It has been over 18 years ago, yet the days the feelings are etched in my heart – as though they were yesterday. My son and daughter-in-law supporting each other in the hospital corridor … the grief of knowing I cannot quiet their pain.
Roll back the years to our son’s Jr. year in high school, football, weight training and a shoulder that just plain would work no more. What was wrong? The doctor’s x-rays showed an abnormal bone growth and in hushed tones he mentioned to me that we would need to schedule a full body MRI to be sure that this type of “abnormality” wouldn’t be found in any other bones.
The 45 minute ride home was very quiet as we were both absorbed in our own thoughts… Terror, rippled down my spine and through my bones as I visualized my only son … Bone cancer is what the doctor had so quietly mumbled, hoping that Richard wouldn’t hear. But he had heard and through the soft hum of tires on the freeway said, “Mom, I just hope that I don’t light up like a Christmas tree when they do that test next week.” This was sure to be a long week end. The Friday doctor’s visit was over, a long week end of wondering and concern lay on the horizon. Monday we should expect a call to schedule an immediate MRI. The doctor had been very clear that there should be no delay.
That night as was my custom, I pulled out my Bible and read God’s Word. Yes, I was distracted. Only one part of my brain could focus on my reading… the other was with my heart… broken. When I went to pray… nightly conversations with the Lord, I couldn’t address my deepest concerns. I could only tell God, that He already knew the troubles of my heart and I would leave it at that. I didn’t pray for healing… I didn’t pray for my son’s conversion… I just left my heart with the Lord. Closed the Book, and went to lay it on the night stand.
At that moment, the Lord spoke to my heart. He said, “Wait, read where I show you.” I picked the Book up again, let the pages fall open and I read (Luke1:15-16) “For he shall be great in the sight of the Lord… be filled with the Holy Spirit, even from his mother’s womb. And, he will lead many… to the Lord their God.”
In a flash, joy and peace flooded my troubled heart! God had answered both of the pressing questions of my heart! I couldn’t sit still, I giggled I laughed, I cried… Rick next to me in bed thought I had lost all senses. I told him…It will be OK. You’ll see, God just told me your son will be fine… No cancer…
Monday came, the phone call came… but it was a different call. The doctor said we didn’t need to worry, nor did we need to schedule the test… after further review it was a bone spur… Did Richard suffer any trauma to the shoulder in recent weeks? To be sure, he had suffered “trauma” during one especially violent play on the football field. Something he just shrugged off, as he sat out the last two games of the season. There was the answer, a confirmation of what I already knew… Richard was just fine… Not only fine, but saved! My heart soared again… That was January 1987.
In February of 1994 our son married his grade school sweetheart and by July of ’95 they were expecting their first child – a son. It had been eight years since God’s promise, yet I had seen no commitment for the Lord evidenced in my son’s life. He never went forward in church in response to the invitation or alter call. He was not particularly interested in “heavenly” matters. I suppose he was just a normal healthy adolescent and then young adult. He had good morals, was honest had a solid character at his core. But, I was looking for more and from time to time I would lift my voice to God- reminding him of His promise. Partly fulfilled, – I was looking for the second half…
In the spring of ’95 I was once again “nagging” the Lord about the promise, and I’m ashamed to say… whining because I could “see” no progress. That Sunday afternoon, Richard and Rene came over for dinner and in casual conversation with his dad regarding the recent crash of a passenger jet (all folks lost) mentioned that he could understand why God would let such a thing happen; because he read the Bible every morning before going to work. I heard no more, nor do I remember the explanation. What I do know is that God let me “see”! Richard’s heart was on the right track. Oh, my heart danced with joy! 1st… there was movement in the right direction, 2nd God heard my prayer and answered it within just a few hours! –What a friend we have in Jesus!
The last Saturday in May I was cleaning and singing and worshiping (is it possible to mix?-YES!) When I was compelled to fall on my knees and pray. I was praising God, thanking Him, and then a small voice said to me… “Ingrid, I will answer your prayer for Richard and also Rene. But, it will be difficult, it will be painful it will focus on the baby to come. Is it still OK with you? I said “yes Lord” Your will be done”. Immediately, my heart broke. The Spirit of God came on me and now I was praying for my son, daughter-in-law, and the baby. I prayed for all the family and I prayed in the “spirit”. I had never done that before… My eyes filled with tears, trailed down my cheeks these prayers were covered in tears… when I finished was exhausted and drained.
June 1st our first grand child was born, Alexander- a beautiful baby; perfect in every way. I was there moments after the delivery and was in the room with the proud parents and Rene’s mom… taking pictures… holding Alex… taking more photo’s marveling at the perfection of the tiny new life. Carried away with the moments, I forgot about the earlier meeting with God.
Things seemed normal enough in the hospital. Alex was a bit slow in the feeding department, but my first child had also gotten a slower start… Check out day came 24 hours later… Alex was jaundiced. The nurses were concerned, the doctor focused on his upcoming vacation said this is pretty normal… just set his bassinet in the sun and he should be fine. The nurses said,,,” if you have any problems bring him back”… It was Saturday morning and Alex was home. We stopped by to see the little family in the afternoon and he was just so sweet. Very quiet, and Rene was concerned since he still wasn’t nursing properly.
Around 10 in the evening we got a call from the kids. Alex was cold. His body temp was very low they had just changed him… he still wasn’t eating and he was sooooo cold. They had called the doctor (on vacation) his fill in said” take him to the hospital to be checked out”. They were leaving in just a few minutes. I said, “Call me when you hear anything.” (Time before cell phones.) And, I prepared to dress. My husband said… “Don’t worry it will be OK”. The next call was from our son… sobbing…
Evidently, when they arrived at the hospital they couldn’t go back to the nursery. They were shuffled to Emergency and waited for a bit… Then when the doctor finally arrived after they had been sitting in the examination room, and heard their story of low body temperature, jaundice and not eating… He said, let’s take a temp… of course the body temperature had come up since Rene had snuggled her tiny son close for the last 35 minutes… Then the diagnosis – “You’re just hysterical 1st time parents. Not to worry, the orderly will bring in some sugar water and you’ll see everything will be all right.” The doctor left, the orderly arrived with the promised bottle of sugar water and Rene gently pressed the nipple to Alex’s lips. He took two sips and went into cardiac arrest! Our son jumped from the room… Ran into the hall screaming… help me! Help me! My baby is dying!!!!
The hospital emergency wing went into high alert. Everyone came running… They snatched the limp baby from Rene’s arms and ran down the hall to the trauma center. Minutes later, we arrived. After a quick hug, I ventured down the hall to the trauma area with the kids… The doctor and two nurses were feverishly trying to revive this tiny bluing bundle. It was useless… Then I was reminded of that Saturday morning… All the family gathered in the waiting room, to hear from the doctor who had been called back from vacation and from the emergency room doctor. They did not know why Alex died. They were “very sorry”.
In a fog and with some sedatives, our son and daughter-in-law drove home. It was a long and incredibly painful drive for them. The house still retained the happy baby smells,,, the bassinet the diaper table… the clothes… the video camera with happy daddy baby film… They went to Rene’s parent’s house to stay the night. Yet, they couldn’t sleep.
Richard turned to the Bible. Opened and let the Lord speak to them through His word. (Jeremiah 31: 13-17.) In short…God said “woman, I will turn your morning into joy and will comfort and make you rejoice from your sorrow. …Because you are weeping for your child, refusing to be comforted because your child is not….. Thus says the Lord; Refrain thy voice from weeping and your eyes from tears; for thy work shall be rewarded… that thy children shall came again…” This is what gave them peace, peace to finally go to sleep.
The following day was Sunday. The music for the morning service was all praise and thanks giving…Beautiful, uplifting… but my throat was dry. It was constricted… I could not bring out a sound… I was on the verge of tears… And I said to the Lord, I’m sorry I cannot sing… And the Lord spoke to me… He said… “Ingrid, I am your God. You praise me not because of what I have done, or what I may still do… I am to be praised because I am. Sometimes that means that praise is a sacrifice. Your sacrifice to Me.” I opened my mouth and sang. It was a sacrifice to sing… but now I knew what that meant… and why I sing. I sing because “He is”. As I sang joy filled my heart. Can joy and grief be room mates in the heart? I thought not, but was wrong. Joy overshadows sorrow and makes it bearable. God’s peace and joy work together… That was my experience.
The days that followed were a blur. A lot of just talking… about much of nothing… My heart broke for Rene whose body didn’t know that the baby “was not”. Her feet and ankles were still swollen from the drugs… Her milk had come in and her breast ached for the warmth of her child. Every morning they would come to our house after spending the night with Rene’s parents. (Don and I both worked from home at that time.) So we had to plan. It was time to organize not a funeral, but a celebration of life. Short life… but a life. I called our Pastor Greg who was reluctant to do a memorial service for a baby. I called the pastors wife… and got results. Yes, OK he would think of what to say… since there wasn’t much to be said for such a short life…
We planned a reception in the hall adjoining the church. Rene’s mother’s employees and coworkers and our son’s co-workers all at the telephone company took care of the food and drinks. They were wonderful. One morning as the kids arrived at our house Richard told me about a puzzling event. Whenever the grief threatened swallow them they would go to The Book, open a page and read the words the Lord had for them. The passages were always right on target. They always touched their soul and always brought peace – for the moment anyway. But, that morning God had led them to the story of Lazarus… in the book of John chapter 11. Jason said “Lord, I don’t understand. Please give us another word.” And, the Lord let their Book fall open to read John 3:16. That morning Jason asked me, “Mom, can you explain why God would have me read these two scriptures at this time?” My answer, “I cannot.”
The time came for the memorial service. Poster boards with photos of Alex had been readied… flowers…and the hall was ready with food… Then we entered the church for the service… Our family filled one whole pew … our son was flanked by my daughter-in-law Rene to his right and I on his left. Don was on my other side.
The music was lovely, the pastor came around to the pulpit and started to speak. He said, “We are here to honor Richard and Rene who are the parents of little Alexander “Alex” who lived only 48 hours, but has already touched so many lives. Since I cannot give a long list of accomplishments for Alex, I’d just like to explain and talk about two specific scriptures and how they apply to you today; 1st – The story of Lazarus found in John Chapter 11 and then John 3:16!
My son turned, our eyes met and he whispered… “It’s OK mom… now I know God really is in control. It is as it was meant to be.” (No one had made any mention of these scriptures to the minister.) I don’t remember the rest of the service… or what was said… I just remember sitting there saying thank you to my friend Jesus.
A few weeks later end of July, in the Sunday worship service when the altar call came Rene’s hand shot up, then Richard’s hand went up… and they both made their commitment to Jesus as Lord and Savior of their lives . God who knows everything and plans everything in His perfect way sent Alex to us to bring not only our son into his heavenly home but Rene as well.
I find it interesting and heart warming that Rene was the first to accept the call. I “see” Jesus, hand in hand with Alex, hand to hand to Rene, hand to hand to Richard. Painful- yes, perfect- yes. God works all things for our good and His glory. (Romans 8:28) Richard and Rene now have two wonderful children. God is faithful. We are so very blessed.