The following is a post from my husband, Dave. He is going to post a 2-3 part entry regarding his experience with the death of our son, Turner. This is part 1:
This is the first half of a journal entry I made. Due to the length, I’ll share the second half at a later date.
March 28, 2017
Today, we buried our son, Turner. This isn’t where the story ends or begins. Over the past year, things have been wonderful for us. I have a great job, Desiree and I are very happy with our church responsibilities, and the kids are great, as always. The kids are doing exceptionally well.
Last July, Reagan began complaining about some pain in her feet. We took her to a specialist who discovered a birth defect in her feet, which is treated and remedied with physical therapy. On the day of her first visit to the specialist, August 1, we found out we were pregnant with our fifth child. Reagan began physical therapy which became part of her daily routine.
Thomas was also excelling. He thrived at Cub Scouts, where he earned many badges and awards. He seemed inclined toward mechanics and engineering. People from church donated a broken lawn mower and chainsaw for him to take apart and tinker with. He participated in his first Pinewood Derby at Cub Scouts. He’s a good, compassionate, talented young man.
Then, there’s Scout. Where do I begin? Scout is a vibrant, beaming ray of sunshine. There was never anyone more deserving of being a princess. She’s says the funniest things, sometimes.
And there’s Andrew, our thirty pound stick of dynamite. He’s adorable, but rough as a cob.
That was our life. Work, school, family, karate, church, repeat. It was heavenly. (It still is.) We’d built a coup and bought chickens, made improvements to our home and improvements to our lives. Things were hectic, but wonderful.
Desiree was pregnant again and we were also excited about that. She didn’t want to find out what we were having and I reluctantly agreed. We decided on Turner if it was a boy and Evelyn if it were a girl. I was fortunate enough to make most of Desiree’s appointments. In October, I was offered a job in private practice, which I started in January. The holidays came and went. Christmas 2016 was the best one, yet. I started the new job, received a windfall settlement from the VW diesel emissions scandal, etc. Things were great.
On Wednesday, March 22, the folks at my office threw a baby shower for Desiree and our office manager, who was also pregnant and due in May.
On Thursday, March 23, Desiree had an appointment at the doctor. She was nearly 38 weeks pregnant and she and the baby were just fine. After the appointment, Desiree, Andrew and I had lunch (although Andrew refused to eat), I returned to work and that evening we took the kids to karate.
The next morning, March 24, while I was at work, Desiree called, frantic. She said she hadn’t felt the baby move, couldn’t find his heartbeat and was on her way to the hospital. I told her that everything was fine and that she needed to calm down if she was driving. I likewise raced to the hospital, but was sure everything was fine. I was wrong.
When we arrived at the hospital, the nurses immediately used an ultrasound to locate the baby’s heartbeat. There wasn’t one. They continued to work at a quick pace. I noticed that as one nurse searched using the ultrasound, the two others began looking at each other, concerned. Desiree was crying and through sobs saying, “Please, baby…move! Please, baby…move!” One of the nurses looked at me and asked if I needed help making phone calls. I responded by asking if I needed to be making calls. She replied that, yes, the baby had died. Desiree was inconsolable.
So was Andrew. Desiree had brought him along, like she did to all the appointments. One of the nurses had given him a picture of an owl and a blue crayon. Andrew saw Desiree crying and he started crying. He wanted to be by Desiree, wanted attention and was visibly confused by the commotion. I tried to entertain Andrew while offering useless comfort to Desiree.
At some point, another nurse came in to do an official ultrasound. Unlike all the previous ultrasounds prior to that day, I saw on the monitor that the baby wasn’t moving. I kept telling Desiree that everything would be ok and that I wouldn’t leave. Finally, the nurse typed “No cardiac AV” on the screen. My mind was working properly, so I thought. I started asking the nurses outside the room about the next steps. I heard myself asking questions and at the same time felt as though I was doing well to ask appropriate questions and processing the responses – all of which felt like I was watching a movie, as though I was watching me ask the nurse and watching her give me answers on TV. It was approximately 10:30 am.
About this time, Kim, one of the nurses, asked Desiree if she could pray with her. I remember feeling that was a wonderful idea and completely appropriate. I don’t remember what all Kim said, but it had a very peaceful effect on me and was a very genuine and magnificent prayer.
I tried to console Desiree and compose myself, which I knew was useless. I spoke to the nurses at length. I realized someone needed to get the kids and that Andrew would need to go home at some point. I went into an adjacent room and tried to make some calls. I didn’t know what to say or who to call. I felt like I was on auto pilot. I called my mom first and asked her to get the kids from school, explaining what had happened. Each call got more difficult. I called my brother, Desiree’s mom, and our bishop. I finally sent a couple of emails instead of calling. All I remember is saying I needed some help and that our baby had died, then gave a simple request to each person for whatever need there was.
One of the first miracles that I became aware of happened when I called my brother. He was scheduled to be in Texas for a work trip. His wife and kids were going to accompany him and do some homeschool related activities at the conclusion of his assignment. Once I got in touch with my brother, he and his wife immediately changed their plans and came to the hospital. They scrapped their entire trip in order to help us. They came to the hospital to get Andrew and take him home. My brother and I administered to Desiree, who was still in shambles. It was surreal knowing that our baby had passed away. Time was moving differently and I remember several times coming to the realization that I was at the hospital, as though I had just woken up. I guess I had zoned out several times and don’t remember some of the morning.
After Andrew left, the nurses, who were also heartbroken, began the process of inducing Desiree. The emotions came in waves for both she and I. The next couple of hours were a blur. I want to state something as plainly as I can. For the next several hours, besides the occasional nurse visit, Desiree and I were more or less alone. I say alone, but that really isn’t true. Again and again, I felt an overpowering presence in the room. I could feel it come and go, as though someone were walking up to me, standing beside me for a few moments and then slowly leave as though they were walking away. It was so strong that despite Desiree’s contractions, I occasionally looked at her and said, “Do you feel that?” She could as well. Once or twice, we’d just look up at each other and both make a comment about a presence in the room. Someone was in the room with us, or at a minimum, we weren’t the only people in the room. This was a very real experience and happened over and over for several hours.
That was one of the strangest spiritual manifestations I’ve ever felt. I can still feel it while I write this.
Our Bishop and his wife spent a couple of hours with us that evening. It was a welcome distraction.
Desiree was in labor throughout the night. At 5:02 am the next morning, Saturday, March 25, 2017, our little son was born. I couldn’t bear to watch. I put my head down on the bed beside Desiree. I cried the whole time. Once he was out, they told us what we’d known for months – it was a boy. Everything about him, his hands, face, fingers and toes, were all perfect. He was perfect in every way, except one. He looked like a mixture of our other kids. He had Reagan’s nose, Scout’s hair and chin and long feet like Thomas. It was bizarre that he was there, having just been born, but wasn’t crying. I’d never seen a baby born without making a peep. He just looked like he was sleeping. It was heart-wrenching. The nurses and Donna (the midwife) were heartbroken. They gave us some time to spend with Turner. It was difficult beyond words to see the resemblance Turner shared with our other kids. Desiree and I took turns holding him. I held him and kissed his hands and forehead.
Eventually, the nurses returned and bathed him. The warming table in the corner of the room seemed to cruelly mock us. Desiree wanted me to stay right beside him but I just couldn’t in that moment. Kim, the nurse who prayed with Desiree, came in, bathed Turner and took some pictures for us. I’ll never know how she was able to do her job that day or how she was able to do it so well. The care and tenderness she showed Turner was incredible. Still, there were constant and brutal reminders of his death. While Kim moved Turner to another table, his little arms fell down. They dropped to his side and thudded onto the table. A live baby would have kept their arms tucked in; Turner didn’t. He couldn’t. She quickly laid him down and folded his arm across his chest. She couldn’t have known that would happen. I certainly didn’t fault her. But I’ll never forget seeing and hearing that. I’ll never forget that sound. I closed my eyes as tightly as I could and turned my head, as though that would make it unhappen. Also, heaping insult onto injury, portions of our sweet son’s skin was coming off, like he had large blisters on him. He’d been dead about 24 hours by the time he was born. Nature was taking its devastating toll. Also, his lips were a deep, crimson color. Awful sights.
Throughout the process, various hospital staff came into the room, all asking about funeral arrangements. We had no idea what to do. Despite going through this process, I hadn’t considered anything beyond the next minute. We’d never thought about selecting a funeral home or cemetery. Why would we? I’ll never forget sitting there, holding Turner in one hand and using my other hand to Google local funeral homes in the other. I made a rudimentary spreadsheet on a napkin, listing prices and services, etc. It was humiliating haggling over my son’s body. I had to tearfully repeat our story over and over to each person I called. We finally selected a funeral home, whose graciousness I’ll explain later.
Over the next few hours, Desiree and I took turns holding our boy. There was another cruel deception. While holding Turner, every time I breathed, my chest moved and it looked like Turner was breathing. He laid there, seemingly breathing. It looked like he was sleeping. I kept waiting for him to move or yawn or open his eyes. Desiree kept saying that she felt like it was all a dream. I’d been praying for a miracle. I kept asking God to change everything. My mind wandered to thoughts of Christ healing the blind and bringing Lazarus back from the dead. I wished I could reach my hands down and feel life come back into his body. At that point, I didn’t care if it was a miracle, a mistake or anything else, I just wanted him back. I looked at my hands and felt ashamed I didn’t have the faith to change anything. For just a moment, I pictured the look on everyone’s faces to see an actual healing or resurrection. But it wasn’t to be.
It was about 7:00 am when I called Nate and asked him to bring the kids down. Desiree wanted the kids to be able to see Turner before we had to let him go. At that point, I wasn’t sure how long they’d let us keep him. I wanted to tell the kids what had happened before they saw him. They still didn’t know he’d been born. I waited outside the elevator for them to arrive. I’ve had to do some difficult things in my life, but what happened next was by far the most difficult. When the kids arrived, they were very excited. They had figured out that the baby was born. I knelt down in front of all four of them. They all asked questions that went like this:
“Was the baby born?!”
“Is it a boy?!”
“Can we see him?!”
“Yeah, y’all can see him. But there’s something I need to tell y’all first.”
I started crying and got out the phrase, “Turner died.”
The look on their faces is something I can’t forget, even though I want to. I remember clutching Thomas’s sleeve very tightly. It was the only thing keeping me upright. Reagan, Scout and Thomas all burst into tears, although Reagan was hysterical. I hugged them all. We all more or less cried and huddled in the middle of the hallway. I took the kids back to the room where they could see Turner. I tried to control each of them as best as I could. I felt like a zombie. The photographer from Now I Lay Me Down to Sleep arrived and took photos. Soon, my family took the kids back home and then, everyone was gone again.
Just in case I haven’t provided an adequate description, the feeling of sadness was absolutely overwhelming. Our hearts were broken. On one hand, we and Turner were denied all the firsts of life we had so anticipated. On the other, he was forever free of all the things we stumble over. By now, it had been about 24 hours since we’d found out that Turner had died.