Today is International Pregnancy and Infant Loss Remembrance Day. In honor of this special day, I would love to share a very special family with you! I do not know this family personally but they are a local family here in my community and I have been so touched by their story. I will have a full story about them later on but I wanted to share just a little bit of their story with you because I think they are so inspirational. They recently lost their infant son to Potter's Syndrome. Potter's Syndrome is a rare disease that is incompatible with life, making it impossible for a baby to live outside of the womb. Most babies born with this disease die within minutes to a couple of days after their birth. I don't know how many mothers out there could carry a baby knowing that he/she would be born with such a fate but this family carried this child as long as they could so that another baby might have a chance at life. Never have I read of such selflessness in all of my life. Josseph was alive for just 71 minutes on this Earth but in that 71 minutes, he made such an impact on everyone around him. These are the amazing words shared at the Celebration of Life service by his mother, Wendy.
Wendy's words from Josseph's Celebration of Life Service:
I am lucky enough to get to teach a Leadership Class at Celina High School. With each new class I introduce the poem THE DASH to them on the first day. This poem is about finding meaning, purpose and value in the time you have on Earth between the dates of your birth and your death. If you visualize a headstone, it is literally the DASH this
poem is referencing. I almost didn’t do the lesson with the poem this trimester. It took me four weeks to convince myself I could do it. I hesitated because, if what I was really trying to teach them was true, then did that mean Josseph’s life wouldn’t have any meaning, purpose or value because he wouldn’t have a dash?
Reflecting back on the 92 days I have lived with the knowledge that Josseph’s time on Earth would be brief, I think it is accurate to say a metamorphosis has occurred. In all honesty, I’ve spent 34 years of my life IN SCHOOL, focused on receiving and then giving the gift of knowledge. But I have learned more about family, friends, community, faith, courage, strength, compassion, and most importantly, the meaning of love, in the past 92 days than my entire life combined. And that, I owe to Josseph.
We hear the sayings all the time, “Everything happens for a reason” and “God doesn’t give you more than you can handle.” 91 days ago I couldn’t come up with a reason why this would happen to our fifth child, and as for God, well, I thought he was wrong too. He must have me mixed up with someone else if he thought I could handle THIS.
As I searched for a way to understand what was happening, a book we read in my English 10 classroom is Tuesday’s With Morrie, a book that focuses on the meaning of LIFE, came to mind. Morrie Schwartz, an elderly teacher, shares life lessons with a student as he faces death from ALS. One of my favorite quotes from Morrie is “Death ends a life, not a relationship.” So, In August we created a Birth Plan for Josseph and met with all of the important people at Miami Valley Hospital. I placed that quote at the top of Josseph’s birth plan. I wanted the doctors and nurses to understand that even though the clinical diagnosis for Potter’s Syndrome is “incompatible with life”, we planned to have a relationship with our child. He would be important and his life would have meaning. I think that is why having this Celebration of LIFE tonight to honor Josseph is so important to us and we are so thankful all of you are here to share in it with our family.
The more Josseph moved and kicked inside me, the more my perspective shifted. Although it was a constant reminder that his time with us would be brief, and that was a very sad thought, it was also a wake-up call that YES, his time with us would be brief and it was my job to make every moment matter. At school every day over our video announcements someone reads Words of Wisdom, which end with “Make it a great day or not, the choice is yours”. When you hear the same line, same quote, day after day for two years it tends to lose power and meaning. However, for me, it finally made total sense. I could spend every day engulfed in sadness and despair, or I could make the very most of the time our family was given to spend with Josseph.
Looking back, there were so many things we did as a family since his conception in February. How awesome is it that he was here, with us, resting right under my heart, for all six birthdays in our family! He was also with us in June on a spur of the moment trip to the Outer Banks, where our family has vacationed together the past ten years. This year wasn’t a scheduled year, but thanks to Daddy’s last minute idea, Josseph was able to share that experience as well! Josseph went with us to the Zoo, swim meets, Jumpy’s, where he helped me play a mean game of lazer tag with his siblings, to a girl scout family pool party, an Indoor Waterpark, a Children’s Museum, several soccer games (where he kicked like crazy !), he even went with me on my “first” day of school this year – experiencing his own FIRST DAY of school too.
Throughout this journey, I kept reminding myself that I am the mom, the teacher, I need to lead by example. But what was really happening was I had become the student, and Josseph had become my teacher. He was teaching me to look at life in a different way and to make the most out of the little things. And day by day, as Josseph drew me closer to God, I started to believe that God just might have been right about me after all. I know in speaking with Jeff, my parents, my sister, and some very dear friends – Josseph wasn’t just my teacher. He has taught us to make the very best of even the worst of situations, and the true meaning of unconditional love.
In closing, I want to share the poem The Dash with all of you. Josseph has brought us all here together tonight, and I believe he is not done making an impact on our lives. He wasn’t given the opportunity to have a “DASH” like we all have, and I think he wants us to make the most of ours!
The Dash – by Linda Ellis
I read of a man who stood to speak
at the funeral of a friend
he referred to the dates on her tombstone
from the beginning to the end
He noted that first came the date of her birth
and spoke the following date with tears,
but he said what mattered most of all
was the dash between those years
For that dash represents all the time
that she spent alive on earth.
and now only those who loved her
know what that little line is worth.
For it matters not how much we own;
the cars, the house, the cash,
what matters is how we live and love
and how we spend our dash.
So think about this long and hard.
are there things you’d like to change?
for you never know how much time is left,
that can still be rearranged.
If we could just slow down enough
to consider what’s true and real
and always try to understand
the way other people feel.
And be less quick to anger,
and show appreciation more
and love the people in our lives
like we’ve never loved before.
If we treat each other with respect,
and more often wear a smile
remembering that this special dash
might only last a little while.
So, when your eulogy is being read
with your life’s actions to rehash
would you be proud of the things they say
about how you spent your dash?
Please visit Josseph's Tears of Joy today. "Like" them and leave them an encouraging word and let them know how AMAZING they are! I am sure they would love to hear from you!!!