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.

My Birthday Present

I’ve gotten to the point in life that when asked, “What do you want for your birthday,” I usually respond, ” Nothing.” I know this is a frustration to my wife and kids, but stuff is not as important to me, now. So, when my wife asked me THE question on Wednesday in anticipation of my birthday today, I got on Amazon.com and ordered a few camera accessories that should arrive in time for my birthday…not spending much because I’m not sure how much more I want to tie up in my current camera.

My birthday was shaping up to be a low-key affair with some lunch and supper plans with a few friends and family. However, as we know, plans can change in a second. Late last night, we got a text from our middle daughter, Katie, letting us know that she was having some issues with her pregnancy and that she was going to the hospital. Only about seven months along, her water had broken.

The news of her pregnancy originally came to us as she traveled back to Texas after having spent Christmas with us. She had not felt well the entire holiday, so she bought a pregnancy test in Kansas. It was positive. However, her feelings about the pregnancy were never really positive. After delivering her first child last September, this was an “unexpected” pregnancy. But beyond that, something didn’t feel right.

So, when at ten weeks the sonogram technician exited the exam room, saying she needed to get the doctor, my daughter’s feelings were confirmed. She was told that there appeared to be only fluid where the brain should be. While it was too early to conclusively diagnose, the couple was told that it was either anencephaly (absence of all or major part of the brain) or acrania (partial or total absence of the skull).

At that point the question had to be asked… terminate or carry this baby. We sought to instill in our daughters a respect for the sanctity of life and they have personally embraced that tenet of faith as their own. So, Katie and her husband, Daren, didn’t wrestle with that question; she would carry this child and trust God. We were grateful that the healthcare professionals truly supported them in this decision. As Katie sought God’s direction on how to pray for this child, she wrote:

The Spirit has only revealed to me to pray for Life… which could mean spiritual life for my non-Christian friend, life for another child from my baby’s organs, or life for my child.

As the months passed, a clearer diagnosis emerged; acrania, the skull was not forming, a condition that results in death at birth or soon afterward. They also discovered the child was a boy. Soon afterward, they met with a transplant specialist to consider options and discovered the point of viability for transplantation. The baby’s weight would need to be five pounds , so a C-section would be scheduled close to full term. Of course, my wife and I would plan to be there for the birth to have whatever time God might give us with our first grandson.

Those plans,however, all changed with the developments of last night. At 11:40 p.m., we received news that an emergency C-section would occur in the next few hours, giving us no opportunity to be with the kids at this critical time. Due to the premature delivery, transplants would not be possible, either.

As the midnight hour passed, it dawned on me that my first grandson was going to be born on my birthday. Although I would not see him this side of eternity, he would always be my “birthday buddy.” He would be my birthday present on reserve, a treasure in heaven I will one day behold AND hold, healed and whole.

Through a series of texts, I can only approximate that Silas was born between 2:00 a.m. and 3:30 a.m. He lived for about five minutes. Though we will grieve his short earthly life, we have hope that through Jesus Christ, Who is the way, the truth and the LIFE (John 14:6), Silas was welcomed into eternal joy and glory early this morning.

I’ll see you later, Silas! I look forward to unwrapping all that there will be to know of your experiences in the unfettered presence of the Lord!

– Love, Papa

POSTSCRIPT: A few days after my daughter had Silas, she gave a status update on Facebook. I wanted to add her words to this post –

I just wanted to say how unbelievably thankful I am for the prayers, thoughts, love, flowers, meals, and support my family has received over the past several days (and months)!

I am honored to have given Silas Lee 29 weeks of life in my womb and 6 minutes outside of it. His short, sweet life has forever changed Daren and me; we are eternally grateful for our son. Although the heartbreak is very real, God’s peace and absolute goodness through the months of suffering has been, oh how, indescribable.

Thank you again for all the love…we feel it!