Categories
Faith/Religion Grief/Dispair Healing Mental/Emotional Health

Joy Comes In the Morning

WSN: Death, Disease, Divorce

By Cynthia Mascarenhas Waits

The single biggest challenge one is faced with after experiencing the death of a loved one, the crippling emotional and physical ramifications of a disease, or the devastation of divorce is the decision to “move on” or “move forward.” While many extraneous factors come into play, our inherent inability to “let go” keeps us tethered to the past rendering our efforts to “move forward” ineffectual.

In every relationship, especially in marriage (yes, even in a “perfect” marriage), we cause each other pain – sometimes intentionally and at other times inadvertently. Our past experiences appropriately influence our future behavior, statements like “I do not want to go through that again,” “I will not let anyone else treat me like that again,” or similar “guard your heart” statements govern our decisions. There is wisdom in that attitude so long as it is balanced by guarding against the “root of bitterness.” We build fortresses, safe havens, unscalable walls designed to keep us protected, but these also serve to keep us in fear and isolation; they obscure the view of all the abundance of life God has in store for us. Self-talk becomes our Jiminy Cricket, hostility and contentiousness become our armor, and sarcasm becomes our sword. Yup, we are ready to take on anybody who even remotely triggers our fears; we approach future decisions with this mind-set.

However, let us turn to something that has been validated, tried, and tested over the centuries – the Scriptures (eat your heart out Jiminy Cricket!). Quit the self-talk, which is influenced by a negative attitude (albeit for legitimate reasons). Go to the unchanging truth.

We are called to break down strongholds, tear down our fortresses, and take captive every thought. Not easy to do because it calls for you to take off the armor you are wearing, to be vulnerable, and rely on the armor of God.

2 Corinthians 10:5 – We demolish arguments and every pretension that sets itself up against the knowledge of God, and we take captive every thought to make it obedient to Christ.

It calls for obedience, which would require us to cast away all our thoughts, fears, and insecurities, and “seek” the will of our Father, learning to hear Him and obey Him. Not easy to do until we quiet the voices in our heads and the trepidation in our hearts.

1 Samuel 15:22 – …. To obey is better than sacrifice.

It calls for us to recognize what is going on – God has a plan for our lives, a plan which involves His glory is reflected in how we live. We will have to give up our ‘right to be happy’ by our definition of the term ‘happy’; it calls for a paradigm shift in our sense of self-worth. It takes knowing that you indeed are called to live in a love story (we are the object of God’s infinite and unconditional love), but there is a mighty effort to keep you from reaping the rewards of this love – a battle for your future. Know the enemy and know what weapons to wield.

2 Corinthians 10:4 – The weapons we fight with are not the weapons of the world. On the contrary, they have divine power to demolish strongholds.

I pray you might embrace the fullness of life God has in store for you, notwithstanding the trials and tribulations you have and continue to experience. Death, disease, and divorce can steal your joy and shatter the prism through which you view life; remember you have an ally who desires that your life be a reflection of His glory; take up the armor He offers and embrace His promise.

No matter how dark the night, remember this: Joy Comes in the Morning!

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Cynthia Waits (Mascarenhas) is the Founder of Walk with a Widow, a ministry to widows worldwide; You can also find us on the web. Walk with a Widow Group is a support group on Facebook, serving almost 500 widows from over 13 countries around the world.

Cynthia and her husband David Waits, are subject matter experts for Joy Comes in the Morning #Death #Disease #Divorce, which can be found on Facebook. We hope to help you in your journey of finding Joy after a season of despair. Joy Comes in the Morning!

Categories
Faith/Religion Grief/Dispair Loneliness Moving Forward

This Life We Are Given: As Simple As ABC?

Terrell Whitener

WSN: A Few Minutes with Terell Whitener

Recently I lost a colleague due to some unfortunate circumstances. Historically in these writings, I share with you, it focuses on strategies for managing the loss of our spouses, partners, and significant others. However, recent events in my own life have made me reflect that loss continues to happen in our lives, and we must find ways of managing these events when they occur.

So, this life we are given, without our loved ones, frequently gives us a different view of death. For me, it has enhanced the importance of time in my life. I have a greater appreciation for the time, how I use time, who I spend time with, and how I prioritize the use of time. After receiving the news of my colleague’s death, I took some time to not only absorb the shock of their passing but also look at this life I have been given.

Over the years, I have developed a strategy that allows me to take a simple approach to complex matters in life. When reflecting on the losses I have experienced since my wife Robyn died, my approach to future losses boils down to the ABC’s in my life. Let me take a moment to share this approach with you.

A: Acknowledge those people and things that bring value to your life.

I have learned to express my genuine feelings for and appreciation of the relationships and things that bring happiness into my life. I say, “I love you “much more often and easily than I used to. I find it refreshing to let others know how I feel and, in a more cliché way, takes the time to smell the flowers.

This ability to express my feeling has led to a more open and expressive existence with friends and family members than previously in my life. Those who may believe that this sounds too mushy, let me offer that this makes me feel more genuine.

B: Believe in something or someone greater than yourself.

Right up front, let me assure you I am not telling you what to believe in or who to believe in at all. I only what to encourage you to take the opportunity to galvanize the benefit of the realization of what makes your life the life you are living. What motivates you? Who assists you in being the person you are? How do you use your talents and gifts are a few ways you can approach this aspect of life.

I am a man of faith, so my approach is rooted in my religious beliefs. Over the years, I have come to not only acknowledge but respect those that take a different approach to life.

C: Commit to an approach and celebrate the successes.

Over the years, with the help of my mentors, friends, and family, I have learned to be a fearless decision-maker. While this has not always resulted in success, it has afforded me a clear and convincing approach to life. Take the time to take a 360 view of your circumstances, and then take the best path to happiness and success in life.

Another habit that I am forming is to celebrate success no matter the size of the accomplishment. If it is losing 5 pounds or closing a seven-figure deal, celebrate it. I am a huge fan of momentum. In my relationships with individuals I mentor, I always emphasize creating positive momentum in their lives and careers. I believe in this practice very strongly.

So, there you have it. A very surface level synopsis of my ABC’s of life. Though this was born out of the heartache of loss, it has become the framework of peace. I am confident that whether you have formalized these thoughts in your own lives, many of you have the same approach to living and loving after a loss.

As always, brothers, I welcome your feedback. And by the way, do not forget your ABC’s.

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Terrell Whitener is an author, motivational speaker, and coach. Based in St. Louis, Missouri, Terrell is the author of The First 365, Learning to Live After Loss. Terrell can be reached at his newly redesigned thedebriefgroup365.com; there, you will find all his social media contacts. You can find his article every two weeks here on WSN-MO.

Categories
Faith/Religion Healing

Help from a Higher Power

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An Excerpt from The Widower’s Journey – Chapter 5

(Aside: While Chapter 5 may be one of the shortest chapters in my book, The Widower’s Journey, it is, in my view, the most powerful. It also receives the greatest number of favorable comments from readers. I pray it serves you well.)

This chapter was written for those who seek to help their healing through spirituality. I’ll share views and stories from our team of contributing widowers on the role their religious and spiritual beliefs had in their journeys, and how it eased their grief. Readers will also be introduced to our team of religious experts, including two Christian ministers, one Rabbi, and a Roman Catholic priest. Though I found comfort in my faith and will encourage widowers to renew and deepen their faith to help their recoveries, this is an honest look at religion. Some widowers will openly express their anger toward God and their reasons for discontinuing the practice of their faith.

Just as we said in Chapter 2, there isn’t one path to working through grief, there is no one path for healing through faith. As Rabbi Alexis Pearce tells us, “spirituality is a very delicate, personal and intimate thing.” So if you’re reading this book to help a widower you know, and you feel religion might do him some good, suggest it gingerly. Maybe invite him to play a round of golf in your church golf league, or ask him to help you with a church volunteer project.

The Bible speaks plainly on the help God gives those who grieve. Pastor Doug Fultz believes God is especially close to people who are heartbroken. He quoted Psalm 3:19 to me: “The Lord is close to the brokenhearted and saves those who are crushed in spirit,” which comforted me. And the Bible calls upon the religious community to help those who have lost someone dear. “Blessed are those who mourn, for they shall be comforted” (Matthew 5:4). And we of faith

are comforted that the Bible assures us that someday we will be reunited with our loved ones in heaven.

I cannot put into words the role of faith in healing our spiritual wounds better than Pastor Ken Hagin. Pastor Hagin says that at its most powerful, faith helps us establish a personal relationship with God. “It is within personal relationships that we experience loss, and consequently, it is within personal relationships where we find comfort and, more importantly, personal peace. God wants to be the provider of the peace that is being sought; so as we continue on our journey through the most difficult times in our lives, we need to remember it is not in the inanimate rules of religion where one finds comfort but through a personal relationship with God.”

I learned how widowers found many different ways for their faith to help them. Widower Quentin Strode, a man of religious strength, says: “Through the tough times, based on my religious beliefs, I know I will see my beloved Shanda again.

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The Widower’s Journey is available on Amazon.com in paperback and all digital formats.

Categories
Faith/Religion Trust

Trust, you must. Can you?

Cynthia

“But blessed is the one who trusts in the Lord, whose confidence is in him. They will be like a tree planted by the water that sends out its roots by the stream. It does not fear when heat comes; its leaves are always green. It has no worries in a year of drought and never fails to bear fruit.” Jeremiah 17:7-8

Undoubtedly, if you have experienced #Death #Disease #Divorce, you have lived through a season of drought, you have endured the scorching heat of inclement elements, and your leaves have wilted and withered.  The evergreen promise eludes you; trust evades your sensibilities.  Trust – the sentiment that personifies a firm belief in the integrity, ability, or character of a person.  Our experience with #Death #Disease #Divorce, however, makes us question integrity and character, and maybe even God’s ability to come to our rescue.  How, then, do we trust? Who should we trust? God? He did not prevent the challenge we face; He saw fit to stand back and let it happen; or, worse yet, He orchestrated the painful event in our life.  Can I trust Him?  Or the spouse that played a pivotal role in this painful experience in our life should we trust him or her? That would be a stretch! Trusting another person to enter the realm of intimate relationships is influenced by prior experience.

The good news is God will still operate in our lives in His imperceptible way whether we trust Him or not; choosing to trust Him does not determine His involvement in our lives; it does allow us to take a step back and watch in awe as He works in our lives.  So, the bigger challenge will be how to trust a ‘person’ not to inflict pain or cause you harm again.  Prior experience is the greatest influence of present behavior; hence, the phrases, “Been there done that” and “Once bitten, twice shy.”  How do I do this ‘trust tango’? By trusting the only One who is worthy of trust!

When you pass through the waters, I will be with you; and when you pass through the rivers, they will not sweep over you. When you walk through the fire, you will not be burned; the flames will not set you ablaze. Isaiah 43:2

This is His promise to you and me! But to experience life in all its fullness, we have to be willing to “pass through the waters and walk through the fire.”

Trust in His ability to lead and guide:

Let the morning bring me word of your unfailing love, for I have put my trust in you. Show me the way I should go, for to you I entrust my life. Psalm 143:8

Trust Him to be your defender:

My salvation and my honor depend on God; he is my mighty rock, my refuge. Psalm 62:7

Trust Him to be your protector:

He will not let your foot slip— he who watches over you will not slumber. Psalm 121:3

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Following the passing of her husband in 2018, Cynthia founded Walk With A Widow, a non-profit organization whose primary focus if healing the hearts of widows by giving love and hope to widows around the world. As one would expect, much of the material crafted for widows can also be of help to widowers.

A registered nurse, Cynthia recently released her new book, Widows Are Warriors.

Cynthia’s insightful articles will appear periodically here on WSN-MO. You can contact Cynthia at her website, www.walkwithawidow.com

Categories
Faith/Religion Moving Forward

PERFECT LOVE CASTS OUT ALL FEAR!

Cynthia

In this season of uncertainty, fear lurks around every corner; it governs every decision; it steals our joy!

Ask anyone who deals with the devastation of death, disease, or divorce. Tentative living is not what we are called to do; Yet, FEAR is REAL. Where then should we turn for hope? To the one true source of perfect love.

Our faith in an immutable God was never meant to be a sprint. It was always destined to be a marathon. As a track and field athlete, I can attest to the exhilaration of the 100-meter dash. I knew I could do it!  All I needed was a strong start, a powerful burst of speed, and voila, I was at the finish line. The marathon, however, takes endurance; it takes perseverance. It takes trusting that elements out of our control would continue to run in our favor. There are no assurances along the way that your hamstring would hold up, or that your resilience would stand the test of prolonged hardship. But that is what it takes to have persevering faith. It takes trusting that no matter what the outcome, we place our total trust in a God who controls every outcome; the seen and the unseen.

This race is not about who finishes first; it is about who finishes well. We all have to finish; checking out mid-way is not an option. So choose whom you represent on this run called life – As for me and my house, we choose the Lord! He models perfect love! We rest in that Perfect Love which Casts Out All Fear!

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Following the passing of her husband in 2018, Cynthia founded Walk With A Widow, a non-profit organization whose primary focus if healing the hearts of widows by giving love and hope to widows around the world. As one would expect, much of the material crafted for widows can also be of help to widowers.

A registered nurse, Cynthia recently released her new book, Widows Are Warriors. Cynthia’s insightful articles will appear periodically here on WSN-MO. You can contact Cynthia at her website, www.walkwithawidow.com

Categories
Faith/Religion Finding Purpose Giving Support Grief/Dispair Healing Moving Forward

And suddenly… It’s spring!

Jim Winner

As I write this, I’m getting ready to leave Naples and head back to Carmel, Indiana. I’ve been here about 10 weeks. It’s been extremely healing and renewing. When I got here the first week of January all the flowers were blooming. I didn’t see them. The sun was shining everywhere, except on me. As I shared with you in an earlier column, the first week was brutal. But I decided, no matter what, I would stay here and experience my first Florida winter without Joyce. I’m glad I did.

Good things happened. People I hadn’t been in touch with for a long time reached out when they were in the area. I reconnected with a longtime friend of mine who I’ve known since first grade. Several of my neighbors invited me to have lunch or dinner with them. I was blessed to share many an afternoon and evening with dear friends, old and new. I learned a valuable lesson this winter. That lesson is, in this season of life, it’s important to stay engaged with those around you. I believe an even more important lesson is to be open to new things. Accept that invitation to share a meal, get a cup of coffee, or visit favorite fishing spots. Be prepared and willing to experience new things.

We’ve all been through and are going through our own individual winter seasons, literally and figuratively. Emotionally, I’m sure we all have had some cold and dark times. I find my spirits lifted as I consider spring and all it holds. I’m looking forward to many things. I’m excited about re-joining my beloved church choir, preparing to celebrate Christ’s resurrection, and knowing what that means to me. I’m excited about getting back in my garden. I’m an avid gardener, and last summer, because of Joyce’s illness and subsequent death, I had no interest in it. I’m excited at the prospect of being able to witness the beauty of spring in Indiana. I look forward to being on the golf course with my best friends. I look forward staying open to new things. I can’t wait to hear the sound of the neighborhood kids playing, see greening of the grass and the blossoms of my favorite trees. Spring is life. Spring manifests beauty. I feel a personal season of spring starting. I hope you do as well. Life is beautiful. Let’s live it.

Categories
Faith/Religion Giving Support

Counseling – Religious or Secular?

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WSN-MO: Widower to Widower with Fred Colby

Shortly after my wife of 45 years passed in 2015, I found myself in the deepest pit of despair. I knew that I was in trouble, and I could not find the answers all by myself. So, I asked myself, “Where can I go for help?” 

For many of us, this may lead to having to make a choice: “Do I turn to a church for help? Or, do I turn to secular organizations for help?” For me, the answer was made easier by the fact that my church did not offer any counseling support, so I naturally turned to Pathways Hospice, which provides one of the best Grief and Loss programs in the country.

However, many churches do offer some form of grief counseling to help their parishioners through the challenges which face them after losing a loved one. Many of these are happy to welcome their neighbors, no matter what their religious affiliation. Through Griefshare.org, widowers can often find churches in their area which offer support groups to help you through your grieving.

But, if you are looking for secular or non-church affiliated help, you may have to look far and wide to find local support groups. My recommendation is to first go to your local hospice and ask if they provide grief counseling or if they can recommend some organization in the area which does offer this service.

You may have to hunt around, and the online resources are limited. Here is a couple you can look at:

National Hospice & Palliative Care Organization

National Widowers Organization

If you have a strong church affiliation, going to your church counseling group makes perfect sense. It offers familiarity, a faith-based approach that supports your world view, and genuinely caring people to support you. However, there are some potential issues, such as:

  • You know the people too well and don’t feel comfortable opening up to them,
  • The group leaders are not specifically trained for grief counseling, or
  • Topics may seem to be narrowly defined to theological issues, rather than the very human issues you are struggling with.

A more secular approach may suit you better if you are just not ready to turn to God for help right now, or if you feel that the professionally trained staff at a hospice are better able to support you, or if you are not comfortable in a faith-based setting. In a secular setting, you might:

  • Feel there is not enough open discussion of faith as a part of the healing process,
  • Not be comfortable being in a group of guys and/or women in coed groups who you never met before, or
  • Long for the comfort of a faith-based setting.

The only thing I can tell you for sure is that grief groups and grief counseling can be invaluable to your healing process. So, don’t be deterred if you are not able to immediately find the right group to participate in. Keep looking if your first preference (faith-based or secular) is not available or does not work out. Try another group, another counselor, until you find what works for you.

I can tell you from experience that these groups if run properly, are wonderfully welcoming and supportive if you give them a chance. I have seen many widowers come into their first meeting with their arms crossed and their demeanor screaming, “Please leave me alone and just let me suffer by myself.” 

And I have seen almost all of these widowers come around by the end of their first meeting, often saying something like, “I did not know what to expect, but I am so glad that I decided to come. I will be back for the next meeting.” Often, they later ask why we can’t meet more than once a month and say the group meetings have been invaluable to them.

So, whatever your preference is – faith-based or secular – make a decision and find the right group for you. It can help you survive this hell-on-earth experience through support, camaraderie, and the sharing of lessons learned. Most importantly, you discover that you are not alone!

© Copyright 2020 Fred Colby

All rights reserved

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Fred Colby is the author of Widower to Widower, which is available on Amazon.com. You can find Fred’s column appearing here on WSN-MO every other Tuesday. Widower to Widower is available through your local bookstore, my website, and Amazon. Buy Widower to Widower through Amazon. (If living in Canada go to Widower to Widower – Amazon-Canada) See Testimonies and Reviews of Widower to Widower. Website: Fred Colby, Author

Categories
Camaraderie Faith/Religion Giving Support Widower Awareness

Winning Thursday Thoughts from Jim Winner

Jim Winner

Today, WSN-MO welcomes fellow brother Jim Winner as the newest member of our editorial team. Welcome Jim. We are all looking forward to reading your insights.

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Today marks day 214 since my Joyce died. Even though she was sick for seven months, and we knew for a month, she was going to lose her battle with cancer, I had no idea of what real grief would be like. For the first three months, I seriously questioned not how I would make it through, but IF I would ever make it through. At the three month mark of her passing, I took a stack of grief books and got away for a week. Through the reading of many books, followed the prescribed journaling exercises, I came to realize I needed to stop asking the question

“WHY” and start asking the question “HOW.” None of us will ever know why our beloved wives died. That’s one of the great mysteries of life. Once I realized that things began to change for me. I began to ask myself HOW I will live the rest of my life. What will my legacy be? What will I do to live a life that honors God and honors her legacy and wishes?

The only right answer to the above question is the answer that is right for you. We’re all going down this road together, but everyone’s story is different.

In my case, the answer came in one word, service. I needed to identify and serve causes that would not only help me heal but would help others. In my case, I have discovered an avenue of service that is both important and purposeful.

Last fall, I became involved with a local food pantry in Indianapolis. It’s a pretty busy place, serving nearly 2000 clients every month. I help people shop; I empty trash, I do whatever is needed. It feels good. It feels good to know you’re putting food on people’s tables. It feels good to know you’re helping to address food insecurity issues. Every time I serve there, I come home feeling blessed at the opportunity to help others who are facing their own set of difficulties. I’ve had the chance to connect with people going through circumstances similar to mine. I’ve been able to offer and receive encouragement from many new friends. It makes me realize that as dark and challenging as my journey has been, there is an opportunity to grow and be better from it.

I’ve appreciated the many stories I’ve read on this forum. Well, I haven’t met any of you face-to-face, I believe many of our wives share the same values. I believe our wives want us to continue living our lives. I believe our wives want us to do things that matter.

Is it hard? You bet it’s hard. Nothing worth doing is that easy, is it? If you’re looking for something new to do this year, something to make you feel better, think about volunteering for a cause you respect, or something she liked. It will honor her, and it will help you as you move forward in your journey.

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Jim Winner’s Winning Thursday Thoughts will appear every other Thursday.  Jim is a member of WSN-MO and a former stockbroker and business owner. He resides in Carmel, IN and Naples, FL. You can write Jim at: jbw0802@gmail.com

Categories
Faith/Religion Holidays

Why Christmas means even more to me as a widow.

Cynthia

It’s the most wonderful time of the year…and the most painful, nostalgic, nightmarish time of the year now that my husband is gone.  Our hearts and home scream for the void we feel.  A voice that once boomed through our home at Christmas as we gathered around the piano is forever silent.  The man of our house who wore a Santa hat and regaled us with antics straight out of the North Pole now rests in peace.  At least, that is what celebrating Christmas feels like from our perspective.  But is that all it is?  Is there a reason to celebrate anymore?  Are we looking at things from a lop-sided and grief- eschewed perspective?

The voice that once filled our homes with laughter now sings with a chorus of angels.  The hands that played the piano to bring music into our world are raised high in praise of our God who never fails.  The head that bobbed around the house wearing a Santa hat is now bowed in adoration of an omniscient God. Yes, Christmas is worth celebrating because it is not about whom we do not have with us.  It is about whom we hope to spend Christmas with forever.  It is about who made Christmas happen – the Christ of Christmas.  It is about the hope of eternity in His presence.  It is about the promise of seeing our beloved again.  Christmas without my husband means more than it did before because while our hearts hurt and long for his presence here on earth – every time we think of him, we are reminded of who Christmas is really about.  So, as we gather around the piano and sing this year, as we raise our hands in worship of the King of Kings, and as we bow our heads in adoration, we join in with our beloved who IS in the presence of the King. I hear his voice in my head, and I see him worshiping with the saints.  I hear the sounds of trumpets, and the piano fades away. He is celebrating Christmas every day with a passion and fervor we reserve for one day.  What a glorious picture?

We wish you a Merry Christmas – we celebrate despite our pain and despite all the sadness in the world.  We celebrate because Christmas is about Christ – the Hope of the world.  The only assurance we have of eternity in the presence of God.  The only reason we look forward to seeing our beloved again.  We celebrate Christ, even more, this Christmas, and we look forward to the ultimate, glorious celebration in eternity.

Isaiah 9:6

For Unto Us, a Child is born; Unto us, a Son is given.  …. And He will be called Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God, Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace.

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Following the passing of her husband Franz, Cynthia Mascarenhas founded Walk With A Widow, a non-profit organization whose primary focus is healing the hearts of widows by giving love and hope to widows around the world. As one would expect, much of the material crafted for widows can also be of help to widowers.

Cynthia’s insightful articles will appear periodically here on WSN-MO. You can contact Cynthia at her website, www.walkwithawidow.com

Categories
Faith/Religion Giving Support

Tom Nate, A Good Hearted Man

tomathius nate
tom nate

Tom Nate is not a widower. Rather, Tom Nate is a walking miracle. A resident of San Antonio, Texas, Tom is a man who has endured much and is eager to give forward by supporting the members of WSN.

You say you have troubles.  Read the account of Tom Nate’s story as written by Kihm Winship.  Then tell me how your day is going. Don’t miss out.  You’ll be glad you took the time to read the story of this truly remarkable man.

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The Remarkable Story Of Tom Nate… A Walking Miracle

A native Texan raised in Houston; Tom Nate started life with a lung disorder, but he didn’t let it slow him down. In spite of childhood bouts of pneumonia, he was active in sports, graduated from college, and went on to a successful career in business. True, he might have gotten a little out of breath from time to time, but he grew accustomed to it.

However, in 2002, when he was 48 years old, two things happened that would change Tom’s life. First, he became the father of a son. And second, his shortness of breath became a constant challenge. By the time his son was an active three-year-old, Tom was tied to an oxygen tank, and on the waiting list for a double lung transplant.

Tom talks a lot about miracles, and an early miracle in this story was that his employer’s health insurance provided full coverage for transplants. The closest participating hospital was in St. Louis, and in 2007, Tom received a new set of lungs. He was in surgery for 14 hours, and in a coma for six days, but he got well, and three months later he was back home in Texas.

Through all of this, Tom wanted everything to be as normal as possible for his wife and son. His boy was now four years old and more active than ever. Tom wanted to be active with him. However, eight months after he returned to Texas, his lungs rejected.

The doctors told him that finding another matching donor would be difficult; in fact, there was just a 2% chance due to antibody issues resulting from the first transplant surgery. Not sure whether he should try for another transplant, Tom and his wife prayed for 40 days. Their answers started revealing themselves as what Tom calls “a whole bunch of miracles “began happening. An offer of an airplane to take them to St. Louis. Housing opportunities in St. Louis. A school for their son, with tuition, paid anonymously by another family hearing of Tom’s struggle to live. Those were answers to Tom and Irma’s prayers,and they decided to move forward.

When Tom and his family relocated to St. Louis in October of 2008 to await another transplant, Tom’s doctor told him he had six months to live. Tom and his wife focused on prayer and on keeping his son’s life as normal as possible. Tom went to rehab every day, accompanied by his oxygen tank, to stay strong for the possible surgery.

On New Year’s Day, 2009, Tom was rushed to the hospital in an ambulance barely able to breathe; his lung function was down to 12%. His doctor told him that he had two weeks to live, at most. Tom’s lungs had quit making oxygen and, worse, were unable to clear the CO2 from his blood. The same evening his doctor gave the terrible news, Tom went into cardiac arrest, respiratory failure, and kidney failure.

His wife Irma was called to the hospital and told Tom would not make it through the night, and she should just “let him go and not resuscitate him.” His wife refused and told the doctors that “it was not their decision whether Tom lived or died but God’s decision.” But the doctors said they could not put him on a ventilator unless they had his written permission. His wife, doing her best to stay in control, screamed at Tom to wake up. His eyes opened, and she asked him if he wanted to live or “let go.” Gasping for air and unable to speak, Tom reached up and squeezed his wife’s arm; a tear fell from his left eye. The doctors accepted that as a “Yes.” They put a tracheotomy in his throat and attached a ventilator to him. He would be unable to speak until new donor lungs were located, and another transplant surgery was performed.

For the next three weeks, Tom was unconscious in the Intensive Care Unit. Four more times, the doctors tried to convince Tom’s wife to let him go. However, she said, “If God wants him, God will take him.” Unconscious, Tom fought through cardiac arrest, kidney failure, a staph infection, and reactions to drugs. Tom remembers asking God to “take him home” and having out-of-body experiences, leaving his body and the hospital room behind, rising into brilliant colors, beautiful music, but hearing a voice that said, “It’s not your time yet; you have a son to raise.”

When Tom woke up, he had “tubes everywhere.” Unable to move, he told himself that he would start over at square one. The first thing he did was get a pen and paper and write down his recollections of the out of body experiences, sobbing as he wrote. Tom has total belief that God intervened and spared his life, answering all the thousands of prayers offered by so many on Tom’s behalf. He had to relearn to walk. Still tied to the ventilator, he needed an electric larynx to speak. Doctors predicted his kidneys would never work again and counseled his wife on the reality of Tom living on dialysis. But 20 days after he woke from his three-week sleep, Tom’s kidneys started working again. His body, swollen to twice its normal size from all the fluid in him, began to return slowly to normal. He had to work with physical therapists each day not only to walk but to learn to eat and bathe and dress. One day, he walked five feet. The next day, ten feet. It was grueling at times, but after three months, he walked out of the ICU.

With a portable ventilator and a scooter, Tom was able to leave the hospital and return to his family’s apartment. His job was to stay alive until a transplant could be arranged. He learned to do for himself what the nurses had been doing for him. When he asked his doctors how long he could go on, they replied, “We don’t know. Nobody’s ever done this” (having lived on a ventilator outside the hospital while waiting for a double lung transplant).

Tom and his wife again focused on their son, prayed, kept up with distant friends on Facebook, and he drew strength from his wife, who was a “rock.” Tom’s Caring Bridge website amassed over 1000 followers who were also praying for him and his family each day. One very good friend, named Jon, was the ultimate prayer warrior, staying by Tom’s side praying the entire time Tom was in ICU. When Tom first opened his eyes after his three-week sleep, Jon was praying beside his bed.

There were many tough days, but all days were good as Tom was able to stay alive. Tom and his family waited 18 months for a telephone call that a donor had been found. At one a.m., on September 19, 2010, the hospital called to say they

had a perfect match, but it was from a “high risk” donor, a 21-year-old who had traded sex for drugs; Tom could reject those lungs if he wanted to wait for another donor. Tom and Irma got on their knees and prayed for God to send a sign that this was the right donor. After praying, his wife called a retired doctor friend of theirs back in Texas for some guidance, and she told him that Tom was hearing from God to “move forward, ” but

Irma felt very nervous about the high-risk lungs from the donor. Tom had told her that the entire journey had been “high risk” and their doctor friend in Texas also said,

“Irma, all of this is high risk.” That was Irma’s confirmation. Tom tells about the difference between the first and second transplant surgeries: Before his first surgery, Tom had sought to control all of the variables. This time, he said, it was “trust God. He is in control!” The surgery was a go!

Because it would take too long to shift ventilators and load Tom into the family car, he took his scooter down the elevator, out onto the street, and drove four blocks to the hospital with his son on his lap at three a.m., and to the side of a waiting bed. The nurses had never seen that before. Moreover, then he was taken into surgery a three p.m. on September 20th.

Tom awoke as they were wheeling him back into his room 6 hours later. Four hours after the surgery, he sat up. When his wife came in, he smiled and waved as she walked down the hall. He sat up when asked to by the nurse, and several hours later stood up and walked also. Within three days, he was walking laps around the ICU. After one week, he was up to six laps and noticed that the nurse accompanying him was beginning to perspire. After two weeks, he left the hospital. It had been a journey of more than two years, during which Tom never gave up hope and faith that God had a plan for him.

Today, Tom is 58 years old and coaches his son’s football, basketball, and baseball teams. On the day I spoke to him, he had pitched an hour of batting practice. “I have no bad days,” he said. “It’s all part of the journey.”

In thinking about the support he and his family received, Tom recalled a practice that his wife started while in St. Louis. Every time he or the family witnessed a miracle from either God or from people God placed in their lives to help at special times Tom’s wife, Irma, would put a pink post-it note on the mirror in the dining room, as a reminder of all the blessings they were receiving while on this journey. One day Irma counted them and found there were 140 notes on the dining room wall mirror!

Tom has spoken to hundreds of people about the power of hope, the power of prayer, the miracle of the body that God created. When he visits the hospital in St. Louis for an annual checkup, he spends two days on tests, and the rest of his visit talking to patients and rehabilitation specialists, offering encouragement. “I promised God I would do all that I could for others that are suffering from terrible lung disease,” he said.

Tom gives all credit to God, family, friends, and faith for his survival. “With God all things are possible.” Tom is always looking forward, never looking back, never losing hope, he counts himself as “supremely blessed.” And every day, he strives to be a blessing to others.

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Copyright: Michelle’s Angels Foundation, Inc. 2013

Founded by Herb Knoll