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A Testimony of God's Guiding Grace

A Mother's Day Tribute To Linda Feala-Deegan

  • 14 May 2023
  • Author: Guest Blogger
  • Number of views: 455

by Anthony Deegan

Let me tell you the inspirational story of my mother, Linda Feala-Deegan, and of her Lord. I've waited years to tell it here, wanting to tell it perfectly, but time is too short and so today is the day. I invite you to take a moment and listen with me as I share all of what God has done. My mom didn't grow up extremely religious, going to church for a season here and there as a child. She was gentle and quiet, very introverted. Everyone always thought highly of her and loved her for being down to earth, not dramatic, not a problem maker. Yet even at a young age, she struggled greatly with depression and feeling isolated, carrying this on into adulthood and the rest of her life. She also had no self-confidence, and wasn't a fan of confrontation. As such, she ended up getting into a marriage in which she felt mentally distressed. I can’t speak much to it because we weren’t there, and she didn’t speak of it often. Either way it didn't last too many years before divorce, and that's when she met my father.

My father was proud and strong. He could be charming -- even endearing -- and was definitely more outgoing than she was. But that pride and strength could turn like lightning into violent rage. Drugs and drinking made it only worse. (It isn’t my desire to publicly disparage my father, so please read to the end to hear the full story.) When my dad’s violent outbursts towards her – and now to my brother who became strong enough to start defending her – became all too frequent, when the sight of flashing police lights filled our neighbors’ windows at night on a regular basis, when my then toddler sister was terrified to be in his presence, and when they were nearly living on the streets because of the drinking and drugs, mom had enough. She told my father she wanted a divorce. This was something he didn’t take kindly to. So in his rage, he raped her. And that's how I was conceived.

Hurt, confused, and desperate, she strongly contemplated having an abortion. Furthermore, she didn't want me to feel like I was a by-product of such evil circumstances. She was also scared about the possibility I could have health issues with all the substances flowing through my dads veins. But the Lord preserved her, and guided her. Incredibly, even though she didn’t consider herself religious or a Christ follower, she decided that if it was God's will that I be born, I would be born. And if not, I wouldn't. Her doctor at one point told her that she was at risk of miscarrying, and that if she didn’t stay in bed for two-three weeks she would lose me (a medical practice at the time). This would have been the perfect opportunity to ignore the advice and do whatever she wanted, putting the responsibility on God. However, she followed the orders – a true testament to just how selfless she was. And of course, now here I am (although admittedly mildly insane and a little shorter than most Deegans).

We eventually got away from my dad, living on a single income in a very bad neighborhood in Detroit, as so many others had to do. The schools were terrible academically, as well as extremely dangerous, and unfortunately my brother’s past experience indicated we would be at an even higher risk. So she decided to pick up another job and put us through private school, working two to three jobs the rest of her life. I wish I could say she worked tirelessly, but I can't. She was exhausted. Three hours of sleep was the norm. She didn't work tirelessly, but rather she worked unceasingly. I will never be able to rival my mother's drive to care for those you love. In light of such a suffocating workload, and being all alone, her depression increased too much more. She was always joyful and lighthearted around people --and had a few good jokes of her own. All my neighborhood friends respected her and loved her. She would often get employee of the month. But when she was alone, or left to her thoughts, she really just wanted to die. But the Lord was still with her, patiently working His plan.

Years later in 2008, she was diagnosed with ovarian cancer. Having a sister die early from cancer and a mom later on, she got checked regularly from then on, minus a very brief period. And in a seemingly cruel twist of fate, it was in that short period the cancer came. She fought a number of months, and even had remission, but then it came back with a vengeance. She was given two weeks to live. Terrified for her eternal resting place as she was not a follower of Christ, I began to tell her once more the gospel message. But she wasn't interested. She said she was tired and asked if we could talk about it tomorrow. My heart sank. I prayed for her for years, and she was about to step into eternity without Jesus. I called ten of my strongest believing friends and asked them to pray for her. That night was one of the darkest nights of my life. Pacing back and forth in a field next to a library in Dearborn, it felt reminiscent of Christ in the Garden of Gethsemane as He prayed just before going to the cross. It was now or never.

And yet our God is merciful.

The next morning, I began to share with her once more. But this time, she was engaged. Listening intently, she asked to pick up wherever we left off whenever the typical hospital room distractions would come like nurses checking in or phone calls. And then it happened. In that hospital bed, dying of cancer, and after an entire lifetime, she gave her life to Christ. An answer to prayer! The Lord is indeed merciful! A few days later she would tell me that for all those years, whenever I would talk to her about God, that she never got it. But then it was like a light turned on, and she finally understood. This is of course exactly how the Bible describes the work of the Holy Spirit. The kingdom of God is not understood physically, but spiritually, and when God decides to open your eyes, they are opened. And not a moment before. Even if it takes 61 years. So this wasn't simple “fire insurance.” She became a true believer in Christ.

She told me it was ironic that I became the type of kid I did. I was called to be an evangelist in 8th grade. I was obsessed with listening to sermons on the radio or watching on tv. I’d ask for books like Bible concordances for Christmas, or Christian rap cds. I’d eventually go on to Bible college and become a missionary. It was ironic considering it was I who was on the chopping block to be aborted and it was her simply trusting in a God -- who she wasn't even really sure was there -- that kept her from doing it. It was also ironic because I was very vocal about abortion at a young age. On her deathbed she revealed that she considered aborting me. But didn't reveal how I was conceived, out of fear I would feel I was a mistake. Even when dying she thought of others. Fittingly, she decided to forgive my father at that time also, an act I would only later find to be all the more praiseworthy.

With the blessing of all her children around her in her own home, including the reunification with the long lost son from her first marriage, God had answered her prayers and she was ready to die. Less than an hour before passing, I whispered a prayer in her ear one last time of God's favor and grace. And then I whispered to her that I love her. It was the last thing she heard. Sleeping by her bedside, I woke up to see her breathe her last. Three long ones, two very short ones. And then she was gone. As sad as it was to lose our mother, and as badly as I wish she could have lived longer in her new hope while experiencing victory over the things that tormented her, I can only have joy whenever I think about her passing. Because it was her death that was the very catalyst that brought about her new life. Which is emblematic of her testimony.

When preparing for the funeral, I felt God was saying she would be like Esther, who was a salvation to all her people. I later learned more about Esther's Hebrew name Hadassah, which means "myrtle". The myrtle tree is aromatic, but the fragrance only comes out when its leaves are crushed. In kind, it was only through her own suffering that came her purpose, something that might not have happened if she had the perfect life that we all desire. And it was only through her faithfulness in the midst of the impossible that God’s most beautiful purpose came out. He knew from before the beginning of time what would transpire. God knew the plan of the evil one, plans to torment my mother, to wipe me from the face of the earth, to offer no path of redemption to my father. To create an entire chain reaction of evil in perpetuity. God knew it all. And He proceeded to burst onto the scene and hijack the whole thing, planting fullness in the places of despair, blessing in the places of curse.

As we all celebrate our mothers, I celebrate mine. Everything I do is by the hand of God. But it’s also on account of her. I’m thankful to wake up with the sun shining on my face in the land of the living. That I have a future and look forward to doing great things for the kingdom of God. I try to go hard for Christ. I feel any act of kindness, any accomplishment, anything done in the name of Jesus is done with her as my partner, that none of it would be possible without her. And most importantly of all, I’m thankful that I get to be reunited with her one day at the feet of Jesus. All because of a God who spoke to her to choose life in the fullest sense of the word. I live because she died. So this son is overwhelmed by such an unfathomable commitment to love. We all have good reason to believe our moms are the best moms in the world. I know I have good reason to as well. And it’s all because we have the best Father in the world, the eternal Lord. 

To Him be all the glory!

Categories: Dearborn, Culture
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