Turning Grief into Growth: Silas Project

When people asks me how many grandchildren I have, I say, “Seven with one in heaven.” My first grandson, Silas (represented by the pewter hand in the picture*), was born prematurely in the sixth month of pregnancy with a profound birth defect (acrania) and lived a brief six minutes outside his mother, my middle daughter, Katie. He was also born on my birthday, June 6. He would have been three today!wpid-wp-1420422207908.jpeg

His unexpected and untimely birth prevented my wife and me from being with our daughter and her husband at the delivery. While we traveled the 12 hours to be with our kids the next day it was only days later that we viewed Silas at the funeral home before he was cremated. There was no finger grasp photo which I’ve been able to capture with all my other grands. No time to hold him while he still had the warmth of life. We missed the opportunity to weep and share those immediate moments after Silas’ death with the grieving parents and our other daughters who live in the same city and were at the hospital to support their sister and her husband.

Even as I type this, I find myself grieving some things that I’ve never vocalized. And that’s the way grief is. It is unpredictable, coming in unexpected waves and catching you off guard. If you are fortunate, you aren’t knocked off your feet. There is a momentary, unbalanced stumble. Other times, however, you are swept into the ocean of despair in an undertow, and you wonder if you are going to make it back to the safety and normality of life as it was. The reality is that there is no “life as it was” and that’s okay. Healthy grief will cause growth and productivity, despite the pain and sorrow of loss. Lessons can be learned and shared. Help can be given to others. Comfort received can become comfort shared.

Praise be to the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of compassion and the God of all comfort, who comforts us in all our troubles, so that we can comfort those in any trouble with the comfort we ourselves receive from God.~ 2 Corinthians 1:3-4 (NASB)

Out of the experience of the loss of Silas, my youngest daughter, Laura, in collaboration with her sisters and some friends, have launched Silas Project, an online community to help parents who have suffered a pregnancy loss. Inspired by the challenges she observed her sister and brother-in-law go through in the death of Silas, as well as the challenge she experienced in understanding how best to help, Laura wanted a place that would:

  1. Connect parents through their stories and experiences.
  2. Encourage and foster healthy grief, healing and growth.
  3. Allow parents to experience the joy and pride of honoring these precious children
  4. AND to equip friends and family to walk through these seasons with tenderness and care.

So, if you have experienced a pregnancy loss, please check out this website and share it with others who have faced or are facing the potential loss of a child. Let your grief turn into something that brings growth and strength.

You will find Katie and Daren’s Written Story linked here. Their story is also in video format on the website. Below is Laura’s video giving the overview of the project.

Introducing Silas Project from Laura on Vimeo.

*The collage needs to be updated to include our seventh grandchild, Finn, Katie and Daren’s third child and second son.

A Christmas Eve Memory

It was shaping up to be a stress-free Christmas. For the first time ever, my wife, Myra, had prepared most of the Christmas dinner and fix-in’s ahead, so it would just be a matter of warming things up on Christmas day. All the shopping was finished and presents were laura-age-8wrapped. My parents were spending the holidays with us (a rare treat). It looked like we were going to have a wonderful Christmas celebration on Wednesday, December 25, 1991.
However, our youngest daughter got sick on the way to her piano recital on the previous Saturday and by that evening, she was showing classic symptoms of appendicitis. I took her to the hospital emergency room and after several tests, she was diagnosed with a urinary tract infection. I stopped at the all-night Walgreens on Park and S Highland on the way home and immediately got her started on the antibiotics.
The next morning while I was at church with the other girls, Myra said that Laura had some excruciating pain and then it subsided. She continued to be lethargic, however, and worsened the next day. A call to the nurse at our pediatrician resulted in an encouragement to be patient and let the antibiotics work.
On Tuesday, Christmas Eve, Laura did not move off the couch. She had no appetite and no energy. My brother-in-law, an ER doctor in Little Rock, called that evening to check on her. He insisted that we return immediately to the hospital. Fortunately, my parents were there to care for the older girls while Myra and I bundled up Laura and headed to Baptist East Hospital in Memphis.
A pediatric surgeon was at the hospital that night and informed us that we had a “very sick little girl” whose appendix had likely ruptured (on Sunday morning), and she needed immediate surgery. Of course, we consented and at 11 p.m. on Christmas Eve, she went into surgery. The appendix had ruptured, necessitating a longer than normal surgery. However, by 4 a.m. on Christmas morning she was in a room, and I went home to play “Santa” to the older girls. We opened presents. Then, with homemade sweet rolls already made, we had our traditional Christmas breakfast. My mother was given  instructions on all the dishes to warm up for dinner, and the girls and I took Laura’s presents to the hospital for her to open.
It didn’t take us long to realize that in God’s providence, He had helped even this stressful time to be a little less chaotic as the Christmas meals were prepared, presents wrapped, my parents presence to take care of our other daughters and the pediatric surgeon ready to go. Most importantly, my brother-in-law’s phone call on Christmas Eve may have saved our precious little eight year old’s life.

Preparing to See the “Ivory Palaces”

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Saying goodbye to two of the hospice nursing team members as she “graduated” in March.

I sit in a hospice family room this afternoon, hearing the raspy breathing of my mother in the other room. We’ve already been through this once when back in January she was placed in hospice for palliative care because of uncontrollable seizure activity. After a two month stay, she improved enough to “graduate” to assisted living.

In one way this was a step-down from her earlier independent living, but it was two steps-up from hospice. She adjusted well, but the seizure activity began again, resulting in a nursing home placement for 10 days. She showed some improvement with rehab but with another round of seizure episodes, she was ready to return to hospice for tender loving care, almost exactly three months from her previous discharge.

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“Bunny” holding #31 of 32 great-grandkids

We were grateful for those three months. It allowed us to celebrate her 95th birthday (see Celebrating the Gift of Our Matriarch); she made new friends and caught up with a few old ones, who had moved from her retirement apartment to assisted living; and, she got to meet her newest great-grandchildren, my daughter’s twins. Additionally, she continued to serve the Lord through her witness of faith in church and community. I am on a rotation of ministers who go to the nursing homes, and though I usually accompany myself on the guitar when we sing hymns, she played the organ for me at assisted living while she was a resident. It was nice to have her play for me one last time.

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The “Proposal” recreated!

Mom was a music teacher. A graduate of Grinnell College in Iowa, her first teaching assignment was in Seymour Iowa, where she taught music. It was there she met my dad, who taught business classes in the high school. He joined the Navy in 1943, and they were soon married. She never taught school after that, having begun to raise a family of five, four daughters and a son. However, her music training was not wasted as she sang in church choirs and ensembles and played piano and organ in a several churches.

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Mom and “Chucky Baby” (not to be confused with Chucky’s baby)

Additionally, she supplemented the family income by giving private piano and voice lessons in our home for a number of years. Almost every day, I came home from elementary school to hear the sound of inexperienced pianists playing their scales and struggling through simple songs.

Her playing and singing, however, were exceptional. I remember lying under the baby grand piano while she played, watching the action of the pedal as it moved the dampers up and down and letting the melodies cascade down from the sound board onto my ears. There were other times when I listened from my room to her rehearsals with my sisters, who formed a gospel quartet and occasionally sang at the local V.A. hospital chapel services on Sunday mornings. She even accompanied me as a child, though never for public consumption as I recall. My earliest recollection was at age 5, singing the chorus of the ragtime love song, “O, You Beautiful Doll”:

Oh! you beautiful doll, You great big beautiful doll!
Let me put my arms about you,
I could never live without you;
Oh! you beautiful doll, You great big beautiful doll!
If you ever leave me how my heart will ache,
I want to hug you but I fear you’d break
Oh, oh, oh, oh, Oh, you beautiful doll!

I’m sure I would have been a YouTube sensation if it had been around in 1961.

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“Bunny” giving a great-granddaughter a piano lesson.

As my voice matured, she encouraged me to sing a few songs at church with her as my accompanist. One of those songs was on my mind as I awoke this morning after spending the night close to her bed at the hospice house – “Ivory Palaces.” Before singing it with her

I had never heard the song, but it became a favorite. The writer, Henry Barraclough, wrote this song after hearing a sermon on Psalm 45, a royal wedding song with a secondary application to the Messiah. As with most hymns, there is a progression – a story told. The song speaks of the glorious nature of Christ, but acknowledges the suffering He bore on the cross because of humanity’s sin. However, the new life in Christ brings salvation from sin’s bondage and leads to an everlasting presence before the Jesus Christ the Lord. The last stanza speaks of that ultimate hope and reward for the believer. These are the words to which I awoke and hope for my mother’s imminent awareness:

In garments glorious He will come,
To open wide the door;
And I shall enter my heav’nly home,
To dwell forevermore.
Out of the ivory palaces, Into a world of woe,
Only His great eternal love Made my Savior go.

And so life goes. We prepare for the death of our “great big beautiful doll” of a mother, for whom our hearts will ache when she leaves. However, we know that we will sing together with her again as we look forward to the fulfillment of our hope in Christ Jesus and His promise of eternal life.

Dear friends, we are God’s children now, and what we will be has not yet been revealed. We know that when He appears, we will be like Him because we will see Him as He is. And everyone who has this hope in Him purifies himself just as He is pure.

1 John 3:2-3 (HCSB*)


*Holman Christian Standard Bible (HCSB) Copyright © 1999, 2000, 2002, 2003, 2009 by Holman Bible Publishers, Nashville Tennessee. All rights reserved.

Survivor Spotlight: Nan Snow and Lee Spindler

Proud of my big sis, Lee, and the courageous survivor and advocate for breast cancer research and detection she has been. Also, I am grateful for her special cadre of survivors, like Nan Snow, who wrote the following blog posted on the Komen Arkansas Blog!

Survivor Spotlight: Nan Snow and Lee Spindler.