by Kainoa Fukumoto, founder of EPIC Ministry
Wow, it's been a while since I wrote a reflection for an EPIC newsletter. As I write this particular message, I'm sitting in a hospital room on the 90th day since my wife, Yvonne, was admitted due to a neurological autoimmune disease. Three months have gone by, and yet, very little improvement has been made with her condition.
My wife has, in so many ways, been the pillar of our home. I'm kind of just the comic relief. She took care of our finances, arranging our three daughter's extracurricular activities, and even though I'm the principal of the school, she's actually the one who made sure the girls kept on top of their studies. So you can imagine the adjustment our family has gone through without her around. On top of my responsibilities of being a principal, parish and ministry leader, and business owner, I functionally became a single-father almost overnight. And my kids were left without their mother.
Shortly after Thanksgiving, what I thought would be a short hospital stay turned into days, weeks, and now months. Due to the surge of COVID-19 during the holidays, hospital visitations were suspended, so we could not see Yvonne through the holidays including her birthday, our youngest daughter's birthday, and Valentine's Day. Our home life was turned upside down as I struggled to manage everything that Yvonne normally took care of, such as figuring out which bills weren't paid, how to sign-up my kids for swimming and gymnastics, and making sure homework was done completely and accurately (meeting Yvonne's high standards). Most of the time, I think I got things together, but other times, I was a complete mess.
"Most of the time, I think I got things together, but other times, I was a complete mess."
I didn't have my parenting partner to help me when the kids were getting on my last nerve. I was clueless when it came to Christmas shopping. But I just miss having my best friend, my confidant, around. She put up with all my shenanigans and listened to my venting. She's always much more reasonable and practical than I am, but she still entertained my crazy ideas, larger-than-life views, and religious/political rants. Some nights, after the girls went to bed, we'd stay up to just talk and laugh.
We've been married for 10 years, and honestly, I still feel like were just getting started. She wanted to travel more after our amazing 10th year anniversary trip to Napa/Sonoma Valley and San Francisco in November. Our kids were finally at that age that they aren't super dependent on us. We were planning for major renovations on our home to make it our "forever home" (because it might take us forever to pay it off!). And those of you who know us know that we never stopped dating. We always put our marriage first. Our marriage was never better, and our love was never stronger.
Over the last several months, I would pray in ways that I never did before. I would beg and bargain with God to heal her, to let her come back to us, even to make us trade places. But that didn't happen. Instead, she at several points became worse. I haven't heard her speak for nearly three months. She is catatonic and on a ventilator with too many drugs for me to properly list. She's gone through so many treatments and procedures, yet three months later, it doesn't feel like we've made any traction toward recovery. I felt myself starting to give up, questioning if she'll ever make it out of the hospital. I prepared myself mentally and spiritually for the worse.
"I felt myself starting to give up, questioning if she'll ever make it out of the hospital. I prepared myself mentally and spiritually for the worse."
Throughout these past months, I have been overwhelmed by the outpouring of support that so many have extended to me and the girls. So many people have shared their own testimonies of similar experiences, many of which were stories of perseverance. Friends and family have reached out and stepped in so that we never ever felt isolated or overburdened. It helped me to put things back into perspective. Even though we're going through all this, God still has a greater plan. God has not abandoned us. And there may be many blessings in disguise that come from everything we are going through.
As we prepare for this upcoming season of Lent, I often think of how God definitely has a plan. Lent is a time that we should purposefully and meaningfully look toward the Cross of Christ, and reflect on what it means for our lives personally. "God so loved the world, that he gave his only begotten Son, that whosoever believeth on him should not perish, but have eternal life." (John 3:16) God has always had a plan and that plan is one that is designed to bring us eternal life. By His own example, it's a plan that involves struggles, challenges, and trials, but it's one that will lead us to something much, much greater. Jesus said, "If anyone would come after me, let him deny himself and take up his cross and follow me." (Matthew 16:24) To follow Christ is to take up our crosses and follow him.
It is so tempting to just give up sometimes. Things are too hard and our cross is too heavy. But we forget that Jesus invites us to follow him. He didn't keep his cross, he transformed it! We're not meant to keep our crosses; his invitation to follow him is also an invitation to give our crosses to him so that he can also transform them. Don't give up; give it up to Jesus. He can take it.
"It is so tempting to just give up sometimes. Things are too hard and our cross is too heavy."
"Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you and learn from me, for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For my yoke is easy and my burden is light." (Matthew 11:28-30)
This experience has not only made me appreciate Yvonne more, but it in many ways has also strengthened our marriage. Our marriage is still never better, and our love never stronger. And through it all, I know God is with us every step of the way. When things get hard, he says, "Come to me, and I will give you rest." When I feel like giving up, he challenges me to give it up to him. I don't know what God has in store for us, but I'm confident it will be amazing even if it's not easy. Not my will be done, by Thy will be done. Amen.