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In Crossbearer: A Memoir of Faith, to be published Sept. 2 by St. Martin’s Press, Mr. Eszterhas describes how his life got turned around during the summer of 2001.
He and his second wife, Naomi, had just moved from Malibu to a suburb of Cleveland – where he had grown up; she was from nearby Mansfield. They felt Ohio would be a better, more wholesome place to raise their four boys (he had two grown children from his first marriage).
A month after the move, Mr. Eszterhas was diagnosed with throat cancer. Doctors at the Cleveland Clinic removed 80 percent of his larynx, put a tracheotomy tube in his throat, and told him he must quit drinking and smoking immediately.
At age 56, after a lifetime of wild living, Mr. Eszterhas knew it would be a struggle to change his ways.
One hot summer day after his surgery, walking through his tree-lined neighborhood in Bainbridge Township, Mr. Eszterhas reached a breaking point.
“I was going crazy. I was jittery. I twitched. I trembled. I had no patience for anything. … Every single nerve ending was demanding a drink and a cigarette,” he wrote.
He plopped down on a curb and cried. Sobbed, even. And for the first time since he was a child, he prayed: “Please God, help me.”
Mr. Eszterhas was shocked by his own prayer.
“I couldn’t believe I’d said it. I didn’t know why I’d said it. I’d never said it before,” he wrote.
But he felt an overwhelming peace. His heart stopped pounding. His hands stopped twitching. He saw a “shimmering, dazzling, nearly blinding brightness that made me cover my eyes with my hands.”
Like Saul on the road to Damascus, Mr. Eszterhas had been blinded by God. He stood up, wiped his eyes, and walked back home a new man.
In a phone interview this week, Mr. Eszterhas said it was “an absolutely overwhelming experience.”
Mr. Eszterhas told The Blade that despite his mixed feelings over the church and the abuse scandal, the power of the Mass trumps his doubts and misgivings.
“The Eucharist and the presence of the body and blood of Christ is, in my mind, an overwhelming experience for me. I find that Communion for me is empowering. It’s almost a feeling of a kind of high.”