Thursday, January 19, 2017
Part 9: "My eulogy for Rowan"
Writing a eulogy for your child is something none of us ever plans to do, or wants to do. But while planning Rowan's funeral it was never a question of whether I would speak...only what would I say. He wasn't just my son, my youngest, my baby...he was my best friend. I spent more time with him than with anyone else, rarely if ever leaving his side, especially when he was in the hospital. In the 6 months prior to his death, I only left the hospital 2 times, and even then, I drove less than a half mile down the road for 30-45 minutes each time. That is less than 2 hours that I was away from him in his last 4320 hours on this Earth. And the first ten years, I took him to every doctor appointment, every infusion clinic day, stayed in the hospital with him every single one of those 1500+ days he was hospitalized in San Antonio. I owed it to him, to honor him with my words at his service. As afraid as I was, I had to be brave...for Rowan.
I wasn't at a loss for words. I actually had too many words. I wasn't sure which part of his amazing life to focus on. He had so many messages (of faith, hope, and love), where would I begin? I began by looking through old blog posts, notes on my phone, notebooks of his quotes, post-it notes next to my bed (for all those late night Rowan epiphanies), memos in my email on my laptop, etc. And suddenly, the eulogy began writing itself.
Below is a copy of my final notes for the eulogy, the papers I took to the church with me to read. Now, I know I did not say everything on here word for word...I became too emotional at times. And I know I added or paraphrased some things too. But I also know that this contains most everything I said up there on stage at his service. I did my best to honor his life, explain his death, while showing that he was ready, not afraid...actually never afraid, and that he had been preparing me his entire life...and was continuing to guide me now.
In case you missed the service...
Here is the outline for my memorial dedication to my son, my baby, Rowan:
1. Rowan’s last days…he was ready to go.
We all know how difficult Rowan’s life was, medically speaking.
Most recently…during the last 6 months, while away in Seattle:
He had been away from Texas for 168 days.
He had been inpatient for 146 days.
He was Day + 133 from his first transplant. He was Day +58 from his second transplant.
He had been in ICU for 61 days straight.
What this little boy endured just during that time alone was incomprehensible, more than what most of our families collectively will ever experience in our entire lifetime.
Still, somehow, he seemed invincible. How many of us said, “If anyone can do this, Rowan can.” Or, “imagine how great his testimony is going to be after he beats all of this”.
But Rowan was indeed human, just a little boy. The suffering eventually caught up with him. He was tired. He was weak. He was done.
One of the last two alert interactions I had with him, was when he was about to be intubated for the final time, 4 days before he passed. He told me “let them do it, let them put the tube in, I’m tired…I’m tired of all of this…I just want peace and quiet” and he waved his hands at all of the monitors and all of the staff in his room staring at them.
3 days later, just after they revived him from his cardiac arrest. He reached up, and wiped my tears. HE WIPED MY TEARS. I told him I loved him, that Brian, Zoe and Ian loved him, and that the doctors were about to try to put him on ECMO, that everyone in the room was trying to save him. I asked him if he was scared...he shook his head no. I asked him if he knew he was going to be ok…he nodded yes. I asked him why, through a wall of my own tears. He mouthed (over the breathing tube), “God and Jesus”. I nodded and told him that I loved him. He mouthed, “I love you too”.
Rowan had not walked in over 2 months. His kidneys had not worked in that long either. The amount of antibiotics, antifungals and antivirals he was on, and blood products he was requiring was astounding. He could not breathe on his own that week. He could not talk. His liver was sick. And in the end, his heart and lungs failed as well.
Rowan was ready to go. But Rowan was NEVER scared. Not even in the end.
2. See, Rowan was actually ALWAYS ready to go.
Don’t get me wrong, Rowan loved his life, that we all know! But, I documented dozens of times that Rowan mentioned his desire to meet Jesus, or to get to heaven, or described how happy his friends were in heaven. It has been one of the main sources of comfort for me.
Here are excerpts from just a few of those conversations:
“How did God create all these different types of Big Foot, Nessie, bugs, animals and people? He’s amazing…so creative. I can’t wait to meet him. He can really give me great ideas of things to draw when I’m bored.”
“Life is great! But I think Heaven is gonna be even better. Because in Heaven, I won’t have a line or a tube anymore, and I get to see Chrissie and Harley and your uncle Joe. And I’m pretty sure I’ll get to eat pancakes in Heaven.”
“Mom, I’m not afraid to go to Heaven. Justin was so strong and happy there, and he wasn’t sick anymore. I think God gives me these dreams of Heaven so I’m not afraid when I get there…”
While talking to us about going to Seattle for transplant: “Mom, I’ll be okay … either way.”
(after me telling him that the next day, transplant day #1, was going to be the best day ever) “No it’s not. The best day ever will be the day I meet God.”
Rowan was not just excited! He visited heaven so often in his dreams. He couldn’t wait to get there. That brings me comfort.
3. Rowan is reminding me how to move forward now.
Leaving Seattle without Rowan, waking up without him, figuring out how to live without Rowan, has been next to impossible. But thank God, he has constantly reminded me how I can and should move forward. Here are just a few of the conversations, some of them from many years ago, that I feel were actually Rowan preparing me for this journey now.
Less than 5 years old “Faith is believing God and believing in God…no matter what. He makes good things happen, bad things happen, and okay things happen. He lets bad things happen sometimes, so we can help other people. If nothing bad ever happened, we wouldn’t have any compassion. Having faith is knowing God is always by your side. I didn’t learn faith, I was just born with it. It’s easy to have faith. It’s harder not to. If I didn’t have faith, my life would be sad and miserable.” (Rowan never felt his life was sad and miserable..he loved it with every fiber of his being)
Psalm 46 Be still and know that I am God… Rowan drew a picture of him sighing as he walked up to Chrissie’s casket. He was 9 when he drew it. He was 3 when experienced it. Still, this is the first image that came to his mind as he drew a picture of what this Psalm meant to him. (For a 9 year old to know how relevant that verse is during periods of grief is one thing, then for him to remember experiencing it himself at 3 years old??? Wow!)
(6 months after Jalene’s death) "180 days with Jesus! 180 days of no pokes. 180 days of no pain. 180 days of no medicine. 180 days of no Cancer. 180 days of Jalene smiling next to Jesus. I'm going to try to think of it that way." (23 days with Jesus, 23 days with no pokes, 23 days with no pain. 23 days of no medicine. 23 days of Rowan smiling next to Jesus. Try thinking of it that way…and you will see things how Rowan saw things…and you will see how much it helps.)
(after visiting Julian’s graveside with his family) “When I pass away, please promise me you’ll only think happy thoughts.”
(after praying at Chrissie’s memory leaf) "I wish everybody had their whole families here still for Christmas...but can you imagine what Heaven is like on Christmas!" Then his eyes just sparkled as he smiled and said, "Christmas with Jesus..." (You got your Christmas with Jesus Rowan. I bet it was amazing.)
4. Living without Rowan, is the closest thing to living without oxygen I have ever experienced. It hurts. It physically hurts. To have been given the gift of such a bright, brilliant, joyful, faith filled child… who taught me (and countless others) every single day of his life…and then have that light extinguished…I didn’t know how to handle that. The loss was too great.
Then I realized…I could not figure it out all on my own. So, I started listening to videos of Rowan, recounting stories, rereading the blog, etc. and I realized that not only had God already written this, but Rowan helped write it too. The quotes that I just read…Rowan spoke, but God gave him those messages.
All along, I had thought those words had been to help Rowan cope with his losses…but apparently, they were also to help us cope with the loss of Rowan’s life now. I’m listening God. Thank you for your message of Hope, even in the darkest of times. I’m listening Rowan. And “Every day…I will get stronger!”
I love you and I miss you Rowan, so very much.