this child is loved

The evening that Reece passed away I remember saying to Terry that someone could storm in, hold us at gunpoint, and I wouldn’t even bat an eyelash–I felt so numb to life.  That numbness has gradually lessened over time.  That intense period of being oblivious to sincere safety concerns was very short, thankfully.  I then went through several months of feeling a loss of interest to make decisions that would somehow re-engage us in life activity.  It has been a very slow process of taking on small things that start to integrate us back into normal circumstances and to begin trying to really “live” life.  We are still working on this on many fronts.  However, where I really struggled those first few months was in my willingness to take on anything further than that to which we had already committed.  We had our girls, our home, and our current life at the time.  I had no desire to even entertain the thought of doing more.  My thoughts were solely about caring for the girls, figuring out what God’s ultimate calling was for me (which I accept may solely be taking care of my kids and husband), and completing it.  I really spent most of the day with my head focused on Heaven and Reece and getting there in the minimum amount of time God would require.  I could not fathom making decisions that would tie us here any longer or doing things that would tie us to this life any further.  This may not make sense to you, but my thinking was to do the best I could with what we had chosen to take on and not entertain engaging in anything that might get us invested in life here any further.  It sounds strange, but to me, it makes perfect sense in the context of what we’ve lived through.  We’d witnessed so much–our innocence had been lost–and other than raising our girls, I wanted nothing further to keep me here.  In the back of my mind, I know that God doesn’t work like that, but that was where I was at and I know that He understood it, perfectly.

Then, late last Fall, I happened to watch an interview of Barbara Bush on the TODAY Show. (Click here to view this clip.)  Interviewed by her granddaughter, Jenna Bush Hager, the former First Lady discussed the passing of their second child–a daughter named Robin–from leukemia; she was three years old.  I had no idea that George H. W. and Barbara Bush had lost a child and as the interview continued, she discussed some intimate details regarding watching her daughter pass away.  What she described hit very close to home in our own experience of watching Reece pass away.  Most people, including myself, do not discuss such details publicly and it was helpful to hear her talk about it.  She spoke of how she and the former President still discuss their daughter and how they felt about losing her.  She mentioned that now, as they are approaching the end of their lives on earth, they discuss her even more and how excited they are to see her again.  As I listened, it occurred to me that they had several other children after Robin died.  George Bush went on to work in many high level positions, including being the President of the USA.  They raised five children (four having been born after Robin died), including one future US President.  They figured out a way to hold it together, to heal, and to be active again in life.  They took on new challenges.  They didn’t stop having children, they didn’t let it cripple their plans in his career, they didn’t crumble as a family.  Watching this interview helped me to realize that it would be okay, at some point, to take new things on in life.

A few months ago, I posted this picture on my Facebook profile page:


I stated that this is what my dream looks like–to hold Reece again.  I’ve actually already lived and felt my dream.  It has temporarily left me, but it will be realized again one day.  In reality, it will be different from this, as you will notice, not all of our kids are part of this picture.  My dream contains this scene, but it includes more people than what are pictured.  Reece is only part of it–the entire picture is having my family reunited.  In all likelihood, that could be close to 100 years from now, but I strongly believe it will happen.  I have come to accept that I will never have a family photo with all of us together on Earth.  We won’t ever feel “whole” here, as a family.  Once I accepted that reality, I was able to better understand that we still had a strong desire of the heart to raise three kids together.  We have wanted for quite some time to have the dynamic of three children in our home.  This desire did not go away with Reece’s passing.  Certainly, I thought we would raise Reece, Britta, and Scarlett together–I really wanted that.  That will never happen for us.  So, after careful consideration and definite prompting from the Lord, we opened our hearts to having another baby.  One month later, I was pregnant.

Here we are, beginning our second trimester, feeling blessed, overwhelmed, and slightly confused as to how we exactly got here.  We considered not sharing the news until later in the pregnancy, but this being my fourth baby, it is not as easy to hide my belly this time around!  In all seriousness, I want to share that this isn’t some attempt to replace Reece or distract us from the process we are going through.  This isn’t about trying to have another boy to somehow fill his absence.  He is “The Boy” in our family.  We are excited to have either gender and excited about the prospect of potentially having the family dynamic of three children in the house…even though we are having our fourth child.  We went into this pregnancy with our eyes wide open to the entire spectrum of parenting–the wonderful and obvious blessings, the heart-wrenching moments, and the gems that can only be uncovered through trials and tribulations.  In my opinion, it has been a much more difficult endeavor to entertain having another child–considering the understanding of what it is like to physically lose one–than it would have been to not have another baby at all.  Ultimately, the blessing of loving a child–no matter how short a period we were blessed to have him with us–far exceeds the emptiness that would have been felt by not having him in the first place.  This is true for all of our kids–born and unborn.  So, we went back to the desire and calling of the heart and it was, indeed, to try to have another baby.

We talked at length with Reece’s doctors, after he passed away, about whether or not having another baby would be a negligent decision.  They assured us it would not.  There are only a few cases of siblings having childhood MDS.  We know that anything can happen to any of our children, but we did not feel that Reece’s diagnosis should be a deterrent for having further children–at least from the perspective that we would be putting future children, knowingly, in harm’s way.

Here we are, pregnant again!  We are excited and cautious; overjoyed and still fresh in grief.  This is, indeed, a blessing.  We have no expectations for a boy or girl–no hopes one way or the other.  We hope for a healthy baby, but we know no matter what, this child is loved by us and three older siblings.

finishing well

I will never forget the sermon given on the Sunday that Britta was dedicated at our church.  Our pastor was wrapping up a sermon series entitled, “Thirty Days to Live” and it was about how we would choose to live our days if we knew our time on Earth was coming to a close.  On this particular Sunday, his final sermon of the series was about finishing well.  He used the analogy of pitching in baseball.  Roy Halladay had just pitched a no-hitter a few days prior and the pastor used the story to describe how hard it is to pitch a no-hitter, as often times relief pitchers come into a ball game.  By definition, to “pitch a no-hitter” requires the pitcher to throw a full nine innings of a game.  It doesn’t happen very often.  Pitching a full game, I have to believe (although I’m certainly no expert), must be taxing on the body.  Additionally, there is this thing called “winning” that teams strive to do, so bringing in a fresh pitcher often times helps in that department.  Our pastor went on to discuss that the reality is, in life, we don’t have people to come in to relieve us when we are tired and worn-out; we have to persevere until the very end.  So, how do we do that well?

I’ve thought a lot about Reece in this context–how he finished his life here.  Realistically, no one went into transplant thinking that these were his last days; no one talked about it that way and no one treated him that way until the very last day of his life.  Certainly, Terry and I had considered this many times over the course of his transplant and as he continued to decline in our home and at the hospital, we were very concerned about losing him.  But he abruptly coded in the hospital–no one ever said, “We are concerned that something may happen, here.”  He wasn’t in the PICU before he coded; he was in a regular BMT room and had just completed occupational therapy.  I’m sure the doctors were always aware that it could happen, but my point is that unlike many people with terminal illnesses, Reece was never treated that way.  His transplant was always considered “successful” in that he was 100% donor.  The focus was on his recovery, on making it all turn out swell.  We didn’t have the opportunity to say our good-byes and acknowledge the end was near until after he was on life support.  I am convinced, however, that he had some sort of inclination that he may not have much time here; there were signs of that.  It wasn’t, however, because we observed him giving up.  It seems really obvious if you look through the pictures of him from January to June that his body was slowly giving way.  But we didn’t know all that at the time or view it as such and his attitude never demonstrated that he was giving up.

I really don’t like the phrase, “Live each day as if it is your last.”  What does that mean?  Travel today; spend the day in an airplane or a car?  Do something reckless?  Sob unceasingly and call everyone you know?  Yes, those all sound like wonderful options…if you actually know it is your last day, the likelihood that you are able to do anything other than rest is probably unlikely.  But in a not-so-different way, “finishing well” is probably quite similar to fully living life.  I’m convinced that finishing well and fully living have more to do with shedding fear and meeting the day head-on, regardless of circumstances.  I believe it means to honor God in fulfilling the days he has marked out for us and to trust that God will meet us in our need and provide relief and rest.  After all, no person can step in and live our lives for us.

Yes, whether or not we know our last days are imminent, we will all be at a place in life where death is staring us in face.  We either have no clue we are in our last days, so the opportunity is now, or we will know it is coming and the challenge will be to release the grip of fear and meet our final days the best we can.  Reece truly modeled this for us.  He wasn’t in a place of defeat in his last days.  He certainly didn’t feel well and was very limited based on his health.  In fact, he somewhat became a prisoner to his body, but only physically.  Regardless of the physical challenges, he lived the days set before him with an attitude of perseverance, until his final breath.  As was the case with Reece, finishing well–phenomenally well–may simply be letting the body rest.  What a beautiful way to honor our life– to respect what God has given us by fully living within the circumstances that present themselves.  For my own day today–what a challenge it is to move through the day without Reece.  Yet I know there is a bigger plan than sadness and pain–how do I finish well, despite this challenge and other issues that present themselves?  I hope and believe that it can be done.

I think the tendency is to avoid the topic of death until we are absolutely facing it head on.  But what if today is one of my last days and I am facing it.  Maybe where I’ve been wrong about the statement, “Live each day as if it is your last” is in my interpretation of it.  I think it’s more accurate to say, “Live each day in confidence that you will finish it well.”  I do not claim to know what it feels like to be staring at death–I haven’t been there yet.  Truthfully, this whole entry came to be after I stumbled across a video posted about a young man who battled cancer for several years.  I know these stories can be hard to watch, but I am incredibly encouraged by what he has to say.  You can learn a lot about living from a person who is dying.  Knowing his cancer was terminal, he did not allow it to take over what remained of his time here.  This man was not covered in fear, but in life.  He finished well on Nov 7, 2012.