Saturday, July 11, 2009

Trials and Blessings

Some of you know why we moved to Utah several years ago, but some of you don't. We came here because of a severe family trial. My wife had had a number of health problems that started in 1990. She had been quite ill since late 1999, and we were seeking help. In fact, nothing was more important to us than getting her better and helping her return to good health.

I loved our hillside home in Oregon. It was much larger than the rental home we live in now, and stood on almost five acres. We had a barn, an orchard of fruit trees, room for horses and cows. In front of that house was a stand of Douglas fir trees most of which were over 100 years old. I thought we would live out our days there, but the Lord had different plans for us.

Six years ago last month, we visited our daughter—pregnant with our first grandchild—and her husband in Provo. On the Sunday we were there, we attended their ward, and during sacrament meeting, the Spirit spoke to my soul in one short sentence: "If you move here, your wife will be healed." I was not inquiring of the Lord directly on this matter. It just came to me, but there was nothing I wanted more than for my wife to feel better and to function again.

We started looking for houses here the next day. We found one in this ward quite easily. I fasted, and we made an offer before we went home. It was accepted. Our home and acreage in Oregon sold in a matter of days at full price. We were on our way.

Let me give you a brief summary of what my wife has been through, starting in 1990. First, it was fibromyalgia and endometriosis. Then a punctured colon during a laparoscopy, resulting in a colostomy, and a colon resection (1991 and 1992). A baby in 1994 (hurray!). Next a foreign object (probably a sponge) left in her abdomen over her bladder during a previous surgery that had to be surgically be removed (1995). Though two doctors involved in her treatment had lost their licenses to practice, we never filed suit.

A month after being called as stake Young Women president, she had gall bladder surgery, causing her colon to adhere to her stomach (2000). Next, scar tissue, more endometriosis, hormones way out of whack, exhausted adrenals. By 2001, a hysterectomy, a bad virus, and then a very steep slide. She couldn't eat and became rail thin. She was deeply depressed, and antidepressants used to reboot her digestive system put her in anaphylactic shock. Then they put in a pick line and started feeding her through a tube. A counselor urged us as a family to prepare for her death. It was a difficult time.

We saw between 30 and 40 doctors, including those we saw during a trip to the Mayo Clinic. We spent thousands upon thousands of dollars seeking her recovery. Our family fortune, which had been of considerable size, shrunk rapidly, and my career was severely disrupted.

Then to our joy, in early 2002, she started to do better, only to slip again. By the end of that year, she had seen doctors in Utah and Arizona (who used alternative therapies) and was starting to get some real traction.

When the Spirit spoke to me during that sacrament meeting, I was ready to listen. I love my wife so dearly, and nothing was or is more important to me and our children than her well being—damaged dreams, flat career and diminished net worth notwithstanding.

After we moved to Utah in August of 2003, my wife went to her doctor here nearly every week for almost a year. She kept getting better and better, week by week. Two years after moving here, she had nearly recovered from 15 years of illnesses. In November of 2005, the month I said to her, "You're almost completely better," I was called to be the bishop of this ward.

How could someone in my circumstances say no or even be reluctant to serve the Lord? He had given me back my wife from "the shadow of death" (Psalms 23:4), so how could I hold back anything from Him? Over the last 19 years, He was with us every day. I have a personal goal that everything I have, including my will, should belong to the Him. I place myself in His hands. Yes, even though I have weak, ridiculous and selfish moments, I cannot in good conscience withhold anything from Him.

Since I was called as bishop, my wife's health has been steady and good, but life's difficulties seemed to have turned their attention to me. Never have I had more severe personal trials in my career, physical health, and financial matters than in the past three years. Our once vigorous net worth has shrunk to a fraction of the size it was just a few years ago. After over 25 years in my career, I cannot anticipate being able to retire, and my health has been so unpredictable, I never know what the next day will bring.

Nevertheless, nothing else has blessed my life more spiritually than being your bishop. I would not trade my experiences, trials included, for the privilege of knowing and serving you, for anything. I wish to be a friend to each one of you, but more importantly, I hope to be your servant.

I don't really care much about my trials, insignificant as they seem in comparison to my wife's, because next month my wife and I will celebrate our 30th anniversary. I can still hold in my arms the most precious thing, other than my testimony of the gospel, that I have ever found. My wife was dead, and is alive again. She was lost, and is found (Luke 15:24).

What else could I want or expect from the Lord? I am grateful beyond words.

7 comments:

Michaela Stephens said...

All I can say is Wow. I am inspired.

JeJim said...

Tear, Tear, Tear...We love you dear friend and know that through all our trials and picking the most horrible time to sell and move, we were meant to be here and receive the blessings of your service, know that it does not go unappreciated! WE have reaped from your good life and unselfish service, our children are better for it and Andy dearly loves you! You lifted him when he needed you most! You are part of the reason he serves the Lord! Thanks for lifting us UP!

P.S. Your darling wife has been well worth the sacrifice!! WE LOVE her TOO!

Anonymous said...

Thank you for sharing your beautiful story. We are so lucky to have you both here.

Jared said...

Mike,

I appreciate this post!

Your experience is very powerfully written and the faith you and your wife brought forth is a moving testimony.

I'm so pleased your wife is doing better and I'm hopeful your health and circumstances will improve.

I'd like to ask your permission to copy this post and put it on my blog, ldsaliveinchrist.com.

I'll check back on the comment section for your response.

Mike Fitzgerald said...

Jared, Feel free to republish this. Thanks for reading. Mike

Tim Malone said...

Thanks for sharing your story. It hits close to home as my wife and I are passing through a similar episode, though not nearly so drastic. Faithfulness, in spite of adversity, and especially demonstrated faithfulness to your family, will turn to blessings in your personal trials. I can relate.

CMalone said...

My husband found your blog for me as I'm experiencing much of the similar health related issues as your wife. My heart goes out to you both. I'm facing a hysterectomy next Monday, Aug 3. The road leading there has been fraught with pain and suffering. I never thought I'd make it this far. But your wife's tale is much harder to read. I take comfort in your story and in your faith. Sometimes I wonder if I have enough to carry me through. It's not only the surgery and the bleeding and the pain, but the recovery and will I ever be the same again.

Through it all I've gained some insights similar to yours. Again, thanks for sharing a very trying, frustrating time of your lives.

Carol Malone