8.31.2010

"I Believe Again" for Todd Clendenon

In my last post, I shared a little bit about a dear friend we recently lost to cancer. At Todd's funeral, my husband Josh was able to share about the influence Todd had been in his life. I would like to share his eulogy with you here. Todd was one of Josh's closest friends, and Josh helped care for him the last few months of his life.

Todd and Josh at a "Tacky Christmas" party in 2008...

At the end of the post are the lyrics and a link to a song on itunes. Josh wrote the song, "I Believe Again," with his cousin, Rob Ray (aka George Alden, who performs the song), in honor of Todd. Josh was able to share the earliest version of the song with Todd before he passed away. Todd cried when he heard it and gave Josh the biggest bear hug he'd ever gotten in his life. All proceeds from the song will go towards helping Todd's wife Barbara and children, Madison and Benjamin. If you'd like to send another donation to Todd's family, you can use the Paypal links on the facebook page or blog. All donations given through these links are through our church and are tax-deductible.



Josh's Eulogy for Todd Clendenon

I’ve thought long and hard about what would I say if someone asked me to share about Todd’s life. I think the best way to explain the depth of his character is to tell you the story of my friendship with Todd.
I met Todd about 11 years ago at the YMCA. Back then, we never were very close friends, but we would say hi and talk about school and work and make small talk. Then I moved away, and I didn’t see Todd for about 8 years until we moved back to Greeneville and I reconnected with him at church. It was one of those, “Don’t I know you from somewhere?” kind of things. We casually reintroduced ourselves, and he told me about getting married, being involved in the church, etc. It was simple and pleasant.

I am not the most touchy-feely guy in the world. The next few Sundays when I walked into church and saw Todd, I stuck out my hand, and the next thing I knew he had me in a bear hug with his head pressed against my chest. I kind of stood there and was like “Good to see you too….” Although it took me back for a moment, it made me feel like he had a true care and concern for me. I guess he was playing it safe for a few Sundays, but after that, he just said, “I’m a different person, and I’m going to let you know it.”

There was definitely something different about this guy from the way I remembered him. Todd had found Jesus Christ; and not only had he found Him, but he had allowed Christ to change his entire life. Todd had shaken off the world, and he completely immersed himself in the pursuit of God. That morning, He invited me to a Bible study that he was leading on Sunday nights. I began to go to that. Then he invited me to a Bible study he went to on Wednesday nights, and then he invited me to one he was attending on Thursday nights, and he also asked if I wanted to come early to pray with him on Sunday mornings. He invited me to help feed the college students on Monday nights, and before he was diagnosed, he was planning on starting something on Friday nights. There were not enough nights of the week to satisfy Todd’s desire for Christian fellowship, service, and Bible study. I attempted the “Todd circuit” once, and about halfway through the week, I was completely exhausted.

His love for others took precedent over his own needs, and even when he was exhausted, he would still extended the love of Christ to others.

As I watched him from a distance, I thought to myself, “This guy cannot get enough.” The only things that really mattered to him all related to Christ. Even fellowship - whether it was paintball, getting together at someone’s home, eating out, whatever - he used it as a chance to serve, to love others, and share his personal love for Christ.

I had never seen someone so young who was so passionate about their faith. It was captivating and encouraging, and because he was so humble, it was inviting. You just started to want what this guy had, and you never felt pressured by him. I wanted to read my Bible more because of the joy he was receiving from reading his. I wanted to pray more because of the peace that he received from prayer. I wanted to fellowship more because of the blessing he received from others. This guy was a shining light in a dark world. He didn’t care where he was – that light was going to shine.

Todd could take a verse from the New Testament, reference it back to the Old Testament, and then tell you the Greek and Hebrew definitions of the key words, all while explaining three different view points from the greatest theologians in the country……. and he usually did it in one breath.
At 27, Todd did not focus on what most 27 year olds typically focus on. The things that a man can accomplish here are earth meant next to nothing compared with what was taking place in his heart and spirit. A car, a house, money – all the things that many people our age are pursuing – didn’t even begin to compare to the value he placed on his relationships with the people in his life. Everything with Todd was related to his faith. I have never seen anything like it. It defined him; it motivated him; it was what he studied, what he read about, what he thought about, and what he wanted.

I was a Christian when I met Todd and had been surrounded by believers my whole life, but there was a huge difference between where I was at in my relationship with God and where Todd was in his. It was as if everything that I wanted to see taking place in my own walk with Christ and had begun to believe was impossible, I saw in Todd. Not only was he living the life of a faithful man, but he did it with a truly humble spirit.

I would go home after a Bible study and just be amazed at this guy. I couldn’t believe what an impact he was having on me. My life began to change because of the things that I witnessed in his life. He taught me so much. I was going through a hard time, and for weeks he would encourage me and ask me how I was doing. He would be there for me when I needed someone to talk to. He never judged me or my situation, he just extended love towards me, and it impacted my life forever. Before he was diagnosed, I felt that I owed him something I would never be able to repay.

All of this took place when everything was going well for Todd - before he was diagnosed with cancer. Many of us can remain faithful when things are ok, but what happens when things get tough? What happens when the doctors tell you, “You have a 5 percent chance of living another year”?
Up until this point, Todd had already been one of my heroes. But how he handled the diagnosis and the last year of his life has embedded him in my memory as the one of the most courageous, godly, and faithful people that have ever walked the face of this earth.

I know at one point Todd wanted to know why God had allowed him to get cancer. He wondered why God would bless him with so many wonderful things - his wife whom he dearly loved, his little buddy Madison, his newborn son Benjamin, his ministry and influence in the lives of young people – just to take it all away.

“Hope deferred maketh the heart sick: but when the desire cometh, it is a tree of life.”
- Proverbs 13:12

The doctor appointments he had over the past two years always seemed to go from bad to worse. Every time he would call and say, “Well, they found this, or it looks like it’s not completely gone, or we have to stop treatment now because it’s not working,” I would say to myself, “At some point, he has got to catch a break.” Whenever Todd would get bad news, I know he would get discouraged, but he never got to the point of despair, and he never gave up on God. Regardless of the news, he would always come back around to the goodness of God. I know he wanted answers, but overall he didn’t allow the circumstances of his situation dictate his response and faith towards God.

I don’t know if Todd ever got the answer (at least in this life) as to why God allowed him to go through all that he did. But I do know that eventually, his statement of faith became like that of Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego when Nebuchadnezzar threatened to throw them into the fiery furnace if they didn’t worship the false god he had set up in Daniel 3: “Our God whom we serve is able to deliver us from the burning fiery furnace, and he will deliver us out of thine hand, O king. But if not, be it known unto thee, O king, that we will not serve thy gods, nor worship the golden image which thou hast set up.” Todd’s statement of faith became, “God is able to deliver me from this cancer, but if He does not, I will still praise Him.”

When Todd came home from Texas, they told him that he had 6-8 weeks left to live and that the end would be pretty terrible. He was pretty discouraged. That Sunday, Todd came to church and was pretty upset. As he entered the room, he bumped into a chair that was in his way. He picked it up, threw it to the side, and then sat down in frustration and discouragement. That was about the only time I saw him act out his frustration. I almost felt like saying, “It’s about time, man. Let’s get a punching bag and just whale on it for an hour.”

Todd’s frustration lasted no more than a minute before he took our pastor’s and my hands and asked us to pray for him. His spirit was calmed in seconds. He sat next to me during that service, and about halfway through the worship I lost it. I started to cry, and although I tried, I just couldn’t pull myself together. The next thing I knew, I felt an arm around me. It was Todd, and he began to pray for and comfort me. It was hard for me to accept that I was the one being prayed for at that moment, but that’s just the kind of person Todd was. As I was leaving the building that morning, I saw a group of men praying for a young man in the church who was going through some personal stuff. Todd was right there in the middle of them, praying for him too.

When we were heading out to California for Todd's last attempt at treatment, we got on a handicapped elavator at the airport. Another girl who had a broken leg was on the elavator also. By this time, Todd was in pretty bad shape and could no longer speak. He picked up his dry erase board and wrote a message on the board for the girl that said something like, "I'm sorry about your leg - I will be praying that you get better soon."

Once while we were waiting for Todd's treatment in the waiting room of the cancer center in LA, another man with Todd's type of cancer came in for treatment also. His cancer was not nearly as advanced as Todd's. He took one look at Todd, then rudely pointed at him and asked me, "What kind of cancer has he got?" Josh told him, and he replied, "Whoa - that's the same type I have, but mine isn't nearly as bad as his!" Todd heard what he said, of course, and tears began running down his cheeks. He picked up his board, and he wrote to the man, "I'm so sorry - I will be praying for you, and I hope you get better." The man looked surprised (and probably a little ashamed of himself), then grasped Todd's hand and squeezed it. From then on, whenever we saw him in the waiting room, he would come by and squeeze Todd's hand.

That's just the kind of person Todd was....

Todd’s courage needs to be mentioned, because it’s also hard to believe what he embraced for the sake of others. By the time my Dad got involved about a year after Todd was diagnosed, Todd sat down with him and told him, “I know I have only a 5% chance of survival, but I want to continue to fight.” My dad explained the risks, the costs, and the possibility that it would be unsuccessful. But Todd told him, “I have to do this, I have to continue – not for myself – but I have to fight for my wife and kids. Todd knew what he was faced with at this point. It was a hail mary, a small chance of success. He had seen pictures of how his cancer could progress, and instead of giving up, he decided to embrace the battle and fight – not for himself, but for the thing that meant the most to him…his family. Todd fought the toughest, bravest, and most committed battle I have ever seen, and he did it selflessly.

As we all know, Todd did everything he possibly could to survive. But despite his efforts, multiple treatments, and thousands of people praying for him to be cured, time and time again, the answer was, “No.” During his last few months, Todd endured more physical suffering because of the cancer than anyone I have ever known. It reached such a drastic state that even the specialists who treated him could not believe his condition. His was one of the most aggressive, radical cases of cancer that any of them had ever seen.
I watched him suffer the effects of the disease, but I never once saw him question the foundation of his belief- the understanding that Christ’s death saved him from his sins and gave him the promise of an everlasting life. Never once did I see him question the goodness of God or the validity of God’s promises. Never once did I see him or hear him victimize himself and use his condition to manipulate others or to justify sin in his life.
Even towards the end, when things were indescribably difficult, in his greatest moments of pain, he would continue to praise God....

During Todd's treatments in California, they would put him on a table in a small room alone. No one else could be in there because of the radiation. We would sit in another room with the technician and watch Todd on a small monitor. At one of his final treatments, the technician looked at the monitor, then said, "Oh no - something's wrong with him! He needs help!" When we looked at Todd on the monitor, he was lying on the table with his arms raised up in the air. Debbie told the technician, "No, he's fine. He's just praising God."
Even then, in the final weeks of his life, his body eaten up with cancer, he was still praising God. Everyone was quiet in the room, and I do not think that anyone who witnessed that event will ever forget that image.

 My flesh and my heart faileth: but God is the strength of my heart, and my portion for ever.
Psalm 73:26

There were times when I would try to lift Todd’s spirit by telling him what a hero he had been to people and how his life was affecting so many people, and instead of taking the glory for himself, he would always just point to the heavens and give it back to God.

Paul the apostle wrote that we should walk in a manner worthy of the Lord. I know that this was Todd’s goal when he set out on his Christian journey. When Todd sat down and counted the cost, it meant losing everything. In his case, he was told time and time again that he would probably not make it through his battle with cancer. In spite of that, Todd found the strength to fight discouragement, and he continued to walk faithfully, day after day, regardless of what he experienced emotionally or physically.

I would like to be able to share with you more of the good times I have had with Todd over the last three years. I’d like to tell you about all the laughs we had, the crazy stuff we did, and the things we blew up. I’d like to share the conversations we had together and the dreams we expressed even up until the very end, and maybe at some point there will be a place for that. But I know what Todd would want, and that is for you all to know that up until the very end, he praised God. He would not want to take the glory for that, but I think he would want you to know that God’s goodness and faithfulness allowed him to be faithful to the end.
It’s easy to think that the only miracle that could have taken place would have been complete physical healing of Todd’s cancer – and then he would still be with us today. But we shouldn’t limit the definition of a miracle to what didn’t happen. I believe a miracle did take place in Todd’s life. God performed a miracle in Todd’s life. His life was miraculously transformed by the power of the Gospel and the love of Christ, and his willingness to serve as a vessel of Christ’s love to everyone around him is the greatest miracle and witness of Christ that I have ever witnessed in anyone’s life. He was inflicted with a horrible disease, everything he loved was threatened, he endured great pain and suffering, and finally, his very life was taken from him, yet through it all, he remained faithful. And if Todd were here hearing me say that, he would just be pointing right back up to heaven….

*******

"I Believe Again"

<a href="http://www.linkedtube.com/dUOEYWCsvf4278891659aec560de38a3099ffda613c.htm">LinkedTube</a>


Please considering helping Todd's family by downloading this song and sharing the link with others.


Thank you for your prayers, love, and support for this family.

Todd's last Christmas with his wife Barbara, daughter Madison, and son, Benjamin.

"I Believe Again"
by George Alden and Joshua Stone

Devil calls
You ignore
You’ve been down that road before
Given dreams
You refuse
You don’t want anything to lose
There’s no time for livin’ in illusions
When your life is like a revolution
You are true
To yourself
And as far as anyone can tell
Despite all the offers
Your soul will not sell
I think it’s time to let you know
You’re an inspiration
You done set fire to my soul
Come again salvation
Beautiful story to be told
Summon every nation
God is alive in you my friend
And I believe again
Yes I believe again
Heaven calls
You approve
Cause you’ve got more work to do
You are weak
And afraid
But the passion defeats the pain
You don’t close your window when it’s rainin’
You don’t care about your reputation
You’re in love with your God
And you can’t hold back your heart
I hope it’s contagious
I want what you’ve got
I think it’s time to let you know
You’re an inspiration
You done set fire to my soul
Come again salvation
Beautiful story to be told
Summon every nation
God is alive in you my friend
And I believe again
Yes I believe again
Angels are happy
If they could they'd envy
Cause they know you’re doin’ somethin’ that people don't do
Oh, no, no, no, nobody knows
How to be enemy proof
How to have faith like you… yeah
More faith, more love, more power (Echoes repeat)
I think it’s time to let you know
You’re an inspiration
You done set fire to my soul
Come again salvation
Beautiful story to be told
Summon every nation
God is alive in you my friend
And I believe again
Yes I believe again
I believe in the Father and Son
I believe in the Cross and the Blood
I believe that God has a plan
Thanks to you, I believe again 



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5 comments:

  1. I have never met Todd but your post left me in tears and I grieve for the beautiful, young family he left behind. Thank you for sharing this inspiring eulogy. He was truly an amazing man! Oh, that we could live our lives so full of faith til the end, whatever circumstances come our way.

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  2. Todd sounds like he was an amazing guy. Josh's tribute to him was certainly glorifying of the Lord - and it sounds like that is what Todd would have wanted. Thanks for sharing it with us.

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  3. Hello, I am so sorry for the lose, I have never met Todd, he sounds' amazing! Josh's tribute was wonderful and very uplifting, it brought tears to my eyes! If only more people could be more like Todd when it comes to our Faith. Many prayers being said for your family!

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  4. Todd was my 2nd cousin. I always knew he was a great guy but from the sounds of it I missed who he really was. WOW what we all could have learned from a man of his character. I have hope I will see him walking the streets of gold one day. Say hello to dad for me Todd!!!!

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  5. Instant tears. Reading things like this make you so much more appreciative for the life you live.. No matter what is going on, someone always has it worse and no matter the issue, just give it to God.

    Thank you so much for sharing.

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