January 19, 2024

Parents find God’s healing presence in their extra time with their ‘miracle child’

In this photo from her family’s past, Kyndi Akin, left, back row, shares a moment of joy with her parents, Margaret and Dan Akin and her brother, Scott Akin. In the front row are Kyndi’s brother, Brian Akin, and sister, Jodi Clere. (Submitted photo)

In this photo from her family’s past, Kyndi Akin, left, back row, shares a moment of joy with her parents, Margaret and Dan Akin and her brother, Scott Akin. In the front row are Kyndi’s brother, Brian Akin, and sister, Jodi Clere. (Submitted photo)

(Editor’s note: The Criterion invited our readers to share their stories of how God has made his presence known in their lives. Here is another story in this occasional series.)

By John Shaughnessy

Dan and Margaret Akin faced a parent’s worst nightmare.

In the midst of that nightmare, they also experienced the healing presence of God.

Their story begins in 2003 when the third of their four children, then 27-year-old Kyndi, was diagnosed with cancer.

While they relied upon medical professionals for help, the family also turned to their faith community at St. Mary-of-the-Knobs Parish in Floyd County for prayers and support.

“Kyndi went through surgeries, radiation therapy, chemotherapy and a stem-cell transplant, all with no true help,” recalled Dan, a doctor who is retired now. “At this point in 2004, we thought we would lose Kyndi, and we purchased her grave plot here at St. Mary’s.”

During that time of fear, then-pastor Father John Geis invited Kyndi and her parents to the rectory after Mass one Sunday.

“He said a prayer and blessed Kyndi with the aid of a relic from Mother Teresa,” Dan noted.

Looking back, Kyndi’s parents view that moment as the first of three signs of God’s presence that led to a turning point for their daughter.

They believe the second one occurred as they took a weeklong family vacation to Sanibel, Fla.—right before they headed to a Houston hospital to continue Kyndi’s care.

A perfect match, a full life

The family had vacationed in Sanibel for years and wanted to share it together once more, in case it was the last time for Kyndi.

“One night, there was a huge windstorm,” Dan recalled. “The next morning, we discovered a live sand dollar shell on the second-story balcony, just below the window facing the ocean. The sand dollar was unbroken from its windy journey from the ocean.”

Curious about the sand dollar, Dan spent the next day trying to learn more about it. He came across a legend that connected it to the birth and death of Christ.

The legend noted that if you closely examine one side of the sand dollar, “you’ll see that you find here four nail holes and a fifth one made by a Roman’s spear.” On the other side, there’s “the Easter lily, its center a star that appeared unto the shepherds and led them from afar.”

“When I looked it up, we felt it was a sign from God,” Dan said.

Then came the third sign they believe God gave them.

“The treatment at M.D. Anderson [the Houston hospital] led to a bone marrow transplant,” Dan noted. “There were about 10 million in the bone marrow registry. Two matches were found in a short period of time, which was in itself amazing, and one was a perfect match. It was from a young, 23-year-old man from Germany. After the bone marrow treatment, Kyndi was free of the lymphoma.”

Kyndi lived for 16 more years. During that time, she enjoyed painting, rock climbing, cooking with her mom, and sharing time with her family, especially her three nieces and her nephew.

She was also involved in Gilda’s Club, a cancer survivors’ group named in honor of Gilda Radner, a comedienne and actress who died of cancer.

“Kyndi started going there when she got back from her transplant at M.D. Anderson,” Dan said. “She knew a lot of people, and she helped other people with cancer to deal with it.

“After she died, we had a memorial for her at Gilda’s Club. There were a lot of people who came forward to express they were going to miss her because they came to her to bounce off their feelings. She was very good in helping other cancer survivors.”

‘God is there for us’

Kyndi died of an apparent heart attack in 2019, on Nov. 25, her dad’s birthday. She was 43.

“It was devastating when she died,” her mother said. “It was so sudden.”

Dan added, “We miss her deeply, and we think about her every day. It was wonderful that God gave her more years on Earth to be with us. We cherished having her with us.”

During the viewing for Kyndi, her family gave small sand dollars to the people who came to honor her life.

“We thought it was such an inspiration to us that we thought it would be an inspiration to other people to know the significance of the sand dollar and the legend behind it,” Dan said.

Her parents also included an image of a sand dollar on her gravestone, which is also marked with the first and last lines of “The Story of the Sand Dollar”:

There’s a lovely little legend that I would like to tell, of the birth and death of Jesus found in this lovely shell.

This simple little symbol Christ left for you, (Kyndi) and me, to help us spread the Gospel through all eternity.

The heartbreak continues for her parents. So does their appreciation of God, his presence in their lives and the gift of their 16 extra years with Kyndi.

“I read about miracles in the Bible—Jesus giving sight to the blind and saving someone’s life,” Dan said. “It’s different when you live through a miracle. It taught me that miracles do exist.

“And it taught me about the power of prayer. Through all this, our church and so many people prayed for Kyndi. It transformed me from having a faith in God to knowing, without a doubt, that God is there for us.” †

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