An 18-year-old Herndon High School senior suffering from incurable cancer refused chemotherapy and put himself "in God's hands for healing" in late November with the support of his family and his church.
"We believed it would happen," said Larry Eisner's, mother, Norma, but "we were cheated out of a miracle."
"At first there wasn't a moment he gave an indication that he was going to die," said the Rev. Bob Scott, pastor of the family's Calvary Temple Assembly of God Church in Loudoun County. "He seemed to be improving."
Then something happened. "Some confusion about his faith must have set in," said Scott. "He had been a Christian for only 2 1/2 weeks." That was inadequate preparation for a "spiritual battle."
"He was in face-to-face combat with the devil," Scott said. "After that, he wanted to die. I said I wanted him to get back to the Scriptures to confess that God wanted him to live. He said, 'No, it's over.' Six hours later, (Dec. 13), he was with the Lord."
His last words, according to his mother, were "understand and believe." "I think he was afraid we wouldn't understand, that we would lose our faith," she said.
Norma Eisner's Pentecostal faith holds that believers can be cured of their illnesses by God. Divine healing is one of God's "laws," Scott said.
But certain conditions must be met for God's laws to be fulfilled, or Satan can intervene for the worst, the fundmentalist minister said. In Larry Eisner's case, his mother believes, Satan was the killer.
Three and a half years ago Larry had a small growth removed from his back but no other disease was apparent. In mid-November, however, he complained of no feeling well. The doctor found some lumps under his arm and hospitalized him for tests.
At that time, Scott suggested Larry "make a commitment to Christ" regardless. His mother had been "born-again" when she was 13, and his father, Steve, a carpenter, was reared as a Methodist but had recently "accepted Chris," Mrs. Eisner said.
Larry had not been "terribly committed" to religion, she said. After Scott's remark, Larry apparently was quietly converted. Scott began to see a noticeable change in his character within a few days. "When a person was a born anew, you can see that," Scott said.
The minister was given the job of telling Larry of his illness. He also said that the doctors recommended chemotherapy. However, the cancer was so pervasive, the therapy would be only a temporary reprieve from death, Scott told the six-foot, two-inch, 185-pound youth.
Larry refused the therapy and put himself "in God's hand for healing," the minister said.
"I told him that he needed some infilling of Christ's spirit," said Scott. "I laid my hands on is head and prayed with him. He was immediately filled with the Holy Spirit and received the spiritual prayer language (also known as speaking in tongues) . . . He was completely happy. I began to share with him some of the divine promises in regard to healing."
The ministers and the elders of the church began a 24 hours prayer service in Larry's room at Georgetown Hospital, where he stayed for a week. They read the Bible aloud, gave testimonies of miraculous healings and even had a communion service at Larry's request.
At times, up to a dozen people conducted Bible study in the lobby.
Support for Mrs. Eisner's faith that prayer would that prayer would work came from her own experience. On a September morning, the day after members of her church had prayed that God would heal her, the symptoms of her serious colitis condition disappeared and she no longer faced surgery, she said.
"Larry was always special because he didn't ask for anything," his mother said of the second of her four children. "He never complained. He had a good sense of humor."
About 200 family and friends attended his funeral at which fellow members of the Herndon High rifle team were the pallbearers. He was well liked, and now that he id dead, his friends talk about how he influenced them for he better. His teachers regarded him as an unusually helpful student.
As the sign in Tony De Benedittis' are class at Herndon reads, a person like that "may never be famous," but he already is a "success."
"Larry was the overall good guy," remarked Jeff Adler, 17, a teammate. "He was religious.He was happy with life. He set goals. I just can't understand why . . ."
The equanimity with which Larry faced life and accepted death has inspired those who knew him, they say. Ad Adler put it, "I visited him in the hospital and I felt solemn . . . The amazing thing was that he gave me positive thinking, when it should have been the other was around."
Ever since Larry's death, Tony Dare, a member of the Great Falls youth's rifle team, also 17, has shot each rifle match "for Larry." "I've been doing pretty good," he said.
On the day Larry died, the team lost badly to Woodson High School in Fairfax. On the day of his funeral, after the burial, the team shot one of its best matches and beat Landon School in Bethesda. Larry's teammates said they felt his presence on the range.
"I'm not going to try to explain that," said Henry Irwin, the coach. That victory and Larry, whom he knew for four years, struck a rare sensitive chord in him, he said. "The rifle team and club are tremendous kids. Larry was one of them." And that kind of student, said Irwin, has made the difference between hanging it up" as a teacher and keeping on.