked into the family room where Dick was
lying. I saw Donna. She was quietly sharing the good news of Jesus Christ.
Dick had lost a good portion of his hearing and could not see very well
either. Time was winding down and I knew it because of the calmness
that Donna showed while she was sharing the gospel.
I sat quietly and listened for the next 45 minutes. At one point Dick
looked over at me and said, "Ralph, for the last five or six days I have
been hearing voices. They have been telling me that if I accept Jesus
Christ as my personal savior, I am an idiot."
I told Dick, "I know."
Donna then told Dick in the sweetest most caring voice I had ever
heard, "You donít have to hear those voices anymore Dad. If you accept
Jesus as your personal Savior, the voices will go away."
Finally Dick said, "I am ready." Dick was so weak and was losing so
much so fast that he asked Donna to make it simple for him to remember.
Donna asked her father to repeat these words: "I accept Jesus Christ as
my Lord and Savior." Her father repeated those words to my utter
amazement! Donna and I began to weep tears of joy.
A few moments later Dick asked Donna to get a piece of paper and a pen
and said, "In your best hand writing, please write these words for me
on the paper: I accept Jesus Christ as my Lord and Savior."
After she wrote the words, he asked her to put the paper in his wallet.
There were only two other times I could hear him talk after that
moment. One time his religious fanatical Christian boss came over and he
asked him to sit down. He asked Donna if she would get his wallet and hand
it to his boss. Dick asked his boss to pull the piece of paper out of
his wallet and read it aloud. His boss read the paper and was
astonished. He looked at his boss and whispered, "And it was my idea." His boss
looked at him and said ... "It sure was!"
The last time I heard him talk, I heard him ask Donna for the wallet.
She knew that he wanted the paper and gave it to him. She also put his
glasses on his head for him.
As he gazed at the paper that was in his left hand ... you could see
his right hand moving in a writing motion as if to say that he wanted to
write the words himself.
As I reflect back on this time, I see what an awesome GOD we serve. I
remember Jesus while hanging on the cross with a life-long criminal in
the gospel of Luke 23:42-43:
42: Then he said, "Jesus, remember me when you come into your
43: Jesus answered him, "I tell you the truth, today you will be with
me in Paradise."
Jesus accepted him into His eternal kingdom because he was willing to
die for Jesus and take the ridicule. That is something to think about.
I can only tell you -- never give up praying for a loved one who has
yet acknowledged that the shed blood of Jesus Christ is their assurance
to eternal life. Until the last breath ... the battle of prayer for a
loved one's soul must never stop.
I made the mistake of thinking that it was over. Fortunately, I serve a
most powerful and loving GOD who let me see that it was not over yet.
Testimony submitted to the Breadsite. To submit yours click here.