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Disability, Death, Life, and Fatherhood

By: Dr. Michael A. Pasquarella, Colonel, US Army (Retired)

Life can throw a lot at you.


Our 3rd daughter, Cristina, was born in a small hospital In Fulda, Germany in 1990, while I was stationed there on a 3-year Army assignment. It was immediately apparent to me at the time of delivery that she was unlike her first two sisters. I diagnosed Cristina with Down Syndrome. I am a Family Medicine Physician. I only mention this because being a parent to a child with a disability is very different from diagnosing a disability for another's child. In multiple follow-on Army assignments we were able to utilize the Military health care system, and when needed be covered with Military health insurance to attend to Cristina's needs. Though Cristina had a few medical issues, she was relatively an uncomplicated child. Most of her problems would be educational. Luckily my wife, Alice, had been a primary school teacher prior to having children, and had an additional degree in reading disabilities. Bottom line, I worked long hours and Alice took care of most of the needs of our daughters including Cristina. Three years later we had one more child, another daughter! Things got busier at work and at home. I tried to help out the best that I could.


When Cristina was 17 years old, Alice was diagnosed with breast cancer. After a six-year fight with this disease, Alice died in 2013. I retired in 2014 after 43 years in an Army uniform, 34 years of those were in active service.


Yes, it does go on.


Upon retirement, and with widowhood, my job as a father really kicked in. All four of my daughters, to include Cristina, have kept me focused in this new phase of my life. I have developed a much better understanding of Cristina and of all of my daughters. We've had conversations we've never had time to have before. There are problems and solutions that we've discovered. I went from the sidelines of daily fatherhood to being IT.

This is not the retirement that I may have planned, but to tell you the truth, I never really planned a retirement. With so much going on I kept my focus on solving daily problems. This continues. However, problems are challenges, challenges that give me a reason to make it to the next day. I hope to meet those challenges for at least another 30 years!

Juli’s note:

I will add that I have had the privilege of teaching voice lessons to two of Dr. Pasquarella’s daughters and have grown to love all four of his daughters. He continues to serve his family well, and now cherishes being the focused “girl dad.” He faithfully brings Cristina to her voice lessons every week and makes sure she sings in both of our voice recitals each year. He is a man of his word and has been committed for many years to Cristina as he makes sure she has music in her life after his hero, Alice, passed away.

I have watched this father up close and from a distance, and today I honor him and all of the fathers who are the primary caregivers for their family member.

Happy Father’s Day, Mike!

Listening Library: Amazing Grace - My Chains Are Gone (Pentatonix)

However, I consider my life worth nothing to me; my only aim is to finish the race and complete the task the Lord Jesus has given me—the task of testifying to the good news of God’s grace.

(Acts 20:24 NIV)

Amazing Grace

Amazing grace How sweet the sound That saved a wretch like me I once was lost, but now I'm found Was blind, but now I see

'Twas grace that taught my heart to fear And grace my fears relieved How precious did that grace appear The hour I first believed

My chains are gone I've been set free My God, my Savior has ransomed me And like a flood, His mercy rains Unending love, Amazing grace

The Lord has promised good to me His word my hope secures He will my shield and portion be As long as life endures

My chains are gone I've been set free (been set free) My God, my Savior has ransomed me (ransomed me) And like a flood (like a flood) His mercy rains (mercy rains) Unending love, oh, Amazing grace

The Earth shall soon dissolve like snow The sun forbear to shine But God, Who called me here below Will be forever mine

My chains are gone I've been set free My God, my Savior has ransomed me And like a flood, His mercy rains Unending love, Amazing grace (grace)

I once was lost, but now I'm found Was blind (was blind), but now (but now) I see

Songwriter: John Newton

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