Sometimes I am so inspired by a friend that I want to share a bit of her/his story, and today I want to tell you about the life, courage, and faith of Emily …and her entire family, because theirs has been a long, hard journey of experiencing the pain of loving deeply over many years. The story began 37 years ago, when Mike and Maggie married…two promising young artists studying together at Kendall College here in GR. By 1983, they had two adorable children and the hope of a bright future…almost. Actually, just 6 months after their marriage, Mike showed the first signs of developing M.S., and at only 2 months of age, Baby Emily had a stroke, leaving her right arm permanently somewhat disabled. We first met the Donahues 20 years ago when we moved to Grand Rapids. As the kids grew up, their son David became a great friend to our son Michael, and they spent many, many happy times creating crazy videos together! Emily was a beautiful, happy child, and when she woke up on her fourteenth birthday throwing up blood, the entire family was devastated. Multiple medical issues arose, and by 16, she had to have a kidney transplant in hopes of saving her life. In the years following, there have been countless medical emergencies and complications. Meanwhile, the years rolled by…Her older brother married, & her father became permanently wheel-chair bound. I’m sure we can all identify with the hopes and dreams each of us has had for a spouse, a family, and a normal, healthy life. But, those dreams have not come true for precious Emily and her family. Theirs has been the way of suffering and the cross. In 2009, her Aunt Anna, a highly gifted artist, honored Emily by using her as a model in the creation of “Rain,” a beautiful sculpture that sold for $20,000 as a result of ArtPrize and now stands at the entrance to Mary Free Bed Rehabilitation Hospital, GR, as a permanent, bronze tribute to Anna’s artistry and her niece’s bravery. I have prayed for Emily off and on over many years, but this past month she’s been in the hospital with kidney failure: unconscious,and her life hanging by a thread. Yesterday I decided to go to the hospital to visit. Maggie was there, and we spent a long time talking and praying for Emily. It’s just hard to even try to imagine the burdens Maggie has carried for the past 30+ years, anguishing over and caring for her beloved daughter and husband. When I asked her how she sustains herself, she said the verse that keeps coming to her is John 15:5, where Jesus says, “I am the vine, you are the branches: He that abides in me, and I in him, the same brings for much fruit: for without me you can do nothing.” Amen.Where would we be without Jesus, who is our hope? Just after we finished praying, Medicaid called, telling Maggie they would help with Emily’s care, which is a huge relief, because Emily’s been in the critical care unit…and may be there for a long time if she makes it. Also, Em’s awesome nurse said Emily was starting to improve, so the nurse was going to be able to remove some of the equipment…a great sign. Thank you, God!You know, it’s really hard to understand what God’s purposes are in our lives.
We can only see just a tiny part of what God’s doing, and perhaps we’ll never understand here on earth. A few years ago when Maggie was grieving over Emily’s health, she wrote this to me: “Life is blessedly short…but then I’m looking in the wrong direction, huh? With all that is in me I will press hard into our Gracious God, and find my life and joy in Him!!! And look for His dreams! I’m now on one journey I wish He would end, but then, where is faith that He is making more room for Himself in our lives? And making Himself appear ever more beautiful in our understanding?? I covet fleeting happiness, when I should be searching for joy in Him everyday!!! Bless the trials!!” I stand in awe. If Emily comes to mind anytime, would you please pray for her and her family? “For now we see through a glass, darkly, but then face to face: now I know in part, but then shall I know even as also I am known” (1 Corinthians 13:12).
(*All pictures of Emily’s family belong to the Donahues and are used by their permission. All pictures of Anna Donahue’s sculpture are also used by her permission. If you want to hear more of Anna’s story, its here: http://annadonahue.blogspot.com/p/artprize.html All other pictures I took yesterday on my visit to St. Mary’s Hospital.)