A Weekly Column
By Joseph Walker


The last time I saw Taylor he was smiling.

It wasn’t a soft smile or a gentle smile.  It was big and broad and joyful.

And why not?  He was 14, he was handsome and he was surrounded by pretty girls.  What was not to smile about?

OK, so maybe the girls were his cousins.  And maybe he had spent all of his 14 years battling heart disease and a series of illnesses and operations that had limited his activity if not his attitude.  He was feeling great now.  Beyond great – he was feeling fabulous.  Better than he had ever felt in his life.

And so he was smiling.  Enormously.  Joyfully.  Right from the bottom of his newly transplanted heart.

Long-time readers of this column will likely remember Taylor.  About a year ago I wrote about his declining health, and how his family was waiting and praying for a miracle to preserve his life. (You can read the whole story at That miracle came in the form of a heart transplant, which combined the talent and knowledge of skillful surgeons with Taylor’s inherent strength and courage. 

It was the perfect combination.  Almost immediately Taylor could feel a difference as his new heart pumped strong and true inside his chest.  Even during the healing process, as painful and painstaking as it was, he told everyone who asked that he felt better than he had ever felt.  He embraced his new health eagerly, and he savored and appreciated every energetic moment.

Like the last day I saw him.  It was just a few months after the transplant, but there were no visible signs of caution or hesitancy on his part.  As I recall, he spent most of the day skateboarding and playing games with his brothers and sisters and cousins.  Not once did I see him sit and rest or struggle to keep up with the other young people as I had previously seen him do.  This was a day for fun and activity, and he took advantage of it.

Fully.  Happily.  Joyfully.

At the end of the day there was a meeting during which Taylor and his parents spoke openly about their experiences of the previous few months.  It was a rich and fulfilling session, filled with laughter, tears and love.  At the end of the meeting all who were present knelt to give thanks to God for His miraculous intervention in Taylor’s life.  As our family drove away from that meeting I looked in the rear-view mirror.  That’s when I saw Taylor standing there, surrounded by his cousins, laughing and smiling.


I haven’t been able to get that image out of my mind ever since I found out that Taylor passed away last night.  As this is being written we don’t know all of the reasons why – medically or spiritually.  We just know that his passing was peaceful and that there was a sweet feeling in the room as he died in his father’s arms.

Oh, and we know this: Taylor had a miraculous year, filled with opportunities and events he never would have experienced but for the wonders of medical science and the grace of God.  And those of us who knew and loved Taylor had an extra year to know and love him, and for that we are profoundly grateful.

I’m sure those feelings will be expressed when we gather again in a few days to pay tribute to Taylor and to celebrate his life.  We’ll honor his valiant struggles.  We’ll exult in the promise of a better life beyond this – for him and for all of us.  But mostly we’ll remember the joy we felt from him, and with him, and within him.

Especially when he smiled.

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— © Joseph Walker

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Look What Love Has Done: Five-Minute Messages to Lift Your Spirit 

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