The Depth of Children

There are parts of this mourning process that are more difficult than I imagined possible. Last night as I climbed the stairs to head to bed, I turned to the kids' room to give them their typical after bed kisses. My youngest was still awake. And as I leaned down to kiss his warm little cheek, he wrapped his arms around me and muffled something in my ear about dying from cancer.

I pulled back to ask his answer one more time.

"What did you say, baby?"

"When I get sick like Joey, I'm going to die. And then you're going to have write that girl a letter that wanted to marry me (one of the young women that I taught at church wrote a darling letter to him about wanting to marry him when he grew up), and tell her that I died."

I was sick already at the direction this conversation was heading.

"Baby, you're not going to get Joey's sickness. He had a sickness called cancer and it's not the same sicknesses that you sometimes get."

"But somebody gave Joey that sickness and then he died."

"Oh, sweetheart, no one gave Joey that sickness. When Joey was born, his body was a little bit broken and then he got cancer, and then he died. Your body isn't broken like his was. (Joey had many, many illnesses including ulcerative colitis, which is what led to his colon cancer.)"

Then we talked a lot about how Jimmy's been sick. A few days after Joey passed away, Jimmy was hit with a terrible flu. He was sicker than I have ever seen him; and although, I was extremely grateful to have a child to take care of to take me from the pain of the funeral preparations, I was terrified because it so closely mirrored many of Joey's past symptoms. I actually wondered that if Jimmy was going to get ulcerative colitis now that Joey was gone. That maybe the disease had been held off so that I could focus on one child at a time. I was sick with fear (as was my husband). I don't think we are ever going to relax and just accept childhood illnesses as just that "childhood illnesses." Instead, we are going to panic and worry at every sniffly nose, ever fever, and every flu. We don't have the luxury of not worrying. Our entire reality has shifted and what was once an impossibility is now a complete and total possibility. It scares me!

After I calmed some of Jimmy's fears or at least tried to, his conversation took a slightly different turn.

"I want to die so that I can see Joey again. I miss Joey a lotta lot."

"Oh, baby (tears streaming down my face), Joey misses you a lotta lot too; but he's not ready to see you again. He wants you to have fun here on earth before he's ready for you to come to heaven."

"Is Joey having fun in heaven?"

"I'll bet he's having lots of fun and laughing and playing."

"Is Heavenly Father laughing with him?"

"I'll bet He is. I'll bet He's very happy to have Joey with him. It's prettier in heaven than it is here, baby."

"I want it to be pretty here too."

"Do you remember what we did today?"

"We went to the pool."

"And did you have fun?"

"Yes," he said giggling.

"Then see. We have lots of fun and pretty things here too," I encouraged.

"Does heaven have a park?"

"Maybe, baby. Maybe!"

Then he paused, took a moment, and asked me, "Did we have our kiss and hug today?" (We always kiss and hug the kids in turn after our family prayers.)

"No, I don't think we did."

He reaches up to me and wraps his warm little arms around me and then we kiss. I am trying hard to hide my tears and runny nose from him. He's worried way too much for any child tonight. I don't want him to see my fear and sorrow. He finishes his hug and turns towards the wall. He's done talking.

Have I comforted him? Have I alleviated his fears? Will Cancer always be a threat to our family or was this just a one time tragedy?

As I said my prayers last night, I wanted desperately to ask that the Lord would spare him from that kind of pain. But part of the Lord's plan includes suffering, and I can't promise my children that they will never suffer. That breaks my heart on a level that never has before. I can't promise them a life without disappointments, without pain, and without suffering. It's going to happen. But what I did pray for was that my children would not live in fear of it. That they can live their lives happily without the constant worry of what's around the corner. That is not what I want, and I'm certain that it's not what the Lord wants.

Last night was excruciating! I realized that mourning Joey is going to be a lifetime process and there are many aspects of it that I have yet to deal with. I'm afraid of those moments, but I'm grateful to the two beautiful children I have living, still on earth.

Here's to Katelyn and Jimmy:

I can be strong for them. I am their mama, and while I can't protect them from everything, I can love and support and comfort them. I will be strong for them!


  1. This broke my heart... thank you for sharing. Although I have not suffered the loss of a child I can relate to the idea of "it happened once why won't it happen again?" thinking with other things. It is so scary and the only peace I find is through prayer. May you continue to be strong!

  2. The fear that something like that will happen again will pop up from time to time. My boyfriend was killed in a car accident when I was 19. Now I am 32 but whenever DH forgets to tell me he is late I start to get worried, it sneaks up on you, even after all this time. Sending you a huge hug!


  3. This post completely rocked me! His feelings are real and this is his reality. I think you did a wonderful job helping him deal with his fears and grief. It cannot be easy, in fact its heart wrenching. As mothers all we want to do is protect our children and keep everything bad away. Unfortunately that was not why we came to earth! I continue to pray for all of you... I don't even know you, but reading your story and your blog has really affected me. Joey lives on through all of this, and he has changed my life for the better! You are a wonderful mother!

  4. I too think you did a wonderful job in talking with your son. Conversations like that are not easy but you helped explain things to soothe a worried mind. It's good that you are a close family to be able to talk about the fears and thoughts that race through your minds and hearts. Big hugs and prayers for your wonderful family. And thank you for sharing your thoughts ~ it touches our hearts in a way you can't imagine.

  5. oh jen. i'm soooo sorry. i'm working through the same sorts of questions with my kids about their grammy dying so suddenly and unexpectedly. ((((HUGE HUG))))

  6. You have such a beautiful perspective on LIFE. Thanks so much for sharing it. I think we could all use the reminder, to make the most of every moment.
    Big hugs to you and your family.

  7. the journey of your grief you are sharing with us is changing my perspective on so many things. Thank you for blessing us even in your sorrow. Your family is in my prayers and my heart.

  8. My Dear Jen,

    Joey will live forever in our hearts and forever in Heaven. :)

    I can't imagine anything better.

    Big hugs to you and your family.

    Love you!

  9. That conversation broke my heart - I can't imagine how you must have felt. Jimmy is such a sweetheart boy!

  10. Thank you for sharing such a beautiful and honest story. What a moment to cherish - the connection between you and your son, and your recognition that a long road is ahead.

    Strength be with you and your family.

  11. Peace be with you Jen. Peace be with your little children. You are a wonderful mother and woman who certainly has been through a lot, as well as those babies of yours!

    Keep foot in front of the other.. One day you will run again...

  12. I think about your sweet Joey often. And I think of your other babes, and wish I could give them a big squeeze too.

    As we deal with our 'scares' on occassion with our Porter, Joey and his wonderfully bright smile pop in my head. I think of his strength and your strength and it helps me become stronger to be able to deal with the worries of Porter's illnesses.

    As Porter is about to start IvIg therapy, the HH Nurse talked about childhood cancers and their therapies and I swear I saw Joey's smile and it calmed me instead of making me scared this time.

    Just want to let you know that Joey's little light of his still shines bright all around...

    Keep sharing.

    Biggest hugs!

  13. Thank you so much for sharing your heartfelt conversation with us between you and your son. How precious it is to have those times with our kids ... to honestly explain to them ... and hurt with them. It's OK for you to show your hurt and fear ... it's real. Don't ever put a "mask" on your feelings ...

    I don't know you, nor have I ever met you before in my life, but your story has touched my heart. I find myself coming to check your blog ... knowing that whatever it is I am going through is NOTHING compared to the pain and hurt you are feeling. Thank you so much for sharing and for being honest with us ... even those of us who you haven't ever met.

    Know that we keep you in our hearts and our prayers daily.

  14. Oh my, I am glad you have an outlet in this blog...I know that other moms have the heartbreak of losing a child and your ability to write this can be of comfort to them, too. God Bless and I will be praying for continued stregnth and blessings for you and your family.

  15. Your fears about it happening again spoke directly to my heart -- it is something I think about daily with Jeremy -- and I wonder if this fear will be with me until I die.

    Hugs to you and Jimmy -- and to your Joey and my Kaitlyn - that I know are dancing in Heaven happy and healthy

  16. Jen, I want to get on an airplane and give you a huge {{{HUG}}}. As painful as it is to answer questions about Joey, its part of the healing process. Its encouraging to know that he can ask you questions with such honesty and openess. I think you are doing a wonderful job!!

  17. Hugs're such a good mommy!

    Debbie (lpscrap

  18. Oh my Jen-I felt like there was a hand squeezing my heart when I read your words.What a thoughtful little boy your Jimmy is thinking such deep deep thougts.Many hugs to you and all your family and prayers for strength as you continue to heal.

  19. The fears of children as so hard to deal with. May the Lord continue to guide you in the direction that your children need and give you the ability to support them as you have so well.

    Prayers for you and your family.

  20. Bless your heart. I continue to think and pray for your family.


  21. I am so moved by this and broken hearted. I wish I was as strong as you. Thanks for sharing. Your family has been in my thoughts and prayers and will continue to be.

    Hugs & Love


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