He knew

Still in shock from the news, with tears coming forth without notice

I grieve the sudden death of my brother and all that it means.

Where do I begin to tell the story of his life and mine intertwined?

I just can’t write very well right now.

One dynamic is clear though.

Just before he died, he had come to know and convey despite horrific suffering

That life in Christ is worthy of our primary focus. It supernaturally transcends the incredible chaos of our time whether it be in our own broken frame or the society at large.

I don’t think he lived this belief out perfectly in all areas of his world. But in conversation with me, his witness was clear: LIFE as in LIFE IN CHRIST is the most important matter of our days.

With this I find it curious that his final words to his companion and caregiver of many years were, “I don’t want to die.” But Mike, to live is Christ, to die is gain (Phil 1:21), ultimately to be with the Lord and perfectly whole. Why did you not give in to death when in a coma, when seizing, when facing searing pain and be truly free? No one would know and no one would blame you for letting go. You didn’t even do so until the Lord called you home. I am seeing in you this gift of perspective that I have not been able to realize in my own time of battling serious illness. You got it right! I need to get it right too.

Thousands of waking seizure attacks have ravaged my body over the past 8 years. The health complications that came along the way have brought much grief, guttural cries out to the Lord for relief. Experiencing my brain on fire when I am still awake has brought traumatization, triggered memories of past incidents of trauma, stirred emotions that took me down, down, down. If there was lingering bitterness from the abuse of my past then it had no where to go to heal when every month it seemed, there was a new medical problem/diagnosis/treatment to consume my days. Sure, I tried to live around the compendium of illness; weather sick or faking wellness, I see now that my focus has been in the wrong place too much of the time. I need more of Jesus Christ and less of everything else NO MATTER WHAT IS GOING ON AROUND OR WITHIN ME.

I have struggled to read my Bible and pursue even passive activities that can strengthen my relationship with my Savior. It’s been really, really hard to do so. Somehow my brother Mike figured it out despite his suffering. He could only use one hand! His body erupted into violent spasms without warning. The simplest of self care tasks were laborious beyond belief. He has been bedridden for most of the past few years. And the pain. I don’t know if anyone really knows how much he endured, how much medication or cigarettes it took to numb the torture of severe contractures from a stroke about 5 years ago then subsequent medical mismanagement (or minimal management). So did he talk about all of this with me? NO! He chose share what he was studying in his Bible instead. He asked me important questions that I was barely able to answer. Mike meditated on the significant issues of life itself. He saw beyond the life his broken frame, not wanting it to end despite his suffering. Mike dwelt for hours each day in the presence of our Lord and blessed me in return by his doing so.

Mike really did not want to die. I get the sense that it was because he wanted to be here when the Lord returned in glory for His church. Mike thought he would be here for the rapture. Sometimes I think that I will be here for the rapture too, and that it might not be far away with the absolute chaos going on in our country. Despite my own faith in Jesus Christ, many times I have wanted to die. I have been overcome with despair, enough so that I could not imagine living another day with my own suffering (described here many times, portrayed on my YouTube channel). My faith has wavered at times when challenged by the worst ravages of chronic illness. I am not proud of it. This is important to share however, as I know that I am not alone. Tis better to bring these issues to the light of day in the right way at the right time. Now is that time. My brother’s witness to me that I finally got to see in his passing from this life is a proverbial fork in the road for where I want my life to go from here. I got this perspective from you Mike. Thank you. You have finished well, the task of ministering to your older sister whether you knew or not that you were doing so.

Thank you my dear brother in Christ. On Friday you told me that you knew that one day you would be healed. That prayer was answered just one day later! I rejoice that you are now leaping like a deer on high places as you dwell with our majestic Savior in the heavenly realms. See you one day when the Lord calls me home too. Until then,

Heyyyyy Mikey! I love you. JJ

Freedom from Rain

Rainy weather working its foggy magic on a landscape is beautiful. A rainy day encourages introspection. Or at the very least a nap. I love the rain in all of its spirited and benign forms. But we have had rain day after day without much respite. This is rain of a different sort. Too much rain foments rot both above and below ground. Too much rain spoils blooms. Too much rain dampens the spirit. We have had all of the aforementioned. 

Deborah Silver

Is it the rain or the cold that gets to my weary bones far beyond the havoc it reigns in the garden landscape?

Perhaps the dry-out late in July that parches the land through the Fall is even worse, when my soul aches for a simple cup of relief?

How will I look back on this season of my own life where moments of respite, nourished from the right care gives way to occasional relapse and now tragedy?

Alas my dear brother, survived with me but not with our youngest, Rob, lies in a coma amidst the sterile hum of machines you could never repair

In your appliance servicing days let alone fix your own broken spirit from never quite fitting into the affections of our Dad but perhaps too much by our Mom?

What is Mike’s world like right now: can he hear the buzz, taste the plastic tube down his throat, smell the air now sanitized and finally free of cigarette smoke?

I ache for you as I did for Rob. You two never did get the advantages I had as the oldest nor fight long enough for better despite our childhood traumas.

Or perhaps that first year of my life cinched it when there was more love to give in both bloodlines . . . oh how I wish I could go back and carve more out for you!

The Lord grieves for us three as now you are now in the juxtaposition from time to eternity. It’s just not how He meant it to be you know.

I will love you forever Mike. Godspeed if this is the end. Go to your Maker and live at last, totally freeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeee!!!

A rain garden rises from the soil and rocks, bringing beauty and purification. Consider this a sign in the natural world of His creation that imitates the glory of a life surrendered to Christ.

Missin’ Mike and Good News Too

There is good news to report:  my brother will be moving into a better rehabilitation facility soon!  His fiancé is now his legal guardian and has received preliminary acceptance of his admission into the rehab. unit of a skilled nursing facility close to their home in Port Huron, Michigan.  Michael’s Medicaid is now approved which makes this transfer possible.  Lord willing he will be there within a week.

My heart is breaking that I have not been able to see him since our initial visit to him at St. Johns Hospital April 15th.  St. Johns dumped him into an inner city nursing home when a place became available who would accept someone with “Medicaid pending.”  The social workers claimed that they contacted 35 facilities before St. Francis accepted him.  While we are grateful that this search for a place ended up extending his inpatient rehabilitation 10 more days, the place he got transferred to isn’t much more than “3 hots and a cot.”  Oh I guess they give him his medication too and an occasional bed bath.  Not much for a 53 year old man who has just suffered a severe stroke and needs considerably more care.

I am sad that there has been no follow up on his medical needs after the initial physician visit.  (He has a tumor on a kidney that was to be scheduled for biopsy but nothing has happened.)  The staff at St. Francis has lost or been unable to locate most of his clothing.  Michael sits in a “geri chair” for much of the day which is a large vinyl recliner chair:  completely dependent upon others to be moved out of his room, into the dining room, or possibly into the T.V. room.  I understand that the building is very old with stained walls, stench of incontinent residents, and constant sounds of demented residents or staff milling about.  Michael has gotten weaker from inactivity.  His weight continues to be down even with the meals and treats brought to him by his fiancé and our cousin, Lisa.  Lisa is an optometrist on staff with the facility but that has made little difference in meeting Michael’s care needs.  Lisa witnessed a nurse writing her requests in the nursing 24-hour care log.  Nothing happened:  1) he continues to crave cigarettes whereas a nicotine patch would ease his chemical dependency and 2) he never got the wheelchair promised upon admission and supposedly recommended by the physical therapist.  I am convinced that the poor, sack-of-potatoes positioning in the recliner chair has contributed to his worsening left shoulder pain.  Such is life post stroke with left hemiplegia and no rehabilitative care.

In the meantime Sister Bear has secured a television/DVD player, wheelchair, walker, and bedside commode for him.  However with the lack of security for his personal items and transportation issues getting the items to him from their respective locations (wheelchair and commode in Mt. Clemens, walker in Adrian, and T.V. here with me in Indiana) everything is on hold until he moves into a better place.  Lord willing everything will move forward soon as various family members have offered assistance to get these items to him and his fiancé (also named Lisa!).  Lord willing I will be able to visit him at Marwood in Port Huron in about 2 weeks.  Surely my serious respiratory infection will be resolved by then and travel arrangements will come together; the seizure attacks have lessened some as well, gratefully.  I would have never tolerated visiting Mike at St. Francis due to the extremely high potential risk of environmental triggers for seizures.  Even the outdoor patio would have been an impossible place to visit coupled with the resident smokers.  Knowing all of this contributed to my heartbreak of late.  There was nothing I could do but keep in touch with everyone, secure the equipment, pray, and wait.

So I wonder what it has been like for Mike to be so debilitated, alone except for some weekly visits, in a dumpy and dirty living environment?  I understand that he had his Bibles brought to him and pictures taped to the wall next to his bed.  His fiancé Lisa says that he was trying to do his exercises on his own as best as he could.  Without being able to get up and bear weight on his left arm or leg, however, the benefits of exercise would be limited.  The risk for complications has been elevated with some realized as ongoing pain and weakening instead of continued progress.  He was too debilitated to return home from St. Johns Hospital without 24-hour physical assistance and considerable accessibility modifications.  Hopefully he will be more mobile and independent when it’s time to leave Marwood and go home.  In the meantime he has had a lot of time to think about many things.  I hope he reached out to the Lord, the person of Jesus Christ, in his time of need.  I hope he will find some purpose, some meaning for this desolate oasis of time.

Most communication between us has been cut off since Mike arrived at St. Francis due to the sorry state of their phone system.  (No surprise that the place is rated one out of five stars.)  After getting through to talk to him on his first day there, the facility phone was always busy when I called.  Twice I happened to call when his fiancé Lisa was visiting so I could hear his voice for a few moments.  The last time there were so many loud voices and screaming in the background that the words were tough to hear.  I can picture the scene in that place very easily.  I worked in all types of care centers from the inner city to private pay life care communities as an occupational therapist.  Many times I completed those wheelchair screening assessments and crawled around dirty, stuffed storage rooms and sheds until I could find a wheelchair with matching parts for a new resident.  Oh well.  When you don’t have insurance you get what you get.  I guess that Mike was actually fortunate to not be dumped in a homeless shelter.  At least there were security fences around the building and a guard at the front door.  The boarded up homes across the street were intimidating to fiancé and cousin Lisa yet they visited anyways.  I sure wish I could have gone to see him too.  I miss my brother.

I look forward to seeing Mike and holding him for a long time when I do.  There is much sadness for all that he has lost.  There is also much anticipation for all that the Lord has in store for him and his fiancé Lisa too.  I believe that the Lord has His hand on him in that Mike’s life was spared.  Just under half of all persons who experience a cerebral vascular accident don’t survive.  Mike’s cognitive abilities and ability to communicate have been spared.  His ability to swallow foods from a regular diet was quickly restored.  In my clinical experience these rarely happen in a person with severe left hemiplegia.  We are all hopeful that his ability to function will improve over time as well.  The rule of thumb is that the most rapid recovery occurs within the first 3-6 months post stroke.  He is six weeks out from his onset date of April 13th and continues to feel new sensations in his affected arm and leg.  And now his next phase of rehabilitation is about to begin bringing new hope for more return of function.  This time I’ll bet at least a quarter that Mike will be very motivated for physical, occupational, and speech therapy!  That will be very good to see indeed.

Until then, please join me in praying for Mike and his fiancé Lisa.  Lisa has a teenage son, Alex, who loves Mike and hasn’t seen him since April.  There’s a golden retriever named Garfield who misses him too.  The new place is closer to their home so I hope all of them will get together sometime soon; even dogs are allowed to visit at Marwood!  Oh I am grateful for such blessings.  Yes, there is good news this day with the promise of even more to come.  Thank you Jesus for your enduring grace and mercy.  Go before us, strengthen our faith, bring healing to our dear Michael for your glory Lord.  In Jesus’ name.  Amen.

Michael George Lech
Michael George Lech