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."

Tuesday, October 21, 2008

Different Levels

This special ministry Of Jacob's life God has blessed us with has so many levels. This past year, I have looked so many mommies in the eye and hugged them and God has used that to minister to them and me. I am grieving. That hug or conversation or card that was initiated by me is not only to help the recipient but also a help to me. As you know, I consider it a true blessing to use my son's life to touch others. Could it be selfish? Sure, it could be. Because I get so much out of it....they feel comfort in knowing that I "get it" and I get the blessing of seeing my son's life still at work here on earth. But I took my efforts out and God brought forth so many more opportunities that bared much more fruit than my efforts could have ever brought.

I have received a few emails and phone calls from some friends with some concern in their voices since these last local contacts God has brought our way. Right here in my home town, in a matter of a week, I hugged members of 3 different families at wakes, hospitals, and funerals who had losses, plus received at least 5 phone calls and emails from others who have had a loss or anticipate it. My friends are just concerned for how we are doing with it....many of them have said that they don't think they could do it. That's the beauty of it....it's not natural to be able to do it....that shows God's hand in it. What does this do to a mother who's sweet baby boy was born just over 9 months ago and passed not quite 5 months ago? Keep reading and maybe you can decipher it.

Levels. Levels build on the foundation of the Lord. God has blessed this ministry with different levels. Informing level, emotional level, family level, onlookers level, grief level, levels I don't even know about yet. It is ongoing.

When speaking with these mommies, God gives me strength to inform. It's not emotionless but it is factual...if any of you have had a conversation with me, I am not one to beat around the bush...I say it how it is or was because that's what I know. I can get carried away in details sometimes and lose my point (and this is evident in my blogging too) but it is the facts of Jacob's life that many of these mommies want to hear just to get a glimpse of what they may be able to expect or how we dealt with something. Is it drudging things up? No...it is what it is and I have no problem sharing it....the question is, do you want to hear it how it actually was? I've had two specific instanced where a parent asked if I went out without Jacob. Now this is quite the loaded question....how do I tell them that I did and he died while I was gone. I do not feel regret in our story but I do know how this may be perceived. I've told both of them that I didn't want to answer them but as the conversation led on, I just didn't feel right not to....I have nothing to be ashamed of...it is what it is. God made me realize that this is my story to share that HE gave me and who am I to edit the work of the Lord....that day was huge in my life and if given the opportunity to share the specifics of how God worked that day, then I can share it.

But the emotional level is kept very secure. The Holy Spirit has given me discernment on my role and limits in these families lives. I am a stranger. I am emotionally unable to feel what they feel because their baby is not my own. I felt that way about Jacob and no other. I am simply there as an encouragement of surviving it.....to hug and be there as a friend...not a mommy reliving the life and death of her son. I had no idea what I was going to do when I met sweet baby Rachel in the hospital. God has given me a true peace that my son Jacob now lives in the presence of the True King and no baby here on earth could replace him....Rachel was a true test of this and it stood strong....I do not have an unhealthy desire to see a glimpse of Jacob in other babies. Was I totally cold? No! The emotional part is very much the same as it would be for anyone to see a sweet baby not made to live in this world for very long. It is not easy for anyone to see a baby struggle for the next breath if there even is another one. It is not easy for anyone to see tiny white coffins, baby pictures and tearful eyes at a funeral home. It is not easy for anyone to think of what to say to a mother who's baby's body is no longer holdable. It wasn't any more difficult for me as Jacob's mother as it would have been prior to him...I thought it should be but it really hasn't been...if anything, it is easier...can't explain that....it just is. I can be a comfort to other mothers and not have to relive losing my own son. How can this be comforting for these families? I "get it" because of my child, not theirs. They don't have to worry about me or how I am feeling. I am purely there to be a support to them because I understand the kind of loss they are experiencing... (that is going to be hard to understand but maybe you will get it). The Lord keeps this emotional level under strict security and has not allowed me to actually feel my loss over again.

Another level is our family. The Grapes family was the first family we were blessed to minister to as a family. Jason came and supported the family members and the boys helped shop for a meal for them. We all attended the service together. It was OUR ministry as the family of Jacob Ryan...not just me as the mother of him. This was nice but it threw 3 more concerns for me in there....Jason, Joshua and Jonathan. How were they going to be? Does the Lord have their lives guarded the same way mine is? But again, the Lord sorted things out and allowed us to know our limits and we obeyed that and enjoyed this ministry together.

Then there are the onlookers...the balcony level. I have become more aware of this level as time goes by. Mothers, fathers, sisters, brothers, husbands, friends, neighbors, church members, etc. of those who have lost a child have come to me personally and said how us being involved has blessed them. How we have helped like no one else could. This level is a testimony of how God uses our lives when we don't even have a clue. Again, I can take no credit for these instances....my efforts have been towards the parents, but the Lord used us in the lives of those who surround these parents and they, in turn, blessed me for noticing this ministry. Cool.

Grief. It is a level unto itself. The foundation is the Lord but grief is the ground level that this ministry is built on. I miss my son. I am still on this journey. Living life with a loss is rough road. This ministry is because of my grieving but it is not to take this journey from me or make it any easier. It blesses me tremendously but I still have my rough road. I still have my nights of disbelief. I still have my nights of rummaging through his belongings. I still have my unstoppable tears when I cling so tightly to his blanket that smells of him. Those moments where I just want to feel him on my chest again, hear his sigh, touch his tiny everything. This grief has nothing to do with Rachel, Johnathan, Kayden, Joel, Poppy, Miller Grace, Mary Grace, Maddox, Eva, Tristan, Isaac, Asher, Hannah, Emma, Christian....(it is sad how this list goes on). It has everything to do with Jacob. No one elses babies can initiate these moments. They are mine. and this ministry has opened the doors for me to grieve with others but there are moments that are just mine. It is my separate journey that I am traveling. This ministry is an offspring of my grief....not grief being an offspring of my ministry. (I just love it when that statement of clarity comes to mind...so profound....well to me anyways.)

So there is some of it. A few things that have been spinning in my mind. It is good. It is healthy. It is fruitful. It is the Lord's work. It is the life of Jacob Ryan continued.....

Monday, October 20, 2008

Some pictures of Rachel and words from her mother

Hi all...I just checked in on Rachel's blog and you too can see the sweet face of a precious girl I was blessed to meet in person twice! Her mother also blogged a bit. Check in on her here and there....she said she will update when she can. Enjoy.


Wednesday, October 15, 2008

Rachel's Blog

While in the waiting room, a diary began that was passed around to family and friends of Rachel. It is a sweet collection of encouragement to the family. Enjoy.


(Don't forget that blogs post most recent posts first so go to the bottom and read upwards to read in order.)

Rachel's dad Dave really wanted you all to know how much he appreciated your prayers. He wanted others to know how our babies touched people and so he gave me a copy of the diary to post...I was honored to set it up. Our babies have touched the NICU here, our families and friends and the world. Thank you for being part of that.

Sunday, October 12, 2008

Rachel In Her Real Home

Rachel went to meet Jesus this morning at about 2:00am. She lived an unforgettable life in 3 days and 3 1/2 hours. Please be praying for her parents and 6 big brothers and sisters. Thank you.

They had some very sweet memories and she accomplished so much in her time here with us.

I am honored to share that one of the things they had time to do with her are her hand prints and footprints in Crayola Model Magic....yesterday during our visit, we gave them this idea from when we had Jacob. Dave expressed to me today how much that means to them to have that little token.....Jacob's life helped them treasure Rachel's memory in this small way....thanks Little Man.

Saturday, October 11, 2008

Visiting Rachel & Family

Today we were going out to visit a friend who lives near the Grapes....they live 30-40 minutes from us so we thought that while we were out there we would stop in and bring them a meal. It was great to meet more of their family in person and Jason and the boys got to talk with the family and be of encouragement to them. It is such a blessing to be a support....it really works both ways....they are blessed to talk with people who have been there and we are blessed to serve and be around others who "get it." Rachel looked so good today...pink is her color! We were told that she had some tough spells that are very difficult for her to get out of. This is very scary for the family. We met the oldest children (I will refrain from using real names until I have permission to do so) and it is hard for them to go on with regular life because they want to be there and don't want to miss anything. They are such a help to Barb though....while I was there, their second daughter popped in a couple times to see if there was anything Barb needed and the oldest was helping out too. Please pray for their strength to grow as they go through this as a family. It is very hard to sit and stare at your child or sibling knowing you don't get to keep them.....it is not natural for us and everything in us wants to keep them. Just pray for them. They are very encouraged to hear that Jacob's fans are praying for them....they know how great you all are so THANK YOU! Love, Karen

Rachel traveled home!

(If you don't know who Rachel is, please read yesterday's post)

Rachel traveled home with her mother yesterday evening! This is a dream come true for the family. What a strong little girl! They are all thrilled. Please keep praying for her strength and theirs. She eats every 2 hours and taking care of her on top of 6 others has got to be trying but they are doing what they can to enjoy every moment. Thank you all for the prayers.


Jacob's neonatologist has just blessed my heart so much by passing on my info to a family. Rachel is the baby's name. Born Wednesday night weighing in at 5 pounds. Her diagnosis: T18. I received a call this morning from her father Dave. He had a whirl wind of questions that I did my best at answering....it was tough because I am not a professional, just a mom who has been through it, but I didn't want to over step my territory and get into too much medical stuff that the doctors and nurses should be fielding. I made the offer to go up and talk with Rachel's mother Barb and meet Rachel. He enthusiastically took me up on my offer. I immediately got into my car and drove to the hospital and walked into the very room Jason and I received Jacob's T18 diagnosis. There I laid eyes on a small sweet baby girl who just blessed my heart at that moment.....with sweet tiny squeaks and cries, it was such an honor to be there and meet her. Barb knew who I was because of the conversations with the Dr and she knew a lot about Jacob and she too had lots of questions.....again I did my best.

Here are some ways to pray more specifically:

Please pray for this family. You now have names of Rachel and her parents....I do not have the names of Rachel's SIX other siblings though!...but pray for them as well.

This whole experience has been such a whirl wind....a true blessing to me to use my son's life in such a way but yet difficult to watch a family go through what I know all too well. I think they know my heart....I just am so unsure of myself in this uncharted territory that it just makes me question.... it is prideful for me to think that my words may be so impacting on them, yet careless for me not to take heed in my statements and realize what ears they may fall on and what conclusions may be drawn for them.....a very strange balance to try to achieve. Pray for me as I seek wisdom, healing and I sort through the different levels of involvement the Lord may have for me here and all the emotions that go with it all. I am so willing and the Lord has blessed me with such humbling opportunities....it is truly magnificent to be used by the Lord.

Pray that the family and friends take to heart that these babies all have different levels of severity and there is no way of comparing and knowing what to expect because of another case....it is hard to know that there are other babies out there who have lived so long and not desire that for your baby...I know this all too well.

Pray that every moment Rachel is here is treasured.

Pray that the family's wishes and goals for this time are achieved.

Pray that the right people are brought into their lives during this time.

Most of all, pray for sweet Rachel as she blesses this world living in her sweet body and battles for her life to just be loved.

Thank you all. I will do my best to keep you all updated. God Bless.

Thursday, October 9, 2008

More delivered right into into my lap

This very moment, I am just in awe of how the Lord works.....my heart is fluttering with thankfulness for what the Lord has done. Today, I received two phone calls that were specifically to contact me about how Jacob's sweet life touched mine. Although the calls were very very different, the only reason I got them was because of how the Lord used Jacob in my life and these people knew that I love sharing it. Once again, all I had to do was pick up the phone....the Lord brought them right to me and delivered them right into my lap!
One call was from one of Jacob's NICU doctors (one of the sweetest most pleasant Dr's who was there for us and followed his story....thank you!). She contacted me because she knew of another baby with T18. First off, pray for this family! I know nothing about this family so my prayers cannot be specific by name, but I can pray for them specifically by what I have experienced so please be lifting this family up in prayer. I was honored to be contacted by this doctor who was asking me if this family could contact me! I have no idea what will come of it because I know things can get pretty crazy with gathering info and such but on top of praying for their journey, I am praying that the Lord would use Jacob's life to bless this family in some way. I have been so blessed to talk to other mothers all over the nation and now, right here, there is a family embarking on this amazing, crazy, scary journey....I am excited to see what the Lord has for our family in this situation....even if this family doesn't contact me (I pray they will) my heart was so blessed that Jacob's doctor was so touched by our baby boy that even 9 months after he was her patient, she shared his story with another patient's family with tears streaming down her face because of what he meant to her......I AM SO PROUD OF MY BABY BOY!

Next phone call, very different than the first. A family in our church had a baby pass away yesterday. The baby never made it home from the NICU (the same hospital that Jacob was at) and this was not an anticipated death. Please be in prayer for this family. The phone call was the grandmother to the baby and she was just asking me some things that we did with Jacob. I want to make it very clear, I am in no way excited about this situation....I think you get that.....but what touches my heart, is that even in the midst of their terrible loss, the Lord has used Jacob's life to help someone. This is my grieving process. It's positive. The Lord has given me a vision to see where Jacob's life here on earth, the legacy he has left behind, and all I have experienced through his life can help others. I knew this before, but the Lord is just filling my plate with all these families and my heart is just overjoyed and blessed by these opportunities. To all of you out there who have been touched by him, THANK YOU for letting my Sweet Boy into your lives and helping me grieve and heal knowing that the Lord is doing great works even among such tragic circumstances. I am a mama who sees the work of her Heavenly Father through her sweet son.....here is a time to be proud.....proud to share the work of the Lord. That's my boy.

Wednesday, October 8, 2008


I keep thinking of posting (Jason was the one who posted last time) but in all reality, my brain is nothing but mush. So, instead of making the effort to put two thoughts together and state something profound, I have just surrendered to mush. This has proven very productive....really it has. I have this amazing gift of Jacob that I try to make the most of but it is not for me to use. I try to communicate with mom's because I am so burdened for them and their families....but reality sinks in.....MY plans mean nothing. MY efforts are lame. I cannot make a difference in any one's life (despite what you think Mom:). God can. He can use me. He can (and has) use my son's story. Anytime I make the attempt to help someone else with using our story, it blesses ME instead! So, my mushy brain is the work and blessing of the Lord.....I can only put two thoughts together because He allows me to, when He wants me to, to bless who He wants. The effort on my part is so minimal and I love it that way. One evening last week, my phone rang.....I didn't do anything to make it ring.....all I had to do was answer it. It was a mother calling to ask me how we dealt with some controversial things with Jacob. What a blessing it was for me to use Jacob's life to help....oh, how that melts my heart!??! I made myself known to her in the past and I picked up the phone when the Lord wanted to use me. That simple. The Lord just lays amazing opportunities right in my lap. Last weekend, an old friend came into town because her nephew passed away....he was born under two months ago at the same hospital Jacob was. I had never met the baby's mother but I realize the importance of supporting people, so me and some common friends went to the wake. At first, I was being selfish and dramatic....I felt nervous about going because that very same hurse that took my son's body from me was the one that took this baby boy....it was the same funeral home (if you don't know the ridiculousness of my experience go to the post on May 31st...have tissues). But I talked myself out of the dramatics and plunged forward. I wanted to go to support my friend and let her sister know that I am here, I "get it" and I am in the neighborhood....here I went to be a comfort to them and my brain contains nothing but mush and I have no idea what I said (I was probably one of those people who say ridiculous things just because I knew nothing else to say!)......it turns out to be such a blessing for me.....Jacob's life blessed this family weeks ago although they knew very little of us....when this boy was in the NICU, the nurses made something for them using the scrap booking supplies "Jacob" donated. This mom was so comforted by it she plans to treasure it with his other memories. Oh, that just made my heart sing praises to the LORD! Here, she has been touched and although I thought I was going to be there for her, God gave me a gift that evening when I was expecting to be a broken mess. I could not have planned this or expected any of it. There is nothing we can do unless the Lord wills. We don't have a clue as to who or how or when!....the Lord makes blessings out of mush. I love mushy messes....it makes it easier to rely on the Lord and see His work.