“Steve, you have raised the bar for the rest of us …” This sentiment was expressed recently by Tyra’s beloved Aunt Ami, and this afternoon as we have celebrated Steve’s life the bar has seemed to rise higher still … and deservedly so.
Several months ago, I stopped by the Damm’s home to visit with Steve. Steve was seated at the family’s dining room table ... laptop open, Walker Texas Ranger at his side, putting in a couple of hours of work while Cooper played with Legos on the floor nearby. That day, Steve reflected on his work with Children’s Medical Center, through which he established and supported clinics for under-served children.
He joked that when he was looking to move away from health-care consulting, if he had been offered a job at a dermatology office that specialized in botox injections, he would have taken it. But instead God’s hand opened a door for him at Children’s and gave Steve a chance to serve.
Serving others had become one of Steve’s core values. As a part of a worship service at Holy Covenant this past spring, Steve allowed me to interview him about what I would call his ministry through Children’s.
He spoke passionately about the pervasive need for quality, accessible healthcare for children in Texas and called his congregation to respond by volunteering at one of his nearby clinics or emailing our representatives. Steve was in the thick of his battle with cancer, and yet he was fighting for them, fighting for justice.
What is good and what does the Lord require of us? Work for justice, says the prophet Micah.
Steve was a gentle and kind man. He cherished his family. Whenever he mentioned Tyra to me, tears of appreciation and respect welled up in his eyes. Tyra - he often called you his angel, his hero.
Whenever he talked about Cooper and Katie, he beamed with pride. Cooper and Katie - I know that Steve’s wish for you is that you enjoy your childhood (laugh and play and learn and dream everyday) and someday grow up, fall in love with your soul mate, get married, have kids of your own, and do all of the things your Daddy did … and more.
Steve treasured his family; his heart belonged to them. But his kindness extended far beyond his relationships with family and close friends … or you could say that he considered most everyone he met his friend. His colleagues at Children’s adored him. The various nurses who attended to him over the past 20 plus months received royal treatment from him. One commented that if Steve were perfume, she’d bottle him up and keep him for herself.
Tyra shared that she sometimes thought Steve was too kind to be in the business world. His job was to analyze data, but he always made his decisions based on people.
What is good and what does the Lord require of us? Be kind, says Micah.
A little over a month ago, Steve and I talked about his hopes for this day. He wanted us to laugh and sing. He wanted us to experience the goodness of God. In that conversation, he reflected on the Damm Spot and how it had changed him.
He said, “There’s no cause, no answer to the question - why?’ He said, “I’m not going to say that the Damm Spot is the best thing that ever happened to me. But, it has made me more spiritual, more aware of God’s presence in my life. I was going 100 miles per hour, and this has been like a big yield sign.”
He said, “I now have absolute clarity about what is most important in my life: my family and my faith.”
At one point in or conversation, in light of what he was experiencing, I asked him, “How is it with your soul?” I wouldn’t have been shocked if he said that he was somewhat bitter or angry toward God. But instead he quoted one of today’s hymns.
First, he said, “It is well with my soul.” Then, after a few seconds he amended his first answer in typical Steve fashion. “It is weller with my soul.” Steve was on a journey with God, always being renewed in God’s image and transformed by God’s grace.
What is good and what does the Lord require of us? Walk (or in Steve’s case, run) humbly with your God.
I have no doubt that it was weller with Steve’s soul. He fought the good fight. He finished the race. He kept the faith. He was ready, and as Cooper so aptly put it: “It’s OK, because Daddy believed in God and Jesus, so he is in heaven.”
There will be many days ahead, on which it will not feel like it is OK. We miss him. We always will.
But Steve has given something to us that will be with us always. In Steve’s amazing life, we were given glimpses of the glory of the life to come, an everlasting life that Steve is enjoying now… free of oxygen masks and IVs, able once again to laugh and sing and run … a life where there are no more tears, no more pain.
We have seen these beautiful glimpses in his tireless commitment to justice, his boundless kindness, and his humble companionship with God. We have seen glimpses of the glory of the life to come in the community of love and generosity that has formed around this precious family.
Steve’s inspiring life and this journey of care-giving that so many have shared can fill us with hope that there is indeed a life to come in which God’s goodness ultimately reigns - where the love and joy and peace and harmony that we have celebrated today is not the exception but the rule.
Steve truly has raised the bar for the rest of us. God was at work in a glorious way in his life, and we will honor his memory as we take our cues from him, allowing God’s grace to work in and through us, to renew our souls and to bring hope to a hurting world.
Cooper, Tyra and Katie, the morning of Steve's beautiful service