October 2007 marked the lowest point in the Rev. Thomas Leighow’s life.His wife, Becky, died of cancer, leaving him overcome with grief and contemplating suicide. “The depths of darkness led me to believe that maybe it would be better to end my life,” he said. That may seem a surprising admission from someone who works to save lives at CMC-Union and save souls as an ordained minister. But it illustrates how despondent he was. And it helps explain the journey that led him to write a book about death. Sitting in a conference room at Lee Park Church in Monroe, Leighow, 64, talked about his newly-released book, “A Paradigm of Death: Understanding Death from God's Perspective.” He self-published it through Xulon Press, and he hopes it will help others going through similar struggles. “It’s hard to express,” he said of the period following his wife’s death. “We were so deeply in love. We often said, as many people do, that we couldn’t imagine living without the other. And then I found myself suddenly faced with having to do what I said I could never do: live without her.” He recalled going to a group grief-counseling session not long after Becky’s death. The counselor asked, “ ‘Why are you here, and what do you hope to get from this?’ ” Leighow said. “Suddenly my mind went blank.” While other mourners answered the counselor’s question, Leighow thought of his wife’s death, of his pain, of the pain experienced by others in the room and of the lessons he had learned at Southern Evangelical Seminary in Matthews. “I began to logically reason that before I take my life, I want to know more about death,” he said. “That’s sort of the crux … a critical point for me. I had been teaching, even preaching, Christian values – particularly faith in God. Suddenly it hit me that I’m being tested. Can I walk the walk? I’ve been talking it for years and teaching it, but can I now truly do that?” He remembered the apologetics lessons he had in seminar that explained the seemingly “outlandish” claims made by Christians. “Those things I knew by the time Becky passed are what, I think, kept me from taking that step and pulling the trigger,” he said. Leighow said people are taught “to trust in God and to have faith.” But until someone faces his worst fears and darkest moments, “I don’t think you can know … whether or not you believe the things you tell people you believe,” he said. Leighow became determined to understand death from God’s perspective. “Then maybe I could get it out to other people, and they could be comforted also,” he said. “That’s what kind of drove this writing. I spent five years on the book – researching, reading, writing, interviewing people. … I was looking to find death in the eyes of God and hoping … my writings would be useful for other people. …” Leighow said working on the book was therapeutic. He remarried and his new wife, Kathy, has been extremely supportive, he said. He’s also thankful for the support and positive reviews his book has received. In addition to working as a cardiovascular technician in CMC-Union’s catheter lab, he is a professor at Charlotte Bible College & Seminary and teaches at Lee Park Church. Leighow also started a mission in his late wife’s memory called RAISE UP. It’s an acronym for the Rebecca Ann Institute of Study and Evangelism for Uganda People, which helps train teachers for the African Children’s Mission in Uganda. “Nothing we can say can take away the hurt, the pain that we feel,” he said. “… But understanding a different perspective on death has done so much for me personally, and I’m convinced that it can help many people if they can just move away from their perspective and consider a different perspective. … “It’s God’s work,” Leighow said of his book. “It’s for him. If I don’t recoup a dime of it, if it touches the hearts of people and does what it’s supposed to do, praise God for that. Money means nothing.”
Tuesday, Jan. 28, 2014
Loss of wife inspires minister’s writing
To learn more or to buy a copy of the book at a discount , visit www.aparadigmofdeath.com. Copies can also be purchased at online booksellers.
Jane Duckwall is a freelance writer. Have a story idea for Jane? Email her at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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