Content as a guy

Every Sunday, I inject estradiol, a synthetic form of the female hormone, estrogen. I just hit the two year mark since going on a low dose of it.

After completing my transition from male to female, I stopped hormone therapy. After a few months, my bones, muscles, and joints hurt. My doctor said it was because my hormone levels were too low.

My sex hormone levels resemble those of a genetic female. Indeed, at the last check of my blood, my estrogen was high, so my endocrinologist had me reduce my dose by twenty-five percent. See the tiny bit in the syringe? That weekly dose keeps my bones, muscles, and joints strong.

Because I no longer produce anything but a tiny bit of testosterone, my sex hormone levels are reverse from what they should be for a male. Yet, I feel completely male. I’m nearly at the three year mark since it started.

It was in November 2017 that I completed the last of my operations: facial feminization surgery.

The day after.
Two days after surgery.
Before and after.

I spent the final five weeks of 2017 with a splendid case of euphoria. I’d done it! The seemingly impossible! I’d completely transitioned and I finally felt right. I was done with the years of seeing a therapist, figuring out how to navigate my inner turmoil, taking every step in transitioning—medical, social, legal, surgical—and I was ready to finish my life as Gina.

Christmas 2017. My smile reflects how I felt.

My euphoria didn’t make it seven weeks. The second week of 2018, I couldn’t figure out what was going on inside me. Within days, I knew what it was. I’d returned to the old fight, a male and female striving for dominance in me.

Soon, I realized that, it wasn’t that—it wasn’t a fight between the two, but rather that I felt completely male and I couldn’t believe it. I’d just completed my transition, and now I feel male?

And how long would it last? That was the big question. I didn’t trust it. When I experienced it in 2013, in the first months after I started on hormone therapy, it endured for six weeks. And when, in 2014, I stopped and restarted hormones two times and it returned, it remained fewer weeks. Would this be like those times?

I hesitated telling Julie. After three weeks, I finally did. She was so flummoxed, she said almost nothing. The look on her face said, “Are you kidding me?”

This time, it remained. Finally, I realized because my hormones finally settled into place—reverse for a male, but perfect for my messed up endocrine system.

By April, I was living more as a man than a woman. In May, I was back to male all the time. In July 2018, I went public.

And it stuck. I am thoroughly and completely content that I am a male.

While I wish I hadn’t had to go through all I did to get to this, I believe I had to. Therefore, I regret nothing.

I learned so much—and now have substantive proof that my condition is hormonal—and have put it to good use. Last year, I published my memoir. This year, I published Ministering to Transgender Christians. With those books and this blog, I’ve been blessed to help many people—transgender persons, family members, pastors, and more.

After fifty years of gender conflict, I finally experience and enjoy inner contentment.

Book news

Getting the word out

I’ve been working to get copies of my second book, Ministering to Transgender Christians, into the hands of pastors, church leaders, and others.

  • I mailed copies to all of the thirty-five District Presidents of the Lutheran Church—Missouri Synod (LCMS), where I used to be a minister.
  • I also sent one, with an impassioned letter, to LCMS President Rev. Matthew Harrison, which is the third time I’ve written to him in the hopes of getting his ear.
  • I sent books to some others in the hopes they might review and promote it.
  • Two dozen were distributed to ministers at a pastors’ conference.
  • And, in a generous, surprising move, a friend purchased a copy and sent it to a pastor who hosts a radio show. Thank you, friend!

If you know of a church leader, book reviewer, or other influencer, to whom I might send a book, please contact me. You can find my email address by clicking on my profile photo, or you can message me via Facebook.

32 of 33 reviews are 5 stars!

And the one 4 star review reads as well as those that have given 5 stars!

If you have read either or both books, and have not left a review, would you do so? You can get to both books here: https://www.amazon.com/Greg-Eilers/e/B07N7FM54X?ref=sr_ntt_srch_lnk_1&qid=1603110844&sr=8-1

The more reviews each book has, the higher up it will appear in searches. Thank you for helping me promote the important information of both of my books!

Reviews excerpts

Highlights of the first four reviews of Ministering to Transgender Christians:

A pastor begins his review, “This is a remarkably helpful book for pastors and laypeople alike because it discusses the struggle of transgender persons in a way that educates while consistently pointing to God’s grace in Jesus Christ.” He notes, “The discussion of myths or what transgender is not is a particular helpful part of the book that seeks to break down stereotypes and foregone conclusions.” And, he nailed exactly what I am seeking to promote—the Gospel: “That’s really the greatest part of the book: the reminder of the Christian Gospel, the ‘Good News’ that God’s love is for everyone in and through His Son Jesus Christ such that we find our identity in Him above all. The reminder that Christ came not to condemn the world but save it helps reorient the reader from a position of judgement to one of mercy and compassion.”

Colleen generously suggests, “There is no other book today that offers the understanding and compassion that Church leaders need, to minister to the needs of the transgender Christians in their congregations,” concluding her helpful review with, “This book is a godsend for those who experience gender identity dysphoria and who have put their faith and their trust in Jesus Christ. It reminds all of us that the love available to us in Jesus Christ is available to every person on this planet, even the transgender person. If you are struggling with gender identity dysphoria, this book is for you, as well!”

May gets right to the point: “If you are serious about Gospel ministry or being involved in a church community, Ministering to Transgender Christians is a must-read in order to enable the Church to reach out to one of the most oppressed, misunderstood, and rejected people of our time.” She concludes just as strongly: “It is no longer a question of ‘if I need to know this information,’ but ‘when I need to know information.’ One day, there will be a transgender person at your church. One day, you will find yourself talking a transgender person and have the opportunity to share the Gospel. This book is vital for giving you a shared language with these people so the love of Christ that you show them may work in their heart.”

Finally, Medicjac says a lot with a few words: “This book addresses so many of the issues I was struggling with, in a clear manner.”

Find the full reviews here: https://www.amazon.com/Ministering-Transgender-Christians-Resource-Christian/dp/B08FRJLQBG/ref=sr_1_2?dchild=1&keywords=greg+eilers&qid=1603111721&sr=8-2#customerReviews

Medicjac also left the most recent review for A Roller Coaster Through a Hurricane: “This book has been a lifesaver! As a Christian with a son who is transgender, this book has been invaluable in giving me insight and hope. I strongly recommend this book for anyone who is struggling.”

To ride all of the Roller Coaster reviews, click here: https://www.amazon.com/Roller-Coaster-Through-Hurricane-Identity/dp/1796811645/ref=sr_1_1?dchild=1&keywords=greg+eilers&qid=1603113266&sr=8-1#customerReviews

Coming in 2021?

I’m busy writing my third book! If all goes well, it will be available next year!

Larry & Vonna Leckband Antique Retirement Sale

Dad describes some of his tractor gems. Scroll down this page to find the video, along with photos of some cool stuff.

My father-in-law, Larry Leckband, has a passion for

  • old tractors and farm equipment,
  • classic cars and trucks,
  • unique items,
  • negotiating himself into a good deal,
  • and collecting stuff.

Though he blew past age eighty some years ago, don’t think achieving what most call “old age” has gotten to The World’s Oldest Juvenile Delinquent, as my wife Julie and her siblings like to call their dad. Old age? Pffft. The man still rises seven days a week before the local roosters have crowing on their minds, is busy with ten times more things in a day than I get to in a month, and doesn’t come home to roost for the evening until dinnertime … and his schedule determines when he eats, not when supper comes out of the oven.

I’d seen some of Dad’s collection, but never knew it surpassed one hundred in number. I only saw various tractors at the house and across the road scattered around the perimeter of Julie’s sister’s place. Turns out, most things were at the old family farm, stored in Ocheyedan, and disbursed about wherever Dad could get his foot, er, tire in the door.

To view all 108 items, click the auction page (note: the auction has finished and is no longer available at this link): https://www.bigiron.com/Listings/LarryVonnaLeckbandAntiqueRetirement

This Case 350 arrived in the world the same year as I – 1957.
This 1947 dandy demonstrates that John Deere has been painting their products in green—make that John Deere Green—for a loooong time.
A Minneapolis-Moline ZTU 2WD: pretty good looking for 1948!
“Pssst, Julie. We’d be the envy of our neighborhood tooling around in this 1967 International 1100B Deluxe Pickup.”
This 1940 International Farmall demonstrates the eternal truth: tractors are supposed to be red, like the barns in which they are stored.
Besides the cool name—this is a 1939 Centaur—I am particularly fond of this beauty. To find out why, read the caption to the close-up, below.
The Centaur is one of the tractors I helped clean. What a job! As you can imagine, the work done by tractors and farm implements gets them really grungy. Compound every year’s work by decades and you can imagine grease and grime that’s turned to tar. I got off easy as I only visited once during the many weeks of power-washing and scrubbing. Dad’s kids and grandkids didn’t get off so easy. The summer of 2020 will go down as The Great Tractor Cleanup.
Two years shy of one hundred years old, this 1922 John Deere beet lifter might be the elder statesman of the auction.
Are you in the market for an ambulance? Great! Larry Leckband has one for you!
https://www.bigiron.com/Listings/LarryVonnaLeckbandAntiqueRetirement
tra
At the end of the work day, hit the water in this 1958 Larson boat with trailer.

In this video, Dad narrates the history of several tractors.

Bidding begins September 16. You can find every item on the auction page (note: the auction has finished and is no longer available at this link): https://www.bigiron.com/Listings/LarryVonnaLeckbandAntiqueRetirement

My new book: chapter topics

I’m holding the proof copy of my book in front of the cover artwork, the creation of my daughter Erin, which hangs above my computer. Using the proof, I photographed the title page of each chapter. Here we go!

Pastor Jon Klein perfectly sets the table for the book. He never imagined having a transgender person in his congregation … until he did. Desiring to minister to that person, he found me. A friendship was formed. He graciously agreed to my request to get the book off to a good start.

I use my daughter’s struggle with depression to open the topic of gender dysphoria—both being daunting, mysterious challenges.

This book is the culmination of my life. Everything about me led to my desire and need to write this.

I love provocative openings. This chapter is filled with them. My aim? To lay things on the table. In the first two chapters, I make clear where I’m going and seek to accomplish.

This is a book about Christians and for Christians. The Gospel of Jesus Christ is our foundation. Sadly, the Gospel so easily gets messed up, and never more than in how trans folks are treated.

Deadname. Bottom surgery. HRT. Cisgender. Genderqueer. Lots of words and terms are unique to this discussion. Here they are, up front and handy.

Well, that says it!

That says it, too, but now things are not so straightforward. I dig deep to penetrate what might be behind this vexing condition.

One of my favorite chapters, perhaps because it arose from an aha moment. Working on the previous chapter, I dropped the “dysphoria,” and began pondering. Soon, I was staring at a list of intriguing, important ideas.

Trans persons transition socially, legally, medically, and surgically. There’s no one way to do it. Describing every aspect, I keep separate how adults and youngsters transition.

Gender dysphoric and trans persons attempt suicide more than TEN TIMES the rest of the population. This chapter lays out why.

This discussion is about real people. I profile several folks I’ve gotten to know, who are in various situations.

A number of biblical passages are used to stop and stifle all discussion that being transgender is anything but sinful. I address each of the passages typically cited against trans persons.

With the topic of transgender, so many misconceptions are held—and those that hold them think their thinking is correct.

We’ve never done it that way before. How often we hear this in the church to stop whatever change someone has suggested! Well, how about this: We never believed it that way before. You know, as in mixed race marriage. Or suicide. Or the role of women in the church. Now, let’s add transgender.

In a sense, everything up to this chapter was table-setting. Here, the book becomes a how-to text. Step by step, information to know and questions to ask will equip a person to provide compassionate spiritual care to gender dysphoric and transgender Christians.

More how-to, a miscellany of information so that no topic is left unaddressed and the reader is thoroughly informed.

My favorite chapter, because this gets to the heart of the work of ministering to Christ’s people. This is a keep the main thing the main thing chapter. It’s all about Jesus Christ. It’s all about the Gospel.

Justin is one of the persons I profile in Chapter 10. As I was nearing the completion of the final draft, things were developing with his addressing his gender dysphoria. Our conversation in February made for a fitting conclusion.

And that’s it. That’s the book. Order it here: https://www.amazon.com/Ministering-Transgender-Christians-Resource-Christian/dp/B08FRJLQBG/ref=tmm_pap_swatch_0?_encoding=UTF8&qid=&sr=

My new book: now available!

Ministering to Transgender Christians: A Resource for the Christian Church is now available for purchase on Amazon in paperback and ebook editions: https://www.amazon.com/dp/B08FRJLQBG/ref=tmm_pap_swatch_0?_encoding=UTF8&qid=&sr=

Who would benefit from reading this book?

Anyone interested in learning about gender dysphoria, how it affects a person, what it means to be transgender, and how those who have trans relatives and friends might show them compassion, will benefit from this book.

While the book is geared toward how transgender Christians are widely viewed in congregations, with an eye toward better seeing them as genuine brothers and sisters in Christ who experience a unique, challenging, and often difficult condition, with the aim toward providing them with compassionate, spiritual care, every chapter contains insights that transcend the Christian faith.

When I began writing, I thought I was talking specifically to pastors. I had been a pastor, and when I was a trans woman it was primarily with pastors I interacted. Over the eighteen months since beginning to write, I found that it was important to speak to a wide audience.

Pastors might be the prime readers, as they lead congregations and minister to the entire flock, but pastors are not the only ones who are lacking in transgender education. Not only are pastors not the only church leaders who provide spiritual care, the topic of transgender affects everyone.

  • Christian counselors will find themselves sitting across from those who have made the difficult declaration that they experience gender conflict.
  • Teachers in Christian schools will have children whose gender identity does not match how everyone knows them, and those with siblings and friends who have socially transitioned.
  • Those who attend to the business of congregations need to be informed so that they can support their pastors, assist their members, and address for the good of all matters regarding transgender members.
  • Lay people need to be no less knowledgeable. If a member transitions, they deserve to be informed. How is this person being treated? This might be their friend, or someone with whom they serve on a committee, or the person who always sits in the pew in front of them. Regardless, all trans church members are their fellow believers. For the sake of all, every church member deserves to have a good education in a challenging subject.
  • Let’s not forget those who serve the greater church body. Decisions about transgender persons are coming down from the top. Those at the top should make decisions based on sound information and good theology, or else the congregations they serve and their members will not be properly served.

In my next post, I’ll provide a synopsis of each of the book’s seventeen chapters.

My second book: coming in August!

Too many church bodies, and individual pastors, church workers, and Christians, have done and continue to do a disservice to transgender Christians. Knowledge is lacking in what it means to suffer gender dysphoria and all that can result from it, especially transitioning sexes. In the reports, articles, and suggestions for pastoral care I’ve read, I’ve wondered if any of the writers have ever talked with a transgender person or done any thorough study of the topic.

In these pages, I endeavor to provide helpful information and sound doctrine as I explain about gender dysphoria, discuss God’s Word, and provide a path toward compassionate spiritual care for transgender Christians.

I am in a unique position. Because I’ve been there and done that both as a minister and a transgender person, my experience is vital in key areas. As a transgender woman, I received the long arm of the Law when I craved the sweetness of the Gospel. Only the faithfulness of the Paraclete, the Holy Spirit, can take credit for my not ditching Christ and the purity of His Word.

Having been a minister, my heart is with pastors and all in positions of service in the Church. With gender dysphoria and transgender persons, you’ve been presented with new, unusual things which, on the surface, according to your education and experience might seem cut and dried. You want to do right by the Lord, and you want to do right by the persons you serve. It is my desire to help you, to provide the assist you need so that you might, indeed, do right by the Lord and His people.

The book’s title and subtitle declare my motivation. I’ve written in equal measure for the sake of transgender Christians and for the sake of the Church.

My prayer is that you find me faithful to the Word of God in all I write. My hope is that the Church would have a compassionate heart for a group of people who want to love the Lord, but whom, too often, are rejected by Christians.

The six paragraphs, above, conclude the first chapter of my new book, Ministering to Transgender Christians.

Where my first book, A Roller Coaster Through a Hurricane, is the story of my life, this book is its culmination. Contained in these 128 pages explains how the book came to be:

  • from a young age, a strong sense of justice and truth were formed in me, both which I have found lacking in how trans persons are treated
  • summarizing the story I detailed in my memoir, from my suffering gender dysphoria, to my transitioning, to how I was treated by my fellow Christians when I was transgender
  • what I learned along the way about the suffering of trans persons and the misunderstanding of them, both of which are especially acute for transgender Christians.

Since 2013, when I began telling pastors about my gender dysphoria, and especially during the three years (2015-18) I lived as a trans woman, I recognized my fellow Christians needed two things so that they might treat fairly their brothers and sisters in Christ who are transgender.

1. A proper understanding of gender issues

Too many Christians believe trans persons are mentally ill or have given in to a sinful desire. I detail what gender dysphoria is and what might cause it, keeping separate sexuality and how we experience gender.

The profiles of a number of gender dysphoric and trans Christians shows that members of churches large and small, in cities and rural counties, are affected. These Christians long to be faithful to the Lord. They didn’t choose this vexing situation, and they have to find a way to live with it.

2. A way forward

Understanding is vital, but more is needed. I lay out a thorough, step-by-step guide to providing spiritual care to gender dysphoric Christians, along with insights for helping family members and congregations.

I am especially excited about the how to section of the book. I am not familiar with a resource to guide Christian leaders, lay persons, and congregations in specific ways to compassionately minister to their members who suffer gender dysphoria or have transitioned.

When and where will the book be available?

All that’s left of the publishing process is for me to receive and review the proof copy, which should happen in a few days.

The book, in print and ebook versions, will then be available on Amazon, just as is my memoir, A Roller Coaster Through a Hurricane.

My COVID-19 test result

The set-up

On July 15, I was tested for COVID-19. Typically, results are provided in two to three days. An hour after my test, I received a text that heavy demand would mean I would not hear for four to six days.

I decided I needed a test as I had been around a number of folks for Independence Day, and two days after getting home came down with a sore throat, sinus drainage, and an occasional cough. I could have waited it out, but I want to go to Iowa for the burial of Julie’s mother.

The wait

Mostly, I’ve been hoping to learn that I don’t have COVID-19. Yet, a quiet voice inside kept saying, “If you have it, you have a mild case, and that’s great. Because you have heart disease, you’re in a potentially high risk group. A mild case could be you dodging a bullet.”

Yet, if I were to get a positive result, that would mean trying to figure out where I got it. Contact tracing is important with this virus. A lot of people would become involved, would need to be tested or, at least, to isolate for a prescribed period. And I’d have to be tested again. And I wouldn’t be going to Iowa anytime soon.

My sore throat cleared up a couple of days ago. So, on that front, I’m good to go.

In the end, ninety-nine percent of me hoped for a negative result. The semi-quarantine since mid-March was hard enough, but I’ve been even more isolated since Julie needed to be in Iowa when her mother had a stroke and then died.

This is the most alone I’ve ever been in my life. The daytime alone, I’m used to. The evenings? They stink.

The result

As I dressed for my morning run on July 20, I received the awaited text: “Results are in.” I logged onto the website, anxiously signing in and clicking to reach the fateful page.

NEGATIVE.

I heaved a sigh of relief, put on my running shoes, and headed out.

Soon, I’ll be headed to Iowa. To Julie.

My isolation nears its end.

My COVID-19 test

On July 15, I was tested for COVID-19. A number of factors led me to recognize I needed to do it. I’m writing about it to answer questions people have about it—especially what the swabbing process feels like.

The set-up

Julie and I have been diligent about following all of the advice for remaining safe. Our county in Indiana has been hit pretty hard. As of today (July 15), we are one death shy of 700.

In May, Julie’s mother had a stroke. We immediately knew we wanted to go to be with the family, but were concerned to travel to Northwest Iowa because they’ve had ZERO deaths in their county. We took care as we traveled.

I’m back in Indianapolis. Julie returned to Iowa. Sadly, her mom suffered another stroke and lost her life on July 3.

I want to return for Mom’s burial—immediate family for now, with a regular service whenever it’s safe to do so—but have new concerns.

Over the 4th of July, I went home to Michigan. It had been seven years since we’d been able to get all four of my kids and their families together. When states reopened, we decided to proceed with the gathering we’d been planning for months. We had a few days together—sadly, without Julie and one grandchild—and it was wonderful.

All those gathered have been taking the virus seriously, and none have been ill or known anyone close to them who have been ill. Still, with other relatives and friends in attendance, there were a lot of folks, and this virus is so confounding because a person can pass it on without ever experiencing symptoms.

Looking into getting tested

When I returned to Indy, I contemplated getting a test, which any Indiana resident can get. I called the information line. The woman told me for best results it is best to wait eight days since contact before getting tested.

The next day, I got a sore throat, with the typical accompanying sinus drainage and occasional cough. Any other year, I would have assumed it was a slight cold or allergy, or caused by the extreme heat/humidity/being in air conditioning. But, these can be symptoms of COVID-19.

I waited for it to worsen. For other symptoms to occur. For the one that seems most common with COVID-19: overwhelming fatigue.

Nothing else happened. The sore throat has persisted—nagging but minor. I’ve felt healthy enough to maintain my nearly-every-day jogging.

The curious thing is the timing. The sore throat began soon after I got home. I can’t recall my last upper-respiratory trouble—it could be two or more years since I’ve had a cold or sore throat.

I knew that I had to get tested.

Scheduling the test

On July 13, I went online to schedule a test.

Providing all of the info about myself that one would expect, I was directed to select my location. I would not be able to get in for three to five days at the nearest locations. There was a church, not too far away, with only a two day wait.

In under ten minutes after logging onto the website, I had my test scheduled.

Arriving for the test

I assumed it would be a drive-through test. As I drove to the church, I wondered if I would see a line of cars.

Nope and nope.

Indeed, so few were the cars that if there had not been large signs directing me where to go, I would have thought I was at the wrong place.

Reaching the top of the church steps, I was greeted by doors and windows plastered with information. I read it all. I was thankful for it all. It all told me exactly what to do and to expect.

When the one other person who was there for the test moved from the check-in to the testing area, I entered the building. I had my text open with my ID number, which I’d been given when I signed up. The woman asked for that and my birth date.

She now called me Gregory, so I knew she had the right person. She handed me the information sheet I’m holding in the photo above, along with the testing kit, and directed me the fifteen feet to the testing area.

The type of swab that was used on me.

The test

The woman could not have been more friendly or helpful. While the test is very simple, she explained each step. It went pretty close to this:

“I’m going to place this swab deep into your nose. I will turn it about a bit on the insides of your nose and then remove it. It will take less than thirty seconds. You might react with a cough or sneeze. You will need to keep your head still. Are you ready?”

I told her I was ready, and that I expected to cough.

She inserted the swab what felt like a few inches deep. She twirled it around, rubbing the inner walls of my right nostril, and slid it out. It took no more than ten seconds.

I didn’t cough. Or sneeze.

What it felt like

Those who’ve been tested have used a variety of words to describe the swabbing. Some have found it uncomfortable. Some have described it as unpleasant. Others, weird. A small number, painful.

For me, it was neither uncomfortable nor painful. It’s an odd sensation, simply because I’ve never had a swab rubbed around deep inside my nose, but it was in no way unpleasant. And it was completed so quickly that there wasn’t time to start wishing she would remove it.

Waiting for the results

Soon after arriving home, I received a text. Because of the large number of tests being done, I probably won’t get my results in the desired two to three days. The text told me to expect four to six days.

And so I wait. Keeping myself isolated. Longing to go to Iowa.

I’ll let you know when I get my result.

Vonna Leckband: an extraordinary person

Vonna and Larry, a few years ago.

Extraordinary: surpassing what is usual, typical, or expected.

Extraordinary: noteworthy, remarkable, exceptional.

Extraordinary: Vonna Leckband, Julie’s mom, my mother-in-law.

~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~

I only called her Mom, so I won’t part from that now. Mom’s obituary, lovingly composed by her oldest daughter, Laurie, displays a resume replete with accomplishments, filled with variety, spanning jobs, to joys, to volunteer work, to dedication to her family: http://www.waltonrostefuneralhome.com/obituary/vona-leckband

No more proof needed that Mom was extraordinary, still I offer more. The auditorium, where she volunteered, posted this gratitude-filled tribute on Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/memorialauditorium/

I took this photo collage from their post:

Leaving no proof untold, I offer my favorite in bolstering my claim that Mom was extraordinary. Over the nineteen years I knew her, Mom and I enjoyed many long conversations. Loving to learn family histories, I often asked about hers.

I knew from the start that Mom was Dad’s second wife. Sadly, his first wife, Patty, died of Multiple Sclerosis while in her twenties, leaving him with two young children. He was around thirty, and Mom twenty, when they met and soon married.

“Mom, you were so young,” I began. “Here was this man, with two young children. Did you hesitate at all to date him? And marry him? You took on so much.”

She thought for a moment. Her face told me she was pondering those days. “No,” she replied. “I loved Larry. I wanted to marry him. I loved Laurie and Mark.” She laughed. “I was young. I probably had no idea what I was getting into.”

Now, we both laughed. And, I thought, “She knew exactly what she was getting into. That’s who she is.”

~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~

Mom died on July 3. On May 17, she suffered a hemorrhagic stroke. After four weeks in ICU and a week in acute care, she was in her second week at a rehab center when another stroke on July 2 was too much for her.

When Mom suffered the initial stroke, that her family rallied to her showed the fruit from the family vine she cultivated.

Julie’s immediate reaction was that we had to go, despite the pandemic. That their county in Northwest Iowa has yet to suffer a COVID-19 death, we were more concerned that we might take it there than that we might pick it up. We had been taking great care since March, and would continue to do so as we made the 675-mile drive.

That Julie had been doing her job from home since March meant she could do it at her folks’ place, a blessing in the midst of the virus curse. We stayed a week, then returned to Indianapolis. On May 30, Julie returned to Iowa. Her sisters have been there, too: her two older sisters, Laurie and Sheri, who live near the Twin Cities, and the youngest, Amber, who lives across the road from the folks. As Mom and Dad always hunkered down for their kids, now the kids hunkered down for their parents.

~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~

I spoke to Mom before I ever spoke with Julie.

Julie and I met in 2000 when she sent me a letter in response to my magazine article. Snail mail turned to email. When, in 2001, we both were divorcing, our occasional emails turned to commiserating with each other, which resulted in our really getting to know each other, from which deep affection sprouted.

These were the days before social media, so we couldn’t easily connect online. When I told Julie I wanted to talk, she hesitated. Finally, I could wait no more. I knew she’d told her folks about me, so I found their phone number.

Mom answered. I said, “If I told you my name is Greg Eilers, from Port Hope, Michigan, would you know who I was talking about?” She reacted with laughter. “Yes, I know who you are. Julie’s told me all about you.” We were off and running.

When I whisked Julie from Iowa to Michigan, the plume in my cap was that I was a Lutheran minister. These folks are generations-deep Lutherans, with a number of pastors in the family tree. Even so, Mom loved to poke me that I stole her daughter far away to Michigan.

I had posted my sermons on my congregation’s website, and she loved reading them. In 2014, when my health forced me into an early retirement, Mom encouraged me to get back into the ministry, even if I had to start my own congregation.

My health issue was as unique as it was severe. Over the five years I dealt with it, Mom’s love for Julie and me shone bright and constant.

~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~

When I was young, I saw this poster at work: Your influence is either positive or negative. It’s never neutral. Since Mom died, I noticed something that was always before me, but had not yet landed: her four daughters are just like her. Her influence is reflected in them … and it’s all positive.

  • Mom was hard-working. So is each daughter.
  • Mom was dedicated to family. So is each daughter.
  • Mom was faithful to people who mattered and to things that were important. So is each daughter.
  • Mom was smart, wise, and savvy. So is each daughter.
  • Mom laughed easily, rolled with the punches, and dug in when things got serious. So does each daughter.

That’s how we continue to live on in this world, after we’ve passed. Our deceased loved ones live on far more than in our hearts and memories. They live on in how we live on.

For her eternal life, we are thankful that Mom lives on with the Lord Jesus, who called her by name and kept her safe in His love.

Because Mom lived the way the Lord created us to live—love others as you want them to love you—her presence in this world will continue to be unmistakable. Mom lives on in her children and grandchildren.

Her life has been planted in them. Fed and nurtured in them. Has blossomed and bears fruit in them.

As all her seventy-seven years Vonna Leckband was a blessing to many—to family, to friends, to community, to church … to keeping the always-on-the-go Larry Leckband in line—she will be a blessing for generations to come.

The fruits of Mom’s labors will continue to taste sweet, because of the extraordinary life she lived.

Thank you, Mom. I love you.

October, 2019: Laurie serves three of Amber’s kids. Dad sits in his spot at the counter. Standing behind the counter, left to right, are Mom, Amber, and Julie way to the right.
The house Mom designed sits behind the pond Dad created.

One year sober

June 10, 2019

During the phone call with Julie and my older son and daughter-in-law, there was growing momentum toward trying an intervention, that the only way for my younger son to admit his dependance on alcohol was to approach him as a unified group.

Time was more than up. There were too many signs that Alex was drinking heavily. He had deflected my question two months earlier. With his answer, he didn’t convince me. But, I am not one to confront people, to call them liars, to push them to the point it might place an irrevocable wedge between us.

I let his less-than-half-truth response stand.

And I kept seeing the signs, such as how he stayed up all night every weekend and then slept all day. Not a sound of movement coming from his room. The way people sleep who are not tired, but passed out.

When I made my mental list of all of the signs, it was half a dozen items long. And, even as it was a convincing list, I was able to provide another reason for each item. Even for how each weekend played out: He’s always liked saying up late. That’s all it is.

My mind returning to the phone call, as I weighed each idea for how to approach Alex I feared the intervention. Knowing his personality, I was growing in my conviction that he would lash out at us. That, in fact, the opposite of recognizing this was the turning point of his life, he would feel cornered. And, to defend himself—to keep himself from having to admit the truth and face the mountain of a climb which is sobriety—he would fight back.

Deny. Deflect. And depart.

And not only would nothing have been gained, everything would have been lost. Alex would have been lost to us.

Reaching the apex of the debate, I heard the garage door. Alex, who had lived with Julie and me for over a year, had arrived. I said, “He’s home,” opened the bedroom door and closed it behind me. I met Alex in the hall.

I didn’t have a plan. I knew I had to confront him, but how could I do so without erecting a wall instead of building a bridge?

My stomach already knotted, as he approached it twisted more tightly. The knot was tied to my face. Tears welled in my eyes. Alex asked, “What’s the matter? Did someone die?”

I choked out a weak “No.”

My mind spun as the intensity of the moment caused my grief to deepen. I believed this was it. The moment. If I could not achieve a breakthrough now, I might never. Later, Alex agreed. He recognized his drinking had grown so deep, and had gone on so long, that he feared his death was imminent. He was sick, constantly. Hangovers had deepened. Recovery took longer.

I froze.

Alex: “Are you okay?”

Me: “No.”

Me, finally, gently, voice quavering: “I hate to call anyone a liar, but I don’t think you’ve been telling me the truth about how much you are drinking.”

Finally, the question found my voice: “Are you an alcoholic?”

He didn’t hesitate. He didn’t flinch. He looked me straight in the eye as tears welled up in his.

“Yes.”

That yes felt as good as the moment I watched him arrive in the world. There would be no need to continue my questioning. To question his response. To respond with accusations.

That yes meant the healing could begin.

We had a lot to talk about. I told Alex of the family phone call that was in progress. He wanted to talk one on one right then. He said, “Let’s go out to the porch.”

I ducked into the bedroom. I gave them the good news. I joined him on the porch.

Alex came clean. That yes meant he no longer had anything to hide. He knew his father’s attitude—he could trust that I would not judge him. I would not condemn him. Admitting the truth puts the past where it belongs, gives power to the present, allows the future to begin.

We sat on our porch couch. Alex told me everything. I asked loads of questions. He provided honest answers.

As soon as we took our spots on the porch, Alex said, “I feel a weight has been removed.” He repeated that several times over the next hour.

We talked about whether he needed to detox. About rehab. About Alcoholics Anonymous. About how to get him onto a path of successful sobriety.

The next day, he reported what he learned about AA in Indianapolis. Meetings take place every day, in every neighborhood.

And the next day, he attended his first meeting.

And the next day, he attended his second meeting.

And almost every day, until the pandemic created the lockdown, he attended meetings. He made friends, who know the struggle. He got a sponsor. He’s now become a sponsor.

While the event I recall here occurred on June 10, it is not Alex’s anniversary. That is June 4. I’d forgotten that he told me he had not consumed any alcohol for six days before our talk.

He easily admits that he would not have succeeded at sobriety on his own. He told me of previous tries—once, he succeeded for three months—and how situations led him back to drinking.

He needed support. He needed AA. He needed his family. He needed accountability.

Alex’s first year of success story is an important one. Too many people are stuck where he once was. Addicted. Harming their bodies. Straining relationships. Wasting money.

This past year, Alex learned much about himself. About what works. And what doesn’t work. About the importance of being held accountable. About his faith in God.

I hope soon to post his own words on these vital topics.

Alex and me on June 4, 2020.