Cover photo for Joseph David Mahler's Obituary
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1979 Joseph 2023

Joseph David Mahler

February 2, 1979 — November 8, 2023

Joe’s Eulogy, part one by Megan Reder

My brother Joe was a smart, inquisitive, and imaginative child. His imagination made our childhood magical. Every day he created new games for us to play and demanded that we play with him from early morning until well past our bedtime. He transformed a small line of trees in our backyard into a grand forest filled with animals and armies and tactical obstacle courses where if you were not careful, a brick could fall on your head. I can close my eyes now and still see my brother running, stick swinging in hand, pretending to be an Adventurer, slashing at leaves to create paths for us to explore. Or I can close my eyes and watch us running excitedly to catch lightening bugs and then letting them go again because he would never hurt even the smallest of creatures. One summer he convinced us that if we just dug deep enough, we could dig through the earth’s core and come out in China on the other side of the world. We dug all summer long and every time we hit red clay he would cheer and urge us to dig deeper convinced that even if we didn’t make it to China, we could still uncover an Indian graveyard or dinosaur bones. My brother was a leader and he led us on more adventures in our childhood then I could count. Often, he led us right into trouble, but it was always in the name of fun. His joy, enthusiasm, and hope were contagious. He had a spark that drew you in and made you love him. He was everybody’s best friend. He was my best friend too. He was certainly the typical annoying older brother who would wipe boogers on you every chance he got, but he was still compassionate. If he made you cry, he would immediately feel bad and steal you a cookie to make you feel better. I can hear him even now, urging me not to cry. The worst part of this cancer for Joe was not him dying, but of hurting us by leaving. He didn’t want to hurt us. He didn’t want us to cry.  Even in his death he thought about others first.

 

As a teenager he became a tough guy, a hot head who would beat up anyone who looked at him sideways, but he was ever our defender because he would beat up anyone who looked at YOU sideways too. Most fights were in defense of his family and his friends. A juvenile sense of loyalty that would get him into more trouble than it was worth, but it was always worth it to him because we were everything to him. Not many people keep in touch with every single one of their childhood and high school friends, but I know when I look out over the crowd gathered, I will see each one of their faces.  The loyalty between these friends grew into a grounding force in Joe’s life. A beautiful legacy of love and friendship and another testament to Joe’s character. At this stage in Joe’s life, he started to walk down a dark path. He called this the “in between” part of his life filled with “bumps and hills.” His joy dimmed and he lost much of the hope that drove him headfirst into everything he did. He does not want us to focus on this part of his life, but there can be no triumph without trial and Joe was nothing if not an overcomer. He overcame every obstacle and trial in his life… from fighting through dyslexia in a struggle to graduate to then flying through his financial licensing exams, to conquering the addictions that were destroying his body and soul. He had no peace at this time, but one thing my brother had was his faith. He described his faith during these times as a small steel rod that held him together from head to foot. No matter how thin that rod was, it was metal and unbreakable and the only thing that kept him standing.

 

The recurrent theme and imagery of Joe’s life was that of a sailboat with the wind in its sails. He likened that wind to the Holy Spirit… We cannot see God, but we can feel His presence and know that His invisible hand guides our way. Whether through calm lakes or the treacherous sea, we can trust that God is with us and in complete control. Joe knew that God had a plan and purpose for his life, and he hoped that God would use his struggles to witness to others. Joe was more than a conqueror because of his faith in Christ Jesus his Lord and Savior. He trusted Him even into his death… like Job he said, “though He slay me, yet will I trust in Him.”  And he did so gratefully and with true thankfulness in his heart because he knew that his death would be yet another victory in the name of Jesus… the final victory over his life. He knows that God will use his story to save and bless others. That was Joe’s final prayer, the prayer he prayed over his parents, his brother, his sisters, his cousins, his aunts and uncles, his friends, his coworkers, his clients, his AA group, his men’s groups, and all he came into contact with, but most of all, he prayed this over his nieces and nephews who he loved beyond measure. He wants you all to know that he is at peace, that he is happy, and he is thankful because he knows that God will use his life and testament to save so many of you reading this today. He would humbly say “if God can save a dirtbag like me, He can definitely save you..”

 

 

For forty days our brother suffered as the cancer ravaged his body. The spiritual significance of this forty-day period is not lost on us believers. This period of time was repeated over and over in the bible as a time for repentance, spiritual growth, and transformation.  For forty days Joey prayed for each one of you. I am honored to write this eulogy and even now I can feel Joey’s gratefulness washing over me for telling his story and sharing his testimony. He had a way of making you feel like the hero in his own adventures. He wants you all to know that he loves you and he’s praying for you even now, with the angels and saints around God’s throne.

 

 

Joe’s Eulogy, part two by Melissa Pearson.

Please allow me to be a voice for my brother Joe and hopefully share adequately his very personal experience as I was given the privilege to take care of my brother for 40 days. I had a front row seat as this tragedy unfolded and was blessed to have so many powerful conversations. He wanted this shared with you all…

 

BE A SAIL… words that his grandfather, a coast guard member and pastor prayed over him. Who knew the power of a message, a letter written by a dying grandfather to his grandson, who he thought he would never have the opportunity to shepherd.  A message with a bible verse that would bring my brother incredible peace that would surpass all understanding in the most difficult moments throughout his life.

 

THE MESSAGE… “Joesph, do not be a tanker in the ocean just sitting there waiting on your own power to move you, have faith in God, be a sail, let God move you and go with wherever he takes you”.

 

THE VERSE…Psalms 139: 9-10 “If I ride the morning winds to the farthest ocean, even there your

hand will guide me, your strength will hold me fast.”  He found comfort in this verse and had it on a large tapestry in his home.

 

It’s no secret that my brother struggled throughout his life with different demons, one being addiction. In his despair he agreed to go into treatment, he was crippled with fear, but as he entered the facility a sailboat was their emblem. He had God’s peace and the comfort of the message speaking to him. After he finally achieved sobriety, a brutal journey many suffer from, he received his well-deserved token, a sailboat was imprinted on it…he had peace again from the message and gratefulness to God in his heart.

 

On 10/1/23, we sat in ER bed # 6, my brother, our father and I, as we were given the most devasting, soul crushing news that metastatic pancreatic cancer was breeding throughout his body, a fast-approaching death sentence. He looked at us and said so calmly “its ok, I truly feel Gods peace”. We were speechless with his calmness and strength. As our mother was in the waiting area not knowing that her heart about to be shattered in the upcoming moments.

 

My mother, always so fierce in her faith in God and her love for her children. She committed herself to always cover him in prayer throughout his life. The job of a Christian mother that she served well. My mother who wholeheartedly dedicated her child to God and now was told she had to return him. An unimaginable burden that she handed with such grace. She calmly walked to her son’s bedside, held his face in her hands, looked into his eyes and said “Joseph, a big wave is going to crash on you, and on all of us, we have to bear the brunt of it, because it’s coming and we are powerless, we have to go where God allows these waters to take us, but he will be with us, we must have faith now more than ever.”  So strong and unwavering this woman is… her faith spoken in words, instantly soothed her child.

Shortly after he was being wheeled to his hospital room, he looked out and saw another sailboat emblem within the hospital, a powerful message that again brought him comfort in this tragedy from a letter written decades ago.

 

We struggled, we broke down, we were shattered, all of us his family and friends, but Joe did not.  His only sorrow was leaving us in pain and sadness to carry on without him. He meant so much to so many of us.

 

Joe had layers and layers of ominous medically complex issues. After each new twist of rapidly

developing life ending diagnoses that were handed to him, Joe would look at us and say “its ok I have total peace, I am ready”. He would extend his hand to the sky and say “I WILL BE A SAIL”.  But how much more could the people who loved him take? We were all drowning in tears, suffocating in despair, we would beg for God’s mercy every single hour.

 

Joe truly felt that this was a part of God’s plan for his life. He would say “Meliss don’t cry, it has to be this way, I know it, I know it in my soul”. He believed he would be given this burden of dying slowly with all of his family and friends watching, helplessly waiting, so that God would use his faith and peace to witness to everyone to trust be a sail in God’s plan.  So many dark days yet nothing could separate his family and lifelong friends from him.  They were devotedly present with him in person, texts, and calls. We would have done anything to stop this but we were powerless. I would hold it together in front of him and then breakdown in quiet moments screaming out in grief the number of days he was suffering. It seemed so unfair; he was faithful, so why so drawn out? His physical pain was relentless. It led me to despair at times, how long must we endure this, we were tormented with trying to allow him his independence and dignity as his body was failing, we wanted desperately to take him home and properly care for him, but the last thing he wanted was to feel like a burden, he would say “I only have a handful of diamond days left, let me have them”.  We worked hard to honor his request. In offering me

comfort my husband pointed out it will be 40 days since his diagnosis, that God did not forget him or us that it was likely a message to keep faith and patience, most Christians know what the significance of 40 days. My brother knew it, he understood the assignment!!!

 

Joe passed away at this significant mark, he transitioned into heaven with a song my sister had on her heart at that moment to play “Oceans” by Hillsong United.  His last moments were an incredibly powerful experience to be submersed in.  Astounding, how a theme of God’s presence with the symbols of water and sails prayed over him decades ago would now come full circle for Joe and extend peace to all the ones he was tasked with leaving behind.

 

Waves will crash on us in this life, waters will rise above our heads, we are powerless. God is in control. Have faith, be a sail. Look at the back of the prayer cards at his service, take it with you as this was his very last message to you all.

 

Take a moment to listen to the song that carried my brother into heaven and reflect on the power of his message…it’s absolutely what he truly wanted shared. I do hope I was able to translate the above correctly to honor my brother’s wishes and what he felt was his purpose. I know he meant so much to so many, he had special bonds with so many. Bonds that are unbreakable no matter the time, distance and even death. When you miss him, go to your memories with him in your heart and visit him.  He is there.

 

Oceans (Where Feet May Fail).  By Hillsong UNITED: https://youtu.be/dy9nwe9_xzw?feature=shared

 

 

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