In Loving Memory Of Todd
By Kay Heitsch • October 21, 2017
The following is a personal letter I wrote to Dr. Peale after Todd died. Dr. Peale published the letter in Plus The Magazine of Positive Thinking in 1990. He also used it as the introduction to his book, Have A Great Day-Every Day!
Dear Dr. Peale,
I became acquainted with your writing strictly by accident. If I had known you were a minister, I would not have touched your books with a ten-foot pole. I was searching for something; I wasn't sure what.
During my search, I had gone to the psychology section of our public library and selected your book You Can If You Think You Can. I was inspired by what you had written. Although I had picked up books by other authors, they left me cold. I returned to the library to find more of your books. In the card file, your books were also listed under "religion." This was not to my liking. But I was so inspired by the first book I had read that I checked out more.
You see, I was brought up with a religion that had left me bitter; I wanted nothing more to do with it.
As I began reading your other books, I would skip over all of the Bible texts, feeling the power of my own mind was enough. I typed pages of your tips from several books. After a while, I started to put, "I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me" (Philippians 4:13) at the bottom of my typed pages. This amazed me!
I showed many of these pages to my teen-aged son, Todd. He was also inspired, and encouraged me to continue my reading and sharing.
Then, on a cold February day in 1988, one of my son's friends called. There had been a terrible accident. My son, Todd, had been killed.
I could not believe this had happened. Todd was so positive! He had goals. He loved life.
But it was true, My son was gone.
Because my husband, Bill, always worked long hours and we were transferred frequently, Todd and I had developed a close relationship. Todd had found that making close friends in a new town inevitably led to painful good-bys. So he made it a practice to be casual friends with everyone. We had been in Ohio less than three years when he was killed. I remember wondering if anyone would come to pay respect.
To my surprise, the funeral home was packed. People were lined up outside in the bitter cold. These teen-agers and teachers had loved Todd. They said that he was always happy and a friend to everyone. One teacher said he had never known Todd to have a bad day. This was because of you, Doctor Peale. Each morning, we read your book, "Have A Great Day."
At the funeral home, I felt as though I were the comforter. I told all of the kids, after giving them a big hug, that they could come over and talk anytime. Several of them told me that Todd had always said I was easy to talk to and that they should visit me anytime. I was surprised.
Kids started coming over to my home. They asked why Todd was always so happy, and I told them about positive thinking. I was even talking to them about the Lord, I started buying copies of "Have a Great Day" for everyone. On the inside, I would write, "In loving memory of Todd."
I began seeing the Lord in a different way. This didn't happen overnight, however. It had been eight years since I first read "You Can If You Think You Can." I knew that my strength was coming from the Lord, but I was still holding on to my own strong will.
Then one day, that all changed. It was just another day, but I couldn't muster up enough "positive thinking" on my own to face the day. I felt shaky and was afraid that I was going to fall apart. I knelt down and prayed. I finally admitted to the Lord-- and to myself--that He was the power, and I needed it right then. I felt such peace and love. This is what I had always been looking for! I felt as if He were saying, "What took you so long? I've been by your side all along."
Sometime later, the phone rang. When I answered the phone, I recognized the voice of a good friend of Todd's. She was having trouble accepting Todd's death, and needed some answers. I told her I did not know how or why this terrible accident had happened, but that I would ask the Lord and get back to her.
That night, I held the Bible and prayed that I could help this girl find her answer. I asked the Lord to speak to me through His word. I told the Lord that I had totally accepted this tragedy. Now, with His help and guidance, I wanted to make something positive out of it. I then asked the Lord to please help me with this girl's problem.
I hadn't read the Bible much in 20 years, so I did not know where to turn for the answers I needed. Randomly, I opened the Bible to John 15:13. It read: "Greater love has no one than this, that he lay down his life for his friends."
Was this the answer Todd's friend was looking for? I called her and read John 15:13
There was a pause. Then she said, "That was just like Todd. This is something he would have done."
Shortly thereafter, the meaning of that Scripture became clear. Nick, the friend who had been the passenger in the car Todd was driving, told me details of the accident I had not previously known. Nick said he remembered the day as very cold. Sections of the road were quite slippery.
All of a sudden, the car began to slide. Nick could see a tree coming closer and closer toward him. He remembered yelling. At that, Todd turned and looked over at him. Immediately, Todd turned the wheel with such force that it turned the car around. This caused the tree to come through the window on the driver's side rather than on the passenger's side The tree forced Todd to the back seat, killing him instantly.
Gradually, John 15:13 took on greater meaning. You see, I, too was Todd's friend, and he laid down his life for me that day also. If this accident had not happened, I would no doubt be going down the same road, relying on my own power.
I knew then why I had been typing the works, "I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me." months before Todd's death. The day I had knelt down and surrendered my life to Christ, I also had died. Now I have His power and not my own.
Nothing has been the same since I surrendered my life to God.
Shortly after Todd's death, an advertisement asking for positive people to serve as Boosters for troubled kids appeared in our local paper. My husband and friends urged me to respond. I'm so glad I called that number. I could write a book on the wonderful blessings that have come from my experience as a Booster.
I recently spoke before our church and community leaders, explaining how positive thinking had changed my life and the lives of the children with whom I was working. It has been a miracle. Several people, including me, were crying when I finished.
My son had been a cross-country runner, and in November 1988, the boy and girls decided to dedicate their season to Todd, They began training without a coach, so I gave each of them the condensed edition of "The Power of Positive Thinking." Both the boys' team and the girls' team made it to the state finals! It was the first time in our school's history that either team had gone so far. I even entered a local running contest, and won the "gold."
I began starting the each day by talking to the Lord, thanking Him for another day, and asking Him what we should do with it. This prayer has led me to some unusual places.
Doctor Peale, at all times, I carry several different booklets you have written. If I believe that someone would benefit from reading one, I give it to him. I have heard some wonderful stories because of this!
I have distributed your booklets at our jail, at the laundromat, in doctors' offices and hospital wards, and at group homes for troubles teens. I also visit a nursing home every Thursday night.
Around six months after Todd's death, my younger son Brandon (then three) began stuttering. You see, Brandon and I went for a walk each night, and about this time we saw a dead, decaying bird lying on the side of the road. Brandon referred to the bird as being "dead, just like Todd." He spoke of Todd often, and many people suggested that he needed professional help to deal with Todd's death. I took the problem right to the Lord.
As I prayed about Brandon's problem, it seemed that the Lord was telling me to bury the bird. But I argued against this. After all, I did not wish to have to bury every dead animal we might see; I did not even want to touch this one!
Finally, I gave in. We scooped up the bird in a bucket and brought it home. We dug a hole in the yard, and we talked. I told Brandon to shake the bird and call it; I did the same. I then told him that only Jesus could wake the little bird. I quoted the Bible and told him that one day Jesus would come back and call with a loud voice, and all who loved Him would come alive again. I said we would see Todd the minute Jesus woke him.
The next morning when Brandon woke up, he did not stutter, and he has not stuttered since that date--the six month anniversary of Todd's death. A miracle? Yes, I believe it was, and I knew then that the Lord really did understand the problem.
Last November, our high school played the biggest football game of the year. It was dedicated to Todd, and, of course, our team won. The night before the game, I gave each player and coach one of your booklets in which I had written, "Believe , In loving memory of Todd Heitsch."
Because of Todd's death, hundreds of people have been touched by the positive power of the Lord. I thank the Lord each day that he has seen fit to use me to reach others. Todd would have been a senior this year. In his memory, I am giving each of his classmates a copy of The Power of Positive Thinking.
Dr. Peale, I started this letter by saying that I had become acquainted with your writings by accident. We both know, now, that it was no accident.
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