Faith and Family

Life is precious. I write this as I am on the way with a group of youth and other adults, teens and families from throughout Wisconsin going to the March for Life in Washington, D.C. We are traveling nearly 800 miles because life is precious: the life of the young, the life of the old, the life of the sick, the life of the disabled, the life of those in the womb and those outside of it. I want to tell you the story of two lives that touched me deeply.

A Positive Test Result

The first one I met through a positive test result. My wife was expecting our fourth child. She was entering her 39th year, so we made sure to go to the obstetrician right away. We had been through this three previous times with the same doctor, and I knew what to expect. They would use the Doppler to find the heartbeat and then use the ultrasound machine to verify the size of the baby. We would repeat this type of visit many times before we got anywhere close to delivering. However, this visit was not like the others; the doctor used the Doppler and then used the ultrasound, but there was no heartbeat. She knew what this meant, she knew her craft and she knew we had miscarried this baby. The only thing was I did not know she was done with her exam; I thought she would keep looking, try to turn up the volume on the Doppler or use a different ultrasound machine. I almost fainted when I understood what had happened. My baby boy (it was too early to know for sure, but my mom dreamt it would be a boy like she had with our other two boys), who we named Juan Pablito, would not make it to term. We would not be buying him any new baby clothes, or letting our other three children hold him. By the grace of God, we were able to wait until my wife’s body naturally delivered our baby boy. The labor pains came a few weeks later and we delivered him at home, and like all of our other children, I was able to cut his tiny umbilical cord and hold his tiny inch-long body in my hands. His tiny and short life was precious.

1974 Meeting

The other met me in 1974. He was six years older than me and acted like the big brother he was: putting me in a headlock at one moment but playing catch with me the next. My big brother, Walter, was a very sickly child; he had a pretty serious case of Sturge-Weber Syndrome and suffered its consequences throughout his life. When he was younger, between the ages of 13 and 18, he had pretty frequent seizures, he had learning disabilities and a pronounced port wine-colored stain on nearly half of his body. Eventually, medicines cut down the frequency and severity of his seizures, but he continued to struggle. Even as a young man, he developed back problems and also glaucoma, which advanced rapidly. He nearly died when he was 20 from what we thought was a stroke but turned out to be another manifestation of his condition. At that point, doctors said he wouldn’t make it, to call in the family from out of town for their last goodbyes. Miraculously, through the intercession of my mom’s patron saint, Francis of Assisi, my brother survived his weeks in the intensive care unit, later to be moved to a regular hospital room for another month, and eventually sent home to relearn to walk and talk and tie his shoes. Within a year, the miracle was complete, and had you not known a year prior he had been within an inch of his life, you would have thought nothing had happened to him. He went on to find the love of his life, marry and move to New York to enjoy his new lease on life. From the day doctors had given up hope to the day he finally saw Jesus face to face, 33 years had passed. His life was a precious miracle.

We are the Generation

Why do I share these personal stories? Because we all have them. We all have stories of triumph and pain, we all have people in our life who impacted us, whether they spend 53 years with us or only eight weeks. We have loved tiny fingers and toes, and have washed the aged bodies of our parents and grandparents. People matter; they don’t matter only when they are healthy, they don’t matter only when they arrive at a convenient time. People matter because each and every one of them reflects the goodness and likeness of God.

We are the generation who will decide how far our love of life will take us. We are the generation who will vote for the senators and congressmen and women who will propose and support laws that will protect our very young and our very old; they will enact laws that will support those with serious illnesses and help to fund treatments and research that can find a cure. We are the ones who will vote for governors and presidents who will support legislation and write executive orders that will ease the support of life.

Finally, we are the generation who will hold cherished little bodies in our hands, and we are the ones who will take sickly family members to their doctor visits, and we are the ones who will care for the mentally or physically disabled, and we are the ones who will support the unwed mother and walk with her as she decides to hold on and hold tough through difficult circumstances. We are the ones who will spoon feed the ones who once spoon-fed us; we are the ones who will not tire of the miles driven, not tire of the long nights, not tire of living simply so others may simply live, not tire of defending life because we hold on to the faith that the one who gave us life will strengthen us to walk the walk and talk the talk for every single person who cannot.

“I have come that they may have life, and have it to the full.” (John 10:10)