May has certainly become a month of challenges and tears for our family over the last 10 years. 10 years ago, we received the call that Mike’s sister, Liz, had died from an aneurysm. I remember the details of the morning we got the call that she had been unresponsive that morning. We had been planning on working cattle at Mike’s parents house. We were loading up and getting ready to head over when the house phone rang. Mike’s dad said he didn’t know what was going on yet, but maybe she’d had a stroke. We decided we’d go ahead and go over to work the calves while Mike’s parents headed to the hospital in the St. Louis area. By the time we arrived at their house, they had received another call saying the doctors felt it was likely an aneurysm. I remember Mike’s mom saying “Not again, we can’t be losing another child.” You see, Mike had lost a brother soon after moving to Missouri in an accident on his way back to Iowa. We came home and activated EVERY prayer chain we could. We hoped that with enough prayers, God would allow us more time with Liz and allow her more time with her children. But, for reasons we likely won’t know until we get to Heaven, God felt it was time to take her home. And that He did, on May 1, 2007.
Later that month we nearly lost Chris during what should have been a routine appendectomy. When the surgeon placed the trocar, he hit a main artery and had to quickly open him up before he bled out. He spent 2 days in the ICU and then another 3 days in the pediatric ward. Healing took forever and was complicated by the fact he healed faster on the outside, meaning they had to reopen his incision so it could heal properly. I’m sure it terrified his cousins who had just lost their mom to come see him in the hospital. I spent a lot of time sitting in his room reading the book of Job.
Last year, in late January and early February, Brittany landed in the very same room where Chris was. At that point, she was fighting with all she had to save her pregnancy with Avery and Skylar. It was in that room that she got the news that there were some significant issues for Skylar. And we prayed against all odds, that God would cover and protect both the girls and Brittany and allow a successful pregnancy. And here’s where it gets to the blessings and tears. You all know He allowed Avery to remain healthy. And while Avery and Skylar were identical, their genetic stories seemed to be very different. There’s not a medical explanation. Dr. V at Cardinal Glennon reminded us at every meeting that both girls were medical miracles. He allowed them to progress until Brittany went into labor on May 8th, 2016 on Mother’s Day. And in doing so, He allowed Jesse and Brittany a few brief moments on earth with Skylar. He also showed all of us what grace looks like. Grace looks like a little 3 pound baby girl who fought with all she had to make it long enough that her sister might survive – even thrive. Grace looks like God giving everyone safety on their way to the hospital so that we could surround Jesse, Brittany and the girls with love and prayers.
We’re closing in on Avery and Skylar’s first birthday. Today marked the 10th anniversary of Liz’s death. It is a rough 8 days. BUT, I continue to have faith that God has a plan for all of this – a plan to refine us, maybe even define us. We have seen Liz’s kids grow up so very much in 10 years. We’ve witnessed 4 of the kids get married, 2 of them have 5 children, 4 (5th will be this year) graduate high school and the little boy who was a preschooler at the time will begin high school this fall. We have watch Avery this past year, looking for the symptoms of Trisomy 9 and seeing absolutely none. She jabbers like most 1 year olds do. She’s trying to walk. She loves to play and laugh and is socially interactive. God has provided blessings through the tears. So this month, if you notice our eyes tend to leak a little more often, please know we’re ok. There’s just a lot of blessings that sometimes spill out. If you feel lead to pray, that be awesome. Pray for Liz’s husband, Rick and his wife, Susan. Pray for her kids, Rachael, Daniel, Lara, Nick, Gretchen, Sven, Natalie and Pete and their spouses and kiddos. Pray for Mike’s mom and dad. Pray for Jesse, Brittany and Avery. And pray for us. We’re all always up for more prayers – prayers that our lives may be a living testimony to God’s love, grace and mercy.