Madison just turned twenty. When I told my sister I was a little sad that I didn’t have any more teenagers, she looked at me like I was crazy and Michaela said, “Aunty, you still have me and Luke.” (Michaela just turned 14 and Luke will be 13 in a couple of days.) That was sweet and it made me feel better for sure.
Even though Madison is all grown up, I still give her lots of unsolicited advice. “Madison, make sure you lock your truck.” “Madison, don’t leave your bank card lying around.” “Madison, call me when you get there.” “Madison, rinse that dish, clean that up, put that away, do this, don’t do that.” I’m really not a bossy person, but poor Madison, who is a little too relaxed for my liking, and somewhat disorganized, gets an ear full from me every other day. I am the youngest child as well, so I can relate…a little.
When Mike was diagnosed with ALS, we gave thanks that our children were grown - Erin was 22, Nathan was 20 and Madison was 17. The day Mike was diagnosed, Erin and Nathan went and picked Madison up from school so they could gently break the bad news to their little sister. I really appreciated it and I’m sure their bond grew stronger that day.
As timing goes…to be given this diagnosis…it wasn’t bad. There definitely isn’t a good time to be diagnosed with a terminal illness, but the timing could have been worse. Our children were at the age where they knew their dad well and had already made a million memories with him. And Mike thought if he could see his kids well into their twenties, that would be pretty great.
I just finished reading a book called, Heavy. It’s about a young family’s first year with ALS. Todd Neva, who was diagnosed in June 2010 tells their story from his perspective with journal entries by Kristin Neva, his wife, at the end of each chapter. I really liked the two perspectives. The book was well written and easy to read.
Unlike us, Todd and Kristin’s children were small when Todd was diagnosed with ALS. Their daughter was four and their son was just a baby. This would definitely add to the grief…I can’t imagine! Our children were raised, but Kristin would have to take care of her husband and her children and will most likely (if this illness takes the same course it has in most cases) be a single young mom…eventually.
Todd writes about the sadness of not walking his daughter down the aisle on her wedding day or teaching her how to change the oil in her car. He worries that his son won’t remember much about him. That is tough for sure. Todd and Kristin have a strong faith in God so as difficult as it is, I’m sure they trust God’s timing.
In our case, Mike may not escort his daughters down the aisle on their wedding days either, but he has been to all his children’s graduations and many other special events. He has been to Erin’s class room where she works as a teacher. He has watched Nathan become a dad and do an excellent job raising his daughter so far. And he has seen Madison reach her twenties and became a fine young adult like her sister and brother. Mike thinks of it as good timing. His kids (and granddaughter) are the pride of his life and he considers himself extremely blessed to have watched his children grow into kind, compassionate, caring, productive, outstanding adults.
Nathan took Erin out to her car the other day when they were here so he could show her where the oil goes and give her other pointers under the hood. That brought Mike comfort and was a reminder to him that our children have each other. They help and support one another and always will. I’m sure this thought brings Todd Neva comfort too. His children have each other and will surely help and support each other as they grow and for the rest of their lives. I’m sure his children, like our children will also help each other keep memories of their dad alive and fresh in their minds. You hear our children often say, “Remember when dad did this or that?” Laughter usually accompanies their reminiscing…which puts a smile on Mike’s face every time.
If you have given the throne of your life to God, if you trust Him and believe He knows what’s best and does what’s best, then you have to believe His timing is right — that His timing is perfect.
In my Amazon book review of Heavy, I said, “Heavy has made me feel a little lighter.” I could relate to so much of Neva’s story and somehow that is so encouraging.
The following is part of Kristin’s journal entry in chapter 16 from February 2010:
…I asked my councillor if he thought it is true that God doesn’t give us more than we can handle.
“I think that God always gives us more than we can handle,” he said. “Life’s unfair and unkind at times. The question is how do we muddle through?”
Since Todd’s diagnosis, I have been struggling to comprehend why God is allowing this in our lives, and why there is so much suffering in the world. In John 9, in the story of Jesus and the blind man, the disciples ask Jesus, “Who sinned, this man or his parents, that he was born blind?”
“Neither,” Jesus replies, “But this happened so that the work of God might be displayed in his life.”
…I can’t wrap my mind around God’s sovereignty paired with the bad things that happen in life. But maybe I don’t need to. Maybe the point of the story of the blind man is that God through His grace, can redeem any situation, and even bring out of it purpose and meaning.
“Do you think that God planned our ALS or do you think He allowed it to happen?” I asked Todd.
“I don’t know.” he replied. “What I do know is that there is a right way to respond.”
Maybe we don’t need to have it all figured out, rather, we need to trust that God is in control and is working in our lives. God gives us more than we can handle, but it is not more than He can handle.
I highly recommend 'Heavy'! An excellent book!
Heavy: Finding Meaning after a Terminal Diagnosis, A Young Family's First Year with ALSwww.amazon.com“There is pain and suffering in this world, but there is also joy, and not just suffering here and joy there, but suffering and...
Mike with Leah, Nathan, Madison and Erin Dec 2013. Leah turns 5 tomorrow!