Laying Them Down

January 16, 2004, was the date we flew our son, Alex, to the Minneapolis Children’s Hospital. It was a scary time for us and a time full of many unknowns. The date is etched into my heart and my mind forever. It’s an odd thing to explain, but my body somehow knows the date is coming up and starts reacting differently…almost like a subconscious reaction to the trauma.

Alex went through so much those first few days. It hurts my heart as I can still hear his cry as they tried to get an iv into him. I was out in the hallway trying not to listen to my baby screaming, knowing I couldn’t do a thing about it. I left the room because I was too emotional to watch it and the room was crowded with nurses. There wasn’t room for me. I often ask myself the question, “Did he wonder where his mommy was? The one who could calm him down?” I pray he didn’t feel that way, but I have no way of knowing. The guilt still gets to me that I left him while he was having something painful done to him. They finally had to call a doctor to place the iv…none of the nurses could get it. I’m assuming it’s because he was dehydrated (unbeknownst to me). Knowing they had to call the doctor scared me even more.

The doctor got the iv in and they started with many meds, which I prayed would help him. I had no idea what we were dealing with or even how to deal with it. I could hardly wait for Daniel to get there to be with us.

The next morning Alex was scheduled for surgery to put a shunt in his head which would drain the excess fluid that had been building up and causing so much pressure. I remember standing in his room as they rolled his crib away, and I actually said aloud, “Just take my baby from me then. Just take him.” I spoke in a sarcastic tone, as we didn’t know if he would even survive this surgery. I was upset as they wheeled him away. (Yes, they knew I didn’t actually mean it…this was just my way of telling them that I hated the situation and I wanted to be with my son.) But he had to go.

When his surgery was finished, I wasn’t quite expecting what I saw. I won’t go into all of the details today, but the shunt was draining externally into a canister. He had to be lying at a certain height so the fluid wouldn’t drain back into his brain. There were so many machines and tubes and wires. I was overwhelmed at the sight of him. But again, I knew they were doing what was best for him. How could I truly say no to that?

As I was reading in Genesis this weekend, I read about God asking Abraham to sacrifice his son, Isaac. Isaac was his first born son (he did have others with other women/wives), but Isaac was special to Abraham. To obey God, he had to take Isaac up the mountain to the place where he could sacrifice him.

Along the way, Isaac asked Abraham where the lamb was that they were going to sacrifice. What could Abraham say? That Isaac was about to killed? Abraham’s response was, “God himself will provide the lamb for the burnt offering, my son.” He left his servants a little ways back and carried on climbing the mountain with Isaac as he saw the sacrificial area up ahead.

I can’t imagine what was going through Abraham’s mind. I mean, I would’ve needed some major anti-anxiety meds to get through that one. He prepared the area for the sacrifice, bound Isaac and laid him on top of the altar. He was prepared to give his pride and joy…his first born son…as a gift to the Lord.

I know it’s so very different, but at times I felt as though we were sacrificing Alex at some points in his short cancer journey. Making decisions for Alex’s healthcare like deciding on his Do Not Resuscitate order were awful most of the time. Well, awful doesn’t even begin to describe it. But we knew, as I believe Abraham knew, if we were to follow and obey God, we would have to give our son back to Him, as much as we wanted to keep him on earth to be with us. For us it looked quite differently than in the days of Abraham. Nonetheless, it crushed my heart knowing we had to let him go for Alex’s sake and for him to be fully healed.

Just as Abraham took his knife that was going to be used to kill Isaac, the Lord stopped him. He saw how faithful Abraham was at that very moment and allowed him to keep Isaac alive. Lone behold, there in the thicket was a ram. That is just typical of God to provide what we need when we need it…out of nowhere, isn’t it? So instead of sacrificing Isaac, he was able to sacrifice the ram instead. Abraham found favor with God because of his willingness to obey Him at whatever cost. Even the cost of his first born son.

Unfortunately, as some of you know, Alex didn’t survive. However, the miracles God performed, the way He prepared us to say good-bye (the best you could ever actually prepare in that situation), and God being present with us the entire time were comforting. Part of me believes God was watching to see what we would do: fight until we couldn’t anymore or allow God to take Alex home. To be honest, His Word and His promises were what kept us going. They were what allowed us to lay Alex down knowing that his heart could stop the minute we stepped out to use the restroom. Thankfully it didn’t and we were there as a family of four as he passed. But to me, I was sacrificing our son in order for our faith in God to grow…and Isaiah’s faith to grow.

The conversations we had as we prepared for his death for three months were/are invaluable. What we could teach Isaiah at such a young age was amazing. Isaiah’s faith grew just as ours grew. What a blessing in the middle of the biggest loss we would ever face.

The peace, comfort, and love we felt as Alex was dying was incredible. Had we decided to go against what we believed God wanted, I truly don’t believe we would’ve survived it. But as Abraham laid Isaac down for his faith, so did we…in a way. We were willing, even though our hearts were being ripped apart, to offer Alex back to God. (This is not a “yay me!” moment. I promise. It was excruciating, but we had no choice.) It was heart wrenching and more painful than I could have ever imagined. But by the grace and mercy of God, we survived it…and still are. He is the only reason we are here today. His faithfulness to get us through our grief is indescribable. I have to believe Abraham felt the same way as he was allowed to keep His son. In both of our circumstances, God was present and God had a plan that we didn’t understand.

What I believe God may have been doing was watching Abraham, and then Dan and I, walk in obedience. Sometimes walking in obedience to what God is asking you to do feels impossible. But with God there….helping us along…comforting us in the depths of the night…and reassuring us that we will be okay, was truly love. He knew our pain, He allowed it, but He never once walked away from us while we were facing this loss, just as He was always with Abraham.

Is there anything you need to lay at the altar and sacrifice to God? Is there a problem you’ve been trying to handle on your own? Is there a secret you’ve been keeping that needs to be laid down and surrendered? It doesn’t have to be a child, as these stories show. It can be anything you idolize more than God. Anything that takes the place of God is an idol. (And friends, I’m pointing right back at me…) Let’s go to the altar and release it to Him, walk away knowing God is with us to help us through it all, and let’s be free from that bondage.

5 Comments

  1. Connie Rucinski

    Those were reassuring words I remember the words you wrote as you walked the road journey not knowing where it would take you next But the faith and love was evident. The love ran strong. As I felt it and now I know these words help you heal Talking about it writing always helps the heart and soul I’m thankful for your journey that helped my journey Peace and love my friend Your words are a work of love and faith Praise God

    Reply
    • Rochelle Bauer

      Thank you, Connie. It is therapeutic for me when I write about it. (Usually) It was a hard road, but I know we’re not the only ones who have walked it…like Abraham and Isaac. Oh, I have so much to learn from God’s Word! Hope you’re doing well. Thanks for commenting, friend!

      Reply
  2. Theresa Boedeker

    I am so sorry for your loss. What a hard time you had. It is easy to forget that God hasn’t left us during hard times, and that he is there every step of the way. Preparing us for the next step. Holding our hand. And feeling our pain. This is so comforting to know, and something I have to remind myself. But when I do, such comfort it brings me. Thanks for sharing your story and encouraging others.

    Reply
    • rochelleb@me.com

      Thank you for your kind and encouraging words, Theresa! I appreciate your sympathy. Your words are so true…sometimes we can wonder where He is if we don’t feel Him during the hard times. But I have to trust He is there…preparing us for the next step, like you said. He has been so far! Bless you and thank you for the honest message. 💓

      Reply
  3. Shawn Therese O'Neill

    oh my gosh Rochelle, thanks for sharing your heartwrenching story of grief. it helps me as I have guilt over similar things like you mentioned (being out of the room at a time of my loved ones suffering before death) such a beautiful message God has given you the desire to share.

    Reply

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