These dates now mark what was to be the beginning of the end. Jeremy was admitted for transplant on Monday, April 23rd, so Sunday, April 22nd was the last night we spent at home together as a family. I thought I’d share a few photos with you from that evening (most of which our friend, Andrea Monseth, captured).
Though we had done some prep for the possibility that Jeremy wouldn’t ever return home, we did more in preparation that he actually would. We set up a separate room for him; we discussed and anticipated what it might be like to do life with three young boys in a small home with a very sick dad; we talked about how I would be able to manage the house and the boys while also being a 24-hour caregiver to Jeremy. We had shifted our mindset (as we had done once before) from planning out weeks and months to taking each day as it came, knowing that nothing – absolutely nothing – would be predictable. We knew that Jeremy would likely return home sick, but we were expecting he’d at least make it home.
This weekend last year was saturated with God’s grace – there’s no other way to explain it. I’m so grateful for these images, capturing a moment in time and a season in life that is never to be again. And I am freshly aware of how much I need to be saturated in His grace again this year. It is tempting to cave in to the darkness once in a while, but we didn’t let it happen then and I don’t want to let it happen now.
We had been waiting for Jeremy’s admission for almost four months. As the time finally arrived, I was quite adamant (as was Jeremy) that we not add to the already present weight by letting the possibility of his death rob us of the joy and peace that was ours to have. It was hard enough to expect health and healing as an end result, let alone know we had to face terrible days before that health would be ours to claim. Had we allowed ourselves to enter into that weekend as though it was our last, we would not have been able to stand; I knew we couldn’t bear that. So we prayed (and you prayed). And we set our hearts in the best possible position so as to avoid carrying that burden.
We spent time at home with the boys. Playing. Packing. Jeremy spent some final hours in the studio. On Sunday, we took in the morning leisurely. Jeremy led us in family worship (something we had done often since he had been unable to worship in community for several weeks due to the risk of infection). That rare but sometimes present cynicism I have says, why the masks for all those weeks? Why housebound? He was spared from infection then but it did nothing to keep him from infection when it mattered most. But it was the right thing to do then. And luckily, Jeremy didn’t mind the solitude.
We had four of our friends spend that afternoon and evening with us. We played with the boys outside (as the grass was green) and hosted a shaving party so the boys could be a part of making Jeremy’s head bare (as opposed to having them face one more facet of Jeremy’s illness while he was in the hospital).
And then our friends, Ben and Andrea, spent that night with us. We knew we may need someone else here in the case that our hearts sank (which, by God’s grace, didn’t). But we also needed space. We needed to not carry anyone else’s fears or anxieties that night. Ben and Dre, though feeling everything deeply, were exactly what we needed. And it just so happened that Dre was nudged to sneak in and take this shot of us tucking in the boys. She told me recently that she had debated coming in, afraid of spoiling a holy moment. But I’m pretty sure she captured it. And I’m forever grateful.
And after that we said goodnight. Jeremy did some final packing. We went to sleep in peace. We awoke the next morning with grace. There was no dread. There ought to have been, but it was behind us. Instead it felt more like we were heading out on vacation–it was that kind of anticipation–and there is no reason for that except that we were being covered in prayer. Jeremy drove our happy boys to school that morning. We loaded up the car with his many belongings (he was obviously planning to move in there for a while). He wanted to make the hospital feel like home (which it never did). And we drove into Minneapolis that morning with the sun shining.
And then began the worst 49 days of our lives (at least from my perspective). I can count on one hand the good moments. There weren’t enough good moments.
It’s probably worth noting that Jeremy’s death, for me anyway, didn’t happen fully on June 10th. It happened a little bit every day in the weeks leading up to his death. I slowly said goodbye. And it was a hard goodbye–a goodbye that was complicated when, at the core, I was still hoping that life would win out. In this past year of grieving and adjusting to life as it is now, the memories of these seven weeks I rarely care to visit. If I catch myself thinking about the days we shared together in the hospital I quickly try to think of something else. Those memories kind of eat me up–they are heavy and painful.
So I ask for prayer for these coming weeks. I can’t anticipate (and I don’t care to) what this all is supposed to feel like. It will be whatever it needs to be. I have hopes and expectations that it won’t be as dark as last year, but grief is a strange and unpredictable companion. It feels now as though I’m climbing to June 10th, with no particular destination.
But I do know that God is guiding–that He knows where this is all going. He knows what He’s doing with my heart (and what still needs to be done) as well as with my life. And like I’ve said before, I trust Him. And though I know that you–out there–often feel that this grief from time to time must be unmanageable, it only becomes that way when I take my eyes off Him. So my goal in the next seven weeks is to not. To put my heart in that proper position and trust that His grace is just as sufficient for me now as it was a year ago.
And I will cling to the words Jeremy once wrote, I believe, the night before his admission: “I rest in the hands of He who holds the bruised reed and yet breaks it not; who’s held me ever and will forevermore.” (Amen)