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

Saturday, May 31, 2014

Day 12 - 05.31.2012

As Holden's condition worsened, the neonatologists and surgeons that worked with him told us they weren't sure what their next step should be.  They were debating whether or not they should do a second surgery or just continue to give Holden time to heal.  They explained to us that it was a very critical decision.  If they did the surgery, they may be able to find and fix whatever was stopping Holden from healing.  However, if all he needed was more time to heal then the surgery may set him back irrevocably. We felt completely helpless and were frustrated and discouraged that the professionals were questioning how to help as well.  We, along with many family and friends, prayed and fasted that the doctors would be guided to know what to do for our son who was suffering.  There is no explaining how it felt to watch Holden go through this pain.  All I wanted to do was scoop him up and take him far away from this place filled with tests, surgeries, needles, equipment and uncertainty.  I felt like I was failing in my responsibility to protect him.  I just wanted to make him happy.  I once again did all I knew how to do and prayed to my Father in Heaven.  I had never prayed harder, more sincerely, or with more faith than I did during these weeks.  This is one prayer that I remember very distinctly.  I walked into the little room attached to the NICU that Jared and I had been staying in and got on my knees to beg Heavenly Father to send divine comfort to my son, the kind of comfort that only He could give.  I cried and pleaded with Him to send angels to surround my sweet little Holden and fill him with peace.  After offering the prayer, I rose from my knees and walked back to Holden.  Jared, who was standing beside Holden and was unaware of my prayer, turned to me as I approached and said that he could feel angels surrounding the bassinet.   

We know that Heavenly Father loves His celestial son with a perfect love and was there for him during every second of his sacred Earthly mission.  Proven to us time and again is the fact that mortality is such a small part of our eternal existence.  There is so much more.  The veil has been made thin for us and through sacred experiences we have come to know with an absolute certainty that we are being carefully watched, helped, and strenghtened.  We have truly felt the palpable strength of angels.

D&C 84: 88 "And whoso receiveth you, there I will be also, for I will go before your face. I will be on your right hand and on your left, and my Spirit shall be in your hearts, and mine angels round about you, to bear you up."

Friday, May 30, 2014

Day 11 - 05.30.2012

Unfortunately we don't have any pictures to share from this day. This picture was taken outside the entrance to the NICU over 4 months later. We returned from Utah to finish my last semester at school. Janel and Johnny were visiting the island and we took the opportunity to show them where Holden had spent most of his life. We also had boy bassinet covers to deliver that Grandma Jeppson had made (when Holden was there there was only one boy pattern available).

We spent a lot of time pacing this hallway as family and friends came to visit Holden. Due to space constraints only two guests at a time were allowed to visit a patient. Special consideration was made when priesthood blessings were being administered. It was through those windows that a lucid rainbow awaited us to give renewed sense of comfort after a third blessing was given. It was in this hallway that we would update family, both in person and over the phone to those on the mainland, on Holden's condition. We would come out here to eat food brought to us by caring family members and friends. It was here that I called to withdraw from the CFA exam taking place that weekend and from the Goldman Sachs internship our family was supposed to leave for a few days thereafter. It was in this spot that a fellow parent of a patient said a heartfelt prayer for us and Holden. It was through this hallway that we were held up by angels as we returned to the NICU after Holden's surgeries. It's difficult to adequately express, but a piece of our hearts was left behind in this hallway. The most poignant memories of our life took place within the walls of this hospital.

Thursday, May 29, 2014

Day 10 - 05.29.2012

The staff at Kapiolani was so good to us and allowed us to basically move in with them. They let us pick out and change Holden's bedding, check his temperature, pick out books to read to him, and do as much parenting as we could in an otherwise helpless situation. We always wanted Holden to know that we were right there beside him.

Holden changed us the instant he came into our life. His birth was only the beginning of a long, drawn out transformation that he continues to effect in us. We've always been frustratingly far from perfect, so to be parents of a perfect child is extremely humbling and far and away our greatest gift that God has given us. Holden is our compass and our coach. How great it is to have a celestial son that can watch over us and remind us what lies in store for us if we are faithful. When we find ourselves taking a step in the wrong direction, we think of our son and we work to correct our error and shortsightedness, and to maintain eternal priorities.

The Lord gave us the tender mercy of running into President and Sister Uchtdorf today. As conversation turned from the child we're expecting to our first child and his passing, President Uchtdorf placed a firm hand on my shoulder and told us "You have a lot to live up to." We could not agree more. We love you, Holden. You set the bar high.

“What we love determines what we seek. What we seek determines what we think and do. What we think and do determines who we are — and who we will become.” ― Dieter F. Uchtdorf

Wednesday, May 28, 2014

Day 9 - 05.28.2012

Holden getting a chest massage to break up the mucus in his lungs. Each time he got this treatment he would like to hang on to our finger. There was never any questioning whether Holden was aware of who we were and what our role was there. That connection was like no other and transcends description. Anyone who met him can tell you that the understanding and wisdom this boy possessed was special. We suspect that Holden always knew what he had agreed to go through in life and what his mission was. There was something in him that was greater than us all. Recognizing that spirit in him then, helps us to recognize that spirit now.

"There is within each of us a divine spark of greatness..." - Joseph B. Wirthlin

Tuesday, May 27, 2014

Day 8 - 05.27.2012

I guess a common reaction amongst those who've lost loved ones, or experienced extreme setbacks in any form, is to blame or be upset with God. Many of us in some shape or form have grown up knowing two fundamental facts about God: 1. He loves us, and 2. He is omnipotent, or all-powerful. It's easy to understand then why some might feel betrayed, slighted, ignored, or forgotten when He who has unshaking love for us and power over all does not tip the scales of mortality in our favor, especially when we feel like we might justifiably classify ourselves as "good people" and deserving of a miracle or two. 

In 1995, Richard G. Scott said something everyone should know, whatever your challenges may be:  
When you face adversity, you can be led to ask many questions. Some serve a useful purpose; others do not. To ask, Why does this have to happen to me? Why do I have to suffer this, now? What have I done to cause this? will lead you into blind alleys. It really does no good to ask questions that reflect opposition to the will of God. Rather ask, What am I to do? What am I to learn from this experience? What am I to change? Whom am I to help? How can I remember my many blessings in times of trial? Willing sacrifice of deeply held personal desires in favor of the will of God is very hard to do. Yet, when you pray with real conviction, “Please let me know Thy will” and “May Thy will be done,” you are in the strongest position to receive the maximum help from your loving Father.
I'm happy to report that Caitlin and I never placed blame on God for what Holden had to endure, (I'd consider that one of our spiritual gifts for which we are humbly grateful), we didn't even dwell too much on the "why" questions, but we have had a paradigm shift when it comes to miracles, faith as it pertains to miracles, and the priesthood power that executes them. 

I had the sacred privilege of giving Holden 5 priesthood blessings during his short life. Most of which pronounced his health and recovery. Friends and family all over the world were submitting Holden's name in the temple prayer roll. Entire wards held special fasts for him. Spiritually speaking, we had all bases covered, and all the ingredients for miracle-producing faith and prayer. And...nothing. No improvement. No miracle. The only beneficiaries of the countless prayers seemed to be Caitlin and myself. 

Honestly, two years later I don't know that my faith has fully recovered in regards to healing blessings or miracles. I still don't know why we are to go to strenuously exhausting lengths to pray for miracles that are ultimately up to God's will and timetable to be realized. It's hard to express what I feel when others' healing prayers are answered in the affirmative. My heart is obviously glad for them, and I love hearing such illustrative examples of God's goodness, but deep in the recesses of my soul I still feel that tinge of envious heartache.  

Before I damper your faith too much, I want to remind everyone of a 3rd (perhaps the easiest to forget in times of trial) characteristic of God. The one I remind myself of when I begin to question God's will. It's outlined in 2 Nephi 2:24
But behold, all things have been done in the wisdom of him who knoweth all things.
He is omniscient. He knows and understands everything; Past, present, and most importantly, future. The reason why asking "why" leads you into blind alleys is that we do not, nor are we meant to, understand all the "why's" of life. Part of our experience and purpose of mortality is learning to lean on God, and not on our own understanding (Proverbs 3:5). 

Placing your trust in God is one of, if not the most vital and preliminary steps to true happiness and contentment in life. I beg of everyone who may read this, Trust God. Trust in Him enough to keep His commandments, especially the ones you don't understand, and especially the ones for which you don't easily recognize the correlated blessings. Have a hard time keeping the sabbath day holy? Trust God. Don't understand why daily scripture study is necessary? Trust God. Trust in Him enough to submit your feeble will to his. It's the greatest and only gift you can really give Him and he'll compensate you 1,000 fold. 

When you are in complete, dark, abysmal despair, trust God. Remember; God is omnipotent, God is omniscient, and God has an infinite and unfathomable love for you. Given these 3 facts, and I know that they are true, there is clearly no one and no thing better to believe in. 

I do not expect in my lifetime to learn why some live and some die. I do not expect in my lifetime to "get over" losing Holden. To not miss him miserably when he should be turning 2, 5, 10, 20, 40 years old. It won't happen, and that's okay. It's okay because I trust my Heavenly Father. He knows why. And because he knows why, I don't have to. He provided a way for us to be whole again. Our family is not incomplete because Holden is gone. He is still around. And he is always forever inseparably ours. One day, and we pray every day that that day is not far off, we will physically hold him in our arms again. And I owe every single ounce of that truth to my Heavenly Father, His perfect Son, and the covenants that they've been good enough to allow me to make with them. My heart hurts for people who have been through what we have without knowing what we know. Trust in God, and partake of His goodness. 

“Faith in the Lord is trust in the Lord. We cannot have true faith in the Lord without also having complete trust in the Lord’s will and in the Lord’s timing. As a result, no matter how strong our faith is, it cannot produce a result contrary to the will of Him in whom we have faith. Remember that when your prayers do not seem to be answered in the way or at the time you desire. The exercise of faith in the Lord Jesus Christ is always subject to the order of heaven, to the goodness and will and wisdom and timing of the Lord. When we have that kind of faith and trust in the Lord, we have true security and serenity in our lives.” ― Dallin H. Oaks

Monday, May 26, 2014

Day 7 - 05.26.2012

As things in the NICU grew more difficult to handle, support grew stronger from family, friends, strangers, and Heaven. Holden was not recovering from the surgery. He had a distended bowel, was in need of nutrients, and became anemic from all the blood draws and tests. Several multi-hour attempts were made to put in a PICC line (a longer term IV) before a team finally succeeded. Holden was given a blood transfusion to restore the blood he had lost from the tests.
The overwhelming heartache we were feeling for Holden was counter-balanced by the overwhelming amount of love and encouragement extended to us through prayers, fasts, texts, calls, and social media. Even the nurses who worked on or near Holden would often tell us how special they thought he was. Apart from these sources of strength, God somehow arranged for one of us at a time to have the capacity to care for the other. Caitlin and I would practically take turns having emotional meltdowns while the other would encourage and uplift. Each of us has acknowledged that we would not have been able to function otherwise.

“To be cheerful when others are in despair, to keep the faith when others falter, to be true even when we feel forsaken—all of these are deeply desired outcomes during the deliberate, divine tutorials which God gives to us—because He loves us. These learning experiences must not be misread as divine indifference. Instead, such tutorials are a part of the divine unfolding.” -Neal A. Maxwell

Sunday, May 25, 2014

Day 6 - 05.25.2012

Sleep deprived and anxiety levels running at new highs, we struggled emotionally through this day. Holden grew increasingly unresponsive after his surgery, and could barely get a cry out. After a terrifying bout of apnea, the doctors in the pediatric ward determined Holden would be better off continuing his care in the NICU. His transfer to the unit was chaotic as he stopped breathing again before arriving. Caitlin and I were helpless as what seemed like a dozen nurses and doctors came swarming around Holden. Amid the frenzied voices of the staff, Caitlin clenched Holden's burp rag in her fists as the NICU chaplain tried to assuage our terror with a prayer. As our shock subsided, we felt the weight of the situation set in. We wanted to get our son out of there as soon as possible.
We spent the rest of the day at Holden's side with two chairs pulled up to his bassinet watching as an intubator, several IV's, and monitors were hooked up. The nurses insisted that we get some rest. We knew we needed it, but were unwilling to part with Holden. After they heard our plans of sleeping in shifts in the family waiting room down the hall, the hospital arranged for us to stay in a room in the NICU about 20 feet from Holden. It had a pullout bed and a small bathroom and was usually used for mothers from other islands taking their children home. Though it was a burden to be away from our son at all, it was a blessing to get some rest knowing that Holden was nearby.

Day 5 - 05.24.2012

Moments before delivering our 4 day old son to the anesthesiologist to prepare for gastrointestinal surgery. Holden's X-rays revealed a blockage that concerned the surgeon enough to start prepping the OR immediately. It was following this procedure that the surgeon told us in a private waiting room that he believed Holden had Cystic Fibrosis. trying to break to Caitlin the ramifications of this diagnosis was nearly impossible. Our entire world came crashing down in an instant.
Later that night I expressed our utter devastation to our visitors, Bishop Murdock and Conor Riley. Knowing so early that our son would not have the health to serve a mission, may not ever get married, nor have children of his own was hard to digest. Instead of looking forward to these events he would be fighting to survive to adulthood. I felt like the greatest joys life has to offer were taken away from him. As I began to sob, Bishop Murdock asked me what kind of family my cousins with CF had. I understood right away why he asked. He knew that they would be one of the strongest, most loving and united families that I knew. They are. He asked Caitlin and I if we wouldn't be willing to have a special family like theirs, if we wouldn't be willing to be nurses to Holden, and take him to his doctor visits, and make sure we were doing all we could to keep him as healthy as possible. As quickly as our family vision had been taken away, Bishop Murdock's inspired words replaced it with a bigger and better one; one that involved sacrifice, heartache, and a complete dependence on our Heavenly Father.

Day 4 - 05.23.2012

Holden went through so much so early. Watching him be subjected to several painful pricks, and tests really allowed our parental instinct to kick into overdrive. He would be so frantic and upset by the nurses, and then instantly calm down as soon as we could scoop him up to soothe him. I began to understand this day how God feels when his children suffer; a type of love I would otherwise be unable to relate to. We haven't had too many conventional parenting experiences yet, but we know what it feels like to want more than anything to trade places with your hurting child.

Day 3 - 05.22.2012

A happy day for us. We got to bring Holden home and experience normal life with him. It's so strange to look back on videos from that day knowing what we know now. We were just SO happy and didn't want a thing to change. Even being completely unaware of what the coming days would hold, we treasured every moment together. We were absolutely smitten with our boy. I (Caitlin) put him down just long enough to snap this picture of him in his crib and then picked him right back up to snuggle again.

Day 2 - 05.21.2012

Taylor and Jack were the lucky cousins that got to hold Holden, but it's been remarkable to witness the impact he's had on all of his cousins, the majority of which did not get this privilege. Through all the letters, drawings, poems, prayers, singing through sobs, and graveside gifts of adulation, it's no doubt in our mind that each cousin has a very close connection to Holden, and he to them. Angel cousins are the best!

Day 1 - 05.20.2012

Taken a few hours after birth. Holden had me so captivated that I didn't even budge from this spot when the nurse came in and found Caitlin had passed out in the shower. Every moment with this boy left a permanent impression on us that pulls us forward, and reminds us every day that we can be a little better, a little more compassionate, and more eternally focused. In our family, May 20 - June 4 is dubbed Holden Days. Days in which we remember that "those mortals we meet in parking lots, offices, elevators, and elsewhere are that portion of mankind God has given us to love and to serve." You are invited to participate in Holden Days by performing selfless acts of love and service. Acts that will cause others to smile and tell a friend how their prayer had been answered that day and how their faith had been restored. We've been the recipients of such acts over and over again. By uplifting and inspiring others, Holden's influence lives on.
We love you, Holden. Happy Birthday, Bud. #HoldenStrong

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