Wednesday, July 20, 2011

Day Twenty Eight

Twenty eight days ago, James was alive and well, suffering a persistent summer bug. 4 weeks, less than one month. Today we buried him and celebrated his life in memorial. In that period, I have learned the word rhabdoid, brushed up on anatomy, and taken a crash course in neurosurgery. All in less than the time that it once took to get through half a quarter of law school. Holidays came and went, days of the week, once so important, faded into inconsequential 24 hour cycles as everything, everything became regulated by James' health. We ceased to note the passing of the weeks, even the season came as a surprise. I suppose today was meant to end that, that we gather before a hole in the ground and in a church with friends and family to say goodbye. The process is not nearly so neat however.

Today felt surreal. Early to the funeral home, a brief visitation with a body that was a poor imitation of my son but which nevertheless moved me to tears. We buried him with his Sophie giraffe, his giraffe blanket taking the place of the lining of the coffin. His giraffe rattle and pacifier, and finally the first and last book we read him- "On the Night You Were Born" with the simple message that was always so true for James, that you are the one and only ever special you. We read it to him in the hospital the night we met him, and we read it to him the morning of the day we said goodbye. The cemetery service was intimate and dignified, our family sharing freely about James and his enduring legacy in each of us while the minister ably returned him to the soil. Dust to dust, ashes to ashes.

The time between the burial service and the memorial service passed quickly and in a daze, as though we still could not quite believe the first had happened and that the second would follow. I wrote something to say at the service, and Kara slept. I wrote it out longhand, which forced transcription onto the ipad. My handwriting remains atrocious, no matter what the circumstance. I don't think either of us quite came to believe it was real until we were standing there, in a sanctuary filled with people gathered to mourn James, canvas pictures of him a few feet away from us.

The service itself captured what we wanted it to- a positive, affirming testament to James life and a celebration of the time we had with
him rather than a mourning the time we will not have. The ministers ably coached our words from this blog and the scripture into a coherent whole, a task complicated by the complete randomness with which we chose that scripture, verses and chapters drifting into our minds while we sat with the minister. Like so many other things, we committed quickly and without thinking- we had no time for anything else. Kara and I both spoke, Kara thanked everyone for their support, and I mumbled a few things about James, the only subject it seems I'm fit to speak on recently.

Afterwards, the foundations class hosted a terrific reception complete with no less than 100 dozen cookies, brownies, and treats I ate whose names I simply do not know. We were overwhelmed by the number of people who attended, and by the outpouring of love and support for us and for James. Thank all of you, though we'd never admit it, I think both of us worried we'd have an empty room. It was deeply gratifying to see so many people there, all of whom had lives that had not been operating at stop for four weeks, celebrate our son. We cannot thank the church and the class enough for putting all of this together for us. We are deeply humbled.

Afterwards we returned home. I have no idea what happens next.

Thank all of you for your continued prayers and support, and thank all of you who took the time to come. I keep expecting a punctuation mark on this journey, some signal that a chapter is closed and we should move in to the next. I have yet to find it. Below are the words Kara
and I spoke today.

My part:
We knew a lot about James. We knew his smile and the easy, always welcome sound of his
laughter. We knew of his preference for pears though never before mommy milk. We knew how effortlessly and continually joyful he was. Always eager to play, and eager to make new a acquaintances.

When taking his last photo shoot the photographer asked us if he had any favorite toys that might make him smile. We didn't really know what to say. He wasn't big on toys, he was big on you, big on interaction and play. No thing or object in particular moved him- he just wanted people. If they wanted to play with toys, fine. James just wanted to play with them. He liked to experience the unexpected from them- a silly face or the swish of a ponytail. Even in the hospital the surest way to calm him down was to take a walk with him in the stroller or on your shoulder.

With so many new things to take in he couldn't remember to be mad- and he wasn't really good at staying Mad anyway, it just wasn't his gift. He definitely didn't get that from me. There are many things though we will never know about James. We will never know his favorite movies, cars, pizza, color, if he was right handed, left handed, or simply ambidextrous. We lost James before he could tell us all of that- and I believe he would have let us know very loudly. He was anything but subtle.

Even though we will never know so much, even though so many hopes and dreams will never translate into memory, We can still know a lot about James. We can know the perfect love that surrounded him always. We can know how desperately we wanted him. We can know how blessed we were by him, our once and future angel. We can live each day with the same joy and the same boundless, eager love. We will miss James horribly and constantly. But we will not ever have to forget him. We can always know him, and visit from time to time that warm space he occupies in our hearts. We can wait in eager anticipation of the day when we will see him again and bask in the warmth of his smile. And we will, we always will.

Goodbye son, we love you. Always. We will see you soon.



  1. Thank you for the update...I have been praying all day that God would carry you both through this tough day. Lifting you up in thoughts and prayers.

  2. A friend of a friend here- I've been thinking of the two of you all day, praying to God that He would comfort you and your wife throughout this time.

  3. Thank you for sharing the day with us. As living it must have been incredibly difficult, recapping it must not be easy either. My 6 year old prays for James' Mama, Daddy and family every night now. Beautiful words about James and I especially like "goodbye only for now" part. You will see that sweet boy again someday and what a joyful reunion it will be.

  4. ive been thinking of you 2 all day <3

    what you said about james and the photographer from recently is so right - amazing at just 8 days old or so, he was wide-eyed with me and wanted to just hang out and smile :)

    praying for peace for you both, as always. <3

  5. Matthew - I told you today what I believe now after reading it again. I simply don't know how you were able to get through reading this coherently. I am in awe of both you and Kara's strength through this.

    And as for what the church & Foundations class did today, it was our pleasure - we will be here for you, with ready hands & smiles. For now, you are in our prayers and thoughts.

  6. Take all the time you need to grieve. I am praying for you and will continue to do so in the days, weeks, and months ahead.

  7. Thank you for updating on such an impossibly hard, hard day. My husband asked me to read aloud your beautiful tributes to James, but I couldn't do it without stopping many times to cry for James and for you. May God bless and keep the three of you always in his love and care.

  8. Thankyou for sharing your celebration of James.

    My thoughts and prayers are with you all the way from Australia. May your impossibly beautiful son shine on in the hearts of so many forever.

  9. May God bless all of you... You have not left my thoughts/prayers all day...ever actually. I never met this sweet sweet boy but he will forever be in my heart. Kara said that everyones thoughts and prayers made you both better parents and helped show Christ's love to James, well I can speak for a lot of people out there, I AM a better mother because of James. I AM. I love him and wish he were here. I am so heartbroken for you both and for your sweet baby boy. He is healed now, and I can't wait to meet him...

  10. Thank you for sharing your story of James's beautiful life. Your faith is admirable and inspiring. Your strength and courage during this time is sure to help others who are going through stages of grief. I have a daughter who is 2 weeks younger than James. Your words have helped me look at her in a new light and appreciate every moment. Sending many prayers, thoughts and hugs your way.

  11. Kara & Matt Thank you so much for sharing Jamesie with all of us. Even though I never met him I feel that I know him. You are both incredibly stong people and wonderful parents. I pray that God give you peace and comfort during this difficult time. James is healed and will be waiting for you at heaven gates. I will contine to pray or God's peace and understanding for both of you. Tricia

  12. Thank you for sharing your sweet tribute to James. Like others, my heart has been so heavy for you both, and my prayers throughout the day yesterday were for God to give you strength to get through what must have been an extremely difficult day. You are fortunate to have such loving families and Christian friends to carry you through this - be sure and let them, for this is what we are called to do as the body of Christ. I pray the Holy Spirit will comfort and guide you through the next days and weeks, and that you will find the "punctuation mark," the day when you can turn the page on this chapter of life. Lean on Christ and remember his words: "Come to me, all you who labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you and learn from me, for I am gentle and lowly of heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For my yoke is easy, and my burden is light." (Matt 11:28-30).

    God bless you all.

  13. Ever since receiving your blog link on facebook, I haven't been able to get your family out of my head. I pray for you daily. James was blessed to have such loving parents, as there are so many children who don't, and that is sad. So thankful he is now without pain and looking down giving you the strength you so need. Much love to you.

  14. even though we've never met, i cannot stop thinking of your sweet family. i have been earnestly praying! every time i pick up my one year old son, i pray for you both. i'm so sorry you are on this journey. he was a handsome little fella!! loved all his hair!!! :)

  15. I think of your sweet family every night when I read The Night You Were Born to my daughter. It struck me for the first time last night that the book ended with two giraffes looking towards the sky, as if it were you and Kara. "For you are fearfully and wonderfully made".

  16. Thank you for sharing about this day with us! I, like so many other readers, am I stranger to your family, but because of your blog, I feel like I know your family. I was thinking about your family all day as you said goodbye to James. You have blessed so many lives by sharing your amazing son with us. Your faith continues to amaze me. I will continue to pray for strength and peace for you both.

  17. Hi Kara, I don't know you but have been very moved by your blog, your heart, and your honesty. I don't have any words of wisdom or anything that will change your heart or feelings right now. I have experienced grief and loss. I don't know what is next but would like to suggest the book, "Heaven is For Real" It will give you something to help begin the mending of your heart.

  18. Matt & Kara, thank you for sharing your wonderful words about James with everyone. I'm sorry that I wasn't there to celebrate his life, but I thought about all of you the entire day and have continued to pray for you to have peace in this trying time. James has touched and will continue to touch so many lives and brought so many people closer to God.

  19. Yet another person you don't know, but I feel you're getting used to it. I wanted to share a resource with you I think you might find beneficial in the months to come: a NPO started by a dear friend who lost her daughter in the midst of labor.
    Is it too soon? I hope not--the grace and peace of God can never come too quickly. You are in my prayers, especially on this hardest of days.