Death Becomes Beauty
The way that Lindy and I met in 2005 is an incredible story on its own merit, but for brevity’s sake, let’s just say it was a very serendipitous moment. Who knew a dared kiss of two strangers on the bed of a pickup truck would ignite a cat and mouse chase that would put a Tom and Jerry chase to shame! After two years, the cat would finally catch this mouse; not sure who is who in this story, but Lindy and I settled into a relationship that would soon prove to be divinely arranged.
In 2006, Lindy landed her well-earned dream job at Goldman Sachs. Two years into her job, her migraines became more intense and frequent. She struggled with migraines most of her adult life, but this job exacerbated it. Remembering that Goldman Sachs had the gold standard in health insurance, I encouraged her to go in and see someone. Maybe she could get an MRI to see if they could discover the cause of these vexing migraines and help her get some relief. During this MRI, they would find a very, very small pin size mass.I. Not sure what to make of it, and since the migraine was the only symptom, the Baylor Brain Tumor Board decided to watch it for a year to see if it grew. So, we went back to doing the things young dating couples do, like dinners and dates. She even reluctantly became a groupie and our defacto merch girl for band tours. As might be expected, things were heating up! Merch girl+groupie = true love! Right? Not so much, but we were definitely getting attached to each other.
A year later, in September 2009, she went back for her MRI. That tiny spot had turned into a nickel-sized tumor. They immediately did a brain biopsy, and horror set in. They discovered it was a Glioblastoma, Stage 3 Brain tumor in an inoperable part of her brain. If you know anything about this type of cancer, it’s a death sentence, and quick! The doctor, whom we will now call Dr. Death, told her she needed to get into chemo and radiation immediately, if not sooner! She said that most people last six months to a year and very few beyond that, and if she didn’t start treatment, it could be less. Startled but fearless, she preceded to tell Dr. Death that she would wait to begin treatment until she explored IVF. She said she wanted kids, and if possible, she would attempt to freeze some embryos. Dr. Death raised her voice and said,” You’re a fool!! You will be dead before you see a child come into this world”. In true Trump-Apprentice style, Lindy’s favorite show, she smiled and said, “You’re Fired!” she picked up her purse and walked out of Dr. D’s office
We pulled a few strings and got into Dukes Brain Cancer Center to see Dr. Friedman. He was the foremost doctor on brain tumors, not to mention Ted Kennedy’s doctor. When his assistant, Dr. V, came in to see us after reviewing her file, he said with a big Joker-like grin that he was upgrading Lindy from Stage 3 to Stage 4. He said it so matter of fact that when he left the room, I chased him down the hall and asked him how he could be so upbeat about a more dire diagnosis? He said “You all know the odds”. “All you have now is this”, as he pointed his long, lanky index finger up to a mural painted on the wall. He said, “Plan to Live. This is Duke’s motto. Plan to Live”. While this diagnosis was crushing, it was a more refreshing visit than Dr. Deaths!
That night back at the Washington Duke Hotel, Lindy sat on the edge of the bed and started crying. I had never seen her cry before. She was always so proper, so austere. She was the most rock-solid, power broker businesslike woman I had known. She was so hardened by being on her own since she was a teenager, I was unsure she even had tears in her tear ducts. She was tough because her divorced parents, who had adopted her at birth, left her on her own in Dallas at age 16. Sitting on the edge of our bed, she cried like no one I had ever seen. She said through her tears, “I don’t want to die a single woman.” I assured her that I wouldn’t let that happen.
We flew back to Dallas and began to embrace Duke’s motto of Plan to Live while trying to ignore the elephant in the room. She started fundraising for the National Brain Tumor Society that year. With the first walk being one month after her diagnosis, she killed it! Lindy was a fiercely competitive person. She dominated the fundraising efforts to become the #1 team and individual fundraiser in the first year of the DFW Brain Tumor Walk. She would repeat that four years in a row! Her slogan on the t-shirts for the walks said, “Walk for Jacque!” I asked her in the beginning what she meant by this, and she said she couldn’t stand French men, so she named her brain tumor Jacque, and she was going to kick Jacque’s ass! -I am sure there is a story here about the French connection, but I would never know it!
One month after the first walk, we committed further to the Plan to Live mantra. She found an IVF clinic that would help us create embryos even though we weren’t married. Remember, this was 2009 in the Midwest. Having kids out of wedlock was still frowned upon. However, we finally found a fertility clinic willing to do it. In November, on her birthday, she and I created what I believed at the time to be four embryos. One month later, I proposed to her in front of the famous St. Louis Church located in Jackson Square, New Orleans’ in the heart of the French Quarter. The proposal was replete with a horse-drawn carriage and the biggest, nicest ring two lifetimes of my earnings still couldn’t afford! Eight months later, we were married at the exclusive royal Villa d’este Este on Lake Como, Italy. A wedding of fairytales. We not only embraced Plan to Live-We Rocked It!
In December of 2009, she finally started her chemo and radiation, four months after it was demanded by Dr. Death. She fought like hell for almost 41 months with such dignity, grace, and beauty, but on February 6th, 2013, Jacque would finally engulf her brain and win the fight.
A week after her very elegant funeral befitting of a queen, I took off to do a walk in Spain. This was a walk/hike I had barely heard of and knew nothing about other than it was a place I could go and walk and grieve endlessly. During her 11 days of hospice, I discovered that walking was very cathartic for me in my sadness. Now, I just needed a place where I could walk forever. Four years before Lindy got cancer, I went to see a movie called The Way. I didn’t know at the time that it was about this walk in Spain. I was really drawn to this movie but didn’t know why. Not remembering much about that movie now, other than it was in Spain, I asked a guy at REI, and he said, “you are talking about the Camino.” It was the Camino de Compostela, a 275-mile pilgrimage. This was how I would sit with or walk rather and try to make sense of the loss of my first true love. I bought the gear I needed and was off shortly after her funeral.
Flight to Barcelona, train to Pamplona, one last good night’s sleep in a hotel, and I put on my 35 pound back pack, put my earphones in and started walking in the dark of the morning cool air. Hiking alone gave way too many thoughts and unanswered questions. I audibly cried out, “Why did you take her, God? Why did you so soon? Why? Why? Why?” “I am alone now.” I cried over and over. “What now, God? Life is over!” These are the questions I asked incessantly, like a crazy person as I walked. Completely broken, it was with these repeated questions walking the first couple of days I realized I was talking to God for the first time in 23 years. For the sake of time, I will summarize maybe the most critical part of my life’s story. I committed my life back into the arms of Jesus. I fell on my face in a wine vineyard alongside the Camino trail in Navarro, Northern Spain, and begged God to take this pain away. Pleading as I punched the ground around my head. I eventually rolled over on my back, still sobbing. At this very moment, the sun peaked through the clouds and shined on my face. My tears began to dry and I began to feel a peace that had alluded me for 23 years. Crying and still hurting from this profound loss and void, I stood up, and I began to feel His presence and His healing comfort pour over me more and more with each step I took. Now, I felt something carrying me as I walked day in and day out. At peace but still missing Lindy deeply and grieving her loss, I walked and reminisced about us.
Lindy was left on her own in Dallas at 16 by her parents, that selfishly adopted her at birth. She never had anyone that loved her unconditionally and understood her for who she was until she met me. I know now that I was put in her life to help carry her to the end of her life and show her what true love really was. This relationship would also bring me back to a faith I had walked out on long ago. It wasn’t until I walked into Santiago, the end of the Camino, that this came full circle.
These 2 German kids I had been walking with the last two days invited me to go with them to the pilgrim office inside the beautiful Cathedral of Santiago de Compostela. They told me this is where we get our certificate for the walk before we go to the pilgrim’s mass. Apparently, there was a certificate and a mass. Who knew!
Inside the cathedral office, the nun at the counter asked me in broken English, “Which path did you take? Puzzled, I said, “path? I did the Camino”. She said, “I know that but which way, what path did you walk? “Which path?” I said, confused. She took my pilgrim passport out of my pocket and began to flip through the pages. This passport is a paper book every pilgrim carries to get stamped along the way at restaurants and Albergues to apparently mark the path they took. As she opened it and flipped through several pages, she gleefully said, “you did, Jacque!” Excuse me? What did you say”? She said, “you went Chemin St Jacques path. The French Way”. I started to feel a little weak, and I fell to my knees in shock. Did I just finish Lindy’s walk for Jacque? Of all the dozens of paths I could have followed, I unknowingly followed Jacques’s path. I fell back on my heels, put my face in my hands, and wept. At this moment, I realized God had brought me to this point in my life on purpose. The whole journey, from the first kiss on the tailgate of that pickup truck to this moment on The Way, it came into focus, and I felt fulfilled. I felt whole…. So, I thought.
I headed back to Dallas to begin to wrap up the business that death leaves behind. While wrapping up my wife’s affairs and trying to honor her last wishes, I came across the storage bill we were paying for the embryos. Hmm, might want to get the billing changed on this! When I called to get the bill changed over to my name, they denied me. I soon found out that since we did this out of wedlock, I had zero rights to these embryos! Mind you, these are five-day-old little souls, my DNA! I demanded that these be transferred to me. I yelled it loudly on the phone! “IT IS ALL I HAVE LEFT OF MY BELOVED LINDY; THESE ARE MINE,I AM THE FATHER” I sternly told the lady on the other end of the phone, “I demand to speak to your boss!”
I ended up having to hire a lawyer who fought for me vigorously for over seven years. She finally got us a trial in a judge’s court, a judge they shopped for that was pro-life. She heard the case and told the IVF clinic that she could not deny a father his rights to his kids, his own DNA, and she couldn’t understand the clinic’s argument at all! After winning the case and getting access to the embryos and the medical documents, I learned something I didn’t know. We, in fact, didn’t create four embryos; we only had one little soul that made it to the five-day mark.
During these long seven years of fighting for the embryos, I slowly moved on with my life. In 2015, my life took an enexpected turn while in Mammoth skiing with my new godson, one of Lindy’s best friends little boy, and his family. Not even remotely looking to date or meet someone, I would serendipitously do precisely that. It was on Valentine’s Day, to be exact. I virtually met the most kind-hearted and beautiful soul I would ever meet via Tinder of all places!
JulieTinderCali would eventually become the love of all loves. During the first few weeks of texting back and forth, all day every day, she asked me if I had any kids. I said, “Nah, but,” she texted,” but what? You either do, or you don’t.” Once I told her my story, and she processed it, she replied with the sweetest words, “I hope you meet somebody someday who would be willing to share that with you. It’s a beautiful story”.
She and I married in June 2016. We would begin our lives together in Southern California, a place I wasn’t looking forward to living in, but nonetheless. I was attracted to her confidence, amongst other things. She was so gracious to me, never asking me to forget Lindy’s memory. She even encouraged me to keep honoring her. Julie wouldn’t have it any other way. Julie and I had often talked about having a family, even though we were beyond the typical age of becoming new parents. After an unsuccessful attempt ourselves at IVF, we decided during the Covid lockdown to give the lone embryo a shot after Covid had run its course. In September of 2021, we decided it was relatively safe to try, but something out of our control pushed it off. The same thing happened in October and then again in November. Frustrated, I said, “December. Nothing will stop us!”. Again, the timing was not our friend. We resigned that maybe it’s not in the cards this year or ever.
What has stopped us the last few months? We couldn’t wrap our minds around what in the unseen realm was impeding us. This question rattled separately in each of our heads. Discouraged, I think we both resolved that it wasn’t God’s will for us. All of this would soon become clear. We would quickly realize God’s timing is perfect, whereas man’s timing is futile. Only God knew why our timing was off. He was taking my mom home. Unexpectedly, my mother passed in good health on December 18th during the night peacefully. I was devasted!!
I must divert here for a minute. My mom was an incredible mother. She was a very faithful and praying woman of God. She wore out the carpet next to her bed, praying for me to return to faith when I lived my rock-n-roll dream. And after coming back to faith, she prayed and encouraged me in my faith every chance she could. She prayed and journaled every day of her life, often writing down things that God told her that were coming to pass. More often than not, these revelations did indeed come to pass. While reading her journals after she passed, I would learn that she had spirit-led premonitions about our baby (embryo) future. In March of 2013, one month after Lindy died, she wrote, “God, I am mad at you! You clearly showed me that Michael and Lindy would have a little girl. You showed me that knowing Lindy was going to die! I don’t understand why you showed me that [sic]!!”
Last week I read one of her journal entries from May 4th of, 2014. This was over one year after Lindy had died and almost two years before I would meet Julie. It read, and I quote, “During [sic] the altar call at church today, I felt so strong that the child promised to Mike and Lindy would happen. It won’t happen like I thought it would. We think things will go down like we think it should. A thought that came, Brought out, The unbelievable is about to happen”.
One month and one day after my mother passed away, we implanted the 13-year-old lone frozen embryo…. We are now just passing the second trimester. We found out last night that we are indeed having a little girl. Her name will be June Lucette Cox, after my mother and Lindy.
‘Amazed and Thankful to Almighty God’ doesn’t even scratch the surface of how we are feeling right now! God is the supreme author of life’s story. No novelist to hold a pen could have written a more perfect story.
“Lindy, there isn’t a day that goes by that I don’t, at some point, think of you. My life has now indeed come full circle because on October 7th, because of Julie’s selfless nature, pure heart, and a soul like none I have ever seen, I will fulfill your legacy. I will get to see a piece of you every day for the rest of my life. In October, the four loves of my life will converge into one destiny. Only the goodness of God could have arranged this.
Julie, you are the love of a lifetime. I do not have the words to express my deepest feelings and thankfulness for you. What you are doing takes the most special of people, and there is no mold to break. You are the mold. This child could not have been born into a home with a more caring mother. Lindy would be grateful and honored to have you raise June. I love you, and I couldn’t be happier to start our family together. I don’t deserve this blessing, but I will embrace it!
Death can Become beauty.