Writing the Book–The Miracles Continued . . .

The Miracles Continued!

Although I always felt that I should write about our daughter’s life and particularly about the suffering she experienced from this horrific reaction to penicillin, I never had been able to do it. It took several miraculous events to promote the actual writing of this story about Julene which was so close to my heart.

The first prompting to start writing came when we listened to the key-note speaker at a convention in March of 2017.  John O’Leary told of his experiences after he was burned on 100% of his body as a nine-year old boy. As he told about the pain and suffering, the medical treatments, the tortuous physical therapy, and the difficult rehabilitation, it brought back such very vivid memories of our experiences with Julene. Then John concluded his presentation with: “Everyone has a story:  you need to share yours!” I knew then—I HAD to write Julene’s story.

 

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Apparently, one prompting was insufficient, for the very next day we returned home and met Julene’s Rexburg doctor as we walked through the Idaho Falls airport. Dr. Hans Redd had been such an amazing support to both Julene and to our family. As we visited for a few minutes, recalling our experiences, he said:  “In my experience as a doctor, I have never seen anyone suffer as much as Julene did.” As I think back, our paths have not crossed either before or since that “chance” meeting at the airport—yet he was there on that particular day, when I needed those words, there he was.

The next day was Sunday, and although I thought about the two incidents, I did not immediately open my computer and start writing. However, on Monday, I received a letter that again let me know I needed to write Julene’s story. The letter was from a member of the Seventy who was presiding over a mission in the Philippines. He had been an adviser to us after Julene’s million-dollar health insurance had maxed out! When he was sustained as a member of the Quorum of the Seventy the previous October, I wrote to congratulate him. I updated him about our family and included a picture taken at Audra’s wedding.

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I shared with him how all of our girls and their husbands were at the temple that day, and how we had felt Julene’s presence as well. The beautiful words in his letter touched me and gave me the courage to start writing. That afternoon, I pulled out all the boxes of papers, letters, cards and photos which I had saved.

On Tuesday, I was at the copy center in Rexburg. There I bumped into a music professor who was particularly close to Julene. He recalled his last visit to Julene at our home the day before she died. He shared how it had been a very spiritual experience for him.

With four promptings in five days, I was left with the definite understanding I needed to start writing immediately. I looked through my computer files to identify what had been written. There was the life sketch from her funeral, there was an outline of a few miracles that I had presented in a Sunday School class, and there were a few other documents and copies of letters. But I was at a loss how to begin. Afterall, I had never written a book—and somewhere deep inside, I knew I needed to share her story, and that meant I needed to write something for publication!

Not many days later, I woke from a restless sleep, and suddenly knew what the title of the book should be:  One Angel and Twenty-One Miracles. With that in mind, I started writing about why Julene was our “Angel.” Although two or three individuals had told me she looked like an angel, I wasn’t really sure how I could just write “Julene was our angel.” So I tried to identify a few characteristics we associate with angels.  I thought of three:  angels are blonde, angels sing, and angels are beautiful. I shared my first one-page draft with my friend who countered with: “I don’t think of angels as blonde!”  Whoops!  Her beautiful daughters all had dark hair. I immediately made first revision!

This title also gave me a framework to choose twenty-one miracles out of the many we experienced over more than two years. Since we had experienced so many miracles, it was almost difficult to only choose twenty-one.  I began grouping miracles into categories and choosing the most outstanding ones. That’s when I started writing.

One of the early “miracles” I recognized when working on the book was the talent and expertise of my youngest daughter, Audra. In fourth grade we finally discovered why reading and some other learning activities were so very, very difficult:  she was dyslexic! In seventh grade, we had her do the Davis Dyslexia Recovery Program—and we discovered we had a new girl at our house. Although I knew she would be a great help when it came to preparing photos, I didn’t really expect her to be a good editor. In truth—she was a fantastic editor and proofreader. For one thing, she wasn’t afraid to say, “Mom, that doesn’t make any sense,” or “Do you realize you started four sentences in a row with the word ‘But’?”  Since she was too young to remember very much about the terrible circumstances, she was open and even curious to read what had really gone on during her early childhood.

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Were there setbacks? Of course! Whenever we are following the righteous paths, Satan puts roadblocks in our ways. Not knowing the best way to prepare a book, I bought a book that I thought might show me some presentation options. I especially liked this one book had it divided into three parts. That seemed to fit the content of my story. I decided to write to her, hoping for some ideas about writing my book, and especially on how and where to publish. She never answered. I think she may have been too busy preparing to present her story at “Time Out For Women.” : )

Another setback happened after four months of writing. I asked a local English teacher to evaluate what I had written. I had the first two sections, which included the 21 miracles, written—but not perfected.  After reading this she said: “It is a very touching story, but I think it is a nice memory for your family. Thank you for sharing it with me.” This caused me to set my writing aside for several weeks.

During those weeks of respite, we attended a convention in Las Vegas. One of the classes we attended was: “How to Get Your Book Published.” [This was the only class of its kind in the three days of the convention.] One of the things we learned was that before submitting a book to the publisher, have the cover professionally designed. This way you give a great initial impression. I started making a plan for the creation of a beautiful cover.

When we got home from Las Vegas, I decided I needed to talk to “Beehive Bob”, the former owner of an LDS bookstore called, Beehive Bookstore. Still not feeling very confident about the project, I put off calling him until September. He suggested I talk to Jack Weyland, an area resident and the author of many novels, including Charlie, which was made into a full-length movie. I knew the Weylands, at least a little bit—their son, Jed, had been on the folk-dance tour with Julene and Margo. Jed had even come to visit Julene during  the first summer she was home from the hospital in Salt Lake.

Meeting with Jack and Sherry Weyland was a great experience—another tender mercy. They both read the first two parts of the book which I had finished in mid-July. Their response: “You need to publish this.” Jack encouraged me to self-publish, but I told him I strongly felt I needed to publish through Deseret Book. So, Jack provided insight and encouragement, but said he didn’t proofread. Sherry said: “I do the proofreading!” Together their ideas and skills were invaluable.

With the decision to submit the book to Deseret Book, I downloaded their guidelines. One of the stipulations was that I had to have permission from everyone who is named in the book. This was a tall order, because there were so many persons involved with her care. However, this turned out to be a wonderful opportunity to connect with those who had played such an important part of our lives—caring for IMG_1446Julene. We had not kept in touch with anyone, so finding contact information might have been formidable, had we not had the help of Heaven! For example, when I decided to find Teresa, the respiratory therapist who was like a sister, I didn’t remember her last name. When I looked through the address pages of my old planner, I found a Teresa and a phone number with an 801 area code. I decided to call, hoping she had kept the same number. No one answered; so I sent a text asking if this was the Teresa that was a respiratory therapist. It wasn’t long until she called me back and we had a few minutes to renew our friendship. We visited her a few weeks later when we went to Utah.

I wanted to use the beautiful drawing of Julene with Jesus, but felt I needed to visit with the artist, Jean Keaton. I had her address, but not her phone number. It took some internet searching—with the help of others, to find it. During the same trip to Utah, we met were able to meet with Jean. After Julene’s passing, Sister Keaton had asked me to compile a little bit of Julene’s story so she could share that when she gave talks or firesides about some of the pictures of Jesus with children she has drawn. We had a very sweet visit, and then she encouraged me to write Julene’s book and to publish it.

As I started to work on the project again, I had fresh ideas, especially for part 3. As I continued to go through the boxes of saved cards, mail, and paperwork, I saw how many individuals and families had cared. Julene’s tragedy and suffering had affected a surprising number of people in a very large area. I particularly read through the box full of sympathy cards and letters. I chose to quote a sampling of those to share the ways different families or individuals had grown from knowing Julene.

Of course, because I was planning to submit the manuscript to Deseret Book, I had to have permission to use their name and share their messages from these sympathy letters. One of these was Dr. Mark Mifflin, who had restored her sight in her last surgery about two months before she died. He shared his remarkable dream with us, and gave us permission to print this very personal experience in her book. [See Chapter 14, pp. 108, 109.]

Perhaps the most dramatic of the miraculous events that helped me actually write the book happened in late mid October, 2017. Our daughter who lives in Spanish Fork was practicing violin with her 6-year old daughter when she just let the violin slip from her shoulder and fall to the floor. At first she was cross because the little girl had been careless, but soon realized she had the symptoms of a stroke, which then lasted for about 30 minutes. She was taken to Utah Valley Hospital and tested for two days. My husband and I drove down to help them. They ruled out the possibility of a stroke, but still found no serious issues that could have caused the episode. After her fears subsided, our granddaughter loved the attention she received in the pediatric center. Upon discharge, she said: “Grammy, I want you to come see the toy room.”  My daughter found a nurse to unlock the toy room door. I recognized the nurse as a young lady that had been on tour with us the previous summer. We had a happy reunion and caught up on life events. I confided in her that I was writing about Julene and that I wanted to hire her twin sister to help me edit it. She promised to talk to her sister Jenn about the possibility. As we drove down the freeway about 20 minutes later, Jenn sent us a text that said: “I would love to help you, but you can’t pay me.” Jenn’s experience in editing LDS Church materials as a secretary in the Church Office Building was invaluable as we used scriptures and quotes from LDS speakers and general authorities. And best of all, she was wonderful to work with!

One of the seemingly small “tender mercies” turned out to be amazingly helpful. I was sitting by a sister in our church meeting that is for just the ladies:  Relief Society. I did not know this young lady who lived in the apartment complex in our ward. She was probably a student, and it was hard for me to remember who the students were. She was looking up something on her I-pad. I watched with fascination how she quickly found a scripture that fit into the lesson. I asked her to show me the site. It was the LDS Scripture Citation Index [https://scriptures.byu.edu/ ] It was invaluable as I tried to find the scriptures I wanted to place at the end of each miracle. I only remember seeing this new friend one other time.

With the book mostly written, I turned my attention to finding someone to design my cover. I knew that I wanted Julene’s picture on the front cover, and I wanted smaller pictures on the back cover. Audra made a prototype. But I wanted the professional version. I planned to find a college student in graphic design in order to really make it outstanding . In October, I asked a professor in the art department how I could find a student to design my cover. He reminded me that Kelly Burgener, the graphic design teacher (who we both knew) was now a Vice President; he wasn’t sure who was teaching those classes. I suddenly remembered that on a seemingly chance meeting, that Mrs. Burgener had told me their daughter, Erin, had graduated in graphic design. Their family had lived in our neighborhood—and Erin  would have remembered Julene, probably even prayed for her. The mother gave me Erin’s contact information, and she was excited to design my cover!

Needing to receive permission from each person whose name appeared in my book was sometimes a daunting task. I definitely needed to find Ron Andrus because he had played a significant role in our family and with Julene. I searched for quite some time, with no real clues. Even though my daughter was married to his second cousin, we still do not know how to contact him. Finally, he saw my message on Facebook and called me. He said: We are in Rexburg this weekend. What if we just come to visit you. I invited him and his wife and two children to come have breakfast with us on a Sunday morning. It was a great reunion. It was probably a good thing that he knew he was featured in this book because a couple of months later he received a call from one of his friends who asked: “Are you the Ron Andrus in this book about Julene Wilcox?” This friend’s mother, Olivia King, had received a preliminary copy to thank her for the many times she did wonderful things to support Julene. She loaned the book to her daughter, who in turn loaned it to Ron. Was I ever surprised when he sent me a photo of the cover of the book. Then he called to tell me how much he loved the book—and wanted his personal copy!

 

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One day when I was tending my five-month old grandson, I brought up all the boxes of papers and files that I had saved about Julene. I sorted stacks of papers that I thought I might be able to throw away. When my husband came home, I asked him if he would look through an inch-thick stack of bills and reports from a hospital. As I leafed through the pages, I suddenly saw the name and signature of the physical therapist on a discharge page.  I doubt if I ever knew his last name at the hospital, since all the personnel are only known by their first name. I asked Teresa, the respiratory therapist who still was working at Salt Lake Regional if she remembered him and knew his last name. She didn’t even remember him. So it was truly a miracle to find his name in that big pile of papers, so I could share his funny story. [See chapter 7 p. 54] He helped Julene so much.  He now had his own practice and it was easy to contact him. He answered my letter by giving me a call, and it was fun to visit with him. He had actually forgotten that Julene had died.

Some of the other things I found in all those boxes were her journals from early grade school to the one she kept on the last tour. I had read the last one (and used quite a few paragraphs in Chapter 5)—but I hadn’t looked at most of them. I picked up one pretty diary, randomly opened to a place in the middle, and found two significant entries. I felt Julene must have been standing at my side—perhaps turning the pages, to immediately turn to those two pages. I found nothing else particularly significant. [Those two journal entries are in Chapter 4, p. 16]

When I was nearing completion, I still felt like I should have a chapter 15. Maybe it was to give the book some symmetry with five chapters in each section. But I was out of ideas. When all the books and papers were still filling my dining room, I went through all the hanging file folders in a portable filing crate. Early in this project, I tried to make sense of all the material I had saved by sorting them by categories. I found that there was a folder that had Julene’s hand-written papers—and I hadn’t even read some of them. Although I was aware that, knowing her health was failing, she started to write her story. However, I didn’t know that she had written six pages, and after her passing, I was too overwhelmed and exhausted to think about reading them. Her thoughts were beautiful, her testimony of Jesus Christ was touching, and she testified that even through all of these trials, she knew that Heavenly Father loved her. This became Chapter 15, and it was the perfect way to end her story.

There were other little miracles—finding persons I never thought I would find, remembering events I had forgotten, and having Jennifer “just happen” to see individuals in the Church Office building to answer certain questions. Even the completion of the book and submitting it to Deseret Book by early December, the goal we had set, seemed to be miraculous. We all felt that God watched over this project, and prompted us as we worked on it. It has been a sacred experience. May it touch the hearts of all who read it.

 

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