• Jenny Dunaway

A Tale of Brokeness


     Twelve years ago on a beautiful, warm February afternoon, my fiance and I took a boat ride out to Mosquito Island.  The warmth of the sun on my face made me feel more alive than I had felt all winter.  As we rounded the bend in Mosquito Creek, a huge eagle flew over us.  The majestic bird was just few feet above our head.  It circled us as we watched in amazement.  Odie said,  "I want to fly like that."  It was a revelation that this quiet, introverted man rarely shared about his dreams.  That was a happy day for both of us.


      Shortly afterwards, Odie's blood sugar, pain, and blood pressure were out of control.  He didn't have insurance but the Sentera Hosptial in Virginia Beach had a room available to help regulate his diabetes, blood pressure, and back pain.  I took him over there in the afternoon.  Odie's son, Timmy, and my son, Jake, had the Science Fair at Lancaster Middle School the next day and we had to go to the awards ceremony that evening.  We shared the boys' successes with Odie over the phone and planned on going to visit him the next day.  He sounded like he was feeling  much better and was very positive about his treatment.  The next morning as I getting ready for school, a nurse called from the hospital and told me that I needed to get there right away.  There was an urgency in her voice.  I called in for a substitute and left for Virginia Beach.  It was snowing and I was crying.  I talked to my son, Zach, who was a freshman at Old Dominion, my mom, my sister, and my brother.  For some unknown reason my Isuzu Rodeo died on the Norfolk side of the Hampton Roads Bridge Tunnel.  I never had had a problem with that car.  Odie's step mother called me and heartlessly told me, "He's gone.  No need to hurry."  I didn't believe her but I was close to hysteria by this time.  A police officer stayed with me at my car until my brother got there to take me to the hospital.  

Heart Attack at 40

       When we arrived, Zach was just getting there, and they took us to a private room.  A doctor entered the dark room to tell me that my fiance had had a massive heart attack and was dead at 40 years old.  I couldn't believe it.  I collasped into an sobbing, wailing mess.   My son and my brother tried to get details from the doctor.  They wouldn't let us see him.  Why wouldn't they let me see him?  It was "an unattended death" even though he was in the hospital.  There would be an autopsy.  Reluctantly,  I left to go my mother's house.  I was numb.  I was in shock.  How was I going to tell his thirteen year old son?  His daddy was all he had.  Why did God let this happen?  No 40 year old man should die from a heart attack while in the hosptial.  This was wrong on so many levels.  The autopsy confirmed it was a heart attack, just like his daddy the summer before.  I went to court to get temporary custody of Timmy so he could finish school.  He was on the honor roll and he had a home with my boys and me.  His mother, maternal grandmother, and paternal step-grandmother all suddenly decided they wanted to raise him.  I was working full time and going to William and Mary two evenings a week to finish my Masters in Gifted Education.  The court day for full custody was coming soon.  I was worn out, so sad, and broken-hearted.  Should I go for custody?  Timmy's guardian ad litem basically told me I would be granted custody if that's what I wanted to do.  The other options were not ideal, to say the least.  

Word from God

        It was a warm Sunday afternoon before the week of court.  I got in my kayak and decided to paddle to the mouth of the creek.  I was talking to God.  I was talking to Odie.  What should I do?  At that moment the ancient eagle that resides on my creek flew over my head.  It circled me three times and I heard a voice, an audible as if a person were talking to me say,"Let him go, Jenny."  I couldn't believe He wanted me to let Timmy go with his relatives or pseudo-relatives.  Once again, I heard, "Let him go, Jenny."  There was no mistaking the answer to my question.  I called the guardian ad litem with my decision.  She asked me if I was sure, with hesitation in her voice.  I knew what I had heard and I had peace about the decision but I felt as if I were giving up.  Never give up was ingrained in my DNA--Jacksons don't quit.  Who am I to question the Lord?  You are God and I am not.   The judge decided to have Timmy undergo intensive testing to determine the extent of his social, emotional, and educational challenges.  He would then go to Roanoke to live with his grandmother.  I had liberal visitation.  I let Timmy go but it was hard.  I knew I had three sons who needed me, a very demanding job, and the extreme intensity of finishing my Masters.  I knew I had made the right decision for me.  I just had to turn Timmy's well-being over to God.  A few months later, I had a triple bypass but that's another tale of brokeness...

How Many Times Does He Need to Break Us?

        Praying for the Lord to Break Me is inviting another disaster.  I know I'm stubborn and way too independent.  It takes a lot to break me, perhaps.  Surely, the Lord has tempered me enough?  Yet, with each breaking, I become closer to Him and more sure of my path.  I know that it won't be more than I can bear and He will get me through it.  I will come out on the other side wiser, more resilient, ready to be a mighty servant of God.  Without a doubt, I'm certain that my deceased fiance is flying like that eagle.


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