Becoming Holy

Hidden in His heart

on February 2, 2013

“God has not taken them from us; He has hidden them in His Heart that they may be closer to ours.” – Maurice Zundel

The words of this quote literally LEAPT off the page I was reading.  Such a beautiful perspective on death.  In this new world of blogging, I have found myself drawn to the blogs of others~so many of which contain revelations of loss.  Loss of a spouse, a parent, a child, a sibling…each accompanied by the story of impact.  I realize I am one of them…one of the bloggers who has experienced a deep loss and seeks to share my story in hopes of helping others and even helping myself to heal.  Our story of loss goes back  17 years, to a time when Prince Charming and I were still in the honeymoon stage of marriage.  We had a beautiful daughter, Jordan, whom we considered all gift coming on the heels of two miscarriages.  When Jordan was eight months old, I became pregnant with our daughter, Jennifer.  About eight months into the pregnancy, our obstetrician expressed concern that my uterus was not growing properly.  We were sent for an ultrasound and we could tell the technician was worried too.  As I dressed, I overheard the call to my OB~words like “spina bifida, microcephalus, ventriculomegaly” were spoken in hushed tones.  We were sent back to my doctor to discuss the results.

I remember it like yesterday~October 14, 1992~a beautiful, sunny day.  This couldn’t possibly be happening!  Nothing was wrong with our baby!  I was right and wrong.  Jennifer would be perfect~just not in the eyes of the world.  From that day until her birth on November 4, it was a blur of trips to Seattle, ultrasounds, amniocentesis to rule out Down Syndrome, praying, trying not to worry and preparing to close on a new home we had just purchased.  When Jennifer Rose was born, she weighed 5 lbs 10 ozs and was beautiful!  Testing immediately after birth revealed that she was missing an important part of her brain and had considerable brain injury.  Surprisingly, we were in the NICU for just ten days and took home a teeny tiny 4 lb baby.

We did follow up with a pediatric neurologist in Seattle when Jennifer was just two weeks old.  The news was not great, but the neurologist was incredible.  Steven Glass was, no doubt, hand-picked by God to put our hearts and minds at ease.  I could see the compassion and love in his eyes and am so grateful for his soothing voice.  I must add that I was in a place of extreme denial.  My processing of what Dr. Glass shared with us makes me laugh now.  At the time, when Dr. Glass said Jennifer would have serious learning disabilities, I tried to accept that she would not have straight A’s.  (I tried to process the idea of a child that got C’s and D’s.)  I was pretty sure that I could help her do better though.  When he spoke of vision problems, I silently prayed that she would not need coke bottle glasses, maybe something cute and trendy, but nothing that would make her classmates laugh at her!  My husband was listening to the news through a much more accurate filter.  We managed to go home with two totally different perspectives.  I sent out a Christmas newsletter  talking about the situation with great hope and assurances to family that all would be well.  I probably should have had Joe proofread it!!!  

I could write pages and pages about our life with precious Jennifer.  She never progressed beyond the level of a two month old baby.  Her suck-swallow-breathe reflex was poor and it took much effort to keep her nourished.  She cried a strange little “cat-like” cry that is symptomatic of children with brain damage.  She was loved on, prayed for, sang to, and held constantly.  Little Jenny thrived as much as she could and we lived in our own “normal.”  Jordan adored her sister, though wishing she could play with her.  We were uncertain what to do with regards to expanding our family and were delighted when God chose to send another pregnancy our way.  Throughout pregnancy I am nauseous the entire time~pretty much living on the couch and in the bathroom!  This pregnancy was such a blessing, as I rested with Jennifer on the couch for most of the nine months~not realizing she had just ten weeks with us after precious Gabrielle Ann arrived.

When Gabbie arrived, life became so overwhelming.  A four year old, a severely handicapped, blind almost three year old, and a newborn.  Jennifer was at the clinic almost every day with breathing issues and Gabbie had severe jaundice that required a blood test every other day for over two months to keep an eye on her bilirubin levels.  Joe and I were exhausted and not sure how much longer we could continue.  On October 25th, 1995, Joe was scheduled to fly to Arizona.  Jennifer did not sleep all night~we didn’t either!  When Joe got up at 5 am to leave, we saw that Jennifer was still wide awake.  he canceled his trip and took Jennifer in.  When he brought her home, I noticed that she was completely limp.  Her entire life, she had been tight muscularly~we knew in our hearts things were terribly wrong.  Joe left to get her antibiotics from the pharmacy and I went to suction her nose and throat.  When I did, a pink foam I’d never seen before was suctioned out.  I knew she had blood in her lungs and my heart sank in that “oh my gosh, this is very bad, I can’t speak or this will be real” kind of way.  Joe returned and we started her meds.  We played Christmas music, took turns holding her and caring for Jordan and Gabbie and remained basically silent on this surreal day.

Around two o’clock, we had a knock on our door and a woman arrived from Hospice.  We hadn’t called hospice and no one had said anything about them coming, but this amazing woman came and told us that Jennifer was dying.  She walked us through everything we needed to do~from contacting the funeral home, to notifying our doctor, to stopping her medication as her body was slowly shutting down.  She disappeared as mysteriously as she arrived.  We never received a bill.  Our doctor had not sent for her.  Joe and I firmly believe she was an angel sent by God to help us through that day.

That night, at six pm, our family doctor knocked on our door.  He had never done anything like that before.  A wonderful Christian man, he asked if he could pray with us for Jennifer.  He asked God to help Jennifer let go of her earthly body and jump into His arms and be truly healed.  It was an amazing, grace-filled prayer.  He left around 6:15 pm.  Jennifer was wrapped in her favorite purple blanket, but she was so cold.  At about 6:25, I told Joe he better come pray with me.  Little Jordan had a necklace that she was draping across Jennifer’s head.  Joe had Gabbie in his arms.  There was a knock at the door.  My soon to be brother-in-law, Steve, had stopped to see if I needed anything.  Joe said, “Not a good time, Steve,” and shut the door on him.  He then reopened it and said, “Steve, Jennifer is dying.”  Steve dropped immediately to his knees.  I will never forget that act of faith as long as I live.  Joe joined me at the recliner.  We said the prayer to St. Joseph and followed it with a favorite prayer, “Jesus, Mary and Joseph, I give you my heart and my soul.  Jesus, Mary and Joseph, assist me in my last agony.  Jesus, Mary and Joseph, May I die in your blessed arms.”  As we said those last words, Jennifer lifted her bottom off my lap and I felt a cool breeze come toward me from the window and lift her up.  The breeze then disappeared to the window.  Little Jennifer Rose had literally “died in their blessed arms.”  Unbelievable.  Grace-filled.  Horrible.  Crushing.  Even now I cannot type this memory without a knot the size of a baseball forming in my throat.  Such pain.  So Final.

And that, my friends, is why I look at the quote, “God has not taken them from us; He has hidden them in His Heart that they may be closer to ours,” and I smile again.  It would be hard to love and understand a God who “takes.”  But a God who gathers our loved ones in His arms and tucks them in His Heart, that we might be closer to them~that is the God I worship and adore.  The God who made Jennifer in His wisdom, who let us love her, who let her show us how to love, the God who healed her completely that dark October night.  He is the God I serve.  Blessed be His name forever.  Until we meet again, sweet Jennifer.

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16 responses to “Hidden in His heart

  1. Zebb S. says:

    My Dad went home last night. How timely is this. Each experience is different but in some way they are the same. Prayers to you and your family and hold onto the memories. I said over and over again yesterday, we can’t think about what we have lost, we have to hold onto what we had.

  2. sheila perius says:

    Charlene, Everytime I hear you tell of Jennifer’s peaceful passing to be with Jesus, i get goosebumps! You have a strength beyond words! A gift as an exceptional writter and hopefully future author!! You are amazing, my dear friend. I love you~

  3. Lynn says:

    Thank you for sharing Jennifer’s story, and the beautiful quote. Jacob, also was lifted into Christ’s arms as he left his body. The medical assistant tried to push Jacob’s outstretched hand back down, but Jacob kept reaching for Jesus. He too, was pulled into Christ’s loving embrace as he left us.
    Charlene,you are a very courageous, faith-filled, remarkable woman! Thank you for your bold witness for Christ; you inspire all of us to be more.
    You know I love you….Lynn

    • charstar87 says:

      Lynn~I love you, too! I’m glad you like the quote! It spoke to me on so many levels. It’s amazing how our stories are transformed because of our faith in Jesus! I don’t know how people make it through without God! Big hugs to you, sweet sister-in-law! Love~Charlene

  4. Maura U. says:

    Charlene ~ it’s hard to find words, so I’ll just say Thank You. So glad I saw this post.

  5. Rachel says:

    Charlene, I’m not sure if I’ve heard Jennifer’s entire story. How amazing…. amazingly sad and beautiful. The faith in your heart never ceases to amaze and inspire me! Thank you for sharing Jennifer’s story.

  6. Sister M. Andrea Goeckner, FSGM says:

    Dear Charlene,

    Thank you for sharing this truly faith- filled story of Jennifer’s precious life and passing into the loving arms of the Father. In an hour of immense sorrow and pain, there is such an abundance of graces to sustain us. Thank you for the witness of your total trust in the Providence of God.

    Sister M. Andrea Goeckner, FSGM
    Lincoln, Nebraska

  7. Marcella Goeckner says:

    Charlene,
    I am in tears after reading this–I never knew all the details. But, I remember the day of the funeral we had a huge rainbow across the sky. Love, Marcella

    • charstar87 says:

      Oh…Marcella! Thank you for this! I have no memory of the rainbow and I am feeling very blessed by your memory of this! I love you, dearly! God Bless you and your wonderful family! Love~Charlene

  8. Elaine says:

    Auntie Charlene, Thank you for always sharing your faith with others! God bless your amazing and inspiring example. Love, Elaine

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