There are some things that are so unbelievably heavy on my heart tonight that I simply have to write about them (I was supposed to be writing some specs tonight). I can’t explain it, but it’s something that I’ve been thinking about for a long time now that simply cannot wait any longer. Perhaps someone will read this and the urgency of these words and its timing will be apparent to them, but at this point it’s not apparent to me. I simply know that I cannot go to sleep until I’ve written them. There’s a story that has to be told that could very easily have been our story, but by the grace of God we’ve had a very different experience. It’s a story that’s inextricably linked in my mind to the journey that we’ve been on in the past several months. I’ll do my best to be as honest to my thoughts as I can be as I write this, but I must confess that this is by far the most difficult post that I’ve written. This is a story about love.
Leslie and I found out that something was amiss with the way Megan was growing and developing way back in April. It feels like that was forever ago, but it’s been only 6 months. Without a doubt it’s been the longest (and most remarkable) 6 months of my life. Upon the receipt of news that we could view as nothing short of completely devastating we struggled to understand and find meaning. It’s a struggle that I can’t say is entirely behind us. A couple of months later we learned through the String of Pearls Foundation that there was another family in Denver going through an almost identical circumstance. At this point I’d love to go into great detail about String of Pearls and the wonderful work they do, but I’ll keep it brief and say that Laura has been a tremendous and steadfast support in our life ever since we first met her (if you’re curious a link to her website is at the bottom of the homepage of this site). To have another family in the area going through the same type of situation was remarkable as the severe types of OI aren’t exactly commonplace. Not only are these situations not commonplace, but the number of people who decide to move forward with a pregnancy with this type of diagnosis is rarer still. While our doctors had somewhat beat around the bush and asked what we might do with a diagnosis once we received it (A question to which I sat naively silent and somewhat bewildered until Les chimed in from next to me and said, “We won’t terminate.”) they had felt outright pressure from their doctors to abort. Even with that pressure, this family was still able to make the only decision that they could based on love and moved forward amid all the concern and uncertainty that accompanies these situations. They desperately wanted to meet their son Logan.
We first met Jamie and Andy Stewart on Sunday the 5th of August. Just that Thursday before I had been out touring cemeteries in order to be prepared in case Megan did not survive birth. Leslie had been to the cemetery to see the spot that I had tentatively selected earlier in the day on that Sunday. It was a surreal time in all of our lives as we were all attempting to navigate the tempest. We met at Starbuck’s in the REI that sits at the confluence of Cherry Creek and the South Platte River. In the little time that we spent there together that day telling our stories and sharing our fears, a powerful bond was forged. It was really odd and extraordinarily liberating to reveal some of your deepest and most intimate thoughts with a couple who had only a few minutes before been complete strangers. It was as if we were meeting some old friends again for the first time in a long time and while we had a lot of catching up to do there was still our common background to link us together. Luckily for us Pete cooperated and allowed us to carry on an adult conversation without becoming overly restless. Once Pete could finally sit still no longer we adjourned to outside underneath the trees to allow him to run and play while we continued to talk. It was a very special time for us as Jamie and Andy’s faith and love lifted our spirits as I think ours did for them. The jolt of strength that we received that afternoon was just what we needed to help us through the days ahead.
The following Tuesday afternoon Leslie received word from Jamie that her water had broken and she was in the hospital. Any glimmer of real hope for Logan’s life seemed to be fading as Jamie who was 10 weeks behind us was only 27 weeks pregnant at the time. Severe OI may be doable… and 27 weeks may be doable… but severe OI at 27 weeks seemed utterly insurmountable. Leslie and I went to visit them that night as there was really nothing in the world that could have kept us away. Jamie and Andy’s spirits surprised me and while I had come to give support I ended up getting more than I think I could have possibly given. It was here that we first met their families who have since been wonderfully kind and loving to us. Leslie (who was dramatically pregnant at this point measuring something that should have been weeks and weeks overdue) was also able to visit them the next day as well as they waited to see what would happen and if perhaps God might grant them the miracle for which they had been praying. It was during this waiting period that one of the doctors offered Jamie a shot that would stop Logan’s heart. I only wish that I had been present with the wherewithal to politely accept the shot and then ask the doctor where exactly on him I should stick it (I imagine it would have been just adjacent to where his stethoscope was hanging). I suppose (unfortunately for him) he just had no concept at all of what love is.
Logan Andrew Stewart was born on Thursday August 9th, 2012 to amazing parents who could not possibly have loved him any more than they did. They had been very concerned that they might have no time with him at all, but they were mercifully granted enough time to hold him and tell him how much they loved him. Logan lived for just under an hour before his brief, but remarkable life on this earth was over. Leslie and I visited later that afternoon to both hug Jamie and Andy and to meet and say goodbye to Logan. It was one of the most difficult, but rewarding experiences of my life. I dare say that I’ll never forget meeting Logan.
Jamie and Andy visited us the next week in the hospital as Megan was born the next Tuesday the 14th. They were there after she was born and returned the next day to meet her even amid the planning for Logan’s funeral. Later that week Logan was laid to rest in a private service for them and their families. On Saturday, as a 5 day old Megan lay in the NICU, they had a public memorial service for Logan. I left the hospital for the first time since Megan was born to go to the service. Leslie, fresh out of her C-section and hardly able to get around, wasn’t able to go with me. It was as I sat there that I began to understand more fully what it must mean for a parent to lose a child. As I looked upon the photo of a father holding the tiny casket of his son in his arms it really dawned on me the depth of the loss that they must be experiencing. This isn’t just the loss a tiny, sick premature baby, but the loss of all the hopes and dreams that accompany a child. It’s the loss of tucking their son in at night with a story, teaching him to throw a ball and ride a bike, dispensing the lessons of life that come from their experience, and eventually graduations, a wedding and grandchildren. The thing about this kind of loss is that it there is something new to mourn each and every day as each day would have held its own rewards in that incredible love relationship that a parent has with their child. I imagine these things to get a mere glimpse of the pain and sorrow that they and others like them have had to endure. I believe that the true depth of sorrow that accompanies a loss like that is something that can only be experienced, and I am selfishly, infinitely grateful that I don’t fully understand.
A few weeks later we were invited to go to church with them to watch a video testimony that they had made regarding their experiences with Logan. It was the most profoundly beautiful and honest testimony that I have ever seen or heard. It was an awesome experience to see that type of testimony unleashed on a room full of people. It may well have been the most amazing love moment that I’ve ever witnessed.
Since that time I know that Jamie and Andy have suffered tremendously. I know that the heart wrenching emotion that they’ve had to endure day in and day out is beyond my ability to fully comprehend. I’ve wanted so badly to be able to say or do something that might ease their pain, but my words are utterly lacking against the weight of this loss. I know that there have been many sleepless nights, difficulty in each and every day of work and a crushing sensation of emptiness that no word from any man can heal. The road that climbs out of these depths is long and winding. I know that there may be many times of spiritual drought as they struggle to ascend this path. I hope that I’m always there to be able reach out my hand for whatever support it may be able to offer along the way.
Their story for me calls attention to a couple of points in Henry Blackaby’s Experiencing God study that I’m currently working my way through. Henry had a remarkable personal experience one day as he was in the midst of a time of silence from God in which he felt as if God was not answering his prayers. He came upon the story of Lazarus in his regular Bible study only to come to understand that here was a situation in which the Lord was silent for a number of days as his friend wasted away in illness and died. Mary and Martha had prayed for Jesus to heal him, which they knew from experience he was entirely capable of doing. However, He was preparing to do something that was more than they could have ever thought to pray for. This revelation was something that they never would have come to know if the Lord had answered their prayers of both what they were asking for and when. I’m also struck by the amount of time that it sometimes takes for the work of the Lord to fully come to fruition. It happens again and again in the stories of the likes of Abraham, Noah, Moses, Joseph and even Paul. Sometimes it may take us many years to see the fullness of God’s plan for us. What I know is that even in the times of silence and in the years ahead that God is still working in this situation.
I know how much the life of Logan has already meant to me personally aside from the many other lives that his short life touched. I’ve seen an incredibly uplifting display of love and faith from his parents. It has been an in your face reminder of how valuable a life is and how special each and every single day is that we have together. The lesson of taking all your emotions to God even the angry, crying and screaming ones was a tremendously powerful one that has revealed many truths to me about God and the nature our personal love relationship with him. The most remarkable thing that has happened in this for me personally is the glimpse of the nature of the love of a parent for a son as they watch them die and the depth of the loss that accompanies it. The father who willingly takes the sacrifice of the one he loves for those who do not love him paints a vivid picture of infinite love that I struggle to fully wrap my mind around.
I’m not so naive as to think that they wouldn’t gladly trade any of the lessons that I may have learned no matter how valuable, for more time with their son. I’m sure that the question of why it had to be their son and their loss must have certainly come up in their grief. While there has been much good accomplished through Logan’s life I would still find myself wondering, was there not another way? These are questions that I’m simply not able to answer. These answers come only from one person who is truth (Yes, truth is a person). I am utterly humbled at amazed at the amount of growth and blessings that I’ve experienced on account of their love and their decision to continue such a precious life. I know that the cost for them has been great and well beyond my ability to comprehend. I know that the Lord has worked mightily in this situation and he’s certainly not through yet. Jamie and Andy, I love you. Logan, I thank you so much!