Eternity - Headed Home Part 12 November 12 2015, 12 Comments
September 11, 2013
This is a small something that was a big something to me... and I will never forget. I crawled up into the bed next to Bryer and was trying to find a comfortable position. I was fidgeting with where to put my arm and how to lay Bryer most comfortably all while not falling out of the bed when our nurse came up quietly beside me. Without a word, she put the bed rail up and positioned a pillow between my back and the rail. A simple thing really, but ah it made a huge difference and is just what we needed.
"Thank you so much, that is perfect." I said to her.
Although I don't remember her name, I can still see her face. "Well, I do this more than you know." She said softly while managing a half smile.
I knew what she meant without further explanation. She left and I remember thinking, wow I bet she does do "this" more than I know. "This" being situating a mother comfortably in bed with their dying baby or child. I lay there alone with him finally snuggled in my arms watching his chest rise and fall.
My baby would be dying soon.
The gravity of what was happening weighed so heavily on me. The weight of death, it really is a visceral feeling and it was pressing in. How do people do this without hope in Jesus, I thought?
"Oh Lord, help me." I prayed aloud. "You are my ever present help in times of trouble. Give me strength. Have mercy on us."
It was early afternoon. We had known for sure we wanted to have Remy come, but was undecided on Sander. Was he too little? Would it be too much? Would he understand? We went back and forth. Well, it ended up we didn't have anywhere else for him to go, so by default (I thought) but now know it was by God's hand, Sander joined Remy to visit.
My cousin Dawn who had been one of our constants and go tos for Remy and Sander through out our journey, a huge blessing, was to bring them to the hospital.
Bryer was still semi-awake. Mom and Justin were back in the room with us when I saw the rainbow curtain pull back and there they were: Dawn, Remy and Sander. It's such a hard thing to accurately describe. My hospital world with Bryer and my sunshiny world with Remy and Sander were colliding. For the previous three weeks, Justin and I had been going back and forth between the two. From holding Bryer's hand and rubbing his curls while on a ventilator to commentating fashion shows with Remy and Sander's stuffed animals. From being present for picc line insertions and doctor's rounds to witnessing Remy ride her bike with out training wheels. From brain MRI's and code blues with our B to taking Remy to pick out her first pair of soccer cleats and shin guards. From a sleepless night at the hospital to coffee in hand at her first soccer game.
I could go on, but you get the picture.
Having been in the depths of sorrow for days with Bryer, their faces were like sweet healing nectar. I laid in a bed of despair, yet joy had just entered and radiated the room. I wanted them to come to me quickly. They stood there for a second. I saw Sander's face first. He was clutching his owl pillow pet. I was surprised to see him (pillow pet). At this point, Sander was still sleeping in a crib and pillow pet never ever came out of the crib.
Sander's face had a clear expression of worry. He stepped into the room, "Why why why why?" He stammered. "Why you in that bed, Mama?"
"Oh sweetheart, I am ok! I am just snuggling with Bryer, that's all. Come here! I am so happy to see you! I've missed you!"
I hadn't even thought about what it might look like to him, me being in the hospital bed, but with that explanation, the worry seemed to melt from his face.
He marched right up to the bed on Bryer's side and said, "Here Bwyer, I brought piwwow pet for you." He laid it down beside him. Sander was two months shy of being 3 years old. It was was his way of expressing his love and concern. Precious.
Dawn then backfilled, "It was his idea to get pillow pet from the crib. He said he wanted to bring it to Bryer. He carried it the whole way from his crib, through the hospital and to this bed."
So we took it and put it under Bryer's head. The three of them snuggled together on owl, Bryer lay in between. Owl would end up staying with Bryer all day, all night and into the morning.
Remy and Sander stayed for about an hour. Remy fussed over him with a blanket, hugged him, snuggled and then asked to hold him. So we laid Bryer in her arms and Sander crawled up beside her. Our three babes in a bed one more time.
Remy had questions which Justin did his best to answer. He told her in words an almost 5 year-old could understand what was happening. She said she didn't want him to go to heaven. She wanted him to come home.
They were given wonderful gift baskets full of toys, coloring books and crayons which was very kind. There were long hugs and lots of kisses before Dawn took them home. Later Dawn shared that on the way, they drove under the arc of a huge rainbow that stretched from one side of 71 to the other. If you know Remy's affinity to rainbows, you understand what a statement of God's love this was and that He was with us.
The time with them was a gift and I am forever grateful to the Giver of such moments. Had Bryer died during the flurry of chaos the day before, things would have been so different. Another blessing bestowed in such sorrow. Thank you Lord.
It was now late afternoon. I held him and sang to him. My tears literally bathed his hair and beautiful face. By evening it came time to start medications like Valium and Ativan. We had been leery of starting them as the doctors warned it could precipitate death, so we walked a line. But, we were at the point he needed to be made more comfortable. Once we started the meds he was asleep or rather comatose. We continued into and through the night, me laying with him drifting in and out of sleep and Justin taking turns holding.
Family was near stroking my hair and rubbing my back, as I stroked and rubbed Bryer's.
We had been warned of secretions, gasping and the ugliness of death. I was so frightened.
We watched his monitor so as to have some sort of warning. There were several times we thought it was upon us and my body would shake. It would shake like it did when I was in labor and nearing delivery. It was this involuntary and uncontrollable response. I was so afraid of it...
Death. The unknown. Would my heart survive it?
It might sound weird, but I can parallel Bryer's death to my natural labor experiences. The physical pain of labor likened to the pain I was feeling in my spirit. My body felt as if it were breaking in two while laboring and now my spirit and heart felt like it was being slowly shattered.
Yet, in both instances, I would call upon the Lord, breathing prayer and He would strengthen me. I could carry on.
In labor, primitive moans of the physical. While in the shadow of death, my spirit groaned when I had no words.
Deep calling out to deep and He would answer.
Upon delivery, all of the searing pain vanished as a euphoric happiness washed over me. My new baby is placed on my chest.
The same was true for Bryer. Upon his death, as his soul was taken into the heavenly realms, his suffering had ended, traded for instantaneous glory, peace and wholeness. My baby was taken into the bosom of Christ.
Yes, in labor, I was transitioning my babies into this world and into my arms and in these moments, I was transitioning Bryer out of this world and into the arms of our Savior.
What a magnificent thought.
Although both extremely painful, I wouldn't choose differently. Of course, I would choose that Bryer be healthy. I think we can all agree what a privilege it is to birth a baby into this world, however, I also count it a privilege and GIFT to have been present to release Bryer's back to our Heavenly Father.
The unfolding of his end days were certainly God breathed. As hard as it was, there was sweetness. God's presence was all around.
Thick. Tangible. Undeniable.
We called upon Him and He came.
Morning light was near and family dispersed to their responsibilities at home and work and would return in a few hours. The room had cleared out except for the three of us who had been present at Bryer's birth. God's timing again. Mom was resting on the couch.
I called to her and Justin.
The time was upon us, Bryer's body lay in my arms. The peace that surpasses all understanding fell over me.
It had to of because my body did.not.shake.
I was not afraid.
My heart was held and my soul was still.
There were no secretions. No gasping. Just two sweet final breathes.
And eternity was his.
I think back to this when my faith feels weakened or I question His goodness or wonder where He is in my present circumstance. Nothing has spoken more clearly to me in my faith journey than that moment.
I am reminded how REAL He is and that He WILL show up. He is faithful.
"I have told you all this so that you may have peace in me. Here on earth you will have many trials and sorrows. But take heart, because I have overcome the world." John 16:33
Yes, take heart.
The trials, the sorrows and the losses keeps us desperate for Him and retrains our focus to be eternal and not on things of this world. He will meet us in the pit and bestow strength and peace. I cling to this!
My gaze is towards heaven and an eternity in the FULLNESS of His presence and those I love...forever.
I can only imagine.
Because of how God orchestrated Bryer's homecoming in such a peaceful, calm, beautiful way, we were able to think ahead.
A bath. Beautiful scented lotion. A white onesie (my favorite). Some warm, footed jammies. Lots of snuggling free from the confines of monitor wires and feeding tubes. Many precious pictures.
These are all treasures I am so very thankful to have tucked in my heart. He was beautiful.
There's much more I would like to share that transpired in the moments, days, months and now years after Bryer's arrival in heaven. So much. And I will. But for now, I feel satisfied that I have gotten this much down. Even still, within these posts, I've left out a lot.
Our journey continues, and I know He is with us wherever it takes us.
A Gaze Toward Heaven June 01 2015, 2 Comments
In the acuteness of my grief, in the immediate weeks following Bryer's death, I felt an overwhelming sense of peace and relief. The suffering had come to an end and he was in glory. I felt his memorial service was a celebration of his eternal life and the Hope we have in Jesus. To many it was an introduction to Bryer and summary of his earthly life. I remember smiling more than I cried that day.
Oh I deeply missed him, but the freshness of his hellish suffering, especially towards the end, was still too close to have wished him back. And the peace that had consumed me during his last breaths seemed to powerfully linger.
In those first few weeks, I felt myself recuperating physically from severe sleep deprivation and the deep anxiety and stress that had produced not so pleasant physical ramifications.
The service was behind us and we were settling back into a normal pace of living. I thought, ok I am doing pretty darn well. I existed in this cloud of engulfing peace. So you can imagine how shook-to-the-core I was when I experienced my first Post Traumatic Stress event. It was as if a powerful and most terrifying monster had reached up through cracks in the floor boards, and with blackened, long-nailed hands, grabbed my ankles and pulled me down into a torturous sea of images and movie-like scenes from Bryer's most terrible bouts of suffering. Each time it seemed that there was one "feature film" that was on display. They would bombard my mind, my eyes, my heart and sear my soul with his suffering. I couldn't escape it. It completely took over. I couldn't breathe at times. My heart pounded out of my chest and I'd heave and sob at the horror as if it were happening for the first time.
I was so taken back. "Why is this happening, Lord? I have your peace. You gave it to me!"
It was time to grieve his suffering. All the traumatic events of his life...and there were a lot. I hadn't fully dealt with them in real time. I couldn't break then, but boy was I breaking now.
I prayed through it. I said the name of Jesus over and over again until the images subsided and my breathing and heaving slowed. The enemy was attacking and trying to steal my peace. I battled back with truth and the power of His name. I turned to scripture.
During the several months of these random battles, I feel as though God revealed something to me. Let's see if I can explain this.
One day, I was scrolling through pictures of Bryer on my phone as I tended to do. One that I had looked at many times made me stop and gazed a little longer. It was a picture of him during one of 36 + hours where sleep was traded for thrashing, screaming, moaning, whimpering and seizing (August 22, 2013). He would not and could not rest.
He had become still for a rare few moments and I snapped this photo. I recall those hours with tears in my eyes. We were in one of the top Pediatric ICU's in the country, and not to their fault, but nobody seemed to be able to help. I have never felt more helpless and insufficient as a mother.
As I looked at the picture this time, however, this conversation popped into my mind.
Bryer with a gaze towards heaven, "Daddy, I am so tired and weak. I want the rest and peace I know is with you. How much longer?"
God answered, "Bryer, my sweet boy. I love you so much! It won't be much longer. Sweet child of mine, hold on. I am coming to rescue you, but there's still more purpose left in your time on earth! There is still more I have to teach your Mommy and Daddy." (more on that another time)
Now, did that conversation really happen? Maybe not. But it occurred to me that it COULD HAVE. It was put on my heart that I had no idea this side of heaven how the God of the Universe comforted Bryer during all those times that I anguish and grieve over. I have no idea how He communicated with him….soothed him. By touch? Sight? Sound? Smell? Angels? I prayed for it continuously, so why wouldn't He have answered? I prayed Bryer would feel held even when we weren't there. That he would be comforted, protected and feel secure. That love and peace would permeate his body into the crevices where my love and touch could not reach.
Did he experience pain, of course. Did he suffer, yes. But, I believe God was a buffer, perhaps softening it more than I know or could see. Or if not in that way, by being WITH Bryer in ways I cannot comprehend.
"He holds the whole world in His hands. I'm holding onto His promises. He is faithful. He is faithful." Lyrics of a song I often sang to Bryer.
Yes, our God is faithful like that.
Try as I may, I couldn't be Bryer's all-in-all, but God could. Bryer had many limitations. His eyes were failing. His hearing was imperfect. His brain proved to be deteriorating perhaps not allowing recognition by any means towards the end. But GOD isn't limited in His ability at anything, let alone finding a way to comfort and reveal His presence to my baby boy.
Thank you, Lord, for putting that on my heart. It has comforted me ever since.