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Conclusion-Taken Hostage on The Train Through Hell

Two days after Ezra’s passing was another momentous day of shock for us all. While Amy and Andrew were preparing for Ezra’s memorial service, which happened to also be on Amy’s birthday, news came that Joseph was being transferred to a cardiac unit and would need heart surgery as soon as possible. How did we not know that Joseph was also in such a critical state? Why was this just now coming out? How were we going to survive the possibility of losing both of them?

It wasn’t as if this was elective surgery, ”You have a hangnail; it might be good to have it removed so that infection doesn’t set in.” No, Joseph would not survive without this surgery. So, it was scheduled right after Ezra’s memorial service. One of our greatest fears was him being intubated. Ezra was never able to move beyond this. He had gotten close a few times, but then he would take a turn for the worse.

Amy and Andrew walked like zombies through these days in preparation for a memorial service of one baby and upcoming heart surgery for another. They had no choice but to try to hold themselves together to be there for Joseph. To think that they had to continue to go to the same hospital, the same unit, the same room where Ezra had just passed. The same place where they once had two babies to watch over. The same place where two blankets with their crocheted names still hung over the chairs. And the same room where Amy had printed out and taped up on the walls the many prayers people had prayed over these babies.

By this time, if I can be downright honest, my faith was so shaken that I couldn’t seem to pray for Joseph with any sense of confidence. Though I greatly loved the Lord, my heart had shrunken back with such insecurity and mistrust. It seemed that I really didn’t know this God that I’ve spent most of my life serving and trusting. I can only liken it to a marriage where you find that the spouse you’ve committed your life to has had an affair. This person has committed to be faithful to you in all areas of your life together. And you trust that they are…that is until they aren’t. You feel deceived and shocked to the core, thinking you’ve lived in someone’s lie the entire time. You realize you don’t really know this person after all, or at least a certain part of them.

On this side, almost a year later, I can’t say that everything has been reconciled in my heart. Some questions will never be answered on this side of heaven. Some things will never be fully understood. Many things I’ve had to lay down. Partly for my own mental health's sake. Partly because finding peace and healing means we must forgive and learn how to move forward. I realize there are theological debates about whether forgiving the Lord is correct or not, but this is not the space for a theological debate. In the end, our hearts need forgiveness for those perceived wrongs believed to be done to us. Forgiveness doesn’t free the other person. It frees us within to be able to move forward and heal.

Before coming back to my story about Joseph, I want to expound on forgiving and moving forward for just a moment. There is a difference between moving on and moving forward. Moving on is attempting to go on with life while holding onto all the loss, grief, and offense. Unforgiveness is a poison to our soul. Not theirs. People often tell themselves they are just letting it go. No - we can’t just let things go. We aren’t created this way. How we carry or move through the release of these things is different for each person. But, it is universal that we must all face, grieve, rumble through, and finally reconcile with the pain of what has happened, if we are to going to find life again beyond this. This is moving forward.

Joseph’s surgery was somewhat successful, yet the surgeons found more issues once inside. This led us to the understanding that possibly within months, he may be facing open-heart surgery depending on the progression of his health and heart issues. We almost lost little Joseph more times than we could count during the three days afterward, having to be bagged multiple times a day, sometimes within hours and minutes of each other.

For those of you who have grown children; imagine your child having to stand in the background of a room full of doctors and nurses working to revive their baby over and over again, in a different room than before, but the same hospital wing, just down the hall where their first twin baby died barely a week before.

This was the pit of hell. The only thing worse would have been to lose Joseph as well.

Again, so many people continued to pray and hold us up. But, the unspoken and unanswered question hung heavy in the air; Will we lose our little Joseph too? I can’t even explain the agony of those days and moments in time in words. It seemed as if time had stood still here. After having just lost our little Ezra, here was Joseph, now intubated, fighting for his life as well. Deja vu is having the feeling of having already experienced this present moment and situation. This was not deja vu. It was a real-life nightmare and all that any of us could do was pray and wait, and wait and pray.

Samuel and Abigail had gotten to see their little twin brothers once in the hospital. Seeing them had cemented a reality of their existence for them, especially Samuel as he was older. However, the twins had been birthed in Samuel’s heart long before even knowing twins were on the way. From the time that Amy found out she was pregnant, Samuel told us that they needed both boys' names, Ezra and Joseph, because there were two of them coming. And he continually reminded us of this. He couldn’t wait for them to come so he would have brothers to play with. He instinctively knew that playing with brothers would be different than playing with his little sister. And no matter how often we tried to prepare him for the reality that they would have to grow up some first, he excitedly held onto his expectations of playing with them immediately.

While not knowing how to express their loss and pain, children grieve just as deeply as adults. Samuel, at the age of three, was no exception to this. In fact, because of his deep insights and extreme tender-heartedness, he struggled severely.

Though Joseph made it through the surgery, we didn’t know what the future held for him. Would we have him for days, months, years, or just moments? In retrospect, isn’t this the same reality for all of us? We just don’t live in a heightened awareness of how limited our time on this earth is.

Slowly, Joseph made it through these critical days one moment and one crisis at a time. Life became a routine of Amy making daily trips to the hospital while Andrew divided his time between hospital visits and working, and I watched the other two little ones. Though I say routine, it was a forced routine upon all of us.

During these months, I began having nightmares of losing my other grandchildren. I would wake up drenched in sweat and tears after watching Samuel being hit by a car or Abigail drowning. This was happening right in front of my eyes, but I was paralyzed and unable to help them. In the dream with Abigail, I had ahold of her feet, but I couldn’t move my arms to pull her out of the water. Everything was screaming in terror inside, but my body wouldn’t budge.

I share these dreams to give an insight into how debilitating traumatizing experiences can be. And how these experiences affect the entirety of our being. I knew that if I didn’t work through the emotional pain and fear that caused these dreams, they would hold me captive to the possibility of something that may never really happen. This kind of captivity will destroy a person mentally.

Joseph made slow but continued progress to come home in the latter part of July with many ups and downs. If you read the first part of our journey, you will know that Mike and I had begun the preparations for selling our house days before the twins unexpectedly came. We had wanted to sell and buy a new house simultaneously. But that didn’t work out. How fitting it was that our house sold, and we moved our camper on Amy and Andrew’s double lot the same day that Joseph came home from the hospital. Joseph still had a lot of ongoing needs to be cared for, as did the rest of the family.

Life in the camper lasted for four months, with all of our belongings in storage, including my exercise equipment. I mention this because trauma also affects our bodies. I have always enjoyed exercising and eating somewhat healthy. However, As I fought depression and fatigue, I cared less about the things I enjoyed. And, it showed as I outgrew my clothes. I no longer enjoyed the idea of exercising, but I feared weight gain. So, I would make feeble attempts to exercise to the extent one can do in a camper. In these attempts, I couldn’t hold it together and would end up in tears. It wasn’t just about the weight gain, but there were tears that I couldn’t explain holding me back.

While working through my grief, I later realized that I felt this tremendous guilt about doing something that brought me a sense of joy and empowerment while my kids' and grandchildren’s lives had come to a screeching halt. What right did I have to enjoy something when they were hurting so much? I know this isn’t rational thinking. But, grief isn’t rational. It is emotional. Our emotions are attempting to create a story to make sense of what has happened and what is right. For me, the emotional story was that enjoying something meant that I didn’t care about them. It felt like a leaving them behind - abandoning them in their pain, not caring about the loss of Ezra. The rationale for these experiences here is another story for another time. But, all this to say that these types of perceived guilt are real. And, they must be worked through.

Because of these things, my immune system and health began deteriorating. During this time of genuine concern for my health, I began desperately crying out to the Lord to save me. I had cried buckets of tears before then, tears of sorrow, tears of loss and grief, and tears of anger. But this was the first time of crying tears over losing myself in all of this.

Again, if you read the first two parts of my story, I talked about the 23rd Psalm and how the Lord used this to help my heart. Relating this Psalm back to the analogy of a marriage breakdown, we will almost always find at least one spouse carried many misunderstandings in the marriage.

As I sat at that table the Lord had prepared for me in this valley of the shadow of death, He wept with me and gently held me while I cried. He allowed his own heart to hurt in silence while I yelled and screamed at him in my anger. He comforted me when I, in exhaustion, laid down the demand for answers to just accept the reality of the loss and feel the pain that goes with this acceptance. He continued to tell me that he loved me and would never abandon me despite all my misunderstandings about him. And finally, he showed me all the wrong beliefs I unknowingly carried within about how he operates in the world. For one, he never promised us a pain-free life. Yet, I still chose to believe that he would stop anything so horrendous as this past year. As with the marriage analogy, I had to decide if I would stay or walk away in light of these accepted truths about him. I had to choose to either believe that God is still good, loving, and faithful despite the way he operates in this world, or not believe and leave the relationship.

Scripture says there is a season for everything under the sun. Our family is slowly coming out of a season of deep tragedy where there was death to many things. But a new season is dawning. Though it is still winter, spring is already being prepared to bloom. Though we will always long for Ezra here and now, we can have peace and a different joyous expectation holding onto the knowledge that we will be with him for eternity when we pass from this life.

Our little Joseph is continuing to make slow, steady progress as well. He is finally beginning to make known his presence and voice in our chaotic world, and he delights our hearts tremendously. Because he and Ezra were identical twins, Joseph is also always a reminder to never let our hearts and short-lived moments with Ezra become dim. We don’t know what life looks like, but let’s be real, none of us really do. We can be here and gone in the next moment. And our being gone will dramatically change many lives around us.

If you have ever been held hostage on life’s train through hell, just know that you are not alone. But don’t make the mistake of thinking that you can travel it alone or skip around it and come out in a good way on the other side. If you are struggling, feel free to reach out to me. If you are looking for counseling, coaching, or just have questions, please feel free to reach out. I am trained and qualified and will gladly go on this journey towards healing with you!


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