Love is a tiny little four letter word that gets tossed around so often that many people don't really understand what love really is. It's not uncommon to hear people say "I love coffee", "I love chocolate" or "I love baseball". This tiny little word is used and abused so often that I had forgotten the power behind this word. Yes, I said power. Love has the power to heal broken hearts, dispel fear, mend relationships, and transform lives. Pure, unconditional love, agape love is the most powerful love. Agape love is the love that Jesus lavishes on us and it's the kind of love that we should display to one another always.
Easy peasy! I just solved world peace with a four letter word explained in a paragraph. I'm pretty sure as you are reading this that you are just shaking your head by now. Don't worry, I just shook my head after reading this. I should probably explain that I do believe everything I have shared to this point is absolutely true. However, I've lived long enough to understand that it's just not that simple.
We live in such a cynical world. People are angry and judgemental. Selfishness is a cancer that has been seeping into every part of our lives. We are all guilty of it from time to time. We live such busy lives that we rarely take time to witness the power of love. Over the past 6 months, not only have I had the privilege of witness the power of love but I have been changed because of it.
August is typically my busiest month of the year. The outreach I am responsible for is in August and it consumes all of my free time. My 30th high school class reunion was also set for August. It just happened to fall the week before the outreach. To say I was a little preoccupied would be an understatement. Keeping up with Facebook updates is typically not on my radar during August. Honestly, not too many things other than Summerfest hit my radar during August. Until something unspeakable happened.
As a parent, we do everything possible to protect our children from harm. The older kids get, the harder it is to protect them. Sometimes, things happen that turn life upside down and life as we know is forever different. On August 12 my friend Melissa woke to every mother's nightmare. Melissa found her 21 year old son Jory, unresponsive. On the way to the hospital Jory went into cardiac arrest. Miraculously by the time they got to the ER, Jory was alive but it didn't look good. Jory was alive, but his brain had suffered from lack oxygen and they were preparing my dear friend for the moment when they would ask her to remove life support and donate his organs. Even as I type, I'm trying to hold back tears. No mother should ever have to make such a difficult decision.
I should probably share my connection with Melissa. I was the new kid at school upon entering 9th grade. Melissa was also new. It was nice knowing that I wasn't the only new kid We had a few classes together and we talked here and there but we were not really close. Facebook reconnected many of our classmates and allowed us a peek into each others lives. One evening, several years ago, I was holding a meeting for our Summerfest outreach and my friend Jennifer asked me how I knew Melissa. I wondered how Jennifer knew her as well. Apparently they grew up together and Jennifer's sister is Melissa's best friend. Long story short, Melissa and I reconnected and bonded together over our children, our past and over mutual friendship.I called Jennifer as soon as I saw Melissa's Facebook post. Jennifer had just gotten home from the hospital. She had been with Melissa from about the time she got to the hospital until the next evening. I am not even sure why but I felt a huge burden to not only pray for Melissa and her boys but to invite our friends to do the same for her. I had no idea what would take place at the time, but it would be extraordinary.
Exactly 1 week before our 30th class reunion, many of our classmates who now live out of town were arriving and our Facebook feed was buzzing with excitement. That is until we heard about Melissa's son Jory. Several of us stepped away from Facebook and spoke to each other on the phone. Our hearts were aching as we witnessed Melissa trying to make sense of everything. The night of our reunion, I witnessed the power of love in action. One of our classmates gathered our entire class together into a circle holding hands and he prayed. He prayed over all of us but especially for Jory and Melissa and her younger son Jackson.
Melissa began to pour her heart out on Facebook with daily updates sharing her highs and lows. She shared her hope in Jesus and her doubt. We witnessed moments of unbearable heartbreak and moments of sweet joy. Myself and several other friends began copying her posts and sharing them, asking for prayer for this sweet family. Many times, I would be left in tears, unable to speak or even begin to put words to my feelings. Melissa shared as open and raw as possible and I did the same. It didn't take long before I could see the power of love moving through the feed on Facebook. It was amazing.
I had been texting back and forth with Melissa almost immediately after I had heard the news. I can't remember exactly what she said, but I could feel that she really was so broken that she wasn't sure if she had the strength to hope. My heart sank and I sat in my office and cried. I turned to my Pastor who just happens to be my boss and I shared what had happened. I knew that Jory was in God's hands. But, I was worried for Melissa and Jack. I prayed for the Holy Spirit to wrap them in His arms and cover them with His peace. I texted Melissa and told her that she would not walk this journey alone.
I live about 45 minutes away from Melissa on a good day without traffic. Between my crazy August schedule and inability to drive at night due to poor vision, I had not been able to go sit with Melissa. It was the last week of August at this point and I needed to ask my Pastor some details about Summerfest and he wasn't in the office. So I texted him and asked what he was doing. His response was "Just hanging out with Jory for a little bit. I'm waiting for Melissa to get back to the hospital. What a cool kid!". My Pastor had taken time from his very busy schedule to go sit with my friend when I couldn't. He had never even met them before. I was blown away.
Melissa continued to keep us updated on Facebook. She boldly shared her faith and assurance of a God in heaven who not only loves us but cares about us. Her bold faith caused me to challenge my own faith and begin to share about it. People who know me know that I am a Christian and that I work at my church. But I rarely share details of how God is moving in my life and around me. I'm not even sure why because it's not something I am afraid to share. But for some reason the thought of putting it out on Facebook for anyone to comment made me uneasy. But, Melissa's updates actually changed how I approached my prayer and devotion time. Many of my posts about Melissa and the boys were written as a result of spending time in prayer for this family. I knew that a steady stream of Jory's friends were going to the hospital everyday to visit. Melissa was being showered with prayers from friends near and far. Each of us sharing memories, love and prayers with Melissa. I had no clue then and I still don't know for sure how this journey will look at the end, but I told Melissa that God is always faithful and He will be glorified. Going through my and Melissa's posts has been eye opening. It's amazing how in the midst of something the Holy Spirit gives the right words to say. I found this in one of Melissa's updates. I had forgotten sharing this with her. I am so glad I saw it again. These were my words to my friend, "God gave you these amazing boys for a reason. I am beginning to believe part of that reason is to share with others how a love so pure like God's love for us or a mother to her child has no boundaries." I don't know about you all, but that is a message to hold onto.
On August 21st Summerfest was still a few days away, the list of tasks to finish was endless and my nerves were already raw. Melissa's post stopped me in my tracks. It hit me so hard and so close to home, that I could hardly breath. I realized this could happen to any of my kids and I wouldn't be able to respond any differently than Melissa. How could I know what would be the right decision? The truth is, on my own, I could never make a life or death decision. I'm positive that God places in each mother a portion of His own heart. It's from that spot in our hearts that we love our children. We see them through His eyes and we Love them unconditionally. I instantly knew how Melissa would walk through this moment in life. She would approach each step with a love so pure, unconditional and powerful that anyone who shares in her story will be different because of the testimony. I know for a fact that I am.
*Copied from my Facebook- August 21, 2017
Raising kids is the absolute hardest thing I've ever done. No matter how hard you try to say and do all the right things raising a child to a young adult, there are no guarantees once they are out of their parents reach. We hope and pray they will always make the right decisions all the time, that they will be free from harm because their choices will always be good. Realistically, the truth is, everyone has free will given to us by God. Melissa is right, it's our job to the love them no matter what. Melissa Jakubowski Kingsley shared 2 posts today that every mother and father should read. If you would then, please continue to hold Jory Melissa & Jack.
Update: A tragic accident.....
I kept telling myself I should write this post. I never knew it would read the way it's about to. I've gotten clarity many times that I've asked God for it, but there were still so many unanswered questions. I wanted a second opinion. I wanted an excellent doctor, who would be truthful and unbiased to read Jory's complete medical file and help me to understand. Someone with expertise who would explain things to me and let me know if I was doing the right thing and if the hospital had done the right thing. I gave a doctor all of Jory's medical records and last night I got the call from this doctor. He spent about an hour with me going thru every step of the EMS report, the first 12 hours at the hospital and all of Jory's tests, scans and progress notes. Before I say anything I just want to thank this doctor. He gave me a peace of mind and brought so many things to light. Bottom Line...he said to me "this wasn't a drug overdose." I simply replied I know. This wasn't about them finding cocaine or marijuana in his system. Which by the way wasn't surprising to me. I was well aware Jory had been introduced to cocaine at MSU. There wasn't much I didn't know about Jory. He said sometime between 2:30 and 7:30 Jory threw up and aspirated in his sleep and most likely had been losing oxygen before EMS arrived. Sadly, he said it was a "tragic accident." He wasnt even certain the drugs they found in Jory's system were from that night and neither was I. From the very beginning none of it made sense. I found JORY unresponsive but breathing that morning. I found no drugs in the basement and nothing in his car. When EMS arrived, within minutes, the police officers took me outside and said "it's okay your son is breathing, he will be okay. Get dressed and meet us at the hospital." I was outside with the police for quite a while and I will never forget something one of the officers said. Like I said I was well aware of certain drugs Jory had tried up at school and at concerts etc. I knew Jory lived way too close to the edge at times. We started talking about kids and drug use and the officer said "one of the worst things a parent can do is kick their child out. This is the time they really need you." I will never forget that. Jory and I had an awesome relationship. Did he tell me everything? No, but there wasn't much I didn't know. He knew home was a safe place and although I might get mad, there was nothing he could say or do that would make me love him any less. Jory wasn't an addict but if he was, I wouldn't be ashamed and I wouldn't love him any less. When I originally said life happened regarding Jory's situation, I meant that. Drugs have never been a problem for me. I had too much anxiety my whole life to ever try hard drugs. The few times I tried weed gave me anxiety and I was never a big drinker. Jory's dad suffered with addiction, so from a very early age Jory got the talks and I never stopped talking. I found out a while back that Jory had tried cocaine and I wasn't happy. Actually found out he had sampled a lot of junk at MSU. Quite eye opening. I'm not blaming college, drugs are everywhere, but if your child has a penchant for partying too hard and thinking they're invincible, college campuses tend to be a candy store for kids. More than anything Jory struggled with racing thoughts. He once told me his mind had been racing since the 7th grade. I received a call from his friend at the co-op he was living at last fall that Jory was in the hospital and was I aware Jory may have a mental illness. I was well aware. I drove up to school and Jory came home. Jory lost a wonderful friend last September, it hit him hard. That along with new medication his doctor had him on was all just too much. I'm well aware of mental illness, suffered with it since my 20's. Went on and off meds thinking I could control things, finally realized March of this year, I couldn't. Back in my day mental illness usually didn't strike to your late 20's, now so many young people experience it and I truly believe it's because we're living in different times. I imagine myself being 21 having my mind race constantly, being in school and working, trying to figure out what I want to do with my life, worried about loans and debt and just trying to figure it all out and still maintain. Not easy. As a parent the best thing you can do for your child is love them unconditionally. I firmly believe that. God shows us that love on a daily, no matter what we do, we owe that same love to our kids. I think some folks needed to put Jory in a box to make sense of it all. Jory could never be boxed in, that wasn't his style. He lived and he loved. Sadly this is what it is a tragic accident. Life happens and you love your kids thru it all.
So much of what Melissa shared in the post mirrored our experience with our oldest child. I felt like I had failed as a parent because of many of his decisions. We were in the middle of a heart wrenching time of depression and hurt with our baby. I literally fell to my knees and began to praise God for His protection over my children. I begged Him for wisdom. I knew I needed to respond to Melissa and I needed to begin different conversations with my family.
A few days later, Summerfest had passed and I finally had a chance to really begin to process everything that had transpired. After reading Melissa's updates I read how she had encountered many people who were supportive but also many who just didn't care. People were questioning what she was doing. Why her son was still on life support and what was she hoping for. I got angry for her and after crying out in prayer about all that had taken place, I poured my heart out as well.
*Copied from my Facebook- August 21, 2017
26 yrs ago I sat in a Dr.'s office and listened as the Dr. told me that my lab work indicated the baby I was carrying would most likely have Down Syndrome. They wanted to do an Amniocentesis to confirm. I didn't feel comfortable with the test. I asked if they could change that if they did the test. They said no, but we can offer you abortion alternatives. This was not an option for me. I knew that my baby would be fine. I knew God had a plan for her. I held my ground and trusted I would have a healthy baby. Samantha is now 25 yrs old & a College graduate. There is nothing like a mother's love or ability to know their child. I thought of this after reading Melissa Jakubowski Kingsleys post about Jory. I thought back to that moment. Here is Melissa's latest update: Please continue to pray for Jory, Melissa and Jack.: It's been a day. Earlier this morning Jory's doctor who has been seeing him this week came in to do his rounds. I knew he was going to be talking to the neurologist last night and would be updating me today. I also knew my plan wouldn't change for Jory regardless of what they told me. His doctor said there is zero chance of recovery (brain recovery) he also said that the neurologist said he had told me this almost 2 weeks ago. Yes Mr. No Hope neurologist did tell me this, but another doctor 4 days later felt differently. The doctor today was and has been very nice and said there is no rush and I told him I already planned on placing Jory in another facility when there was nothing more they could do here. He understood and said that they will help me place him. Also in the room was a Dr. Prada. He is Jory's attending doctor. He talked with me Monday. He said I probably don't remember meeting him, but he saw Jory when he came into ER and he had left for vacation but had been praying for Jory and hoped Jory would be a miracle. Today in the room when I got the news were the main doctor and about 8 other folks and in walks Dr. Prada. I was crying, holding Jory's hand and just telling him I'm still going to fight. I was prepared once, this time it's different. God isn't giving me the it's time yet certainity. Dr. Prada said "you think your son is looking at you don't you. Good keep thinking that. Then he just said that's her son. That's her son. Thank you, Dr. Prada, thank you. Before the other doctor left he asked if I had any questions. Of course I do, but I'm looking at my son and watching 8 doctors staring at me so I usually just say no, I'm okay. When they left I looked at Jory, his eyes were open and he was twitching in his face. They have now ruled out that those aren't seizures. They are happening because of his brain damage. As long as he's not in pain, I can handle whatever. I held his hands really tight and just said i love you buddy. I love you so much. You're my heart, kid. They don't know you. They do not know you. I'm your mom kid and I owe you everything. I'm going to fight for you until you show me it's time and not one minute before. I know my son. I know my son. I watched Jory's face and I don't care what any neurologist says, my son felt that. Jory was crying and no I'm not nuts and no it wasn't eye drops this time. Jory's heart is in full effect. His spirit is alive and well. His face kind of squinched. I know that's not a word but I've seen Jory cry a time or two and I know the look and lastly when Jory cries his nose runs. His nose didn't just run, I tried to clean it out and it just kept going. It was something I've never seen, I actually told Stacey to get the nurse. No doctor no nurse, no one can tell me differently. There is a reason for everything. I don't know God's plan yet, but I know for sure no matter how hopeless the doctor feels it may be, God and Jory haven't told me that yet. Lastly, later on I needed a doctor, I had some questions and I didn't want the 22 yr old resident. Not today. Dr. Prada had left but they paged him and he called me back. I loved what he said. He said he was sorry that the neurologist was so pessimistic and he understood exactly how I felt. He said we are welcome to stay as long as we want and that he completely understands my feelings. "It's your son." Thank you, Dr. Prada. Thank you. It is my son. I'm his mom and right now that's all that matters. I look over at Jory, he's peaceful and he's here. There's a reason he's still here. Thank you God.
These past 6 months have been filled with updates and reflections from Melissa and myself and many others about Jory, life, death, hope, faith, anger, joy, peace... it's been a long sometimes turbulent journey. But it's been filled with one major theme, love. We have witnessed love in it's purest form. Love that is powerful so powerful in fact that it has pulled together hundreds of people from literally all over the world to come together praying for Melissa, Jory and Jack. People who under normal circumstances would never cross paths, or if they did, they wouldn't take the time to say more than hi but instead are reaching out and supporting a perfect stranger. Life is short my friends. Life can and will get messy. Hearts will be broken. But if we choose to respond with unconditional, Agape love, the results will always be powerful.
A few days ago my sweet friend shared that she had given Jory his last feeding. I remembered that early on, people kept pressing her for a time table of how long she would wait before removing all life support. She had said 6 months. Here we are at the 6 month mark and in true Melissa form, she is fiercely and gracefully loving her sons.
If this post is a little choppy and feels as if there are holes and pockets of missing information, good. That is exactly how the past 6 months have been. I have compiled many of the posts from the past six months together and they can be viewed by clicking the link below. I encourage you to take a moment and catch a glimpse of this journey so unspeakable that while it is evident that Jory will not be with us for much longer, even it the face of death here on earth the hope of life is breaking through.
There are not enough thank you's in the world that could be offered to each one of my friends who have taken the time to pray, share a word of encouragement or even shower Melissa with gifts at just the right moment. Your prayers and support for a perfect stranger are just another example of how powerful love is.
*A gofundme page was started quite a while ago to help Melissa with expenses. I know that bills are still accumulating. I am leaving the link here in case someone wants to send her a gift to help a little bit. Thank you so much.
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