After the death of her husband, Erika Seibert, a mother of two young boys, wanted to find a way to honor him.
“He always wanted to write a book, and he didn’t get to do that, so I wanted to do that for him,” she said.
Now, three years later, she’s done that with “On Loan from the Lord,” a memoir of her husband’s life and ministry.
J.D. Seibert started writing as a teenager in a punk rock band. He strived to tell others about the love of God through his lyrics, even though most of the words were indecipherable.
After graduating from Canyon High, he started writing poems and short stories, even performing cowboy poetry at the Santa Clarita Cowboy Festival and recording his poetry on three CDs.
He spent a few years teaching history in the local area before deciding to go back to school to become a pastor to help kids. “That was his heart.”
While at The Master’s University in the seminary program, he was a youth pastor at a church in Canyon Country and a cowboy church in Acton.
“We got married in 2013, and we had no idea that there was anything wrong with him,” Erika said.
The family moved to Arizona when J.D. found a job at a youth ministry, where they stayed for three years.
While there, he had started having health issues, but didn’t think it was anything serious, nor did he have the time, energy or health insurance to focus on it.
Once he’d secured a senior pastor position at a church in Oregon, he decided to wait until they moved to see a doctor.
It was then that he realized there was something seriously wrong, though it took doctors awhile to pinpoint the cause.
On New Year’s Eve in 2016, J.D. received a call while visiting family in Los Angeles — not only did he have Fanconi anemia, a rare genetic disease that mainly affects the bone marrow, but it had caused the development of acute myeloid leukemia, and he needed a bone marrow transplant.
“It was a really risky procedure, especially with what he had,” Erika said. “He went from 60% chance of survival to 30 because of the disease. It’s incurable, but we wanted more time.”
The family relocated to Portland, and, with the help of the church, remained hopeful that things would turn out all right.
J.D. was in the hospital for more than a month, and though he was suffering, he kept his spirits up and continued to help others.
“Everybody loved him because he could make them laugh and smile, and at the hospital, that’s what he endeavored to do,” Erika said. “We would joke that he was like the second chaplain because he would go around … trying to help other people in the unit.”
J.D. died on May 4, 2017, at 37, less than two weeks before the third birthday of his youngest son, Nathan.
Dealing with grief
The boys dealt with grief differently, according to Erika. While Nathan cried and had nightmares, Noah, who was 11 at the time, hadn’t thought that his dad was going to make it from the beginning and was angry.
“He really came out of that, though, and the church was really instrumental,” Erika said.
Even though things didn’t turn out the way they wanted, they saw God’s hand throughout, Erika said, and stayed positive.
“J.D. was just such a good example to me of enduring, loving Christ first and then others,” she said. “I learned so much from him, and I’m thankful for that.”
The family moved back to Santa Clarita three months later, and though Erika decided to return to TMU for her master’s in biblical studies while homeschooling the boys, she also began to write.
With the help of friends and pastors who were also writers and able to show her the ropes, Erika began “On Loan from the Lord.”
“Some days, I wrote hardly anything and was just in tears, reliving everything again,” she said. “It was really difficult, but was also used by God for me to draw closer to Him and heal.”
A family’s story
Though the book was originally supposed to just be a collection of J.D.’s writing, it evolved into the story of the Seiberts’ lives. The original goal remains prevalent, and each chapter still has a bit of J.D., including lyrics, poems short stories and journal entries he and Erika wrote to each other.
The book also talks about how the family dealt with grief, and has been really good for not only Erika to process things, but also for Noah, who is now reading it.
“He’s really turned around, but he still doesn’t talk about it too much,” she said. “He’s really enjoying (the book), and I really hope that it helps him cry.”
Erika said she’s overwhelmed with all the support she’s gotten, including from pastors David Hegg, Austin Duncan and John MacArthur, among many others. “It was truly God’s work and the church to make it possible.”
Now, she hopes the book can help encourage others through hard times.
“Life is difficult, and a lot of times we take things for granted, hence the title ‘On Loan from the Lord,’” she said, adding that she wants to encourage people not only in their faith, but also in life.
“We can look at all the loss or we can look at everything that was had and be thankful. It helps to have joy, even in the suffering and sadness. I think that perspective really changes everything.”
A book signing for “On Loan from the Lord” is scheduled 2-5 p.m. on Nov. 9 at The Open Book, located at 19188 Soledad Canyon Road in Canyon Country, and the book is now available on Amazon and Kindle. To find out more information about the family and the book, visit ThisThornyRose.com.