Friday, August 1, 2008

A Grandma's Growth Through Grief

When our children are small we hold their hands and walk beside them so that they won’t stumble, fall or hurt themselves. We teach them to look both ways when they are crossing the street. We kiss their boo- boo’s and bandage their scraped knees, dry their tears and try to calm their fears. And if you were like me, you loved being needed by your child.
When they get a little older we try to answer their many questions, and they usually think we know almost everything. They look up to us with admiration in their eyes and love in their hearts. And they hug our necks and give us kisses and say things like,…“when I grow up mommy, I want to be a mommy just like you!”… Those were the times I cherished.
When I was forty I became a grandma and the cycle started over again. But it had an added joy because I got to watch my girls become mommies and got to observe the love they showed to their children.

I will be 58 next month. In September I will have an 18 year old grandson, and my youngest grandchild will soon turn one. In between these two boys I have a dozen other grandchildren,…but 3 of them are living in heaven.

Yes, I am a grandma that has experienced the grief of losing two infant grandsons and a six year old granddaughter. I say “lose” , but I know exactly where they are,…in heaven living with Jesus! And that fact brings me comfort and now it even brings me joy! Joy, because I know I will see them again and get to spend eternity with them. But at the time of their passing my heart was heavy and it held much sadness.

Part of my sorrow was having to see my daughter Lynnette going through the great trials of watching three of her children die. But I also learned so much from watching she and her husband Kyle as they clung to each other and to God during their afflictions. They were growing spiritually and so was I. God was teaching them about His great love and His great comfort, and He was showing them that His grace was sufficient. And as they learned they would share things with me and I would learn too.

Before their children died I don’t think we understood just how great God’s grace was. But during those sad times we felt His presence in our lives in such a real and personal way it was like we were enveloped in His love. It was like He had His loving arms around us, and was like we had climbed up onto his lap and He was soothing our fears and whispering, “I love you and I’m here for you,…and I’ll never leave you!”. The trial was still there and the storms were still raging, but God’s peace was so real and so warm. I guess that is why it is said to be “the peace that passes all understanding!”.

God gave us strength, because He knew we were not strong enough to function on our own. He gave us faith because He knew ours was small. He gave us peace because He knew we were frantic. He helped us each step of the way because He knew what it was like to see a child suffer and die. He gave His son as a sacrifice for us because He loved us so much, and He saw Him suffer and die. John 3:16

Lynnette and Kyle gave their three children back to the Lord. They knew that they belonged to Him.

And here’s how they eventually learned that:
When they married they spent their first year together and then decided they wanted to start a family, so they stopped taking the birth control pill. But before they had even stopped the pill she was already pregnant but didn’t know it until she got sick with an upper respiratory illness and we went to the doctor and he needed to do an x-ray and so the doctor took a test just to be safe, and that‘s when we found out she was pregnant. That baby was conceived when they thought “they were in control”, and yet it was God not them that was in control! He is the giver of life!!!

Then they decided that their first baby Jared should have a playmate, and still thinking they were in control they proceeded to plan another child. Well that was a son named Samuel who was born without a brain and only lived a couple of weeks. Actually it is amazing that he lived that long, as many die in the womb or shortly after birth when they have that condition. But God had a plan for his life. Even though it was short, it was long enough to affect many people’s lives, including my own.

We found out that Lynnette was carrying an anencephaly baby in her six month of pregnancy and all of our hopes and dreams came crashing down when we got that news after a sonogram. The doctors told us she could abort right then or continue to carry the baby, but it had no chance of survival. As Christians, abortion was simply not a choice in our minds, so they went back home together and I drove baby Jared. Kyle was crying so hard on the way home he had to pull over. I was crying too, but trying not to let Jared see me. It seemed like a bad dream. This was such a shock and so hard to cope with.

The next couple of months were so hard for Lynnette and Kyle and yet they seemed to be ok at times and people were taking notice of their faith and trust in God. People everywhere were praying for them as they found out. People from our church sent them encouraging notes and cards and came to visit them. Lynnette and Kyle continued going to church and even sang special music together. They wanted to feel God’s presence and His comfort. They had no idea how they would feel about their baby when he was born. They are human and they had fears,…but God helped them face their fears, and when he was born they looked at him and fell in love with their special child, and so did I.

They were surprised to have a boy, because the sonogram tech had told them that they were having a girl. Shortly before he arrived I had told Lynnette she maybe had better pick a boy’s name just in case and I told her that in the Bible Hannah gave Samuel back to the Lord so maybe that would be a good name since this child would have to be given back to God too. So, I guess I kind of got to name him. His other grandma said she liked the name Micah and that was his middle name. But of course it was Lynnette and Kyle that made the decision. They always pick special names with special meanings and Lynnette says God has already named them He just lets them know what the names are through His special guidance. (I had never thought of that before, and as I thought about it I agreed. Because the Bible says He knew us before we were born, so I think he surely knew our names.) My child was teaching me new and wonderful things!

It took God’s strength to watch Samuel die and to bury him and go on with their lives. But we all had to do just that. And once again, God’s grace was sufficient. We just took one day at a time and after his death when little trials came and went we would say, “It’s not a life or death situation”, and everything seemed small in comparison to what we had just been through.
Lynnette and Kyle now began to see that God gave life and He was also the one that took it away. So they gave childbirth over to Him. And before too long they had a beautiful healthy baby girl named Abigail. (This is what they were going to name Samuel when they thought he would be a girl, and I think it is neat that God gave them their Abigail, who by the way is 15 yrs. old now.) She was a chubby little doll baby! We all felt ourselves breathing a little easier and less afraid to accept all the babies He would give them.

But the next time it was a big healthy looking baby boy named Josiah , and soon after birth he was taken to NICU because he wasn’t breathing and they had to do surgery to bring down his intestines that had grown into the chest cavity and crowded his lungs and prevented them from growing properly. He lived five days. So, once again we grieved and clung to God as before. Sorrowing but also having hope in God to get us through. I was amazed in the NICU as we watched Josiah die and Kyle was so strong in the power of God and he was witnessing of God’s goodness to all of the nurses and doctors and technicians. And he was a blessing to me as I watched him take such good and loving care of my daughter. And he asked a friend that was there in the hospital with us to take care of me because he needed to take care of Lynnette. God was using Kyle as His instrument of love. When Josiah drew his last breath as they disconnected the machines we took turns passing him around so we could hold him. This was my first and my last time to hold my little grandson, and it was bittersweet. We knew we had to let go because he was already in the arms of Jesus. We were starting to learn that we shouldn’t sorrow like those that have no hope. Our hope was in the Lord! And even though we were sad we knew for a fact that God was right there with us in that room. And it took steps of faith to leave that room and get on the elevator and walk away from that hospital. But the Holy Spirit was with us and we felt His presence, and His comfort.

One of the biggest workings of God through these trials was the way God used these two babies to soften my husband John’s heart and bring him to Himself in salvation. John had seen the Lord at work in our lives through these trials and he knew without a doubt that God was real and that he wanted this same Jesus that was so much in control, to be his Lord and Savior. This wouldn’t have been the way I would have planned, but God knew what it would take to touch his heart. His ways are perfect and they are much higher than mine and He makes no mistakes. I had prayed for 15 long years for God to save John. I have learned that He has a purpose and a plan for each of our lives. And His timing is best.

We as imperfect parents know how to lovingly care for our children and grandchildren, but God has perfect knowledge and wisdom and He knows what is best for us. Sometimes he uses trials to teach us and mature us, or in John‘s case to lead us to salvation. John and I were baptized the day before Josiah’s funeral, so we were full of joy and sorrow at the same time! My prayers for John had been answered and yet my prayers for God to spare Josiah seemed to go unanswered . But God was saying no, that He had a better plan. I needed to learn to trust Him no matter what.

Along came another granddaughter and her name was Cecily. She was a beautiful little bundle from God. She is now 12 years old. Her mommy and daddy loved how she filled their empty arms after losing Josiah and grandma almost had to beg to get to hold her! But I was happy that they got to keep this baby girl.

I seemed to always be at their house, and Grandpa John and I loved being a part of these children’s lives. Grandpa and Jared got saved around the same time. Jared was 4 and John was 49. God’s call goes out to both young and old and He is not willing that any should perish but that all should come to repentance.

Next they had Anna. While pregnant with her, a sonogram showed that she had heart problems. We faced a new trial and it was sad to look at Jared and Abigail and little Cecily and realize that their baby sister would face surgeries and health issues, and all of this would affect their lives too. I was sad for all of them, and sad for me too. I have the gift of mercy and it is hard for me to see people suffering. I loved them all so much and I didn’t want any of them to hurt. My heart hurt for my daughter. Lynnette had faced so much and I couldn’t do anything to change her circumstances, but I was willing to help her in any way that she needed me.

Shortly after Anna’s birth her daddy flew with her to Children’s Mercy in Ks. City and I drove Lynnette and the kids there. Grandpa followed in another vehicle. We were all in this together and each of us were calling on God to take our hands and walk us through this frightening experience. We all stayed together in the Ronald McDonald house for 10 days as Anna had her first surgery and recovered enough to go home. I had been ill and found it a little hard to keep up with Cecily as she was a two year old and wanted to run around and explore the Ronald McDonald house. But John was there to help and Jared and Abigail were helpers too, and by God’s grace we all made it through and made it safely back home.

Anna had her ups and downs, but didn’t have to have any more surgeries until she was nine months old. We were all madly in love with Anna and hated to see her go in for surgery. John and I stayed with the other kids on their farm and took care of the chickens and the goats and the cats, and we prayed and prayed and jumped when the phone rang, as we were all anxiously awaiting news from mommy and daddy about Anna. It was touch and go. They were there three weeks, but eventually Anna came home from the hospital and although they had to protect her from germs because she had no spleen and didn’t have much of an immune system that helped her to stay well, she grew and turned into an adorable and special child. She loved life and we all loved watching her and being a part of her life. She was a great blessing to us all.
Lynnette also had a baby boy named Silas and he is now 7 years old, and then had another boy named Jonas and he is almost 5. Anna loved babies and she wanted to hold her brothers all of the time when they were little. She would want to hold them when I was holding them and I would always give in because she loved them so much. Life was good, and for six years we thanked the Lord for her and prayed that she would live a long life. But nine days after a Make A Wish trip we all took with her to Disney World in Florida our little Anna passed away suddenly, early in the morning of November 19th 2004.

It was the worst phone call we ever received when Lynnette called to tell us that she was following the ambulance that had our Anna in it and that she thought that she was already gone. I cried out with a cry that seemed to come from deep inside my soul. I always knew that there was a possibility that Anna could die from her heart problem, but I never quite believed it would happen.

We drove up to their house as quickly as we could to be with Jared as he was home with the other children. We hated to see the hurt on the face of our teenaged grandson as he sat there solemnly trying to take it all in and make sense of what had happened so suddenly while all of the kids were sleeping. I had found it hard to watch my daughter suffer loss, but now I was finding it especially hard to see my dear grandson hurting so badly. And I dreaded the time when the rest of the children would wake up and come down those stairs and find out that their sister Anna was no longer with us.

Once again I was in a fog and it felt as though I was asleep and experiencing a bad dream. I was thankful that John was a Christian now and that I didn’t have to face this without him. We had each other and we each had the Lord! What would we have done without the Lord? It would have been so awful to go through that and not have Jesus . I was so glad that we could pray together as a family because we all knew Him and trusted Him. I reminded Jared that the Lord was with us and just like before He would walk beside us and help us get us through.

When Lynnette and Kyle returned home they were so weak and looked so worn out and tired. My heart hurt for them. It had been such a shock and such a hard thing to leave their beautiful little six year old there at the hospital, and to have to come home to tell their other children that Anna went to heaven to be with Jesus. But Kyle bravely said the words to them as gently as he could as they came downstairs . Once again I saw God sustaining power at work in his life. And in Lynnette’s, as she gathered her children close to her.

The days, weeks and now even years that have passed have been filled with special care from the Lord as He lovingly took each one of us by the hand and helped us cross that big and scary street to move on with our lives. He has dried our tears and calmed our fears and bandaged our wounds. Sometimes it feels like we are still hurting and need a new bandage, but He puts His healing salve on us and gently works it in with his kind hands . And as we look to His Word and also go before His throne of grace and climb up into His lap He draws us near and lets us know we are special and we are loved with an everlasting love. And I find myself saying , “I want to grow up to be just like my daddy,…my Abba Father !” I have a long ways to go, but this grandma is learning to grow through grief. Praise God!

1 comment:

kim said...

I have to shout out a great big AMEN! I haven't ever experienced such loss and am amazed by your faith. God is really working within my life and testing my faith. Please pray for me and my family.