I'd had that same fear all week, but of course I hadn't breathed a hint of it to him. Now where would I find words to comfort him? Igathered myself and said, "Alex, if you do, you'll be home, and if not, we'll move on with life."
It's hardly surprising that my comment brought him no peace. As we rolled Alex down the hallway, he became agitated and slurred his words. The nurses assured us he would not remember going down the hall.
We were told surgery would take between five and eight hours. Beth chose to pass this time in the waiting room. I walked restlessly through the grounds surrounding the hospital. Beth had a pager. I had a cell phone. We were nervous. Alex's spine was curved at an 89-degree angle, and he had to be cut open from the base of his neck down to his hips.
The surgeons gave us progress updates a few times. They finished in about four hours. At one point, Dr. Onders showed up to tell us he had just checked on Alex.Three people were sewing Alex up, he explained, and this would take about an hour.When the surgery was done, we were informed that it had been a tremendous success. Alex's spine was now perfectly straight, and he was recovering in the ICU.
Alex was awake when we first saw him, but he was pretty out of it. Beth stayed with him in the ICU, and I returned to the hotel. I returned in the morning to make sure Beth and Alex were okay and then headed back home to be with the other three kids.
Due to complications, Alex had to spend the next three weeks in the ICU recovering from his surgery. During this time Beth stayed with him every night, rarely leaving the room. What Alex experienced physically for the next fifteen days almost defies description. Alex's Army was praying. It was a battle of titanic proportions. At one point, Alex lost his vision. He had tremendous problems getting air, and his blood pressure repeatedly switched between extreme highs and extreme lows.Alex's words came out as a faint whisper. Several times, he was sure his fears about dying were coming true.
As trying as this time was for Alex, we were reasonably confident that he would pull through. The medical staff worked mightily to stabilize him, even as he failed to improve for many days. At one point during this time, the team of doctors and other medical staff-about eight people-assembled around Alex's bed to collaborate. Alex's flaccid body was flat on the bed, he was extremely weak, and his vitals were unstable. He continued to have problems breathing. In his compromised condition, Alex had only one thing on his mind. He lifted weary eyes to look at the medical team and in his now feeble, whispering voice asked, "Do any of you have a personal relationship with God?"
"I do," one person said. The rest of them exchanged quick glances.
Alex then began to talk about Jesus to the rest of the medical team. He never once mentioned himself or his own circumstances. He was only concerned about the other people and their relationship with God through Jesus. Because he had so little breath, Beth would lean down, listen, and then act as Alex's interpreter. When he was finished, one of the medical people smiled and said, "Alex, you are amazing."
+ + +Every time I leave Alex after spending a little time talking with him, Iask myself, "Why don't I ever feel sorry for him?"Rachael, friend of the Malarkeys+ + + Alex responded, "God is amazing.I'm just a kid." is amazing.I'm just a kid."
Over the next week Beth continued to give me updates as Alex talked about God with virtually every person who entered his room.One day a nurse came in when Alex was too exhausted to speak. He looked at his mother and said, "You tell her."
When Alex finally returned home from Cleveland following a 180-mile ambulance ride, I asked, "Alex, did you tell everyone you saw about Jesus?"
Alex smiled and said, "Daddy, please. Of course I did!"
This is why, when people ask me if my faith is shaken because Alex hasn't been fully healed, I can respond with a firm no. Certainly Alex is going to be fully healed, whether here on earth or in Heaven. How that occurs is God's choice, yet I am totally convinced that his healing will occur in this life.
God has touched so many lives and brought so much good out of Alex's pilgrimage that I know God is not only directing His plan, but He is also directing the timing of His plan. That's where our confident hope rests.
And ... It Isn't Over Yet!
Afterword: Questions and Answers with AlexQ: What do you know about a current Heaven and a future Heaven on earth?A: I know that there is a place other than the one I go to. The angel Ryan told me that the future Heaven is where you get the new bodies. He wishes that he could have one of those bodies.Q: Do you hear talk of the New Heaven where you are?A: The other Heaven is there now, but in a different place.Q: Is the Garden of Eden and/or the tree of life in the present Heaven?A: I have no idea.Q: Are there cities in Heaven?A: Yes. They make New York City seem small! The skyline is awesome.Q: What was your body like in Heaven?A: I never really paid attention to my body. I never looked down or thought about myself. I was too in awe of everything else. Iknow that I could walk in Heaven, though.Q: What do you think about the fact that God told Paul not to talk about what he saw in Heaven, but He told John to share about his visit?A: I don't feel so weird when I think about that. I'm a mixture of the two. Some things I can say and some things I can't.Q: Have you ever seen hell (from Heaven or at any other time)?A: I've never seen hell myself. There is the hole that I told you about in outer Heaven. I know that if you go through that hole, you end up in hell. This makes me very sad.Q: What is worship like in Heaven?A: It's always happening. The angels have sessions of praising God. They go to His throne at certain times. I have seen the elders bowing down and saying, "Holy, holy, holy." But the most awesome part is the angels behind the elders. There are more than you can count.Q: What people have you seen in Heaven?A: I have seen people from the Bible. I cannot say anything else.Q: Is Heaven a physical place?A: How could I have been there if it wasn't?Q: If you were going to speak to a group of young people about prayer, what would you tell them?A: I would have fun and tell them the truth. God loves you, and He is always there. I would then describe God's love and His presence. I would want them to know that He hears you when you are praying and He loves you.Q: What would you tell people about spiritual warfare?A: I would only have three main points. (1)Satan is a loser, and he has already lost; (2)demons are trying to mess with people nonstop; (3) we need Jesus in our hearts to fight the demons.Q: If the president of the United States was on the phone with you, what would you tell him?A: Let God be your leader. Follow God and try to get people to follow Him. If you do this, nothing evil can mess with you. And by the way, Georgetown stinks. Go Bucks!Q: What would you say to someone who is troubled or anxious?A: If they are, I would just say, "Ask God for help."
Scripture Appendix Angels For he will order his angelsto protect you wherever you go.They will hold you up with their handsso you won't even hurt your foot on a stone.Psalm 91:11-12 There is joy in the presence of God's angels when even one sinner repents.Luke 15:10 Angels are only servants-spirits sent to care for people who will inheritsalvation.Hebrews 1:14 For in one place the Scriptures say, "What are mere mortals that you should think about them, "What are mere mortals that you should think about them,or a son of man that you should care for him?Yet you made them only a little lower than the angelsand crowned them with glory and honor."Hebrews 2:6-7 Don't forget to show hospitality to strangers, for some who have done this have entertained angels without realizing it!Hebrews 13:2 They were told that their messages were not for themselves, but for you. And now this Good News has been announced to you by those who preached in the power of the Holy Spirit sent from heaven. It is all so wonderful that even the angels are eagerly watching these thingshappen.1Peter 1:12 And all the angels were standing around the throne and around the elders and the four living beings. And they fell before the throne with their faces to the ground and worshiped God. They sang, "Amen! Blessing and glory and wisdomand thanksgiving and honorand power and strength belong to our Godforever and ever! Amen."Revelation 7:11-12 God's Care for Children But God heard the boy crying, and the angel of God called to Hagar from heaven, "Hagar, what's wrong? Do not be afraid! God has heard the boy crying as he lies there. Go to him and comfort him, for I will make a great nation from his descendants."Genesis 21:17-18 And you must commit yourselves wholeheartedly to these commands that I am giving you today. Repeat them again and again to your children. Talk about them when you are at home and when you are on the road, when you are going to bed and when you are getting up. Tie them to your hands and wear them on your forehead as reminders. Write them on the doorposts of your house and on your gates.
Deuteronomy 6:6-9 You have taught children and infantsto tell of your strength,silencing your enemiesand all who oppose you.Psalm 8:2For he will conceal me there when troubles come;he will hide me in his sanctuary.He will place me out of reach on a high rock.Psalm 27:5We will not hide these truths from our children;we will tell the next generationabout the glorious deeds of the LORD,about his power and his mighty wonders.Psalm 78:4The LORD is like a father to his children, is like a father to his children,tender and compassionate to those who fear him.Psalm 103:13Children are a gift from the LORD;they are a reward from him.Psalm 127:3Direct your children onto the right path,and when they are older, they will not leave it.Proverbs 22:6I knew you before I formed you in your mother's womb.Before you were born I set you apart.Jeremiah 1:5 At that time Jesus prayed this prayer: "OFather, Lord of heaven and earth, thank you for hiding these things from those who think themselves wise and clever, and for revealing them to the childlike. Yes,Father, it pleased you to do it this way!"Matthew 11:25-26 About that time the disciples came to Jesus and asked, "Who is greatest in the Kingdom of Heaven?"
Jesus called a little child to him and put the child among them. Then he said, "I tell you the truth, unless you turn from your sins and become like little children, you will never get into the Kingdom of Heaven. So anyone who becomes as humble as this little child is the greatest in the Kingdom of Heaven.
"And anyone who welcomes a little child like this on my behalf is welcoming me. But if you cause one of these little ones who trusts in me to fall into sin, it would be better for you to have a large millstone tied around your neck and be drowned in the depths of the sea."
Matthew 18:1-6 The leading priests and the teachers of religious law saw these wonderful miracles and heard even the children in the Temple shouting, "Praise God for the Son of David."
But the leaders were indignant. They asked Jesus, "Do you hear what these children are saying?"
"Yes," Jesus replied. "Haven't you ever read the Scriptures? For they say, 'You have taught children and infants to give you praise.'"
Matthew 21:15-16 One day some parents brought their children to Jesus so he could touch and bless them. But the disciples scolded the parents for bothering him.
When Jesus saw what was happening, he was angry with his disciples. He said to them, "Let the children come to me. Don't stop them! For the Kingdom of God belongs to those who are like these children. I tell you the truth, anyone who doesn't receive the Kingdom of God like a child will never enter it." Then he took the children in his arms and placed his hands on their heads and blessed them.
Mark 10:13-16 To all who believed him and accepted him, he gave the right to become children of God.John 1:12 Don't let anyone think less of you because you are young. Be an example to all believers in what you say, in the way you live, in your love, your faith, and your purity.1Timothy 4:12 Have you forgotten the encouraging words God spoke to you as his children? He said, "My child, don't make light of the L "My child, don't make light of the LORD's discipline,and don't give up when he corrects you.For the LORD disciplines those he loves, disciplines those he loves,and he punishes each one he accepts as his child."
As you endure this divine discipline, remember that God is treating you as his own children. Who ever heard of a child who is never disciplined by its father? If God doesn't discipline you as he does all of his children, it means that you are illegitimate and are not really his children at all. Since we respected our earthly fathers who disciplined us, shouldn't we submit even more to the discipline of the Father of our spirits, and live forever?Hebrews 12:5-9 Heaven You will show me the way of life,granting me the joy of your presenceand the pleasures of living with you forever.Psalm 16:11Surely your goodness and unfailing love will pursue meall the days of my life,and I will live in the house of the LORDforever.Psalm 23:6 It was in the year King Uzziah died that I saw the Lord. He was sitting on a lofty throne, and the train of his robe filled the Temple. Attending him were mighty seraphim, each having six wings. With two wings they covered their faces, with two they covered their feet, and with two they flew. They were calling out to each other, "Holy, holy, holy is the LORD of Heaven's Armies! of Heaven's Armies!The whole earth is filled with his glory!"Isaiah 6:1-3 Pray like this: Our Father in heaven,may your name be kept holy.May your Kingdom come soon.May your will be done on earth,as it is in heaven.Matthew 6:9-10 Don't store up treasures here on earth, where moths eat them and rust destroys them, and where thieves break in and steal. Store your treasures in heaven, where moths and rust cannot destroy, and thieves do not break in and steal. Wherever your treasure is, there the desires ofyour heart will also be.Matthew 6:19-21 Jesus replied, "The Kingdom of God can't be detected by visible signs. You won't be able to say, 'Here it is!' or 'It's over there!' For the Kingdom of God is already among you."Luke 17:20-21 Don't let your hearts be troubled. Trust in God, and trust also in me. There is more than enough room in my Father's home. If this were not so, would I have told you that I am going to prepare a place for you? When everything is ready, I will come and get you, so that you will always be with me where I am. And you know the way to where I am going. . .. I am the way, the truth, and the life. No one can come to the Father except through me."John 14:1-4, 6 Against its will, all creation was subjected to God's curse. But with eager hope, the creation looks forward to the day when it will join God's children in glorious freedom from death and decay. For we know that all creation has been groaning as in the pains of childbirth right up to the present time. And we believers also groan, even though we have the Holy Spirit within us as a foretaste of future glory, for we long for our bodies to be released from sin and suffering. We, too, wait with eager hope for the day when God will give us our full rights as his adopted children, including the new bodies he has promised us.Romans 8:20-23 What I am saying, dear brothers and sisters, is that our physical bodies cannot inherit the Kingdom of God. These dying bodies cannot inherit what will last forever.
But let me reveal to you a wonderful secret. We will not all die, but we will all be transformed! It will happen in a moment, in the blink of an eye, when the last trumpet is blown. For when the trumpet sounds, those who have died will be raised to live forever. And we who are living will also be transformed. For our dying bodies must be transformed into bodies that will never die; our mortal bodies must betransformed into immortal bodies.1 Corinthians 15:50-53 For we know that when this earthly tent we live in is taken down (that is, when we die and leave this earthly body), we will have a house in heaven, an eternal body made for us by God himself and not by human hands. We grow weary in our present bodies, and we long to put on our heavenly bodies like new clothing. For we will put on heavenly bodies; we will not be spirits without bodies. While we live in these earthly bodies, we groan and sigh, but it's not that we want to die and get rid of these bodies that clothe us. Rather, we want to put on our new bodies so that these dying bodies will be swallowed up by life. God himself has prepared us for this, and as a guarantee he has given us his Holy Spirit.
So we are always confident, even though we know that as long as we live in these bodies we are not at home with the Lord. For we live by believing and not by seeing. Yes, we are fully confident, and we would rather be away from these earthly bodies, for then we will be at home with the Lord.2Corinthians 5:1-8 But we are citizens of heaven, where the Lord Jesus Christ lives. And we are eagerly waiting for him to return as our Savior. He will take our weak mortal bodies and change them into glorious bodies like his own, using the same power with which he will bring everything under his control.Philippians 3:20-21 You have come to Mount Zion, to the city of the living God, the heavenly Jerusalem, and to countless thousands of angels in a joyfulgathering.Hebrews 12:22 I heard a loud shout from the throne, saying, "Look, God's home is now among his people! He will live with them, and they will be his people. God himself will be with them. He will wipe every tear from their eyes, and there will be no more death or sorrow or crying or pain. All these things are gone forever."Revelation 21:3-4 So [one of the seven angels] took me in the Spirit to a great, high mountain, and he showed me the holy city, Jerusalem, descending out of heaven from God. It shone with the glory of God and sparkled like aprecious stone-like jasper as clear as crystal. The city wall was broad and high, with twelve gates guarded by twelve angels. And the names of the twelve tribes of Israel were written on the gates. There were three gates on each side-east, north, south, and west. The wall of the city had twelve foundation stones, and on them were written the names of the twelve apostles of the Lamb....
The wall was made of jasper, and the city was pure gold, as clear as glass. The wall of the city was built on foundation stones inlaid with twelve precious stones: the first was jasper, the second sapphire, the third agate, the fourth emerald, the fifth onyx, the sixth carnelian, the seventh chrysolite, the eighth beryl, the ninth topaz, the tenth chrysoprase, the eleventh jacinth, the twelfth amethyst.
The twelve gates were made of pearls-each gate from a single pearl! And the main street was pure gold, as clear as glass.
Revelation 21:10-14, 18-21
Photo Insert Before the accident
Alex, just before turning three, with his newborn best buddy, Aaron. The two brothers have always been inseparable.
Taken two weeks before the accident, this is the last picture of Gracie, Aaron, and Alex all together and healthy. Sometimes I have a hard time remembering what it was like when Alex could walk. In those moments, I look at this picture.
This would not be the last time Alex was like Superman. Several years later he would have the "Christopher Reeve surgery."
On the scene
One of the worst moments of my life was getting into this ambulance while Alex was taking off in the chopper. I couldn't believe I had to be separated from my injured son.
This photo shows the deadly illusion of this road-it appeared wide open, but a hidden dip concealed the approaching car. I never saw it coming.
Still in a coma, Alex sits in his wheelchair while wearing a back brace. (You can see "Doggie," Alex's favorite stuffed companion, sitting on his lap. Doggie has been through many surgeries with Alex and has even ridden in the ambulance.)
Christmas Day 2004-our family was together for the first time in almost six weeks. Although we didn't know what would happen to Alex, we were so grateful he was still with us that we couldn't help but rejoice.
This is the painting described in chapter 6. A friend had a vision of three angels hovering over Alex. Weeks later, we found that another woman (a complete stranger to the first) had painted this picture at the same time.
I still tear up when I look at this picture. It was the first time I was able to finally hold Alex in my arms again. A very, very good day.
[Above and below:] Friends surprised us by decorating our home for Alex's arrival. He came home joyfully with a nurse, a respiratory therapist, two EMTs, and two nervous parents . . . but he would go back to the hospital only days later.
Our license plate speaks for itself. Alex believes he will walk again-and so do I.
Our new normal
[Above and below:] To keep his body in motion, Alex walks in his Hoyer lift, he goes on the treadmill, he even goes swimming. He is totally fearless.
[Above and below:] Whether it's a sleepover in the church gym or football practice with our hero, Coach Jim Tressel, it takes many volunteers, many vehicles, and many hours to get Alex anywhere-but he's unquestionably worth it.
Alex getting fitted for his wheelchair, which he could operate himself by moving his chin.
In 2009, Alex made international news as the first child ever to undergo the surgery made famous by actor Christopher Reeve.
For Beth and me, our kids-Aaron, Alex, Gracie, and Ryan-are the joy of our life. Maybe this isn't your traditional family photo, but it's full of happiness and love. Please don't feel bad for us . . . because we don't.
1 Kevin: "I have no memory of being in Heaven, but Alex is emphatic that this is what happened." Kevin: "I have no memory of being in Heaven, but Alex is emphatic that this is what happened."