This year I’ve shed many tears and come face to face with death and disease and the stark reality that things are not as they should be. But that was not the way I entered 2016. In fact, I rang in 2016 by kissing my husband and cheerfully telling him it was a good year to have some more babies. Yes, Babies. Plural. Because less than a year after welcoming our first child, Paul, we were blessed by not one but two more little forms on the ultrasound. Identical twin boys. When the shock began to fade, the excitement and planning began and increased with every complication-free week that passed. Twins frequently come early, especially the kind I was carrying with a shared placenta. So when I was still pregnant at 34 weeks, my anxiety over pre-term birth started to recede.
However, just a few days later our twins, Joshua and Nathan, were born at 34.5 weeks after a horrible labor and birthing experience that stood in stark contrast to the beautiful, dignifying water birth of my first. I wasn’t even allowed to visit my babies in the NICU for their first 48 hours of life because there were concerns that I might have a stomach virus and put other babies at risk. And two days after their birth, not long after we were finally reunited, I watched my newborn son Nathan die.
In a matter of hours, my twins went from facing “normal premie issues” to a fast and furious array of confusing symptoms taking over first Nathan’s body and then Joshua’s. I watched a medical team working over Nathan’s lifeless body as I prayed and screamed and cried out to God not to take him. And then begged God to please, please bring him back.
I watched as Joshua’s body began to mirror the same symptoms that so rapidly led to Nathan’s death. We learned Nathan died from E. Coli Sepsis and Joshua fought the same bacterial infection, but because Nathan’s symptoms manifested first, we were able to react faster with Joshua’s care. By some merciful mystery, Joshua was spared and the high doses of strong antibiotics did their job. But there is so much more we will never know. So many more questions that I have to be content with not knowing their answers. How and Why and What and again the why, why, why?
Joshua spent 17 days in the hospital before we brought him home. Instead of coming home from the hospital into the life of twin-parenting we had been dreaming of and preparing for for months, we swung by Nathan’s freshly-dug grave and continued living in the now-familiar tension of grieving Nathan’s death and celebrating Joshua’s health.
Then we went home, but only for a few hours before we were back at that same hospital. Our 15 month old Paul was diagnosed with Type 1 Diabetes and in a dangerous state of Diabetic Ketoacidosis. We exchanged the NICU for the PICU but it was much the same blur— doctors and nurses and not being certain if our child would make it through the night.
Thanks be to God that Paul’s medical team diagnosed his Type 1 Diabetes and started him on the life-saving insulin therapy that he will need every day for the rest of his life, or until a cure is found. There’s no diet or lifestyle change that could have prevented this auto-immune disease and there’s no treatment other than insulin. He won’t grow out of it or go into remission or get any break until we have a cure.
So I’m ending this year much differently than I began it. I’ve tasted the residue left by death, evil, and disease and now this season has an added flavor of grief as well as the taxing responsibility of trying to “manage” an unruly, ever-changing Monster that is diabetes (in my oft-unruly, ever-changing, but quite adorable Toddler).
God is making all things new. But things are not yet as they should be. And Advent is a season where we recognize the tension of already accomplished redemption through Jesus but the not yet full realization thereof. We look forward to celebrating His first coming on Christmas as we are also waiting for his return to earth to fully eradicate the hard, sad things.
This Advent as we look forward to celebrating Jesus’ coming as a baby in a stable, we’re also eagerly awaiting the day of His Second coming and the redemption he will bring as far as the curse is found. He is our hope.
Come, Lord Jesus. Come and make all things new.
QUESTIONS FOR REFLECTION/ APPLICATION:
- Although you may not have experienced the loss of a child or raising a child with a chronic illness, what are some of the ways that you have experienced that results of the "curse" of the fall in your own family? This can be a simple as skinning their knee, getting the flu, or being in pain.
- How does the promise that one day God will wipe every tear from our eyes, and the promise that he is making all things new, change the way that re receive the sickness and death of our children?
Emily Euliss is the mama of three boys, including a toddler who needs help filling in for his Pancreas and a set of identical twins (one of whom is in heaven). Emily is married to her middle school sweetheart and is an outlier in most other demographic categories, too. She's selectively "crunchy," prefers her Kraft Easy Mac cold or reheated, and loves to eradicate Comic Sans font for the glory of God.