A Spirit-filled pastor – preparing to preach a skeptic’s funeral – dramatically altered the memorial sermon when the dying man, an agnostic, radically turned to Jesus on his deathbed, telling his family “You need God.”
The pastor, Becky Salgado, scrapped her notes and instead repeated the dying man’s words before a crowd of mourners surprised to hear them.
The experience, a first for Salgado, doesn’t surprise her as much as it should. “God will reach down wherever we’re at because He doesn’t want even one to perish without Him,” says Salgado, who has preached 100s of funeral messages.
Here’s the story recounted by Salgado and the man’s wife:
Terry Barcus told her husband Jerry goodnight, then slipped out of the hospital room where Jerry lay dying of cancer. Jerry was an agnostic, and as non-believers they agreed Jerry’s funeral – whenever he passed – would be, well, without God. No Bible verses, prayers, hymns or talk of heaven. Only his favorite song: “Stairway to Heaven” by Led Zeppelin.
Afraid of her husband dying, Terry uttered a final request: Do whatever necessary to keep him alive. Like so many nights before, when Terry left the hospital that Tuesday evening she wondered if it would be Jerry’s last.
When she returned the next morning, a Wednesday, Jerry was sitting up in the hospital bed.
He said, “Terry, Terry, I got God. You’ve got to trust God. I got a revelation last night.’ He’s talking to me, saying, ‘Praise the Lord. Thank you Jesus,’” Terry says.
“Then he said, ‘I want to ask for your forgiveness. Would you please forgive me for not being a better husband? Terry, please forgive me for never going to church. You need to know that I love you. And, Terry, you need to get God,’” she says.
Terry admits, “I had no idea what he was talking about.”
Jerry’s confessions and praises continued throughout the morning. When his doctor came into the room, Terry asked, “Is he delusional?”
The doctor dismissed Terry’s suspicion.
When the Barcuses’ son and daughter showed up later, Jerry asked their forgiveness for not being a better dad and, like he did with Terry, Jerry told son Jason and daughter Sheri, “You need God. I’m no longer afraid to die. I got God.”
That night – on June 1, 2018 – Jerry, 62, went home to be with the Lord.
A hospital-visitation pastor and funeral coordinator, Salgado preached at Jerry’s memorial service. Thankfully, she was able to pray, quote scripture and talk of Jerry’s home in heaven before mourners surprised by the message, given Jerry’s disbelief
“I believe Jerry had a visitation from the Lord,” says Salgado, whose ministry to the dying and their families spans 20 years. “I believe that with all my heart.”
The 75 or so who attended the funeral, where “Stairway to Heaven” poured from the mortuary’s sound system, were surprised as Salgado shared the story of Jerry’s revelation.
“I told them, ‘If Jerry were here today, he would want you to trust God. He would want you to get God.’”
Prior to Jerry’s death-bed conversion, Salgado prepared for the worst – a pastor’s nightmare – conducting a funeral for a cynic who doesn’t believe in God, heaven or hell, and forbidden to offer hope to the deceased, family and friends.
Salgado prayed about visiting Jerry in the hospital with the hope of bringing God into the conversation before he died. “He would’ve throw you out,” Terry says.
It turns out Salgado’s prayer for Jerry produced more good than an unwelcome visit.
Salgado explained to Terry, her adult children and extended family that the Lord went to extraordinary lengths to reach a disbeliever like Jerry. “Jesus reached out to Jerry. You see it took God Himself coming to him, allowing him to receive Jesus. That’s how much He loved him,” she says.
Today, Terry wants a revelation like her husband’s, but she doesn’t want to die to experience one.
Salgado, a friend and neighbor, assured Terry that her desire for a revelation is possible. “Little seeds have been planted,” she says. “I just feel like the Lord said to take it slow, just love her into the kingdom.”
Salgado shared Jerry’s experience and information from her memorial message at a church staff meeting at Rez.Church in Loveland, Colo., where she is a pastor.
Salgado and her husband Ben are good neighbors to Terry, inviting her to church and visiting with her. She attended the Salgados’ church after Jerry’s death, a little nervous she says, thinking more of her husband’s sorrow over their being churchless.
A spiritual interpretation of “A Stairway to Heaven” on the internet – a YouTube video – highlights a Bible, the word “revelation” and the lyrics “it makes me wonder.” Jerry’s cellphone ringtone was set to Zeppelin’s classic song.
Salgado marvels at God’s mysterious ways.
“All the funerals that I’ve helped with or done – and there are 100s – I’ve never had this happen with anyone. So this is pretty special. It makes me trust more than ever. Jerry was that important,” Salgado says.
It makes her wonder.