Tuesday, October 28, 2008

Better Them Than Us

Innocent questions, intended for a simple answer: "You have a family of 4?" "How many kids do you have?" "What are your boy's names?"

How do you answer? There is this strange awkwardness that happens when you tell someone that your baby dies but it is almost harder when it comes up with these innocent questions. ....who do you protect?...and from what are you needing protection from?

Jonathan is notorious for bombarding new visitors into our home with the passing of Jacob.....he tells people that we had a baby, his name is Jacob and he died. The end. Most of the time they haven't even made it up the stairs yet. It doesn't happen all the time but when it does, it makes for quite the moment. Most of the time people don't know what to say....usually they are just here to fix something so they go about their business. Today the man said, "So, no more baby?" and then had to go to his car to get something. I get it. Who knows what to say to that?

My instinct was to talk to Jonathan and tell him that we don't need to tell everyone....CAN YOU BELIEVE THAT WAS MY INSTINCT?!??!??! I DID NOT act on this instinct and thank the Lord I didn't! What a hypocrite I would have been! Jonathan stands by my side every time we are out and I tell someone about Jacob and I talk about what a blessing Jacob is to our family....he is only doing what his mama does! And who am I to put some stranger's feelings before one of the gifts God has entrusted me with?!??! (I know...shame on Karen...shame, shame to even think it!)

So, now, my outlook on the situation applies not only to me but to all my boys: better them feel awkward than us....we know what they are missing if we don't share. I feel terrible if I leave Jacob out and the last thing I need is to comfort someone else in my loss (I have never been one to hide much of what I am thinking:) I have spoken to a few other mothers who feel differently and I may someday, but right now, we are all about talking and that is what blesses us....it works.

I don't think I shared this with you all. The Friday of my crazy week of phone calls God gave to us, I went out to visit my sister with the boys in the evening. We sat at dinner and a young girl about 9 years old came right up to me and asked if we were sisters. I told her yes. Then Joshua came up to me and she asked if he was my son. I told her yes. She asked me if I had any other children. I pointed out Jonathan and then said that I had another boy in heaven. She said, "you mean he died?!?!" I told her yes. "How?!?" I told her that God made him so special and he wasn't made to live as long. Her mother told her that was enough but she just couldn't stop. I made it clear to the mother that I was fine with sharing.....it wasn't hurting me to share. So, this little girl went on and on....how did he die, when did he die, where did he die, what room did he die in, who was with him, do you miss him, did you bury him, did you baptize him, are you sad....believe it or not, these are not all of what she asked! Now, this mom was so very appreciative of me sharing with her....she tried hard to stop her and tell her it was enough, but she kept asking and I kept answering so it was ok. I showed her his picture, gave them a blog card with his picture and blog address and the mother looked at me with tears in her eyes and just thanked me for sharing. All I could say was, "No, thank you." Me, my boys, my sister and brother-in-law got into the car and as we were driving away, my brother-in-law asked, "Does that normally happen?" I said, "No. But she just asked all the questions everyone else wants to ask but just doesn't." We have been an open book so that if someone does ask, maybe there will be an impact on their lives and God just runs with it in their lives from there....who knows?

So, for us right now, it is better them feel strange than us feel guilty.....they'll get over it quickly where as we have Jacob forever stamped on our hearts....no regrets.

"We have a family of 5." "I have 3 boys." "Joshua, Jonathan, and Jacob Ryan."


Kenzie said...


I'm SO thankful that you continue sharing about Jacob and you can answer all the questions. I also always would rather talk about Maddox than not... When people ask... is this your first baby? Nope, it's my third. Boys, girls? 2 boys and this is a girl. Wow... I bet you're done now! Not sure what the Lord has planned for us. How old are they? (used to say 2) :) 3, our second son would be 9 months, and this little one? Uh...oh... would be? Yeah, he is in Heaven with the Lord. He didn't come home from the hospital. Oh... I'm sorry... and then they're gone. Like you said, I'd much rather acknowledge him than worry about them feeling awkward. I know they are innocent questions and my answers are real. If I wasn't okay with people knowing, I wouldn't say it. I know how guilty I have felt the 2 times I haven't told people... All I wanted to do later was find them. I wanted to chase them down and tell them I had a different answer. I know not everyone feels the same way as you and I, but we can each do what makes our hearts most content. It's hard for Dusty to say that and he rarely does... it hurts sometimes, but I know he feels weird when I say all I do.

Anyways friend... just wanted to say I totally get it!

Love you!

The VW's said...

Well put! And, what beautiful and inspirational boys they are!

I can only imagine how hard these questions must be for you, yet I would think, therapeutic for you as well, knowing that his life has so much to teach others! As you said in your last post, there are just so many levels. Your precious Jacob has touched so many people on so many levels and so have you!

God Bless You!

boltefamily said...

WOW! Great perspective on such a tough issue. I have struggled with how honestly to answer questions and who I should share with and who I should spare the awkwardness. You are SO right. Our babies were gifts and if we feel inclined we should share them with EVERYONE! Who are we to keep such amazing gifts to ourselves. So true! Better them than us!

Love you!

Kim (marygracesummons.blogspot.com) said...

such a true post. Man do I get it, I love telling about Mary Grace. I wear my necklace that is a heart broke in half and people ask, "aaahhh who has the other half?" I tell them my sweet girl in Heaven. It's so refreshing to keep them in our daily lives, our conversations. Your three boys are so handsome, I love love love this picture.
Love love love you too!!

Jennifer jenifer66@aol.com said...


I've been reading your journey for quite sometime now and your family love is amazing. Jacob is such a cute little peanut and so loved by so many people. What a true gift from God!

I know what you mean about the question of 'how many kids do you have'? I lost my first child, a son during delivery, his name is Zachary. When people ask me how many children I have, I always stall and think to myself 'define have'? Yes, I do 'have' my son Zachary in my heart forever, but in my arms for only a moment. Suprisingly Zachary would have turned 23 this year and still, after all this time, and since having 4 beatiful healthy children, I still pause whenever I am asked the question, 'how many kids do you have?' For the most part I say 'five, with one I share with God in Heaven'. Sometimes they question furter, but for the most part they just process what I said and 'get it'. Even after 23 years, we make a cake on his birthday. My children make a cake for the brother they never met, but they know him through me. We sing Happy Birthday too. They tell their friends they have a brother named Zachary in heaven. Actually when a younger boy questioned my 7 year old about why his brother died, my son simply told him "My brother was too perfect for this world so he went straight to God in Heaven!" Out of the mouths of babes huh? But that little statement by my 7 year old sure put it into perspective for me! Some of the things we've done thru the years may seem odd to others who haven't had the horrible experience of loosing a child, but to us they are comforting. My son is buried out of state where my family still lives and I either have flowers delivered or have a family member but roses on his grave every June 22 which is his birthday. Whenever we go home to Minnesota, the kids and I always go to the cemetary to clean up his grave, plant flowers, or leave trinkets on his headstone. All of my children love their brother, their brother they never met. My oldest living son who is 22 recently suprised me with his first and only tattoo, it was a pair of praying hands and Zachary's name tattood over them. It is amazingly beautiful and touched my deeply.
I've learned I have to do what is best for me and my family, and to keep Zachary's memory alive is very important to us, and therefore to those around us too. So, in some respects, Zachary is still very much 'alive' within our home........and that's the way we like it....

Remember, Jacob lives on forever in the hearts he touched, I know my Zachary does :)

Thinking of you all,

Kathy said...

Dear Karen,

Loved this sweet story! I need to let you know that your three boys have the most beautiful eyes ever!!! Wow!

You are and will always be the mother of three beautiful boys.

Prayers coninue,

Laurie said...


I come here daily to see how you are and how our Jacob continues to bless peoples lives. If I lived close and ran into you, I'd be asking about him all the time. I am so glad that you continue to share him with anyone the Lord puts in your path. Life is awkward but Jacobs life is a blessing as are all of the other precious babies who left way too soon. Their lives matter and always will. I love your spirit and you.

Laurie in Ca.

Inkling said...

I needed this post. Thanks for laying it out like that.

This past weekend, I was at a women's retreat, and obviously in my third trimester. Every time I turned around, another woman I didn't know was saying, "So, is this your first?" Most of the time, I just said yes. But other times I was brave enough to say, "Well, it is the first baby I've carried this long." or "It's the first baby we will hopefully get to meet this side of eternity."

I have been too afraid at making people feel uncomfortable, or answering honestly when all they probably want is the quick answer. But the fact is that one day, when I meet Jesus, a little one will also run up next to Him and I'll get to meet him or her. A part of me always feels a twinge when I'm not brave and I don't mention this first baby. I may not have had a chance to meet this little one, but Jesus has been holding him or her since two Aprils ago.

Randi said...

I am blessed by that story.
Thank you,

connie said...

As someone who feels like I frequently (always) say the wrong thing, I would say that awkwardness beats silence. It beats keeping your truths inside you, hands down. Jacob is real, and he changed your entire family. To not share that if someone takes the time to ask the question would be sad. We can't always predict how others will respond to what we say, but that can't be (and shouldn't be) changed. What we can do is share ourselves and our experiences, truthfullly. Who you are is Jacobs, Jonathan's, Joshua's mommy.