Time was at a standstill as I waited to see if my wife and our child would be alright. My wife crying and reaching out to me saying; don’t leave me as the team of nurses rushed her to the O.R. kept playing in my head. It was killing me that my wife was alone and frightened and I could not be with her. My husbandly and fatherly instincts were in hyper mode and I could do nothing but wait and trust that God.
This part 2 in the three part series “If God is Love Why Did They Die”. Please follow the links below if you have not already read them
Another nurse took me into the maternity waiting room where I had to endure cheers and shouting as others dreams were coming true in that room. It was all surreal as the nurse showed me the door Josh would be coming through.
Crash, I spun around and I saw a team of doctors and nurses rush through the door. The doctor stopped the gurney and said Robert J., meet your son. My mind was racing; is he alive? “Yes” the doctor said. How is my wife? “She is fine”. I didn’t know what to feel, I was beside myself. Joy, fear, sadness, hope, it was all one big ball of confusion. What seemed like two seconds, the doctor said they had to get Josh to the NIC (Neonatal Intensive Care) unit right away.
I had a son, and my wife was out of danger. “She must be frantic” I thought. I needed to be with her. Not only was she was going through everything I was but her it must have seemed like a physical assault being rushed into a room, sliced open and her baby torn out of her. The situation was very frustrating, all I could do was trust God and I was finding that uncomfortable. Maybe this was a glimpse into my level of faith?
Finally I was able to see my wife, she asked me how Josh was, had I seen him and was he alive? I told her Josh was being worked on and that he was breathing. “Are you OK” I asked? I told her they were doing everything they could. Though with the doctor’s attitude before delivery, in my mind, I had doubts about how much effort was going to be made to keep Josh alive.
The doctor was indeed doing everything necessary. An amazing pediatric team managed to stabilize Josh and we could all take a breath, for a moment at least and try to absorb what had just happened. The joy of a new baby was drowned by the flood of confusion and fear. Was our little boy in pain or discomfort and would he survive and if he did, would he have severe disabilities? This was not how we pictured the birth of our first child. Josh was born at 16:18, one pound seven ounces.
Returning to the maternity ward so my wife could recover was awful. The laughing, party balloons, joy and celebrating of the other new babies was tough while our son was fighting for his life. After five days my wife was discharged and we could go home. We didn’t want to go home.
Every day was spent at the hospital. Friends and people we did not even know praying for us and Josh. We were desperately trying to believe Josh was the baby of promise those many years before. After all, the bible says if you believe, it will be given to you, so we dared not allow unbelief to creep into our minds.
Josh was doing great, the nurses were supportive but the doctor continued to drain any hope. Josh was the youngest baby in the NIC at that time. Most preemies lose weight after being born but Josh steadily gained weight. One visit I remember being very discouraged. A nurse took me over to another infant who was also born under twenty five weeks. He had been there for months and was doing well. She told me, this is the future for your baby, just don’t give up hope.
I don’t know how we were getting through those days. Everyone was telling us how strong we were being but It didn’t feel that way inside to us. Everyday chores were an effort and a distraction from the only thing on our minds. Every night was a nightmare trying to sleep while wondering if the phone would ring and destroy our dreams. Was Josh going to live, was he going to be severely handicapped, is he the promise God had given us or was the message we got wrong?
Josh was now two weeks old. We arrived at the NIC and went through our usual cleansing ritual, four minutes of hand arm washing, then dawned our gowns, masks and caps before heading off to see our boy. My wife was finished first and hurried over to see Josh. When I got there she was very excited, “Josh opened his eyes!” A nurse heard the commotion and came over; she couldn’t believe it, because he was far too young to be opening his eyes.
We met our son that day. He looked right at me and stared. My eyes began to well up, what a blessing. The nurse asked us if we wanted to touch his hand. We had to be careful because his skin was very fragile with only a layer or two there. I put my hand in and he grasped my baby finger and squeezed it. I was amazed; his little hand didn’t make it around. He was so small. We were so encouraged that day.
The next day we were very excited to see our boy again and for him to see us. As I was approaching him my heart sank, cause of my training, I knew something was drastically wrong with Josh. His body position was showing signs of a catastrophic brain injury and his vitals were down. I didn’t say a word to my wife but I knew the Josh we met yesterday was gone, along with my hope.
A very sic infant had come into the unit a few days earlier. He had been transferred to Children’s Hospital where they take the sickest of the sick. Unfortunately that baby did not survive his viral infection. We were told Josh had contracted an infection too and his condition was deteriorating.
We left the hospital that night in silence, each of us processing what the next days would bring. We were still praying and trying to hold on to our promise, but we I was losing that fight too. It is at times like these you really miss having family around you.
When we came in on the morning of Josh’s nineteenth day of life, his vitals were very low and the doctor told us he was in a coma. Usually when we would come in and start talking to him his vitals would go up, not today. This was going to be the longest day of our lives.
Later that evening, Josh’s heart rate was so low, the doctor asked us if we would like the nurse to remove Josh’s life support and take him out of his incubator so we could hold him. My faith was draining away as the reality of what he said sank in. My wife’s eyes began to tear as we were realizing our worst fear, it was time to say goodbye. Oh God I cried out in my heart, where are you, why are you not answering all the prayers? What about your promise? I have to admit, I was feeling very alone and very helpless, unaware of any of the presence of God.
The nurse unhooked his breathing tube and the monitors. She took Josh out and placed him in my wife arms leaving him only connected to a heart monitor. I wish they had taken that off too as that scene still plays in my mind even today, seventeen years later. I just wanted to be strong for my wife as she sat there with our son in her arms still hoping for a miracle.
The beeping and blinking was a reminder to us that his little heart beat was getting weaker and weaker until it was only beating a few times a minute. With every beep and blink, a little of me was dying too. My wife was sobbing as the staff gave us some room. Finally, I asked somebody to “shut off that stupid monitor”. A short time later Josh was with the Lord, he was gone, our hopes and dreams for him were gone, five years of hoping and waiting was gone. We didn’t hear from God.
Walking out of that hospital without our boy was the hardest thing I have ever had to do. We were in disbelief, we were numb, and we didn’t know what to do. Our baby was there and we were leaving him. It felt so wrong. I can’t explain how hard that was. As his father and his protector I was a failure in my mind, my grief was indescribable.
I don’t even remember driving home or how we got there. I just sat down on the couch and held my wife. Later I called our mom’s to give them our sorrowful news. Then I can remember calling a friend who had been a Christian for decades, “where is God” I asked him? Why our son was dead and why were our prayers not answered? What did I do, or what didn’t I do? I was his father and I was supposed to protect him and I couldn’t. I told my friend that my foundation in God had a large crack in it. I remember wondering what this was going to do to our faith. Would this destroy our relationship with God?
The next morning I saw the bible on the living room table as usual, open as usual, and I remember thinking, she is going to be OK, but am I? Calls of condolence were coming in but we really didn’t feel like talking to anyone. There were some rather thoughtless comments from some people about destiny and God’s will and everything happens for a reason. One loving person told my wife that it was sin in our life that hindered the prayers that would have healed Josh. That was enough; I needed to get my wife away.
Our friends invited us to stay at their Island house as long as we needed. We were so grateful; we packed up, headed to the ferry and left everything behind us. Our friends barely spoke; they just let us begin to heal. They offered no wisdom, no reasoning, just were there for us and let God do his work within us. I was simply unable to and unwilling to pray. How could I pray when he isn’t listening to me anyway?
One morning after the spiking of emotion had subsided I picked up the bible and began reading;
Matthew 7:24-27; “Therefore everyone who hears these words of mine and puts them into practice is like a wise man who built his house on the rock. The rain came down, the streams rose, and the winds blew and beat against that house; yet it did not fall, because it had its foundation on the rock. But everyone who hears these words of mine and does not put them into practice is like a foolish man who built his house on sand. The rain came down, the streams rose, and the winds blew and beat against that house, and it fell with a great crash.” – Jesus
I had a revelation in my heart, God had not let go me. I was hurt and confused but in my heart I had a sense that we would get through this and God was with us. As I looked up and saw my wife reading her bible, I realized that our house was built on the rock and my foundation was solid. That scripture became real to me that morning and for the first time in days I saw a future.
After we got back home we tried to reacquire our normal lives. We drove to our bank to see our account manager who was aware of our tragedy. I had been in a several times over the weeks my wife and Josh were in the hospital. She shared with us that one of her colleagues and his wife had been going through a similar situation. Their baby girl had become ill and passed recently. The strain broke up their marriage and her colleague left the bank unable to continue working.
She asked us how we able to be so strong. We didn’t think we had been strong at all. We both felt like we were just holding things together. We told her that Jesus was our source of strength in our marriage as we told her about Jesus in our life. She and her husband were religious, but had no relationship with God. They would go to church occasionally and had many of the religious trappings but didn’t know you could have a real relationship with him. We told her that God loves us deeply, and when we were no longer able to hold onto him he held onto us.
With tears in her eyes, she told us that she wanted what we had with God. We offered to pray with her and she accepted Jesus right there in her office. Josh was only alive for nineteen days, but God managed to turn the end of his life into life for someone else.
Romans 8:28; “And we know that in all things God works for the good of those who love him, who have been called according to his purpose.”
Psalm 46:1-3; “God is our refuge and strength, an ever-present help in trouble. Therefore we will not fear, though the earth give way and the mountains fall into the heart of the sea, though its waters roar and foam and the mountains quake with their surging”
Everyone knows the saying, “everything happens for a reason”. That is true, but not for the reasons people think. Josh’s death was not Gods plan. God used Josh’s death that was due to sin and decay in this fallen world, for good. There is a difference.
John 16:33; “I have told you these things, so that in me you may have peace. In this world you will have trouble. But take heart! I have overcome the world.” – Jesus
We didn’t feel much like over-comers to be honest, more like survivors. We were battered and bruised but still together, still praising God. We have the peace that comes from knowing Josh is not dead and we will see him again. We also know that God loves us despite the trial and death of our son, though were having trouble understanding and reconciling his love with Josh’s death. What we did know, is that we needed a deeper relationship with God.
What we didn’t know is that one storm had past but a tsunami was on our horizon.