Sunday, June 15, 2014

Father's Day

Every second of Holden’s earthly life was filled with the love and care of his father.   Jared instantly bonded with Holden and I could see how deep his love for him was the second Holden was born.  I had never seen him happier or more filled with the spirit.  He stepped up to his role as father to our baby with gratitude and excitement.  He knew the sacredness of his calling and he magnified it from the start.  As Holden’s health began to decrease, Jared was an absolute pillar of faith and strength.  I am so grateful that Holden has Jared as his dad.  He was able to be there for him in a way that I couldn’t.  He was a constant support to both Holden and me. 

Since Holden has passed away, Jared has made it his mission to live up to his son.  I know with all of my heart that Holden continues to be filled with Jared’s constant love and care.  Being the father to a child who has passed through the veil takes a special and intense kind of spirituality.  Over the past two years I have watched as Jared has read, studied, pondered, and grown, both in his testimony and in his continuing and sacred role as Holden’s father.  The word that constantly comes to my mind as I watch Jared is long-suffering.   His faith and dedication to the Lord, especially in the face of heartache and trial, has been unceasing.  He is patient, yet determined to live up to his great calling.  I feel so honored that I am the one who gets to be by his side.  I have learned so much from him.  I gain strength from his very presence in my life.  I am so glad that he is the father of my children.  I know he honors that title above all others and will always give everything he has to it.  

While on his mission, Jared received a prompting to write a letter to his son on the day he was born and to deliver the letter the day his son left for a mission.  5 ½ years later, Jared was blessed to become a father.  He remembered and followed that prompting and wrote the letter to Holden the night he was born.   Holden’s mission was very different and much sooner than we had imagined, but I feel it makes this letter and the years of preparation for it even more meaningful.  I am so proud of  Jared for being an inspired and obedient man.  He was able to read the letter to Holden just hours before he passed through the veil to continue his mission in the Spirit World.  I share it now with reverence and in honor of the special relationship between this father and son.  

May 20, 2012
To my dear son, Holden:

I want you to know, first and foremost, that I love you and am incredibly proud of you. Today, you’ve come into this world as the purest, most perfect being I have ever witnessed. Your mom and I are elated to be your parents. I am still having a hard time believing that the Lord has entrusted you in our care. I am a man of many weaknesses, but I promise you that I will do my best to be the father you need me to be. I’m not worried about your mom. She’ll be the best mother you could ever hope for.

You’ve entered the world during troubling times. Strong values and integrity are not as respected as they should be and, unfortunately, you will observe things get worse and worse as you grow older. I believe this is why you came to this earth at this time. You can be a force for good during your mortal life. Through your actions, you can convince others to change for the better and the world will be a better place for having you in it. I promise you that if you are faithful to the Lord, keep His commandments, and make the necessary corrections when you slip up, you will be happier than you can possibly be in any other way. Never forget this. I know it’s true. 

I am so excited to be a father. I will undoubtedly let you down at times, but I want you to know beyond any doubt that I really do love you so much. Nothing could ever change that. Just know that you are the source of so much joy and happiness in my life. Thanks for being here.



Wednesday, June 4, 2014

Day 16 - 06.04.2012

Holding our newborn son as he passed away was an experience too difficult, too sacred, and too emotional to even attempt to share in this setting.  What we do want to share is that death is not the end of our existence, rather it is the beginning of a more beautiful and joyful part of our eternal lives.  We know that our son lives.  We know he is happy.  He has a sacred and active role in our family.  He is very present in our lives.  It is something that we wouldn't be able to understand if we hadn't experienced it, nor can we begin to explain it, but we have physically felt Holden's presence around us.  Something that we wish we could go back and reassure ourselves of on this day two years ago is that Holden will never be far from us.  

Outside our bedroom door hangs a plaque with the Neal A. Maxwell quote, "Faith in God includes faith in His timing." It serves as a daily reminder to be patient as we await the Second Coming of the Lord when we'll finally be as completely happy as we were when Holden was born. In the meantime, Heavenly Father continuously shows us that his bowels our filled with mercy towards our family. One poignant example was when we tuned in to the General Conference following Holden's passing. Just as we began streaming the live transmission we heard Elder Bowen say these words that brought immediate tears: 
"I would like to speak to those who have lost a child and have asked the question, “Why me?” or maybe even questioned your own faith in a loving Father in Heaven. It is my prayer that by the power of the Holy Ghost, I may bring some measure of hope, of peace, and of understanding. It is my desire to be an instrument in bringing about a restoration of your faith in our loving Father in Heaven, who knows all things and allows us to experience trials so that we can come to know and love Him and understand that without Him we have nothing.
"...I testify that the veil is thin.  The same feelings of loyalty, love, and family unity don't end as our loved ones pass to the other side; instead, those feelings are intensified.  Sometimes people will ask, "How long did it take you to get over it?"  The truth is, you never get over it until you are together once again with your departed loved ones.  I will never have a fulness of joy until we are reunited in the morning of the First Resurrection." from Because I Live, Ye Shall Live Also
We fervently pray for the day of Christ's triumphant return when all is made right, and "love's purest joys [are] restored." 
Be still, my soul: The hour is hast'ning on
When we shall be forever with the Lord,
When disappointment, grief, and fear are gone,
Sorrow forgot, love's purest joys restored.
Be still, my soul: When change and tears are past,
All safe and blessed we shall meet at last.

Tuesday, June 3, 2014

Day 15 - 06.03.2012

We were painfully aware of the confirmation we had received that Holden was needed for a great purpose in Heaven. The fact that he was so alert and interactive began to give us confusing feelings of hope that our prayers were finally being answered in the affirmative. Maybe this was a test. Maybe since we had shown enough willingness to submit to the plan that was so opposite of ours, Heavenly Father would grant us a last minute miracle akin to Abraham and alter-restrained Isaac. The feelings would not last long, but they occurred frequently.

Holden had not been stitched up from his second surgery to allow us a little bit more time to process the diagnosis we had been given. Now we felt we had been given one last chance at the miracle we were yearning for. The surgeon suggested he take another look at Holden's intestines to see if anything had improved over the last 36 hours before he stitched him back up. To be honest, I thought that this is when the hand of God would work a miracle. With everything in us, we begged, pleaded, and cried that Dr. Johnson would come into the waiting room and tell us that Holden was going to be able to live.

But no. The necrosis in his intestine had progressed. Consent was granted, and Holden was stitched up and his fate sealed. We shifted our mindset to the fact that Heavenly Father had worked a different miracle. He had given us a perfect son. A son who we know is an elite, valiant, courageous, and obedient man. A son who continues his sacred role to teach and guide our family as we continue in our mortal journey back to him.

We knew and accepted now that Holden's mission would continue, but we in no way knew how we would face losing him.

Through all of the pain and heartache that we continue to live with, we have never once doubted that it is all worth it. We would do anything for our son. We will endure whatever we have to for as long as we need to in order to be Holden’s parents. "For of him unto whom much is given much is required." (D&C 82:3.)

This in no way means that it is not completely devastating to have our son pass away or that we don’t wish there was another way. We do. But we continue relying on the eternal covenants we have made with our Father in Heaven and the trust we have in Him to make good on His promises.

We have often heard people say to us, ‘I couldn’t do it’ or ‘I don’t know how you do it’. I have thought a lot about this and have said to myself, ‘I can’t do it either!’ I don’t want to. I can’t. Looking forward, I have no idea how I am supposed to make it through this life.

About a year ago, the Salt Lake City mission president, Bruce R. Winn, addressed us at our Stake Conference. President Winn recounted the story of Peter walking on water. We all know that this is impossible, yet Peter accomplished it. He had found himself in the middle of a terrible storm when off the side of the boat he saw Jesus walking on the water. When Christ beckoned, Peter exercised his “little faith” and stepped out of the boat. The storm grew worse and the wind began to blow even harder. Peter then did what I have done so many times. He lost his focus, he became scared, and he started running out of faith. Then, he asked for the Lord’s help and IMMEDIATELY Jesus Christ reached out His hand to save Peter. As Pres. Winn spoke, I could feel the spirit teaching me about my impossible trial of having my child pass away. Yes, impossible. There are times when all I can do is focus on breathing in and breathing out, my pain doesn't allow for anything more. But Heavenly Father is ALWAYS there for me. All I have to do is exercise the little bit of faith that I have and trust that He will make up the rest. God has and will continue to lift me up as I am drowning. He will help me to walk on water. Jared and I will be able to make it through this life and we will gain our reward of raising our sweet Holden.

"Parents who have surrendered the sweetest and smallest flowers from the family's garden need to remember our loving Heavenly Father. He has promised a special reward to those who now suffer in silence, who spend long days and longer nights through their trying times of bereavement. Our Creator has promised glory. He said, "For after much tribulation come the blessings. Wherefore the day cometh that ye shall be crowned with much glory; the hour is not yet, but is nigh at hand." (D&C 58:4.) That promised glory includes the blessing of reunion with each little child who has left the family circle early to help surviving members of the family to draw nearer to God. Those little children still live and are a heritage of the Lord." -Russell M. Nelson

Monday, June 2, 2014

Day 14 - 06.02.2012

Holden was inexplicably alert the day after his second surgery. His spirit had been enlivened enough to spend hours interacting with us, locking eyes, transitioning his gaze from his mother's face, to the pages of the story being read by her, and then back to Mom. It was an astute awareness unlike any 2 week old I've ever known. Our Heavenly Father was so merciful to us to give Holden that energy. It was a blessing that we treasure. I spent the late hours of this night reading with Holden every scripture I could find on children and how Jesus loved them and asked us to be like them, and how "little children are holy, being sanctified through the atonement of Jesus Christ." It was so comforting to me to get an idea of the reception this boy would soon receive.

"Whosoever therefore shall humble himself as this little child, the same is greatest in the kingdom of heaven." Matthew 18:4

Sunday, June 1, 2014

Day 13 - 06.01.2012

After days of observation and speculation, the time had come for the surgeons to take action. Holden's body revealed he had a perforated bowel and that infection was present.

Still mortified by the idea of our son back on the operating table, we were somewhat relieved that some action was being taken and that recovery may be on the horizon. We were told the surgery would take 2-3 hours. With what might have been 30 minutes gone by, Dr. Johnson comes through the waiting room door, removes the surgical cap from his head and tells his silent audience that "we have some difficult things to discuss." 

He pulled up a chair and placed a small digital camera on the adjacent desk. Dr. Johnson related how he was dismayed to open Holden back up to find that his bowel had been overrun by a condition known as necrotizing enterocolitis. He had an estimated 15 cm of viable intestine remaining. The prognosis for an infant with short bowel syndrome coupled with the digestive complications predominant with cystic fibrosis was that life would not be sustainable.

I remember staring blankly across the room as the news was received. With so many prayers and fortifying fasts on Holden's behalf, we were feeling as though we didn't care what the doctors had to say. They could tell us he had no chance, but we were determined that our son was going to be healed and come home with us. It wasn't until the Spirit bore a clear and unquestionable witness confirming that Holden had another mission to fulfill that I accepted the agonizing truth. There aren't words that can express that grief. Unearthing those moments from the recesses of my mind causes my soul to ache. 

From that moment on, my physical and emotional strength gave out. There was nothing left my will could offer my body to get it to function. Bishop and Sister Murdock came straight down to the hospital once the news was received and met us in the waiting room. Blessings of comfort were given and everyone in the room voiced their thoughts on the news. After all that had been said regarding God's will, Sister Murdock spoke up, "What about Holden's will? He has his agency too..." It was exactly what we needed to hear, and we knew it was true. 

Heavenly Father mercifully came to our aid and His angels allowed us to take one impossible step at a time back to the elevator, through the hall, and into the NICU where our sweet Holden awaited the anesthesia to wear off. 

A fourth blessing was given to Holden. I wanted so badly to say that he was going to be healed like I had felt prompted in the previous blessings, but the words could not be uttered. Instead he was commended for his bravery in being obedient and submissive to the Lord's will. I told him that his parents supported him in his decisions and in his use of his agency to fulfill Heavenly Father's grand designs. We barely pronounced our "amen"s when I dropped to the floor and began to sob in frustrated agony. 

As we slipped into a maddening despair, Holden took on an even more radiant celestial glow. 

"For reasons usually unknown, some people are born with physical limitations. Specific parts of the body may be abnormal. Regulatory systems may be out of balance. And all of our bodies are subject to disease and death. Nevertheless, the gift of a physical body is priceless. Without it, we cannot attain a fulness of joy.

"A perfect body is not required to achieve a divine destiny. In fact, some of the sweetest spirits are housed in frail frames. Great spiritual strength is often developed by those with physical challenges precisely because they are challenged. Such individuals are entitled to all the blessings that God has in store for His faithful and obedient children.

"Eventually the time will come when each “spirit and … body shall be reunited again in … perfect form; both limb and joint shall be restored to its proper frame.” Then, thanks to the Atonement of Jesus Christ, we can become perfected in Him." -Russel M. Nelson

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