Rhonda and Jason

Rhonda and Jason
Our Wedding Day

Thursday, May 24, 2012

6 weeks since Esther was born

Just click on the play button above and you can see the funeral clip/video we created for Esther's funeral.

It's hard to find the words to express what we have felt in the last three weeks since Esther has passed.  Most of our time has been spent praising our father for the most amazing gift ever, 20 days with our beautiful daughter.  We have come to realize how blessed we truly were for those 20 days.  For those of you that weren't there experiencing what we were, every day was extremely fragile for Esther.  We knew Esther was really sick, but didn't really know how bad it was until we looked back at it all and realized how many times we almost didn't get another day with her.

I remember giving birth to her thinking that was the last time I was going to see her.  I felt so much joy seeing her held before my eyes by the doctors and hearing her make two little crying sounds out of her mouth.  I was thinking, "if that is all we get, that is the most incredible thing I have ever heard."  I remember back when we had to put her on ECMO. Within a few hours her life was hanging before our eyes again.  Her heart had stopped along with the ECMO machine and we were crying out to the Lord again to save her.  Each time she fought back and we gained more moments with our little Angel.  I remember praying at the beginning and saying, "Lord, I thought you were going to take her home.  I don't know how much of this up and down I can take. I don't know if I am strong enough.  Give me the strength to make it through this fight with her."  I was so scared at first to get attached to her in case she went away so quickly.  All I can do now is thank the Lord  for giving me every one of those 20 days.  I needed it.  Without Jason knowing it, he patiently taught me, through his own example, to stand strong in faith and prayer, fervently trusting the Lord that she is ours right now. To give everything you have.  He gave me the courage to stand by her side, unafraid.  To simply stroke her hair, whisper I love you and to just hold her hand and whisper prayers over her.  I was terrified in this process with how swollen she looked.  Each time I tried, I'd break. Tears would flow and the words just couldn't come out.  I was so afraid I would have to see her die.  Many times I would wait outside the door while the alarms screamed, panicking while Jason smiled at his new love.  He would just sing to her in the midst of the chaos.  Tears streamed down my face as I watched him fall more and more in love with Esther in every moment he got with her.  Every morning I saw Jason's face light up just getting a glimpse of our little girl.  He was the one who taught me how to be still before the Lord and wait before him.  For he had chose us to take care of Esther those 20 days.  Thank you Father for Jason.  In more ways then one, for knowing the exact person I needed in my life to get me through those days.

Each day the Lord gave me more strength to face the day.  Skipping forward to the last few days with Esther now.  We felt an overwhelming presence of peace and comfort of the Lord over us.  The last two days with Esther went so quickly.  The doctors had noticed a small amount of blood forming under her huge incision on her stomach.  They needed to reopen that area of her stomach.  I remember being at one of my lowest moments with Esther during this time.  We knew that each procedure was critical. Not until we had the social worker discussing what our plan is if we loose Esther, did we realize how bad she really was.  I had just gotten done pumping and cleaning my equipment when I walked in on the social worker discussing with Jason if he thought Soulumination should come in to take pictures with us and Esther in case she didn't make it.  My eyes looked like they were going to explode.  I didn't understand why she was talking this way. I thought things were okay.  She informed us then that she may not make it through this procedure.

Jason and I waited in the waiting room with tears streaming down our face as two ladies across from us did the same thing.  Each family waited as we did to hear the results of surgery.  It was all to familiar to us.  Each face says a different story.  But we all wait and hope that things are going to be okay.  A doctor came up to those two ladies saying, "The brain surgery went well.  In fact better than we expected."  The ladies gathered there thoughts and tears, but kept glancing towards us as we sat holding each other.  We cried knowing we could be saying goodbye to Esther at any time.  They both got up within moments and said, "we are so sorry to bother you, but we wanted to know if we could pray for you."  Our hearts jumped, and with tears streaming down all of our faces, we began to give our worries and tears to the Lord.  Soon after, our surgeon came in saying they were hopeful again.  That the blood looked like old blood. They found no active bleed, only clotted blood.  We were hopeful once again, and thanked the Lord for another miracle that he had performed before us.

Jason and I rushed into Esther's room as soon as we could and gave thanks to the Lord together with Esther for saving her again.  A few hours later as the oscillator was shaking her to loosen up the lungs and get them to open up more, Jason noticed blood starting to come out of the incision again.  They would bandage it up with a little gauze and no worries would come of it; or so we thought.

Later that night my friend Cynthia came by to see Esther.  I went into the room to show her sweet Esther, and the nurses wore concern all over there faces.  I asked them if it was okay for us to see her.  They said yes, it would need to be quick though.  They needed to go back in to the incision and pack it with gauze and a drain tube to drain the blood.  I found Jason soon after and said "you need to get in there and see Esther right away, they are going to do another procedure."  There was concern at this time with the bleeding.  Being on ECMO, they have to give Esther blood thinners.  In order to stop the bleeding we were going to have to get her off ECMO.

That night at 2 am we received another phone call.  They had to open up her incision a little again with a fresh attempt to stop the bleeding.  We fell asleep again from exhaustion but with a heavy and sad heart.  That morning we went to 8am rounds with the doctors.  There were about 25-30 (more than normal).  They had smiles on there faces as they showed us how much Esther lungs had opened up over the night. They were hopeful and unusually optimistic to trial her off ECMO.  It needed to be done in order to stop her bleeding.  Jason and I felt so confident and at peace with this news.  We got our breakfast, opened up our bibles, prayed with our pastor, sent out prayer chains, you name it.  The procedure was going to start at 9:30 am.  At 10 I went to do my daily pumping.  I had just finished washing my pumping supplies and headed down to the breast pumping room.  I asked the desk ladies for permission to enter the pumping room and they asked me if I had seen my husband Jason.  He was looking for me, and the doctors wanted to speak to us.  I couldn't find him at first, but his head came out of a room that I was unfamiliar with.  My stomach went into knots.  I knew something wasn't right.  I asked him why we had to be in the private room and he said because the other one was getting worked on.  We both felt something wasn't right.  Moments later the doctors and nurses came in with disheartened faces and said, we have tried everything, but the trial off ECMO did not work and she is not able to make it without it.  Jason and I were shocked.  We couldn't speak.  There were no words.  I looked at Jason for him to speak.  We could barely spit anything out.  They had tried everything and there was nothing else they could do to save Esther.  They could not stop the bleeding and her lungs were not strong enough to come off ECMO.

We called our family and sent out texts for those that could to join us in saying goodbye to Esther.  Our hearts broke.  We got 6 more hours with Esther saying goodbye.  We sang and prayed over our little girl.  We got to be in the same room with Esther as she went to meet her Father, Creator and Savior.  It was the most beautiful thing you can imagine.  In fact, I think we are brave enough to include a clip of us praying over Esther hours before she had passed.  We worshiped together, prayed together and rejoiced in the gift the Lord had given us.

I am going to leave the rest of the story to Jason.  Esther passed on Wednesday May 2nd at 5:58 pm.  We all hurt for the loss of such a special girl.  But we rejoiced that she was no longer in pain.  That she is being held by her Father and dancing in heaven.

Her funeral was on Friday the 11th of May.  That Sunday, Jason and I flew to Mexico to begin our healing process.  I can personally say that I continue to feel the Lord's presence, peace and comfort in this time.  There are times of crying and missing our little girl but we feel joy in the midst of it all.  We will spend the next days, months, to years processing this.  In blogs, prayer, quiet times, worshipping, rejoicing and grieving.  This is a wound we will never heal from, but with Christ can learn to live with.  I came home with a lot of peace and understanding.  While reading a book called "A grace Disguised" by Gerald Sittser, a man who had lost his wife, daughter and mom all in one car accident, I have found some comfort.  I will share a little bit of it here:  Its a long quote but of so much value "we have the choice to choose the direction our life will head, even if the only choice open to us, at least initially, is either to run from the loss or to face it at best.  Since darkness is inevitable and unavoidable- we need to walk in the darkness rather than try to outrun it, to let experience of loss take us to a journey wherever it would lead, and allow ourselves to be transformed by our suffering rather than thinking we can avoid it.  We need to choose to turn toward the pain, however faltering and to yield to the loss, though not knowing at the time what that will mean."

Right now, this loss is beautiful.  We are experiencing life like never before with our Savior carrying us above it all.  We are experiencing new things as meaningful to us, but maybe used to not be.  We get to experience the joy of birth and life in a whole new way.  We are learning to not take life for granted.  That having a healthy baby is truly a miracle.  We are learning to be more sensitive to pain and not as oblivious and selfish as we used to be.  We get to feel the Lord wrapping his arms around us with peace and comfort and the hope for better days to come.  Lastly, and I may say this a million times, we can't wait to experience the joy of another child.  Our daughter Esther has her reward!  In heaven, right now!  We can hardly wait to receive ours and hold her in our arms again.


  1. I don't know you guys but started following your blog around the time of Esther was born. For the first few days, I had our 2 boys (ages 5 and 7) pray with me for Esther. A couple of weeks ago, I was going to a baby shower and had a baby gift on our coffee table, and Trevor (5 years) kept asking if this was for baby "Western." :) Couldn't figure out who he was talking about until he asked if the gift was for the baby who was so sick that we had prayed for. Then it clicked. I told him that even though lots of people prayed and the doctors tried really hard to save her, she went to heaven to be with Jesus. He got such a sad look on his face, so I told him, "It's ok, her mommy and daddy love Jesus too, so some day they'll see her in heaven." Trevor started tearing up and said, "But, I don't have Jesus in MY heart, so I can't go to heaven." I asked him if he wanted to ask Jesus to forgive his sins and ask Jesus in his heart, and he said yes! He prayed that night, and excitedly went downstairs to tell his daddy. The next day on the bus (for preschool) he got everyone's attention and told them, "You all need Jesus in your hearts!" Just wanted to share with you how Esther's story touched our family, and say we'll be praying for you as you grieve the loss of your little girl.

    1. Rosanne...that is soooo powerful! I praise God for what he did in your son's life! Thats what is so amazing about our little Esther...God worked miracles in peoples lives...over and over again we keep hearing about how God had restored relationships, brought people back to prayer...How powerful it is to see that even after lil esther has gone to be with the Lord that she is still impacting lives.
      Thanks for sharing...
      Rachel (Rhonda's sister)

  2. Thank you for this update. It brought tears to my eyes. I prayed for the 3 of you while Esther was alive and I continue to pray for you both. Your faith is such a testament to me!

  3. In every thing give thanks: for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus concerning you. 1 Thessalonians 5:18

    This verse pretty much sums up how you both are so in tune with how God wants us to deal with pain and suffering and the loss of a loved one. I was already so amazed at the wonderful relationships you all have with Jesus, and I continue to be in awe of it after this post. Esther was and continues to be a light in the world for Jesus. But also, you, Jason and Rhonda, are also ministers of Christ and have touched coutnless people with your openness through your extremely hard and difficult time. I personally am so grateful for that openness. Because of that Esther's memory will live on forever. I can't wait to meet her and thank her for the way she taught so many about Jesus. There are no words on how to thank you two for being such amazing examples for parents to be, and people like myself who are already parents. May God bless you both abundantly. I cannot wait to see an update in the future about more sweet blessings like Esther filling your lives with more joy and happiness. Your family are in my prayers constantly.

  4. I was just listening to some old Twila Paris and heard the song "Visitor from Heaven". It made me think of the two of you again and what you've walked through with Esther. I pray you continue to find hope and healing in your grieving process. Thanks for sharing this process with the rest of us.

  5. Hugs and prayers for peace for your beautiful souls. Thinking of you and your Esther.
    CDH Mama

  6. I am so sorry to hear of the loss of your baby girl, Esther. I have been following your blog since March. My husband and I know exactly what you are going through. We lost our son, Brayden, on May 13th after a 19 day battle with CDH. He too was on ECMO. You and your family are in our thoughts and prayers. We know how much you are missing your baby girl. We know that our Brayden and your Esther are in Heaven with God and doing amazing things with Him
    Take Care.

  7. Thank you for sharing your story. Sue Holtrop is one of my cousin, so were are sort of related. I have been following your story since her birth. We have been praying for you all. I have I am so thankful that God has covered you with his peace. I remember that peace. I had a stillborn son that had tied a knot in his umbilical cord. I remember our pastor would say, "When you feel like saying, why me, say why not me." I can tell that you have enbraced that as well. I have posted your blog on facebook and people to join me in prayer. So if you have a map up of all the places your story touch, make sure you add Oklahoma and Arkansas. Our babies were to perfect for this imperfect world. I have had two children since, and he was my second child. My youngest is 5. Just this year he has come to understand that he has a big brother in heaven. We took flowers out to the cemetary on Memorial day. Tonight he and his sister sent balloons to heaven with messages from them. This was done all on their own accord. It was sweet to see them do it. I feel so blessed that I have this wonderful calling to be Mama. My next child was born the day before his first birthday. We homeschool our 3 beautiful children, and trust that he will see us through everything that he has in store for us.

    I hope I get to meet you someday. When we lived in WA I didn't know we had any relatives there. Just this last year I started tracing my roots. In a way that is what lead me to you.

    Sending your sweet family much love and prayers. May you find more sweetness in the days to come.
    Love, Monica Richardson

  8. Thank you for continuing to share your journey. Your words are both powerful, and heartbreaking at times. As I have followed your blog, I have been amazed by your strength, and awed by your faith. You have both been so honest about your human frailties, but I always feel uplifted by your words.

    My thoughts and prayers continue to be with you, and with your daughter, Esther.

  9. I am so touched by reading the words written about your precious baby Esther. I am so glad that you found me through Still Standing and shared with me your journey! God is so awesome even in the midst of the worst of situations! Reading every word, my heart just broke. I am so sorry friends that you had such loss in your lives. We are almost at 7 years without our son... life is never the same, but God is constant! And I can feel the hope that you have in your hearts and I, too, know that one day we will be holding our little ones again! Much love and hope to you and I will be keeping up with your blog! I love God connections! My article will post every 4th Friday in the magazine. I will be praying for you and your husband... with much hope, Lori Weatherly

  10. Your time with Esther...your words: "We sang and prayed over our little girl. We got to be in the same room with Esther as she went to meet her Father, Creator and Savior. It was the most beautiful thing you can imagine."

    So beautiful. And, I can relate. Although my son's life was very brief, our goodbye included peace, beauty, and worship songs as he went straight from my arms to the arms of Jesus.

    You can read more about our Thomas...and our daughters Faith and Grace here: http://blog.sufficientgraceministries.org/about-us/

    Thank you for sharing your story with such truth and beauty. Praying God's continued peace and comfort for all of you.

    Please let me know if there's anything else we can do for you.

    Kelly Gerken
    Sufficient Grace Ministries

  11. We are so Thankful that you have shared Esther's story with us. We feel this Blessing that ya'll have shared with us All......Thank You With All of Our Hearts....... Debbie, Sabrina, Mason & family

  12. Thank you so much for sharing your story of your time with sweet Esther. What a horrible, crazy, amazing, painful ride. I'm so glad that you got to spend time with your daughter, alive, but it sounds like it must have been awful to be on the roller coaster of procedures and improvements and declines. I'm glad that you could lean on God in this time, and hope that He will prove Himself more and more in the days ahead. Big hugs, Rhonda.

  13. Dear Jason, Thinking of you this Father's Day, continuing in prayer for you, Rhonda, your family & all God's children you have touched for God's glory through Precious Esther's Story. Praying Col.4:2 & thanksgiving in John 1:12-13. I will always remember your love for your Forever Faithful Father and Esther's Papa's love for her & your desire for all to be one... Bless you today with All Love. Thank you for loving us, Papa!! I love you soooo, Papa !!!