On February 23rd our lives were changed forever when our beautiful grandson, Owen Thomas Parker, came into the world. He looked so perfect and we were all excited about getting to know him in the days to come. Our family's joy quickly turned to shock and disbelief the following day when Owen was diagnosed with Shone's Complex, a rare congenital heart disease that consisted of four severe heart defects. He was airlifted to Egleston Hospital and for the next six weeks he fought hard to survive. He came into this world with a broken heart and on April 7th our hearts were the ones that were broken when Owen's body couldn't fight any longer and he went to be with Jesus.
I'm not sure that I can adequately describe what it was like watching Allison and Brian walk this path of sorrow and suffering. I thought that I would be able to relate to what they were going through since after all, I have a mother's heart . . . but for the life of me I couldn't. I had never experienced such a devastating diagnosis or loss even though I had experienced the pain of miscarriages, this was different. Their hearts were breaking for their own son and for themselves. All their hopes and dreams were abruptly changed upon hearing the harsh diagnosis, such a contrast from the initial 17 hours or so after he was born. This was supposed to be a happy time, not a time of grief - especially so early into parenthood. I felt helpless as a parent myself and as a grandmother.
I was amazed observing Allison and Brian in their new roles as Owen's mommy and daddy. Only two people were allowed to be at his bedside at a time, so only for a few minutes would I get the privilege of seeing them parent together. I'd never known my daughter as a mommy and it was beautiful to see her mother's heart. I'll never forget that. I loved watching how she and Brian engaged with Owen whether it was through touching him, comforting him, kissing him, holding his hand, stroking his head, caring for him, or reading to him. They spoke to Owen about bringing him home and about his future. They were incredible advocates for their sweet baby son, learning all they could about the necessary medical and surgical interventions, arterial blood gas reports, ventilator settings, etc. They fought for him with everything they had and more. They were strong and brave, encountering things unimaginable for any parent to endure.
It would be really easy to focus on what Allison and Brian don't have, what our family doesn't have. It would make sense that we would feel robbed of our hopes and dreams that not only included Owen, but were built around him. But as painful as it was to watch the suffering that Allison and Brian experienced, it was equally encouraging and uplifting as I saw God at work in their lives. They turned immediately to their faith and to me it seemed to deepen during those six weeks. I saw God carrying them through unbearable days as many many people cried out to God in prayer for them. They didn't have a choice of walking this path, but they did have a choice of how they walked it. And they walked it with grace, embracing that every day they had with Owen was a gift. They never gave up hope, believing that God was (is) able, but also trusting in His sovereignty. And they continue that same walk now, even though Owen isn't physically with them and the outcome is far from what we all prayed for and wanted.
I sure do miss Owen. I wish that I had held him longer in the delivery room, but I didn't want to be stingy. After all, I was going to have plenty of time with him when Brian returned to work, or at least that was the original plan. I only held him once and it was just for a few minutes. I wish that I had held him up on my shoulder where I could feel his head with my cheek. I only saw Allison hold him three times, but those are memories that I'll never forget. He was a such a gift and I miss him.
Months before Owen was born, I wrote a little book for him called "I Hope." Little did I know that Owen would be the one to teach me so much about hope in his short six weeks here. God had impressed on my heart weeks before his birth that something BIG was about to happen and it had to do with hope. I had no idea who, what or when, but as soon as I heard Owen's diagnosis, I knew "this" was that something. And so I waited to learn what God wanted to teach me. In a hospital full of suffering, watching my daughter and son-in-law suffer, I learned to have more hope than I have had in a long time. You see, life's experiences had taught me that it was too painful to have hope. I really didn't believe that Jesus would be enough for me if He didn't give me what I wanted -so I chose to not hope in order to protect myself from pain. One day when Owen was having a really tough day, when the machines hooked up to him were sounding alarms and flashing, I made a choice to believe in the One who was/is able. I decided to have hope and not let the sights or sounds dictate if Owen would be ok. I chose to live by faith and not by sight. And what came with that choice was joy! I experienced more joy in the days and weeks to come even though Owen's circumstances didn't change. Instead of grieving while Owen was alive, I got to enjoy him and pray with all faith to God. Those weeks were a precious gift. Thank you, Owen, for teaching me so much about hope . . . and joy. I love you and miss you so much.