I first met Kathy Wagner, the author of "Of Sojourners on the Narrow Road," in the fall of 1989 at the initial meeting of a home-schooling support group.
She was expecting (her fourth, I believe) and I was there with my three children, ages 4, 5 and 7, and was in my first few months of home-schooling. If I knew at the time that her oldest son Kyle had Duchenne muscular dystrophy, I don't recall it.
Through the years, our lives crossed at different home-schooling intersections. I believe it was through her son Josh Wagner, who attended the former Joliet Area Christian Cooperative on Thursdays with my kids, that had given us a copy of "Heaven" by Randy Alcorn, Kyle's favorite book.
At the time, Kyle had made it his mission to distribute copies of the book as far and wide as he could. His family gave away copies at his funeral. At the back of "Of Sojourners on the Narrow Road" was the website, link now broken, so readers could request a copy, too.
That was 2005 and Kyle was then 22 and had beaten the muscular dystrophy odds of dying before age 20. The Herald-News had a "People of Faith" feature. So I went to the Wager home in New Lenox to interview Kyle.
I won't describe what the body of a 22-year-old man that has temporarily outsmarted Duchenne muscular dystrophy looks like. But I will tell you that as weak and twisted as Kyle's body was, his very confident faith was just the opposite: clear, strong, unwavering.
He died at the age of 26 on Thanksgiving Day 2008. A few years after that, Kathy contacted me, asking if she could "pick my brain." Her family wanted her to write Kyle's story, and she disliked writing. She needed motivation to write; she wanted information on self-publishing.
And so we met on a Saturday morning.
That was the last I talked to Kathy until 2014, when she contacted me. She had finished the book; she had published the book; and she asked if I would write a story about Kyle and the book.
But if you think "Of Sojourners on the Narrow Road" is bleak reading, let me assure you it is not. It is a book on how to live well.
You'll read all the reasons, large and what may seem small to us, for Kyle to choose the wide path of bitterness. Instead he fixed his gaze on something larger than his illness and chose to live by the unseen instead of what was very painful to see.
“It can be very difficult to know things are out of your control,” Kyle said in the 2005 Herald-News story, “but you just have to accept it. It doesn’t help to get angry about it. I understand there is a plan, even though I don’t understand what that plan is, even though it is not easy.”
You'll also read the lasting gift his mother left to her family. For someone who hated to write, the story is well-structured. It's not simply a chronicle of events sprinkled with Bible passages but a real journey, full of wisdom and guidance for the reader, a modern day "Pilgrim's Progress," in my opinion.
The only challenge in reading this book is finding a copy of it. You may have to dig deeply online or search in second hand bookstores.
If you cannot find one, email me at email@example.com. I will lend you mine.
Know more about LocalLit
Each week LocalLit will deliver an original short and family-friendly story (or a book review) by a local author to the newsletter's subscribers. Authors with a connection to our readership area may submit. Submission does not guarantee acceptance.
To submit and for more information, contact Denise M. Baran-Unland at 815-280-4122 firstname.lastname@example.org.
To sign up for the free LocalLit newsletter and read the book review on Tuesday, visit theherald-news.com/newsletter/locallit/#//.