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Sunday, December 27, 2015

An article I wrote

I am posting here a copy of an article I wrote recently for a church publication. I wasn't sure how to share the publication itself, but I wanted the followers of our family's story to have a chance to read this synopsis of the whole ordeal. So, without further explanation, and in order to avoid the temptation to apologize too much, here is the article as printed in the December issue of "Pilgrim News and Notes."

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“For unto us a child is born, unto us a son is given: and the government shall be upon his shoulder: and his name shall be called Wonderful, Counsellor, The mighty God, The everlasting Father, The Prince of Peace.”
Isaiah 9:6

Christmas. The word itself evokes brightly colored memories of times gone by…most of them centered around family, most of them precious. Along with these memories come many emotions…some good, some difficult. Our family’s Christmases have been a bit different these past few years. And we now have much compassion for those whose holidays are not so bright.

Christmas 2009 for the Michael Wright family is one I barely remember. But I’m sure it went as so many others had. Michael absolutely adored Christmas, as did our four children. I also enjoyed many aspects of the season, but the extra tasks involved with planning the church Christmas program, trying so hard to find the perfect gift for each of the family members, and getting the decorations up often felt a tad overwhelming. As always, though, the overall sense of the season was awe…that the Mighty God of the universe wrapped His Son in the form of a human baby as a gift to THIS world! His gift meant salvation for us…for me!

Christmas 2010 for our family was extremely different from the year before. You see, that year was the year of the borrowed home, boxes everywhere, few decorations, and tentative hope. In March of that year our lives changed drastically. That was when Michael lost his entire right leg to the cancer that had stolen unnoticed into his body. Then there was torturous high-dose chemotherapy through the summer that sucked away his remaining physical resources. Without the presence of any more visible cancer, we chose to stop that chemo, and by Christmas, Michael was feeling fairly decent. He had adjusted well to life with one leg. He was even working on learning to use a prosthesis. And we had hope…hope that the cancer wouldn’t come back in Michael’s case…hope that maybe what seemed to be a tragic situation would just prove to be a hill rather than a mountain to climb. Meanwhile, Michael, being true to form, had decided he was not going to waste his cancer. His acceptance of the new life path and his reliance on God’s goodness put him in a unique position to minister to so many who watched him, prayed, and read his updates. And that Christmas, we experienced God carrying us and caring for us through a myriad of people in just as many ways! God demonstrated just how a Father cares for His child…He was “Everlasting Father” to us that year and in those to follow.

Christmas 2011 found us enjoying decorating our lovely new home! I often think of it as the “house that God built” as there were so many ways in which God manifested Himself throughout the process! We had moved into it in January, we had a wonderful house dedication celebration in March (on the one-year anniversary of the day that changed our life plan), and then in April, we discovered that cancer had returned…in Michael’s lungs. It was difficult news to hear. But, as had become characteristic of Michael, he accepted the news, processed it, chose a course of action, and then lived life to the fullest every chance he was afforded! We began high-dose vitamin C treatments alongside heavy chemotherapy that summer. In working with a different medical group, Michael met more people and touched more lives with his amazing attitude toward this trial. Some found it difficult to believe that he wasn’t on antidepressants! He used every chance he had to brag on God and His steady help and strength. So that Christmas was one of new experiences again…and a growing awareness that this journey was NOT yet over but in some ways was just beginning. Even on the darkest of days that year, though, Michael knew…we ALL knew that we served a “Wonderful” God Who never once failed us nor abandoned us!

Christmas 2012 was as “normal” as we could make it in the middle of treatments under a specialist in St. Louis. These treatments included different courses of chemotherapy with differing results, and in October of that year, the doctors extended Michael’s time on earth significantly with a terrifying yet effective freezing procedure. This procedure removed some of the most dangerous tumors in Michael’s right lung, but also resulted in a painful collapse of that lung. After the difficult recovery he experienced, we went back to working with chemo options. Through all of this, Michael continued working pretty close to full time. Obviously during hospital stays he did not go in, but in and around chemo days he stayed faithful to his job. And in turn, his employers were amazing to us sending us on a vacation, helping us move twice, being generous with sick days, bringing us meals, etc. God truly used that company to be a blessing to us!!  Another blessing was Angel Flights Central. The wonderful pilots in this organization made many of Michael’s fifty trips to Saint Louis much easier and quicker allowing him more family time. But as Christmas of 2012 arrived, we knew we were fighting with a beast that could not be conquered through sheer will no matter how many folks were “will-ing” it. Michael had long since accepted the fact that the cancer would take his life. But he didn’t do so with a sense of despair. He instead used it as a springboard for a unique ministry, constantly encouraging and inspiring others through his update emails. He had a deep peace about his situation granted to him by the “Prince of Peace” Himself.

Throughout the Christmas season of 2013, we truly found Jesus to be our All in All. We buried ourselves in Him. We clung to Him. And He was faithful! From experimental chemo drugs to continuing high-dose vitamin C treatments, from brain surgery to cyberknife radiation, from a spine tumor causing extreme nerve pain to several ER trips and hospital stays, God was with us. Time and space fail me in recounting the ways in which He distinctly showed up! Michael remained submitted to the Lord’s plan and guidance and continued to touch lives. From CT scan technicians to doctors, from family members to neighbors, from store clerks to librarians, from co-workers to clients, anyone who knew our story knew God was at work and carrying us! What a legacy Michael left for our children who witnessed all of this firsthand! The devil fought HARD for our family. He hit Michael with the cancer, blasted me with depression and panic attacks, endeavored to undermine our marriage, and even bullied our oldest daughter…but he didn’t win! God remained “Mighty God” and pulled us through the fiery darts to safety! The year of 2013 brought us much heartache and difficulty, the worst being the knowledge that this Christmas would be Michael’s last on earth. In fact, as the day approached, many of us were unsure he would even make it that long. But God was with us when a hospice hospital bed became part of our living room d├ęcor on December 9. God was with us as many precious people took time to come and tell Michael how much they loved him and what a difference he made in their lives. God was with us as family and friends surrounded Michael’s bed and sang the Christmas carols he so loved. God was with us as prayers were prayed over Michael and for him. God was with us as we adjusted our family celebrations to Michael’s needs. The “Prince of Peace” continued bringing peace to our hearts as we slowly began to say our goodbyes.

Those final goodbyes were said on January 16, 2014. As Michael’s family surrounded him in the hospice house, and as his favorite hymn was sung, he finally broke the last of the bonds that held him fast and he took his last Angel Flight. The right lung that no longer functioned because it had been overtaken by tumors was no longer needed.  The bones that had been eaten away by cancer no longer caused pain. Michael walked with two legs on golden streets breathing freely of celestial air! His faithfulness to trust God and to hold steady and strong was rewarded with a joyous “Well done, thou good and faithful servant…enter thou into the joy of thy Lord.”

Christmas 2014. Remember how I said the rush of Christmas responsibilities often overwhelmed me a tad? Well, that was nothing compared to the Christmas of 2014. Even though I knew all about the faithfulness of God, and even though I trusted in His provision completely, grief took over and haunted my days making the entire season from Thanksgiving until the one-year mark (January of 2015) dark, difficult, and full of depression. I prayed often that God would have mercy on my soul and just help me survive one more day. I was determined to do my best to continue living the best I could for my children’s sakes until I could somehow feel alive again. So I did the Christmas routine…the shopping (online as much as possible), the church program (completely a God-subsidized endeavor), the decorating (it felt so inane…so purposeless), the gift-giving (who needs stuff when your husband is missing?). I just ached for the light in my soul to come on again. But in and through all of this, I had a deep abiding sense that even then, Jesus was with me. He became my closest “Counsellor” – He helped me make decisions when I couldn’t push past the brain fog. He was “Everlasting Father” to the children – He provided for them in so many ways, including special gifts from many people. Jesus was my “Prince of Peace” – even when I was drowning in pain and grief, I knew He was with me and would sustain me. He was “Wonderful” in every way He ever promised He would be! And He brought brief moments of joy back into our Christmas of 2014.


So, what does Christmas of 2015 hold for our family? Well, we greatly anticipate the homecoming of my oldest daughter! She’s been attending Hobe Sound Bible College since August, and we are anxious to hug her neck!  God has been with her and granted her help and strength and brought her through some challenges to conquer this first semester away from home. I have a feeling the strength and courage her daddy exhibited has contributed largely to her success as well. The rest of us are planning Christmas as “usual,” whatever that means! The season remains a bit difficult in that there is a distinct hole where Michael is supposed to be. Our hearts ache to hear his laugh as he shared his enjoyment of the holiday. So many of our plans used to revolve around him. Many activities trigger memory rushes that at times cause yet another flow of tears. But the light is back on…it’s not shining its brightest yet, but it’s back on. And I know beyond the shadow of a doubt that during this Christmas, just like all the others, we will remain aware of God’s Presence. We will experience this celebration of His birth with hearts full of gratefulness for all He has done and is doing in our lives! May you also find Him near and real and present throughout the season! Merry Christmas!

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Thank you for faithfully reading my blog and for praying for our family over the past few years. Only in Heaven will you fully understand the value of each of those prayers. Thank you for caring and for continuing to let us know! I pray you had a wonderful Christmas and that your 2016 is packed full to overflowing with amazing memory-making moments!  May God go with you and grant you Peace!




Celebrating Jesus and the greatest gift ever given,