Aleteia logoAleteia logo
Saturday 31 July |
Saint of the Day: St. Ignatius Loyola
home iconInspiring Stories
line break icon

He was given just months to live … until he started a special project and “met God”


OlallieLake | YouTube

Elizabeth Pardi - published on 12/24/18

A dying veteran decided that in whatever time he had left, he'd make a difference where he lived.

Some of us may have been surprised by Pope Francis’ 2015 encyclical, Laudato Si’, emphasizing our responsibility to care for the environment. After all, maintaining our planet’s well-being isn’t the Church’s top priority. But there is great wisdom in the Holy Father’s exhortation because in caring for the earth, human beings actually show their love for God Himself, and ensure their own well-being — mentally, spiritually, and physically. The inspirational story of a man named John Beal is a perfect demonstration of this.

Beal arrived home in Washington state in the late ’60s after fighting in the Vietnam War and, as his daughter, Liana, explained to, “he seemed somewhat lost.” In the coming months, his health declined drastically and within a year he had suffered three heart attacks. While in the hospital, the husband and father of four was diagnosed with PTSD and was sadly informed that due to his heart failure, he had roughly four months to live.
When he left the hospital, Beal made his way to Hamm Creek, which at the time was severely polluted. While pondering his fate, the veteran decided that in whatever time he had left on earth, he would labor to clean up the river. Four months passed and Beal was still alive and hard at work restoring the body of water. To his surprise, it required far more effort than simply removing the trash and debris. As put it, “The thing about cleaning up a river is that for every step you take, a new step arises. [Beal] removed the trash, then realized he would have to remove the underground pipes.”
Amazingly, the enormity of the growing task never sent him packing. And Beal lived 27 years longer than doctors predicted he would, passing away in 2006 from a heart attack. Thanks to his dedication, Hamm Creek has been transformed into a peaceful, thriving slice of nature “in the otherwise largely industrial neighborhood of South Park, Seattle,” as Solid Ground described it. His work earned him a reputation as an outstanding environmentalist.
Most importantly, the work Beal did for the creek invigorated his spirituality. According to The Seattle Times, Beal’s wife, Lana, declared that Hamm Creek is “where he met God.”
John Beal’s isn’t just another inspirational story about defying the odds. It’s a testament to the intricate connectivity that human beings share with the planet that sustains us. As Pope Francis declares in Laudato Si’“Living our vocation to be protectors of God’s handiwork is essential to a life of virtue; it is not an optional or a secondary aspect of our Christian experience.”
Support Aleteia!

If you’re reading this article, it’s thanks to the generosity of people like you, who have made Aleteia possible.

Here are some numbers:

  • 20 million users around the world read every month
  • Aleteia is published every day in seven languages: English, French, Italian, Spanish, Portuguese, Polish, and Slovenian
  • Each month, readers view more than 50 million pages
  • Nearly 4 million people follow Aleteia on social media
  • Each month, we publish 2,450 articles and around 40 videos
  • We have 60 full time staff and approximately 400 collaborators (writers, translators, photographers, etc.)

As you can imagine, these numbers represent a lot of work. We need you.

Support Aleteia with as little as $1. It only takes a minute. Thank you!

Daily prayer
And today we celebrate...

Top 10
Cerith Gardiner
Gold-winning Filipina Olympian shares her Miraculous Medal for th...
Cerith Gardiner
Simone Biles leaves the Olympics with an important lesson for her...
Mathilde De Robien
Did you know Princess Di was buried with a rosary?
Zelda Caldwell
World-record winning gymnast Simone Biles leans on her Catholic f...
Theresa Civantos Barber
The one thing we all should do before this summer ends
Zelda Caldwell
German women’s gymnastics teams modest dress protests sport’s ...
Lauren Daigle
J-P Mauro
After 3 years Lauren Daigle ousts herself from #1 Billboard spot
See More
Get Aleteia delivered to your inbox. Subscribe here.