I'm late in posting this. It's been a full month since we held James' service. More time has passed between now and then than between the time he was diagnosed and when he passed away.
That equation does not quite add up on the surface. The time we spent in the hospital, as terrifying and as breakneck as the pace was, felt- and often still feels- like it lasted a lifetime. Days were full of events, rounds, tests, and a thousand other things. We were always on, always alert and waiting anxiously for the next hurdle. It feels as though time stopped, even if the world did not, and hours dripped by while we waited with him in that room. We were frozen, out of sync with the rest of the world. Since the service and James' death, everything has gone much faster. Slower at first, and then slowly you feel as though you're slipping back into the current of the world, into its rhythm. The weeks resume their regular pattern. Weekdays begin to differentiate themselves from weekend days, schedules become less urgent, and often completely voluntary. Sometimes that's a blessing, and it's wonderful to feel as though you're part of the world again. Other times, its infuriating, because the faster time passes the quicker the gap between James' final days and the present accumulates, and in an odd way, the farther away we are from him. Sometimes I feel silly thinking these things, wishing time would slow down again- however much I want to catch my slate of Sunday night TV again. But then again I'm slowly beginning to learn that there's no right way to do this, no correct form of mourning. There is no template. There's just what happens.
But I digress. I logged in just to copy paste his eulogy and post it, and the next thing you know I'm dwelling on time and grief. I suppose that just goes to show how flimsy the "plan" is nowadays. In any case, here's the eulogy Dr. Fiedler delivered for James. It's beautiful, and a fine tribute to James. We are incredibly grateful for his eloquence.
Eulogy for James Camden Sikes
Dr. John Fiedler
This afternoon we gather in celebration with a sense of deep gratitude for the life of James Camden Sikes
Do we need to state the obvious? That we would have wished more time for James and his adoring parents? More months? More years? That goes without saying.
Yet Christian faith has always been an affirmation of kairos over chronos.
Special moments over cumulative time.
Quality over quantity, if you will.
And that’s why we are grateful and that’s why we can celebrate
That’s how we can hold a giraffe party in this hallowed sanctuary in honor of our sweet baby James.
Because of the profound concentrated joy and light embodied in his remarkable 8 months.
And we know that when something very wonderful comes to an end that our good manners dictate that we take time out to give thanks to the one who made it possible….and so we gather this afternoon to thank God for giving James to us in the first place.
Matthew and Kara first called him "Bean" for the first 20 weeks in the womb because that’s what he looked like on the sonogram.
Kara had guessed he was a boy and she was right!
After he was born, they called him "Baby Bird" because every time it was time to eat he cocked his head and opened his mouth!
They also called him “Baby Bear" because of Matthew and Kara's obsession with all things Baylor.
And finally, they call him "Jamesie the Giraffe". There is a song called "Joshua Giraffe" that Kara listened to when she was little.
James was born by C- section because he had the umbilical wrapped around his neck but he was sunny side up and bright eyed ready to take on the world!
He had a a shock of hair on his head and a contagious pixie like smile filled with mirth and joy.
When he was 5 and a half months old, Kara and James were shopping at the grocery store.
She was checking out and James was sitting up in the seat. Kara turned around and a lady had picked you up out of the shopping cart and was holding him!
Kara calmly asked her to give her back her baby.
The woman explained that she was a grandmother and just "had to hold him."
That she couldn’t help herself!
For these past four weeks we have all felt like that grandmother in the grocery store.
We have all wanted to hold James in our arms, in our thoughts, in our prayers.
James was baptized on Mother’s Day.
He had such a great head of hair – an explosion of auburn and that coupled with his engaging precocious smile and his dancing eyes seemed to say,”Hey, let’s play!!”
He loved to play and laugh.
He embodied such joy.
He made me laugh.
He made a lot of people laugh.
And the baptism was an external sign of what we knew to already be a reality: that James was a child of God.
He certainly has been the light of Matthew and Kara’s life.
Last month James got sick the way that babies often do spitting up
So his parents took him for repeated doctor’s visits
Looked like a bug, maybe the flu, maybe ….we’re not sure.
On Wednesday June 2, they took James to Children's Hospital and get some fluids
And thus began a long odyssey of assessment, diagnostic, CT scans, and MRI’s
And the discovery of an aggressive rhabdoid tumor
Throughout the gauntlet James was essentially James
Happy, smiling, playful playing peek-a boo with the hospital bed
Matthew and Kara chronicled their daily trials, hopes, and pains in a blog
That so many of you followed
Because they are both such skillful writers, we experienced it all too.
The profound love, the heartbreak, the joy
It was hard for them to be so caring and capable and then reduced to being helpless and dependent.
Waiting is the hardest work of all and Matthew and Kara stood vigil and navigated through the maze of hospital care and procedures.
As Matthew wrote:
One thing this experience has definitely proven is that any sense of control our actions might lead us to believe we have is purely illusory. As Kara said, all we can really control is ourselves and our reactions.
And they worked hard to do just that.
As Kara wrote:
Through it all I choose to have the attitude that God is the Great Healer. That He knows and loves James more than we can fathom. I choose to believe that James should be surrounded with a positive attitude, that all things are possible. That's why I implemented the "no crying" rule in his room.
It didn't mean that people couldn’t cry. It just meant that you didn’t cry in James’ room. Not in front of the menagerie as Kara liked to call it.
James’ room and bed were filled with stuffed animals of every stripe. A menagerie. A collection of soft, plush, and silky giraffes and monkeys- giraffes.
He had a giraffe blanket, a giraffe pacifier, his Sophie the giraffe, a plush monkey. No member of the menagerie was superfluous, and James was an equal opportunity chewer, thrower, and cuddler.
He had time to get to every toy, no one was left out. The doctors tended to James and James tended to his zoo.
The MOMS group from our church came up to the hospital and delivered a labor of love- a prayer blanket that they all been worked on.
It’s a beautiful blanket and their visit was well timed and so much appreciated.
Matthew and Kara had had a rough day.
Throughout their ordeal, Matthew and Kara have expressed a deep appreciation to family, friends, and church – everyone who prayed and visited and encouraged them.
Helped and supported them when it seemed that they couldn’t carry on any further.
We all prayed to God for healing and for James to return to his vibrant energetic life.
But then we all know the hospital narrative
James had a successful surgery that removed most of the tumor.
But then the tumor came back.
And there was nothing else to be done.
But, that’s not quite correct.
There was something very special and profound to be done.
Bring him home.
Matthew and Kara wisely chose to extract him from the tubes and the wires and bring him home to his room, to his bed, where he could be shrouded in love.
Go for a ride in his stroller.
Have a giraffe birthday party complete with a giraffe and his name on the vanilla cake.
Be at peace.
Be at peace in the arms of those who loved him.
And this past Saturday at 3:50 p.m. James was released from the torment of the cancer.
James beat the tumor .
The little angel took flight.
As their blog says, Matthew and Kara had him for 8 months. That’s a long time to spend with an angel.
The book of Genesis begins with the story of the Garden of Eden and it explains how Adam and Eve had everything they needed living in an idyllic garden and how they were expelled into an existence of alienation, isolation, and despair.
The task of faith has always been to get back to the garden.
To get back to that place of warmth and security and sense of being constantly loved.
To recover an ideal state of being that has been lost.
Today we celebrate the fact that James never left the garden.
From the idyllic warmth of the womb to the snug warmth of his crib in his nursery and even the high tech ambiance of the PICU, he was enshrouded in love.
Surrounded by soft snuggly animals.
Doted on. Adored. Tossed into the air. Hugged. Fed. Held. Rocked. Serenaded.
A boy who hated naps and loved people
James only knew happiness. James only knew love.
And he is now with God and the Christ who invites all God’s children to be with him
What remains with us is his blessing manifest in the memories, the pictures, and the touch that he has left with us.
We cherish him and will continue to do so.
We embrace and support his parents and will continue to do so.
Buying plots in a quiet cemetery in Denton on Sunday, Matthew and Kara were shown a few spaces and finally chose a block of three by a newly planted tree where we could put a bench.
They bought all three.
James was laid to rest in the middle spot this morning.
And someday his parents will follow.
Once upon a time, they asked each other but never answered "Where would you want to be buried?"
Now the answer is obvious and simple:
The touching refrain in the children’s book says:
I’ll love you forever
I'll like you for always.
As long as I'm living
My baby you'll be
But Matthew and Kara, even when you are no longer living then James will be your baby and you will hold him once again.
All of us eventually depart from this mortal existence and go on to meet our maker.
This afternoon I claim for James all of the blessings promised us by our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ
Eternal life and the promise of a blessed family reunion.
I conclude with a poem by e.e. cummins that Kara posted on their blog:
i carry your heart with me (i carry it in my heart)
i am never without it (anywhere i go you go, my dear; and whatever is done
by only me is your doing, my darling)
i fear no fate (for you are my fate, my sweet)
i want no world (for beautiful you are my world, my true)
and whatever a moon has always meant
and whatever a sun will always sing is you
here is the deepest secret nobody knows
(here is the root of the root and the bud of the bud
and the sky of the sky of a tree called life; which grows higher than the soul can hope or mind can hide)
and this is the wonder that's keeping the stars apart
i carry your heart (i carry it in my heart).