Taking Time, Learning to See

This post describes, my recovery from the loss of my wife to a degenerative neurological condition called Huntington’s Disease. She was healed of this condition when she went to live with our Heavenly Father at 2:30AM, the 10th of January 2021. You can read the announcement here.

Or if you would like to read our story from the beginning, you can start with: How We Got Here…

This week has been spent getting ready for the big move to our new home. We were approved to take possession of the property on the 7th and met with a couple of moving company representatives on Saturday to get quotes.

Frannie will be glad to leave the apartment and the town we’ve been living in for the past several years because there are way too many “ghosts” inhabiting the area – memories of places we frequented with Janet, and things we did in better times. Perhaps, moving is the best thing after all. We need a clean break, and the job is requiring us to make one.

The name of the town is “Mineral Wells,” due to the numerous mineral springs in the area. Back in the day, I guess the area was quite popular for people wanting to “take the waters.” The town has a population of about 17,000, which is about the same size as the town I grew up in.

Another nice confirmation that this will be a good place for us is that I discovered St Mark’s Lutheran Church, only a five- to ten-minute walk from our front door. That is significant, not because we will be going there, but for the name. St Mark’s in Abington, Massachusetts is the first church Janet and I joined after our wedding 35 years ago. And it was also the church where our son was baptized.

I did, however, find the church we will be attending, about a ten minute drive away. It is named Divine Mercy Lutheran, and the services and the people are wonderful. Plus, I really like the name, as “divine mercy” is what is getting me through each day. Thankfully, that is a resource that is in endless supply – all you have to do is ask, and you shall receive.

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A few days ago I was driving and (as people do when they are new to an area) was tuning around on the radio, looking for a good station. I came across a radio program where the people were talking about the tragedy of doctors recommending aborting babies that are “imperfect” in some way. This got me thinking about the birth of our son, so I did something I hardly ever do – I called in.

While on hold, I discovered that the program was on the nationwide Roman Catholic radio network, Relevant Radio. So if you also happened to be listening and heard “Michael from Texas” – yep, that was me. And I even got in a quick plug for HD awareness. In any case, my story was very simple: When Janet was pregnant for the first time, we had an amniocentesis done and the results were not good. They showed the potential for a condition called “trisomy 13.” Babies with this condition are born with very severe deformities that are always fatal. We were told that these babies rarely see six months of age, and that we should abort “it” as soon as possible.

This was a situation Janet and I had not considered, but after calming down from the panic that the doctors had done their best to instill, we made the decision to not abort and that if the baby lived six months, six weeks, or six days, he would be loved every minute of that time.

As I said on the radio, to make a long story short, the tests were wrong. Our son did not have trisomy 13 and if we had gone through with the abortion, as the medical “experts” had advised, we would have killed a perfectly normal, healthy baby – our son who is, today, a Major in the US Army with three daughters of his own.

The point of my telling you this is not really about abortion per se, but the title of this post: Taking Time, Learning to See.

While I was still taking care of Janet, it seemed like every day was filled with the fine details of caring for her, and appropriately so. But one of the things I have had time to do now, as a part of the grieving process, is to slow down and consider the big picture of life – the larger story arcs of the past 35 years. And I have begun to notice some interesting patterns.

For example, people sometimes asked me how I could do what I was doing. It was, after all, clearly taking its toll. To be honest, when I was in the middle of it all, the answers I gave tended to be the kind that resulted in the person not asking that kind of “fool question” again. Now I would be more gentle (I hope) in formulating my response.

When Janet and I met, she was living with the results of growing up with a father that was feeling the effects of undiagnosed Huntington’s Disease. Due to his abusiveness, she had grown hard and cold. She said that the engagement ring I gave her (which had a lot of frilly gold work on it) was the first piece of feminine jewelry she had ever owned. Her choice was between staying stuck in what she grew up with, or with the help of God, moving on. Likewise, I could have looked her over and decided she was a train wreck on two legs. We chose life.

After we were married, we had the choice of following the advice of doctors or accepting whatever happened as a blessing. We chose life.

Finally, when she was diagnosed with Huntington’s Disease she still had choices – there are places in the US where it is now legal to murder yourself. But again, we chose life.

Get the point? There was a pattern in our lives together that I had not really seen before. I was much too close to each individual decision to see them as being connected. But now I do. I understand that no decision is ever made in isolation, but forms a part of a pattern that runs throughout our life. I have met people who have had huge shifts in their lives but looking back later realized that their “big change” was part of a larger reality that they hadn’t seen previously.

This is what I meant a bit ago when I talked about the “big picture” or “long story arcs” in our lives. During this grieving process, I have come to see the value in: “Taking Time, Learning to See.” The thing I have discovered with my new vision is a clearer view of who Janet and I both are, and (especially) who God is.

The other arc I have come to recognize is one stretching back generations. There’s my father who, despite the horrific conditions in which he was raised, chose life in the US Army over a probable death in prison. There’s his mother, who, after the death of her first husband, chose life by marrying my grandfather. There’s my great-grandparents who chose life in a new country over war in what is now the Czech Republic. And the story goes on and on.

To be clear, none of the stories were “fairytales” and nobody “lived happily ever after.” They were all, on one level, imperfect and flawed in some way, but they all resulted in something good that led to a new and better future. Which is not too surprising given The Hand that is at work. The hand of a Workman that is an expert at taking broken things and making them beautiful: broken hearts, broken lives, broken homes – even broken worlds.

By examining the bigger picture in which I have a part, I see that even in the times when I didn’t know which way to turn, I was never really lost. Moreover, problem resolution may take decades or even generations, but in the end, hopes are fulfilled and promises are kept.

In Christ, Amen ☩

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A prayer for when you are feeling aimless…

“Blessed are You, Lord God, King of the Universe. It is right that I should at all times and in all circumstances bless You for the blessings of life. But today I want to bless You especially for Your eternal perspective. It is at times frustrating to have to wait, but by faith I can know that life in Your presence is always brimming over with hope – even when, for a time, I can’t see it. Amen.”

3 Replies to “Taking Time, Learning to See”

  1. Thank you, Michael, for this post. You have a wonderful way of expressing things that I have “mulled over”; in my own mind.

    I need you to know that your blog is very helpful to me – and I’m not that special – I’m sure you’re helping MANY others. 💖

  2. I am so glad you are beginning to see the big picture, Michael. It evolves as life goes on. I lost my David to HD in 2017 after a 5 year journey of diagnosed HD. Of course there were many years before of searching for answers. Thank you for your blog. It refreshes me and my hope it will be insightful for others.

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