A Few Moments With ... Rick Acker
In May of 2005, Richard Acker was diagnosed with terminal colon cancer. On May 20, 2007, after a relentless but dignified battle with that monster, he died.
Now, lest there be confusion, some clarification is in order. Richard Acker and Rick Acker are not the same person, they’re brothers. Blood brothers. Rick is short for Frederick. When they were young their mother thought it would be cute for the boys to be called Ricky and Dicky, so Frederick became Ricky and Richard became Dicky. But as Acker says, when his brother was eight years old he announced he was no longer to be called Dicky, he was Richard.
Both brothers went on to become successful lawyers and for a short time worked at the same firm of Bingham McCutchen in San Francisco. But Richard left shortly after that to pursue a position at the Environmental Law and Policy Center in Chicago, a non-profit
Rick came to the point where he asked himself the question: Is this really what God put me on Earth to do?
group that provided less pay and clout but more spiritually satisfying work. “He felt called to be a steward of God’s creation,” Rick Acker said.
At the time of his brother’s devastating diagnosis, Rick was at a crossroad in his own life. He was counsel at a prestigious law firm and one step away from making the highly coveted partner—but was dissatisfied. He worked long hours, rarely saw his six-year-old son, and had just spent more than two years of his life on a case involving a multi-billion dollar fraud claim between two financial institutions. He came to the point where he asked himself the question: Is this really what God put me on Earth to do?
Cancer diagnosis impact
Meanwhile, Richard was diagnosed with cancer. Little did Rick know how much his brother’s battle with cancer would impact his own life—seemingly more than it changed his brother’s.
“He didn’t quit his job, worry about the future, or get depressed or angry with God,” Rick said. “He simply prayed for healing and kept living the way he had before he got sick. He knew he was doing God’s will.”
Lessons to learn
Richard’s peace and confidence convicted Rick and caused him to realize he’d been
In God’s will there is no need for change, no need for alterations or regrets.
living for himself, pursuing worldly standards of success and wealth instead of finding God’s will for his life. He came to realize that in God’s will there is no need for change, no need for alterations or regrets.
During the time of his brother’s illness, Rick decided to leave the firm he had sacrificed so much for and take a position with the California Department of Justice. The pay was less but the work was more satisfying and the hours shorter, allowing him to be home most nights in time to have a Bible study with his kids before bedtime.
But the lessons weren’t over—the most important lesson was to be learned at his brother’s bedside during the final weeks of his life.
Where’s your focus?
Karen Acker, Richard’s wife, said Rick would spend the night shift with his brother so she could get some sleep.
“Richard was hardly sleeping,” she said, “and was often confused and would get out of bed. Because he was so weak, this was dangerous, but Rick patiently spent time with him. He would walk him when he wanted to walk, talk when he wanted to talk.”
Rick saw that Richard had lived a life of fullness and dignity and had no regrets. Even in those final days when his liver was failing and poisoning his blood with toxins, leaving him in pain, agitated, and confused, Richard was not focused on himself but on Karen and his family.
Rick said his brother left everything behind—his home, his job, his family, even his brilliant mind, until all that was left was his soul. “That drove home for me the importance of focusing on the eternal rather than the things of this world,” Rick said.
Blood Brothers, Rick’s novel (Kregel, 2008), was written during Richard’s illness. As Rick watched his brother battle cancer, the story became less of a straightforward legal/biomedical thriller and more of a reflection on brotherhood that answered the question: “What is most important to you and how far will you go to get it?”
Honoring Richard’s example
Rick’s focus now as a writer is to honor God by living up to his brother’s example. “Richard set a high standard for serving God and his neighbor, and I continually strive to live up to it in all areas of my life—including my writing.”
The feeling of admiration was mutual, Karen Acker said. Richard was thrilled with his brother’s success as a writer and envied Rick’s creativity and ability to weave a story. He also respected Rick’s example as a father and husband.
There are few ties among the living stronger than the bond between blood brothers. For Rick and Richard Acker—Ricky and Dicky—that bond has outlasted the constraints of this world.