John Gilbert was born in 1976 in Castro Valley's Eden Hospital. Eventually he and his younger brother Alan, and his parents, Bruce and Cathy, moved to Paradise. In between was the terse phone call from the doctor. "I'm calling to inform you that your son's lab tests are in. John has Duchenne muscular dystrophy. His life expectance is 16 years." Diagnosed at five, John would live another twenty years, years full pain and grief beyond measure, but also of a growing Christian faith. His parents' own faith, tested in the extreme, meant following Jesus in a way they had never understood before.
John left a manuscript that he hoped, one day, would see publication as a testament to God's goodness. His father has much to say as well, and the result is "From Eden To Paradise: Something Stronger Than Time” ($22.99 in paperback from Xulon Press; also available in Amazon Kindle and Barnes and Noble Nook e-book formats), "an autobiography by John Stuart Gilbert; a father's reflections by Bruce Stuart Gilbert."
Bruce Gilbert is scheduled to be interviewed by Nancy Wiegman for Nancy's Bookshelf, this Friday at 10:00 a.m. on Northstate Public Radio KCHO (91.7 FM).
John's service dog, Friedman, a "spry and handsome" Golden Retriever, would become his best friend. When John graduated with honors from Paradise High, John, in his wheelchair, accompanied by Friedman, accepted his diploma. When he turned to go down, "I saw something that shocked me. All of my classmates, even the ones I didn't know, and all of their families stood on their feet applauding me and cheering me on."
Bruce, in the second section of the book, notes that the standing ovation provoked not a feeling of being honored but one of being betrayed. Where were parents and students when John was being harrassed by bullies, especially in junior high, and when he needed human companionship? An ovation is easy; living the daily life with someone as broken in body as John, humbling.
But the excruciating dailyness is the place God met John and Alan, Bruce and Cathy. Bruce writes with the love of a father and heart of a pastor, John as one transformed by suffering. Where is God when you're dying? Thankfully, right here.