Thursday, February 23, 2012

Precious Cards

We received a package in the mail from my home church back in Illinois. Naperville Covenant is the church I grew up in, and where my parents still attend. Even though it is not the church where Jon and I attended once we were married, they are a church family that will always be close to our hearts, and they are filled with generosity. The package was a large envelope filled with cards from the children there. I could barely get through the note from the Director of Children's Ministry, total tear jerker. She wrote,
"The Sunday after Drake passed I shared your story with the children. We talked about the happy things that had happened that week (Drake's birth and being with a family that loved him so much) and the sad (that Drake couldn't be with his family for long and that his family is very sad and misses him very much.) We looked at Romans 12:15 and talked about how we could be happy and sad with you. The result of that talk are these honest and beautiful cards that I hope will bless your hearts."

Below are a few of the cards from the package. There were many more, and they were all so sweet. Nothing quite as special as the faith and genuine love children show us.

Saturday, February 18, 2012

Hello Grief

Grief. It's been awhile since I've walked with grief. You are not a companion I would chose to walk with, but you are here. I've learned that it helps me to process some of my emotions through writing and sharing, so bare with me. I'm sure I'm going to be walking with grief for awhile. And I know that is OK.

Drake is ALWAYS on my mind. There is not a second that goes by when he doesn't feel near the forefront of my mind. Especially at night when I'm trying to fall asleep or when I have some time to myself. My mind instantly begins to replay the events of my pregnancy, hospitalization, Drake's birth, and Drake's death. I am trying to let myself go there and feel feelings and remember. This is by far the most painful season of my life- I just want my baby and it hurts not to have him. Day by day I have to learn to let him go a little bit more, while at the same time find a way to keep him close to my heart. Never wanting to forget him. Usually after a period of intentional reflecting I can at least move the thoughts to second place, and get myself up and going to something else. It doesn't mean the feelings aren't there, it is just the only way to survive without allowing myself to go into an utterly deep depression. As far as daily functioning goes, all things considered, I think I'm doing pretty well.

However, sometimes in the midst of just "functioning", is when things hit me. This trait of grief is familiar in such a funny way. I'm remembering that often times unexpected things are what hurt the most. All of a sudden grief can creep up on you, flood you with emotion, and knock you off track for awhile. A couple of things I never anticipated:

Singing. Recently, I was by myself and instinctively began singing along to something. I don't even remember what it was- maybe a TV commercial or a song on the radio. The sound of my own voice caught me off guard and instantly swept me to a place of sadness. I realized I was the only one who could hear me singing. Drake used to be able to hear me. I was intentional about trying to sing often when I was pregnant, because I wanted him to know my voice and hear me. Also, when he was in the hospital, Jon and I used to sing to him. No matter how bad our voices are (there is a reason why I only do karaoke in private), we knew they would be familiar and comforting for him.

Mani/Pedi time. I even tried to be strategic on this one. I didn't go to my usual place, where they know me, because I knew I was not ready to explain what had happened. Some of my dear friends had gotten me a gift certificate to a different place in town, and I was anxious to use it. I was looking forward to the time of relaxation and zoning out to trashy magazines. Once I sank into the chair, I found myself getting nervous almost instantly. As the lady scrubbing my feet began to make small talk, I became anxious that she was going to ask me if I had children. I wasn't ready to answer that question. This was a complete stranger and I didn't know how I would react. If I said no, then she might question me, "Why not?" "What are you waiting for?" (pre-pregnancy, this has happened to me more than once before when getting a mani/pedi). I contemplated just saying "Yes, I have children." Then I realized she would ask more questions, "How old are they? Boys or girls?" etc and it would lead me fumbling to maneuver down a path of lies. Not to mention, that method may have bordered on some type of psychotic way of coping. I didn't want to honestly answer and explain what happened, because I wasn't comfortable becoming emotional at that time and place, with this lady who I'd never seen before. So I just sat there nervously for an hour. Thankfully, she never asked. I left feeling tense and upset, which was not what I was going for. (At least my nails looked good and that made me feel a bit better.)

Those are my thoughts to share for today. Maybe for some of you who are reading who have experienced grief before you can relate to it's "unexpected" trait. Or maybe this can be a reminder that you can never expect the unexpected or control your emotional processing no matter how hard you might try. For those of us who like to be in control, this is not a welcome lesson, but one where there is no choice in the matter- you just have to go with it.

Saturday, February 11, 2012

Drake's Memorial Service

Drake William Peterson's Memorial ServiceFebruary 7, 2012 3:30 p.m.

It was beautiful. It was perfect. It was more than I'd hoped for. God blessed us through others. All the words spoken were of great comfort. The music was beyond beautiful. It was also extremely difficult and heart breaking, but in a way that felt like the beginning of healing. The very very beginning. We have a LONG way to go.

The service was planned to be outside at one of our favorite parks, Elings Park. The park is near our home, up on a tall hill that overlooks the Santa Barbara coastline. We were looking forward to remembering Drake in this special spot, but the weather did not cooperate. Of course, it was one of the FEW days it was not perfect weather in Santa Barbara. Oh well, we had a back up plan. Instead, the service was held at Montecito Covenant Church. This is the Church where Jon grew up, his father was pastor there for about 25 years. It is not where we currently attend church, but it is a place filled with sentiment and it is a beautiful sanctuary. Also, our current church meets in an auditorium, so not really an option. Anyway, it all worked out and people were comfortable and not battling with the weather.

Our pastor, and friend, Jon Ireland led the service. Jon Ireland has known Jon (Peterson) since his childhood. Jon Ireland was Jon's youth pastor, and now he is our pastor at Ocean Hills Covenant Church. He has been a support to us in many ways over the past couple of years since we have moved here. He led the service with grace and his words were powerful. Unfortunately, I don't have the text to his message.

Jeff Given led us in song. He is a close friend/ brother to our family. His arrangements of Jesus Loves Me and Children of the Heavenly Father were gorgeous. I was struck by the strength of his delivery of these songs. Jeffrey's musical gifts have always inspired us, but touched us in an entirely different way as he sang for our son.

Jon's Dad, Curt Peterson, gave the Eulogy:

From the earliest days of pregnancy the mystery of the life of Drake William was known fully to God – loved and blessed child. This we believe.

It was in December when the baby boy of Jon and Stacy was called by name – Drake William Peterson. A person and personality began to be formed in our minds and prayers. Also in December, Drake William was diagnosed with cardio myopathy – a weak heart muscle. Cardiologists in Santa Barbara, at UCLA, and at Stanford all confirmed the 1% chance of sustained life for Drake. The weaving of the strands of grief, hope and faith began for Jon and Stacy and all our family.

Prayer became the breathing rhythm of our lives – inhaling the comfort, love, and grace of God; exhaling our fears, our cries for mercy, our pleas for the miracle of healing.

Like the Gospel’s persistent widow seeking justice and the person of shameless audacity knocking on the door of a friend at midnight– we prayed and prayed and prayed – all of us and a host of believers around the world, literally – passionate prayers I witnessed in the past two months calling out to God for strength, peace, healing, miracles.

It was Stacy – loving mother – who carried Drake’s fragile life in her body and heart with amazing grace and strength and love. With Jon always attentive and supporting alongside, Stacy bore the mystery and uncertainty of Drake’s life with courage and faith. Then there were complications – Stacy’s severe preeclampsia required hospital monitoring and care so UCLA Children’s Hospital became home for parents and grandparents for three weeks. If you will indulge me as a parent, Stacy and Jon are amazing – dealing with the deepest of emotional heartaches, and managing care for Stacy and Drake with strength and grace, the Lord was always with them. Their UCLA nurses expressed the powerful impact of their faith through all these days.

After marginal improvement for Drake in the cardiologist’s ultrasound report on January 23rd our hopes were raised but guarded. A clear answer to prayer and first miracle was that Drake and Stacy were stable enough to schedule a delivery for Tuesday, January 31st. Stacy, Jon and Drake were carried by the network of praying friends that grew exponentially through Facebook, Twitter and Emails – friends of friends of friends became part of a community of compassion and prayer linked together by one common life – Drake William.

With great courage Stacy went into delivery facing understandable fears with faith and Jon’s support. Eighteen of us in the waiting room and a host of praying friends waited for the news. After two hours Dr. Lee came out with a big smile – “a beautiful baby boy is born – the delivery went well, Drake cried loudly and Stacy is doing well.” We all rejoiced in praise to God for another miracle.

Jon came into the waiting room elated. Drake William Peterson was born on Tuesday at 2:44 p.m. At birth Drake was quickly surrounded by five doctors, with another five watching over their shoulders – Drake’s life was beyond their expectations. After draining the fluid in Drake’s abdomen they whisked him off to the NICU unit. Jon visited his son and then quickly returned to Stacy’s side, her C-section and blood pressure complications intensified.

We prayed fervently for Drake and for Stacy. “Lord have mercy.”

We called Drake a fighter, a child of strength - his heart condition was beyond treatment – but Drake showed signs of fighting to live from the moment of his birth - his oxygen levels and his heart beat grew stronger each hour. Occasionally his eyes opened. His left hand gripped Jon and Stacy’s fingers. His right hand was always in a fighter’s fist punching against the odds.

Facial features and body were beautifully developed at 33 weeks.

Stacy saw Drake Wednesday morning, her mother’s touch and love seemed to bring increased strength to our fighter. Then others of us who were there got a glimpse of God’s grace in this precious child. He captured our hearts more and more. We rested through the night in cautious peace.

Then, suddenly on Thursday Drake’s body began to fail, as calls for prayer went out, parents and grandparents and friend/brother David went in to surround Drake in prayer, ready to say our goodbyes. But Drake wanted to fight another round. Doctors administered treatment, we prayed – Jon comforted Drake’s forehead. Stacy now was fighting her own battle and had to return to her room for treatment.

The cloud of witnesses leaned over the edge of life and death and prayed.

By the grace and miracle of God Drake rallied, as did Stacy.

He returned to stable condition, breathing got better, acidity was neutralized – we all went to our corners to give thanks to God.

Friday morning the call came early to Jon and Stacy – Drake’s organs were failing, prepare yourself and your family to come to Drake’s side.

We gathered. Jon, Stacy, and grandparents, Linda, Brant, Martie and I – gathered around Drake in a sanctuary formed by curtains, believers and the presence of God. The worship began: “Let the children come to me,” Jesus said, “do not hinder them. For to such belongs the kingdom of heaven.” We sang “Jesus Loves Me” – and I had the joy of baptizing Drake William and praying for God’s welcome into the loving arms of Jesus. With thanks for the powerful touch of this precious child reaching around the world, we committed Drake to the grace and peace of God. Jon and Stacy made the courageous decision to let Drake go to God on Friday morning. After all the life support tubes were removed from Drake’s body, Drake fought on for 15 minutes on his own. With amazing strength Drake clung to life as long as he could. This miracle child with three brief days in earth’s light now lives in the eternal light of heaven. It was Friday, but we knew in faith that Sunday’s resurrection was coming!

Drake was not only a fighter, he was a giver- he gave us a glimpse of God's grace in the miracle of birth. He taught us how precious the days of life are for every child. And he gave us the amazing gift of a loving community around a vulnerable child. He gave us the reminder of the dignity and preciousness of every child, everywhere. Drake was a strong fighter, and a strong giver.

From the waters of his mother's womb to the waters of baptism in the hour before his passing, Drake was sustained by the love of Jesus. Held by his parents’ loving arms until his last breath, he is now in the loving arms of his Savior. We see Drake now as born for eternity, more than born for this earth. This is a statement of faith and hope in the midst of our tears and grief - it is the source of peace in the midst of this great loss. How could we face this pain without the amazing grace and love of God? God is good, all the time - we will trust God in our grief. God’s love will become our love for the vulnerable children of this world in memory of Drake William Peterson.

Jon and I also had words to share about Drake. I wanted to be able to speak these words, but I was still quite physically weak, not to mention an emotional wreck. My family was insistent that it was not a smart idea to get up and talk, so I agreed to let Jon do the talking (even though he was an emotional wreck too, physically he was fine). Through the pouring of genuine tears, Jon shared for both of us:

Stacy's text:

I could talk for hours about all the things I learned along Drake’s journey. However, the main theme that has resonated with me during this season has been trusting in the Lord. From the day we found out we were pregnant, which was actually quite a surprise, to the day we found out Drake had heart complications, to the final moments we spent with Drake saying Good-Bye. The ONLY thing I have been able to cling to that has brought me any sort of comfort has been trusting in the Lord. Trust that even though this experience has made absolutely no sense, and been utterly painful, that God does have a plan for each of us and that Drake is truly in a better place. I CAN trust, because I’ve experienced God’s faithfulness throughout my life, and I know it is true. In fact, throughout these past weeks, I’ve already seen God’s plan and protection unfold. One example, I was able to be physically strong and stable enough to be with Drake as he passed away, holding him until the final moment. If his death had come any sooner than it did, I would have still been limited to bed rest from experiencing complications after the C-Section.

There are no words to adequately describe all the emotions and thoughts that I have been flooded with over the past week. I have felt the ultimate highs of life and the ultimate lows, in a very short period of time. There are also no words to describe the way it feels to experience a Mother’s love. It is just as powerful and raw as every Mother I’ve known has described it to be. I’m so grateful to have experienced this love for Drake, and I know nothing will ever make it go away. The separation from him is excruciatingly painful and I constantly wish he was here in my arms. Knowing that I believe in a God, who loves me more than the love I feel for this little boy has given me a profound new perspective on God’s love. It is a love so big, that I simply can’t understand how God tolerates the joy and pain of what it means to love so big. Drake will forever be in my heart and has changed me profoundly. I’m a better person for getting to be his Mom, and I will never let him go.

Jon's text:

When I first saw Drake I was instantly moved to tears, I had tried to connect with him before he was born but even when he kicked me from inside the womb as I was talking to him, I could not imagine the joy of seeing him cry for the first time. It then became my sole purpose in life to do all I could for him while he was with us. All that time he kept fighting and fighting to prove the Doctors wrong about his heart.

Losing him on Friday was the hardest thing I have ever been through in my life; I have never felt my heart physically ache as it did while I held him in the final moments of his life.

But Stacy and I know that his story did not end in the NICU. Earlier that week when we settled on Tuesday the 31st for his delivery I decided to start reading the Proverbs of the day fro my devotions, I went to Proverbs 31 for the date he would be born, it started

O my son, O son of my womb, O son of my vows.

That seemed appropriate enough, and then I read verses 8-9

Speak up for those who cannot speak for themselves; ensure justice for those being crushed. Yes, Speak up for the poor and helpless, and see that they get justice.

I hoped that maybe Drake would live a long life serving the poor and caring for the helpless. But after seeing the response he has created on social media and e-mail and around the world, I think he is doing that in his death.

Stacy and I have peace knowing that Drake was given all the best opportunities to live with the best Doctors and Facilities available, but God had a plan bigger than we can hope for. I don’t believe that it is just coincidence that on Friday Covenant Kids Congo was officially started, I feel like Drake’s life may have been an encouragement to us all to help the poor and helpless in his memory.

Thank you all again for the love and support you have shown Stacy and me over the past several days and weeks.

The song, Glory Baby, by Watermark, was preformed (again, beautifully) by a few of the members of the worship team from our church along with Jeffrey. Lyrics to this song are on previous blog post. If you haven't ever heard it, download it. It is amazingly perfect to express how we feel.

Thank you to everyone who attended Drake's service. It was a full house and it was wonderful to share his life with others. Also thanks to all those who have sent cards, flowers, and other gifts. Drake's life touched many, and we feel so blessed to be the chosen parents for this special little boy. Love him forever.

If you would like to make a donation in honor of Drake, please consider supporting one of the following organizations that help children in need:

Friday, February 3, 2012

Saying Good-Bye to Drake

Drake William Peterson

January 31, 2012 ~ February 3, 2012

Precious Baby Boy. We miss you already.

Glory Baby: By Watermark

Glory baby you slipped away as fast as we could say baby…baby..
You were growing, what happened dear?
You disappeared on us baby…baby..
Heaven will hold you before we do
Heaven will keep you safe until we’re home with you…
Until we’re home with you…

Miss you everyday
Miss you in every way
But we know there’s a
day when we will hold you
We will hold you
You’ll kiss our tears away
When we’re home to stay
Can’t wait for the day when we will see you
We will see you
But baby let sweet Jesus hold you
‘till mom and dad can hold you…
You’ll just have heaven before we do
You’ll just have heaven before we do

Sweet little babies, it’s hard to
understand it ‘cause we’re hurting
We are hurting
But there is healing
And we know we’re stronger people through the growing
And in knowing-
That all things work together for our good
And God works His purposes just like He said He would…
Just like He said He would…

I can’t imagine heaven’s lullabies
and what they must sound like
But I will rest in knowing, heaven is your home
And it’s all you’ll ever know…all you’ll ever know…