My wife Elaine and I took one look at our son Paul’s college room, then stared at each other. Disappointed, we saw: papers, books, clothes, bedding, dust, paperclips—and, as we got down on our knees to clean, dirt. Two days from his graduation, our son had nothing sorted, and nothing packed. We needed to box—and ship—everything in those two days. Elaine and I felt proud to have our son attend our alma mater. Paul demonstrated academic achievement, musical gifts, and an outgoing personality. We knew he would go far. But now we felt disappointment with our son.
“Stay close to the Lord.” That was my last bit of counsel four years earlier in our last moments together. I said my piece, then I left him to introduce himself to new class- mates. Now here we were knee-deep in the multiplied stuff he accumulated in those four years. But what we didn’t know: he was facing the unavoidable illness of his future wife.
“I had to help Juli.”
Paul wasn’t immune to the concern that showed on our faces. He defended himself, “But, Dad and Mom, I had to help Juli.” He was right, he did. Six weeks earlier Paul’s fiancée, Juli, came down with infectious mononucleosis. Too weak to attend classes, she needed daily tutoring. In addition to completing his studies, Paul stepped in to help Juli keep up her classwork so she could graduate.
But it wasn’t just graduation that weighed heavily. The couple’s wedding was looming closer even than graduation. Juli’s dad, the Rev. Jim Andrews, and I were going to conduct the ceremony together. Some friends the couple wanted to participate—bridesmaids, groomsmen, and performers in a string quartet—were children of missionary parents. The day after graduation, they would depart for destinations around the world. The only day to have everyone together was the day before graduation.
Elaine and I, anticipating the pleasure of Paul’s wedding and graduation, felt angry that he’d left the cleaning of his room for us. But we weren’t the only ones to face disappointment. Because of the need to clean Juli’s room, her mother Olsie didn’t even make it to their graduation. That was the initial impact of Juli’s illness on Paul and all of us parents. That impact didn’t lessen in the years that followed. Initially, Elaine and I felt disappointed and angry with our son Paul, but eventually, we also had to come to terms with Juli’s illness.
[From Chapter 1, Tragedy Transformed: How Job’s Recovery Can Provide Hope For Yours (2015). This book is available on this website through PayPal or at https://amzn.to/2mLvCeB. Look for another excerpt next week. Paul writes of his own experience with this same illness at https://www.gordongrose.com/chronic-fatigue-…fs-ii-guest-blog/ Picture: Xanadu II, Oscar Wilde House, Our Very Messy Room, Tobin, Flckr.com]