Saying Goodbye to Judah
On January 20, 2020 at 7:15am, I said goodbye to my youngest child, my “forever” baby, my Judah. Seth woke me up by gently shaking my shoulder. I startled awake as he tearfully said, “I think he’s about to go.” I couldn’t believe it. How did it happen so quickly, why didn’t he wake me up earlier?? Seth said that his color changed almost instantly and his breathing drastically slowed while he was holding him in the living room while I got a few hours of sleep. I took Judah from Seth and climbed back into bed and told him to wake up everyone quickly. Owen sat next to me with his hand on Judah’s chest as we cried and told him goodbye one last time. Everyone hugged and kissed him as we listened to Turn Your Eyes Upon Jesus and he took his final breath. The sobbing was audible and painful. I kept most of his face covered for the next two hours because I wanted the kids to remember him with his rosy red lips and beautiful complexion. Our heaven-sent hospice nurse came and pronounced him dead at 8:20 and the funeral home came to pick him up at 9:30am. I carried Judah to Seth and handed my baby over for the last time so he could take him and place him in the car. My arms have never felt so empty. I went and crumbled by the side of my bed. He was gone. I never thought he would ever leave us. He had so many close calls, but he always pulled through. He was so strong and so loved.
The next few days were a blur. It felt surreal and exhausting trying to grieve, but needing to be strong for my 7 other children at the same time. I have some children who still weep everyday for their brother. I also have a couple who haven’t spoken his name since or cried any tears for him. The remainder have found a way to distract themselves most of the time, but struggle at bedtime. I think Seth is doing okay. He has been our rock, fixing meals and taking care of kids when I just can’t get out of bed. He’s back to work now, which is probably the healthiest thing for him. My mom stayed for a few days and fed me all the comfort food she could make. I’ve found the easiest way to cope is to pretend it didn’t happen. I’ve avoided all pictures and thoughts of his final moments until writing this. I packed all of his things up so I don’t have to be reminded constantly of his absence. I threw his bottles and formula away, put his crib in the attic and have let the kids take turns sleeping in his little room in our master bedroom. I know they say that grief has stages, so I guess I’m in the denial one. I used to enjoy writing, so I thought it might be therapeutic to get all of my thoughts and feelings out while I’m waiting for Seth to bring Judah’s ashes home.
Everyone was so supportive and kind on social media. I’m so incredibly thankful for the friends who showed their love and support in a tangible way also, like dropping off snacks for the kids, sending gift cards for meals and groceries, offering to help clean my house and having a photo blanket made with all of our favorite pictures of Judah on it. The kids’ teachers coming over and bringing individual gifts for all of the kids meant so much to us. Each card in the mail brought tears of gratitude to my eyes. In times of sorrow, moments of clarity come and you see who in your life you can count on and where your energy should be directed. Maybe some people don’t know what to say or what to do, but I can assure you that saying nothing, is never the answer.
The loss of Judah is different than the way most lose a child. We adopted Judah knowing that he was going to die. We knew that we were inviting horrific grief into our lives and our children’s lives. It was hard for some people to understand, much like it didn’t make sense to some when we began fostering. But God had a plan and we were eager to love this child that no one in Oklahoma wanted. We wanted him. His birth mom was encouraged to abort him, but she chose adoption. The family who was going to adopt him backed out after his diagnosis. The way God brought us to Judah was a miracle in and of itself. There was no denying that he was our son from the night I saw his picture online. When we picked him up a few weeks later, we met at the neurosurgeon’s office beforehand and she bluntly told us that he will never recognize us or “love us,” she even recommended that we never take him to the hospital or give him an antibiotic because it would only prolong the inevitable and his quality of life would be extremely poor. We drove home with our new son that day excited, but with a heavy heart. But Judah sure proved her wrong. Shortly after his first birthday, he learned to self-soothe by sucking on his hand. This was something he should never have been able to do. He began to show preference when he had his diaper changed or took a bottle and decided that he would not eat for Daddy, but only for Mama. When we would go to get him out of bed, he began to give us HUGE smiles, laughs and squeals when we would pick him up. He loved to be flipped upside down. LOVED it. He would arch his back over and over again until our arms got tired. We discovered this past year that spinning him around in his stroller would also elicit the same response from him. It was the best thing ever. To see this baby do “impossible” things, never ceased to amaze me and filled me with a humbling sense of gratitude that God chose me to be his mom.
We could have chosen to use every single medical intervention possible, but we didn’t feel called to that. We felt like God wanted to receive every bit of glory for Judah’s life, no matter how short it was. Up to 90% of babies born with hydranencephaly die within their first year of life. I give Him all the glory for Judah’s 4 years and 4 months with us here on earth. We chose to have him on hospice instead of living weeks at a time in a hospital. This was an act of obedience for us, a total surrender to God’s plan and He honored that. I am devastated and in survival mode, but I feel God’s peace. He answered every single one of my desperate prayers. I prayed for days of preparation for me and the kids and that Judah would pass in my arms in the morning, not during the night, so it would be less traumatic. Every prayer was answered. The kids were even out of school for MLK day. On January 1, I made a commitment to only listen to Christian music, so the weeks leading up to his death were filled with worship music and His praises running through my head nonstop. He waited until the holidays were over so we wouldn’t associate his death with them. I’m so thankful for all the little things, but mostly for being able to hold him while he went to be with Jesus. I couldn’t imagine him being anywhere else but in my arms when that time came. I’m so thankful Father. Continue to use us, our family and Judah’s life to glorify You and remind everyone that every life has a purpose in Your plan. ❤️💔