A Heartwarming Story of Angelic Encounters,
Elvis Presley Lore, and the Zac Brown Band
[Editor’s Note April 14, 2016: After you read this heartwarming interview, please read RGH’s tribute to Adam Hileman, who recently passed away after a battle with cancer. You’ll find the link to the tribute at the bottom of this article, after the interview.]
I am a big fan of the human-interest story, whether reading them — like the article we did on Random Acts of Kindness recently — or writing about them. Every now and then I have the extraordinary opportunity to witness one first-hand — to see with my own eyes something great inside the hearts and souls of others.
That brings me to a guy named Adam Hileman.
As a very young child Adam was diagnosed with an astrocytoma of the thalamus region. He had brain cancer in the middle of his brain, in other words. He has had several surgeries, and through it all God has kept him alive.
God has had a clear purpose for Adam: to encourage and inspire others, and to show kindness to people who probably wouldn’t get a taste of respect within a day’s time.
Adam has the same attitude everyday: kind, respectful, and he does his best to make everyone comfortable around him. He’s the true definition of a gentleman, and he holds true to one of God’s greatest commandments: “Love thy neighbor as you love yourself.”
I look up to him, not just for the way he treats people or his hard work ethic (we work together at Lowe’s) or even his dapper attire — Adam always looks business ready and professional, sporting a neatly pressed shirt, necktie, and slacks — but he is a man’s man.
But this isn’t just a story about a really great person who has persevered through trials. There are some other surprising elements that come into play: angels, the Zac Brown Band, and even Elvis Presley.
Speaking of music, Adam has a low baritone voice just like Johnny Cash. It’s uncanny. Every once in a while I catch a note or two from Adam; his crooning choices are mainly Zac Brown Band. It’s impossible not to smile when you hear his Johnny Cash-like remix of “Chicken Fried” (a song now forever associated with Adam) filling the aisles of Lowe’s while we work.
But God hasn’t just used Adam to encourage me. I’ve had the joy of encouraging him too.
God works in mysterious ways: I have been fortunate in my life to have interacted and become friends with some amazing people, and one happens to be Donna Windsor. Donna is the sweet woman who custom-makes Zac Brown’s beanies that the famous singer now wears everywhere. (See the article here for the full scoop on Donna’s story.)
I told her about Adam and his love of Zac, and she graciously sent me a custom beanie for him. There are now only three people in Middle Tennessee that have these beanies: Zac Brown, myself, and my friend Adam. To say that Adam was thrilled would be the understatement of the year.
When I asked her why she did that for Adam, Donna said this: “I have made hats and given them to the homeless, cancer patients, kids in need, veteran’s gifts, etc. It is a small thing I can do to encourage someone along their way. The Lord has blessed me in so many ways. I hope my hats bless others.”
It’s amazing how God sets up our connections in ways that end up helping others.
Now Adam would never brag on himself, but I, alongside the other associates who work with him, would agree that Adam is an inspiration and the definition of a fighter. He could easily sit at home and draw unemployment, but Adam chooses to work every day and make a difference. He has lots of fascinating stories to tell, and I consider it an honor and a privilege to have gotten to know him over the past year.
Here is my discussion with Adam, where he talks music, his amazing encounter with angels, a never-heard-before first-hand story about Elvis Presley, and more:
How long have you been a Zac Brown Band fan and what do you like best about them?
I have been a Zac Brown Band fan since 2008 when I heard their first hit “Chicken Fried.” What I like the most about Zac Brown is the fact that they sing COUNTRY music. A lot of artists today either sing country-rock or country-pop. I grew up on older country and believe that all you need to make a good country song is an acoustic guitar and a banjo.
So I know you are a singer and songwriter as well. Are you going to audition for American Idol or the Voice?
Yes, I am a singer/songwriter. And yes, the next time that American Idol comes to Nashville, I HAVE to try out for it for this one reason here. Back when I was 17, I was dating a girl, Rebecca Cleary. Felt like I was madly in love with her. So I was writing her little love songs and singing them to her whenever I had the chance. She always made me feel really good inside when she said that she loved each song that I wrote her. Anyway, so we had been dating for a couple of months, and one night, I made her a little bet. I told her that if I couldn’t go a week without kissing her, I would try out for American Idol. Five minutes later she won the bet.
Tell us your Elvis story.
I could’ve been Elvis’s grandson. Here’s how that happened. My Grandpa Frank was drafted into the army after World War II. During basic training my grandfather lived only two barracks away from Elvis Presley. Over the course of basic, they became good friends. So both Elvis and my grandfather went over to Germany to a suburb of Frankfurt called Öber Mürlen. Right as they were getting off the boat in Germany, they both saw a Ms. Maria Scherer, the woman who would become my grandmother. Both Elvis and my grandfather instantly agreed that she was the most beautiful German girl that they had ever seen. Elvis turned to my grandfather, and according to family legend, said, “if you don’t ask her out, I will.” And that is how the family got started.
Our site deals with a lot of religious and spiritual topics and in every interview we usually ask a question related to spirituality. Do you consider yourself a religious or spiritual person?
I do consider myself to be a religious person. That’s not to say that I don’t sin. There has only been one person in all of history to not sin, and that was Jesus, and I know I’m not him. However, what I do believe is this. That God is a merciful and forgiving God. No matter what I do on Earth, God forgives me for my wrongdoings. He is not the type of God that holds a grudge. He wants to have a relationship with all of us.
Tell our readers the story you have shared about the scars on your head and how all of it led to your encounter with angels.
About November of 1993. That is when I was diagnosed with an astrocytoma of the thalamus region. In laymen’s terms, that means that I had brain cancer in the middle of my brain. So my mother searched very hard to find a hospital that would be able to cure me of the cancer. We found one in Toronto, Canada. First surgery was in January of 1994 where they removed about 50% the tumor. Six months later, the tumor grew back to twice its original size. So my mother looked to find another hospital who could help me. My mother came across the Children’s Hospital in Detroit, because they had a new way to treat kids with the type of cancer that I had. So in Detroit, the doctors removed 90% of the tumor that had grown back, because the other 10% had latched onto my brain. What they did with the other 10% of the tumor was they injected radioactive seeds at the tumor site that has kept the tumor from coming back these 20+ years. Now I have had trouble since the tumor. I have two shunts on either side of my head, and whenever they malfunction, I have to get them repaired. I know they malfunction because when they do, I have massive headaches that no amount of aspirin can cure. Last surgery was in the summer of 2007. In the spring of 2008, I had a veinal hemorrhage, which means that a vein in my brain was cut. I lost my reading vision for a short time. My vision has since become back to full strength however the lateral movement of my eyes is still shaky.
Now, I know what you really want to hear about the surgeries that I have had, and I will tell that story now. After the second surgery in 1994, when I woke up from the operation, I told everyone in the room supporting me that I had seen angels during the surgery and also during my last surgery in 2007, when I was waking up, I saw a bright light. It may have been angels, it may have been God. All I know is that someone upstairs is watching over me and I am greatly blessed by that.
Please click here to read RGH’s tribute to Adam Hileman, which includes a music video by the Zac Brown Band.