I am writing this now not to make anyone, those rare few, reading this to be depressed. Nor do I seek sympathy. But I hope that through this writing I can organize my storming spirit into a clear and orderly flow. I have been reading about grief a little, about grace and God’s goodness, and the blessings for the faithful that come through trial. As God works all things, even tragedy, for the good of those who love him; so we hope and so I wrestle to believe. But I wish to believe this, and I have committed my way to Him despite all circumstances. As he loves me unconditionally, dying for me, giving up HIS child for my sake… can I do the same?
In that spirit I review, about two months ago our daughter Josephine passed away, dying of respiratory complications. The day before she died we could see that she was suffering – struggling to breathe. The doctor and nurses came to make a home visit. They gave us a small amount of morphine to help keep her relaxed. My heart ACHES in remembrance of that night. Distributing those drops of morphine into her mouth, with each administration signifying a closer step to her end. Josie herself wasn’t sleeping well, but drifted in and out of conciseness as her little coughs pushed her to exhaustion. Right now I write this with large tears falling into my lap.
Her face so soft and sweet, gorgeous. She looked up to me with an devastating expression, as if to say “Daddy I don’t feel good.” I held her all through the night, watching curious George cartoons and letting her know I am near. And then an ounce of hope came when she began to sleep in my lap. I carried her to her bedroom, about three in the morning, and I lied her down to sleep. Her head propped up by the pillow, her one and three month year old body so weak, so deprived of muscle tone, limp, helpless. I sat there for a few moments along side her. But then turned in my thoughts and began doing what I am doing now, I began writing. By doing so I had hope to temper those emotions I was feeling. I wrote an entry titled “Over-sized Death Bed.”
You can read the entry I wrote below. However, it is not complete. I don’t remember my thoughts I had then, or how to complete them – even though in reading the passage you can see that it may not need to have anything else added. The reason I could not finish expressing those thoughts is because I turned to hear the change in my daughter’s breathing. It was but only a few minutes when she went from heavy breathing to gasping. The thought of the morphine pushing her into a weaker state struck fear into me, is there something wrong that we did? Is there something I could do now? I went to her, my hands over her, hovering, not touching her, I felt helpless. Her eyes opened, just barely, looking at me, struggling to breathe. I could see her lips turning blue.
Instantly I rushed to our bedroom where Lena my wife was sleeping. I woke her and told her to come now. We went back to Josie’s side, Lena could see what was happening, no explanation was needed. Together we sat, sang to the song “Jesus loves me.” And watched our daughter slowly take her last breaths. She turned white and silent. And the world froze.
Lena began to sob, she turned away from our baby and I held her crying face into my chest. My sister sleeping in the living room came, hearing our groans. She also needed no explanation, and her loving presence wrapped us in comfort. Everything was happening so fast. Phone calls were made, my father came, nurses came, Josie was pronounced at around 7:30 am. Today and now I rage with a sense of helplessness and frustration, anger boils in me that I did not try to do more. I wrestle with the understanding that there was nothing else I could have done. Prolonging her life would only have tormented her more. But still… did she want to be held in those last breaths? Was it better to leave her lying down? Oh how would my daughter have wished to just be held by her daddy at the last moment! To feel the comfort of a loving father… Oh how I want that for myself! Heavenly Father where is your spirit of comfort?!
I reflect often on that last night, perhaps I torment myself in doing so. I am haunted by the beautiful face of my daughter. In my dreams she visits me. I awake with the memory of her gorgeous eyes and then her cold stare, as her cheeks turn blue to match the color of her lips. I pray that in expressing these images, that in sharing them, they will be resolved and processed. Doing so I hope to find peace, and go back to my normal self. But I am struck in the gut with a realization: I will never be the same again. I will bear the wound and loss of Josie forever.
I hate self pity, I hate depression, I do not want either of those things in my character. I want freedom, joy, and a new phase of strength and adventure. And in time I know this wound will heal. In time I will move forward, and perhaps there will be a day when I do not think about Josephine at all. Oh how I hate myself for that… But if I cannot give her up, then I cannot give the world up, and then I cannot have Jesus. For I must give up everything for the sake of knowing him. Even my daughter.
So here the conclusion lies, the end of this entry. I had no idea on where I was going or where I wanted to take you in writing any of this. Reading over the above paragraphs fills me with a satisfaction, knowing that it is said and done, it is now all out of me. With a dark feeling, with a sick feeling, I fester, I rise up, I wrestle, and I hope – that my emotions and sadness, like Job, in suffering, that I will be honorable, honest, and in the end in step with what I am meant to be and whom I wish to become.