Friday, 29 June 2007

Event#3 - my confusing family tree

Getting back to "events" that changed my life - a pretty big and obvious one would be the somewhat confusing story of my family tree. Most of you probably know this already but, here goes....

I was born in April 1977 to Glen & Helen. Girl #2 arrived in January '79 in the form of my sister Andrea. On Thanksgiving weekend, 1979 when I was 2 1/2 and Andrea only 9 months old, our dad died of a sudden heart attack - he was only 27. They didn't know that he had a heart condition called hypertrophic cardiomyopathy - a genetic disease (usually early onset) which thickens the heart muscle. This disease does not skip generations and children have a 50/50 chance of inheriting the gene from their parent. They can now test specifically for this gene mutation, and by the grace of God, miraculously neither Andrea nor I have this gene - which also means none of our children can inherit it from us - praise God! However, at the time, this simple blood test was not available - so Andrea and I had to go in every 4 years for tests, which I'm sure was very stressful on our parents. Parents, you say? Ah yes, on to the rest of the story.

Another family: Peter & Helene had two children, Dallas and Michelle. Dallas and his mom Helene were both killed in a car accident. Peter had minor injuries and Michelle, only a baby at the time, was uninjured.

These 2 families were joined together in mutual grief and love when Peter (Michelle's dad) and Helen (my mom) were married in 1980. Michelle's birthday was October 77 - so there were now 3 girls in this family less than 2 yrs apart - apparently quite the fights ensued as we all got to know each other. Two years later the new couple gave birth to a boy - Jamie.

So, technically I have a mom, a step-dad, a sister, a step-sister and a half-brother. I think that just about covers all titles! I say technically because not once have I ever thought of my dad, sister or brother as step or half anything. This all happened at a young age so it was "normal" to us right from the start. And regardless, our love of God and each other bonded us into a "real" family.

Another miracle to the story: a couple years ago my dad was diagnosed with the same disease my first dad had. Unbelievable isn't it? Which meant that now Michelle and Jamie also had a 50/50 chance of inheriting the disease. And again, by the grace of God, neither of them have it either! And my dad's disease is not really progressing at this point, so he is doing well, praise God!

So, what are some ways I've been affected by these life-changing events? Here are some of them....

I am saddened that I have no memories of my 1st Dad. This bothered me even more when I became a parent and when my oldest was 2 1/2 I looked at her and realized that should I have died then, she would not remember me - regardless of how much I had loved her and cared for her and done for her these 1st years of her life. And that was hard to process. And so, it bothers me that I cannot remember my Dad doing those things for me. But I do have pictures, and they are wonderful.

But I am so thankful for my dad now. So thankful that I was able to grow up with such an excellent father figure. Thankful that he showed me, even subconsciously, how my future husband should treat me - with love, respect, honor, gentleness and more.

Due to the losses in our family, I also had to deal with an overwhelming and irrational fear that Nathan would also be taken from me at a young age. Most people do not really worry about losing their spouse early on - at least not as a fear issue. However, because it had happened to my family, I knew it was a possibility. And that really scared me. It took awhile for me to be able to release my husband and children into God's hand, with the knowledge that He was in control. This was, of course, no guarantee of old age death or protection from all harm - but it is a guarantee that nothing will happen outside His plan, and that no matter what, He will be there to see me through it. After dealing with this, I still struggled with it off and on, but not to the same degree. The one other time it bothered me more significantly was when our oldest 2 daughters were 2 1/2 and 6 months old, we had been married 5 yrs and were 26 & 27 yrs old - pretty much the exact same scenario as my family when my died dad. I was relieved when that year passed without incident! Though with God's help it was actually an easier year than I expected it to be.

Another thing I only realized after becoming a parent, was that my dad not only lost his wife, but his son as well. Now of course I had always known this, but I really only realized the impact of that when I became a mom. Just the thought of losing one of my precious children is almost more than I can bear. And I wept for my dad when I truly realized what he'd lost. Both of my parents have endured unimaginable pain and suffering and yet their faith in God did not waver and is, in all likelihood, stronger because of it.

I was also overjoyed to hear in recent years about the good that came out of my dad's death. We know the verse in Romans that God will work good out of every situation, but often we can't see that on this side of heaven. Like an upside down tapestry, we often just see all the tied off threads, the messy side of a piece of art that makes no sense until the other side is revealed. But this time I got to see the good - at least some of it. One of my aunts told me that many of my dad's cousins and friends became Christians as the result of his death. And that is a very good work! Numerous spiritual lives were saved when my dad lost his physical one to receive his eternal reward - and I know he was/is rejoicing in heaven with the angels for each and every one of those souls that have been redeemed! I am so thankful to God for allowing me a sneak peak at the beautiful side of the tapestry.


ValleyGirl said...

Thanks for sharing, Tammy. What a beautiful story of your life and the lives that shaped/are shaping it.

Pamela said...

Praise God that all for of you kids not having the disease! Truly a miracle. Thanks for sharing!

Ruth said...

what a beautiful story of love and grace. thanks for sharing it!

kristilea said...

Wow, I had no idea that your family had such a story behind it. I can totally understand all the fears and struggles you had, and probably still have to some degree. I have never had to experience that kind of loss in the family. The closest I came, was having to watch my uncle watch his wife slowly die in front of his own eyes from Cistic Fibrosis. He knew she had it when they married, and that he couldn't grow old with her, but he loved her with his whole heart, every minute until her last breath. He now has remarried and finaly has a child! I also had two uncles that dies before I was born, so I'm looking forward to meeting at least one of them one day. (The one we are sure was saved)

This season on the Biggest Loser, they had Abby, who had lost her husband, 5 1/2 year old daughter and two week old baby boy in a car accident. I don't know how you go on after that. I really don't. I'm so happy to see that she is making huge strides of improvement and I hope God blesses her with another family some day.

It is so hard to not have those fears of losing someone when you love them so much. The hardest thing I've ever had to do, was give my children to the Lord. I know they are just loaned to me (so to speak) but I want to have control over how long they are with me, and where they will live, etc. It's so hard to give that to God and be willing to accept whatever His will for them is. I suppose that's why it's so important that we make God the center of our lives. The center of EVERYTHING, so that no matter what happens, and what we may lose, we will never lose God, and we can continue on living for Him.


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