Chris & Tracy’s Story
What if you’re a homeschooling dad, trying to support your family and be involved in your children’s education while battling chronic, degenerative illness? And what if your wife also has a debilitating disease that sometimes flares up for months at a time? How do you keep your homeschool program going, especially if you have seven children?
Courtesy of the Family
Although both Chris and Tracy Klicka struggled with chronic illness, they found homeschooling was still the right choice for their seven children (pictured here in 2008).
At HSLDA, we saw this challenge courageously faced by our late colaborer, Senior Counsel Chris Klicka and his wife, Tracy. After their first child, Bethany, was born in 1987, Tracy nearly died from an initial onset of ulcerative colitis.
“That first year with Bethany,” Tracy says on her blog, “I was wasting away . . . I lost 50 lbs. in five months, could only eat green pea soup and Ensure . . . The Lord was merciful, however, and sent us a doctor whose treatment brought relief to my condition, slow healing, and renewed strength and energy.”
By March 1994, the Klickas had four children. In August, Tracy became pregnant again. Within a month, Chris was diagnosed with a very aggressive and debilitating form of multiple sclerosis. In December, Tracy learned that she was carrying identical twins, who were developing life-threatening complications in utero.
At 29 weeks, Tracy went into premature labor. Doctors told the Klickas that the smaller twin might be severely mentally and physically handicapped, if she survived. But God miraculously stopped the buildup of amniotic fluid and helped the smaller twin to start growing. In April 1995, at a full 37 weeks, Charity (6 pounds) and tiny Amy (2 pounds, 13 ounces) were born.
My Children, Don’t
Feel Sorry for Me
I long to hike a thousand trails
And have the strength in these feeble knees.
I yearn to run, jump, and climb
But my Father ordained this disease.
Just don’t let this disease be in vain for you
Keep holding on to your Father God tight.
God has ordained my MS lessons for all of you
To teach you to love and obey Him with all your might.
“I have no greater joy than this, to hear
of my children walking in the truth.”
—3 John 4 (NASB)
excerpted from Power Perfected in Weakness
“At times, the complications of life were nearly overwhelming,” Chris wrote in his book The Heart of Home Schooling. “The pressure of caring for the twins and our four other children sometimes seemed impossible to bear, but God continued to give us a peace that passed all understanding.”
“Bethany, our 7-year-old at that time, struggled with negative attitudes concerning some of her home school subjects,” Chris continued. “The Lord used our vulnerability in all this to also teach her to lean on Him for all things. Her attitude improved and so did her work. God works in a powerful way through suffering! Although Tracy taught from bed, home schooling was still the right choice.”
Tracy says, “God amazingly gave me so much joy those next years—sure we were tired, busy, and didn’t have enough hands between the two of us, but the absolute delight of having these precious little ones around us was a truly wondrous time.”
“To continue home schooling in the face of a tremendous difficulty is hard,” Chris acknowledged in The Heart of Home Schooling. Asking the Lord to give him 15 more years with his family, Chris valiantly fought MS and passionately strove to “be there” for his family.
In another book, Power Perfected in Weakness, Chris wrote, “I have learned to improvise every year in order to complete my God-given mission. I keep re-adjusting how I walk, sit, stand, type, and many other basic functions. I am learning to write and even sign my name with my left hand.”
“Using the scooter has greatly expanded my horizons,” he continued. “I taught my children how to garden this year while sitting on the scooter; I go on scooter rides almost every day with my kids, and I go to battlefields, museums, stores, and restaurants using the scooter.”
“I traveled with one of my children to each state, which normally I didn’t do even when I was healthier,” Chris added. “God has used that extra time together to bond our hearts closer and gave me a wonderful time to train them much deeper in God’s truths. God knows what is best for me and my children.”
“When Chris became ill with MS, we realized that God was reordering our priorities,” Tracy says. “When my ulcerative colitis was fully active over the years, I had to simplify our lifestyle. Being there for Chris not only blessed and served him, and helped him stay in the race God called him to; God also used it to teach us a lot of things we would not have otherwise learned.”
As Chris’s MS worsened, he could no longer handle being out in the hot sun or frigid temperatures. Eventually, family excursions were limited to handicapped-accessible venues.
“Many times,” Tracy recalls, “just getting in and out of a car was a 20-minute procedure, so we had to think twice before we committed to do something away from home. We couldn’t just hop in the car and go. And occasionally, Chris would get injured while trying to get in or out of a car (from falling on the ground). Once he got his hand shut in the door while trying to get in the car. During those times, we just had to cancel whatever we were trying to do.
“The time Chris’s hand got shut in the door, our kids were much younger and they were all dressed up to go to a Renaissance fair. Obviously, we didn’t get to go. Working through disappointments (and over the years there were many!) was God’s means of helping us walk by faith and trust that in everything He is good.”
In an epilogue to Power Perfected in Weakness, Bethany Klicka says, “As his oldest daughter, my dad helped make me who I am today . . . Dad cultivated a relationship with each one of us kids and even though there are seven of us, somehow he managed to make all of us feel loved and important in our own special way. . . . My own heart broke when he died, but I can’t help but be so very happy for him now because he is totally healed and in the presence of his beloved Savior. . . . And, I can’t wait to get there, too.”
In the same book, Chris shared a poem he wrote for his children. A brief excerpt is included above.
Editor’s note: October 12, 2010, marked the first anniversary of Chris Klicka’s homegoing. When the concept for this cover story was conceived early last year, we asked Chris to help write this sidebar. But God had other plans for our courageous coworker. We appreciate Tracy’s assistance in filling in additional details of the Klickas’ story.