Wednesday, September 2, 2009

Life and Love

Today, as I faced another day without Samuel, I was struck with how life goes on around me as though nothing has changed. I know this is a universal experience in hard times -- when we feel like time has stopped and nothing will ever be the same, we notice how everyone around us just carries on. Bills and catalogs still arrive in the mail, phone solicitors still call, people still post trivial tidbits as their status updates on facebook, and people still complain about the small stuff as though it was monumental. But for me and for Bryan and for those closest to us, life is forever altered. I know it won't always be this painful, and I won't always notice life's new wave length, but it won't ever be the same. A family picture of the four of us will never again be complete. Samuel's room will never just be the guest room. The answer to the question, "How many children do you have?" will never be a simple, "two." Life is simply different. And it's painful to watch everyone continue on as though nothing has changed. But this is the nature of life.

The last few days have held so many difficult tasks for us -- things parents should never have to do for their children. Like picking a grave plot, picking clothes for our baby to wear in his casket, shopping for clothes for my son's funeral, deciding whether or not to have a time to view our baby boy's body when the funeral home told us that he looks really bad and wouldn't recommend doing it. None of this is as it should be.

But in the midst of all this heartache and all these painful decisions, we have felt so cared for. Bryan's bosses have taken care of so many things for us so we wouldn't have to -- like choosing a casket. And they accompanied Bryan to the burial grounds along with Erik and Matthew, so he wouldn't have to pick a plot alone. The church has taken care of many details so we wouldn't even have to think about them, and they're covering many of our expenses as well. Our small group has provided breakfast for tomorrow morning as well as dinner for our family of 25 for after the services. People continue to bring us food and gas cards. Marta and Kathy, Bryan's sister and step-mom, made beautiful collages of our Samuel pictures, and Matthew, my brother, put together a lovely DVD of photos for the memorial service. We have been served in amazing ways. This is truly the body of Christ at work. I had no idea we could be so loved and in such wonderful ways. I am grateful beyond my ability to express thanks.

So, though we are only just beginning to navigate this life without our baby, we feel uplifted and surrounded by a community of people who will walk alongside us. I am not alone. I see the hands and feet of God in every person who lends a helping hand. And I see God's great pleasure in this community of believers who are acting as Christ designed the church to act. Thank you, friends, for showing me what it means to be the body of Christ.

And though I dread tomorrow and Samuel's funeral and burial, I know the people there with us are hurting alongside us. I know they are carrying some of our pain for us. And I am grateful. Again, we have much to thank our God for.


  1. Thank you for these words. I cannot stop thinking and praying for you. I only hope for the comfort of God's Spirit in tough days like today and tomorrow. We love you dearly. Soooo sad to walk these paths with you. John & debbie

  2. Kathryn and Bryan,
    Thank you for continuing to be so transparent and allowing us in on the private and difficult journey of yours. You have an amazing amount of support and love from friends and family! We love you very much and will continue to help you in any way possible!
    The Tates

  3. Bryan & Kathryn:

    I am in tears with each new post I read. My heart has been heavy for your family ever since I heard the news. I can not fathom what y'all are going through and can only turn to God in prayer for y'all. It breaks my heart. Both Trent and I went to Wheaton with y'all. Know that we are hurting with you and praying for you.
    -Trent & Jenna (Gilmer) Dunham (Wheaton class of 2000)

  4. Bryan & Kathryn, I think I've discovered you're about the healthiest people I know! Keep letting it flow out! I know you'd never choose to minister in this way, but you are doing it and bringing so many of us closer to the Father.

    I know we can't fathom the depths of this for you personally, but we are all so honored to carry whatever miniscule piece of this you allow us to carry. We are mindful of you at all times and praying that God provides what you need moment by moment.
    Scott & Jen

  5. Dear Family,
    The difficult day ahead is beyond anything we ever imagined for a sweet little boy from our family. Seeing how precious Caleb and Joel are, we all know Samuel would have been their equal in all ways. It makes his loss all the more painful.

    The loss of Samuel is not something any of us will ever get over or forget. Yet, as Kathryn has noticed, as strange as it seems in such a time of grief, life does go on as if nothing changed. Life is for the living and we all must carry on. Life is shorter for some of us than for others, but we are all just a heartbeat away from where Samuel lives.

    In memory of his short life we must make our own lives count for more. Samuel is safe and whole in the arms of our Lord. We are the broken ones.
    The strength of our family love will carry us forward.
    My heart,thoughts and prayers are with you all,
    Aunt Kay

  6. Bryan and Kathryn,
    As the alarm went off this morning, my thoughts turned instantly to you. Just wanted to let you know that you are loved, cared for, and supported today. We will be there to walk this day with you.
    Jason and Jennifer

  7. Dear Bryan & Kathryn,
    A friend of our daughter just shared your blog with us yesterday. What a Blessing! We read every posting, and each brought tears of pain and tears of Thanks. As two who have walked through those same doors at Egelston day after day for the past month, come to know and love those same doctors, nurses, respiratory therapists, attendents, child life specialists, and clowns, other families and patients, we identify so deeply with your experiences and emotions.
    Samuel's passing has left a hole in our hearts, as we have prayed for him and for you and your family daily since that first day we met. Know that both of you are true inspirations and role models of Christian faith, and your living testimony has shown us and others what it means to be true Believers.
    God will walk with you on this day and in the days and months ahead. You are Blessed with a beautiful family, loving friends and a wonderful and supportive church. Neither your lives or ours will ever be the same again, and we are all richer for it.
    God Bless!

    Jerry & Sharon (Kaleb's grandparents)

  8. Dear Kathryn and Bryan,
    I cannot begin to express to you how Samuel's life has changed all of us as well. Your actions as parents, loving him, being by his side day and night, reflecting on his experiences here on this blog, brought Samuel into the lives of many, for whom, though we never saw him face to face, feel as if we knew him deeply.

    I cannot think of anyone who has been reading this blog that will not always remember this time for the rest of their lives. Samuel has changed us too and we thank you for that opportunity, for it is because of God's tremendous love and because of your love for Samuel that we are all changed.

    I thank God for the love that surrounds your family even at this very moment. We continue to advocate to God on your behalf. Thank you for the experience of knowing Samuel. Day to day life does go on and gets in the way, but we remember Samuel because, as you said, of God's love and because of your love and the way you have opened up your hearts to all of us.


  9. Dear Kathryn and Bryan: You do not know me but I was just forwarded your blog through a mutual friend. My heart aches for you and feels your pain more than you know. I too lost my son, my first child, Maxwell, to a rare heart defect. He was only 14 days old and he too died in our presence at Eggleston in February 2006. Your story is SO similar to my own, I wanted to reach out to you and tell you that you are not alone. I'm thankful for the time that you had with your son and thankful too that he is now free of pain and in a beautiful new home. I'm praying for you and the strength, comfort and peace that can only come from God. My faith is truly what has gotten me through the darkest days - it is my hope that your strong faith will help you. Continue to lean on Him and trust Him. If you ever want to talk, please feel free to send me an email at When the time is right, should you be interested, there is also a wonderful online support group through the Congenital Heart Information Network that truly helped me in the days after my son died - being in touch with other parents that had literally walked in my shoes. You will all continue to be in my thoughts and prayers. Hugs, Becca Ramstrom

  10. I am a friend of Marnie Stitzers and I have been following your story. I am so sorry for your loss. Our babies are not supposed to pass away before us and this horrific experience you have gone through has upset the natural order of your family. I too lost my son (my first baby)who was born prematurely. He only lived for a few hours before passing. I understand right now exactly what you are feeling and going through, I cannot imagine though the pain that you have had to endure, hoping he would make it through all of this. I still have trouble answering the question "how many children do you have?" and I lost my son 8 years ago. There is a wonderful support group in Atlanta called Share Atlanta.. It is a group of familys that have experienced perinatal and newborn loss. Please feel free to call me if you just need to talk to someone who can relate to all that you are going through. I pray that your grief and healing period is one that is full of many little blessings to help you get through this difficult time. I know that this is probably the hardest thing you will ever have to face in your life. No one should ever have to go through this. My heart is just aching for you right now, knowing what pain you must be feeling. I am praying for your family.
    Jennafer Evans 678-648-6797

  11. Kathryn and Bryan,

    The service today to celebrate the precious life of your son Samuel was a beautiful tribute to your love for him and your faithfulness to God. Your testimony of God's love throughout your suffering and grief touched so many hearts. Thank you for sharing your sweet, sweet son with all of us.

  12. Bryan and Kathryn
    though I don't know you personally, I go to buckhead church and heard about Samuel through mutual friends. I just wanted you to know that you are in my prayers as well as my small groups prayers. I am so sorry for your loss, and so thankful that you have such faith and hope in God to carry you through. Even in his short life it's obvious samuel already touched so many hearts and lives through your daily blogs. I know he has forever touched mine.
    God bless you all!
    Carolyn norton

  13. Some lines from a favorite poem, Auden's "Musee des Beaux Arts," come to mind. Though in the face of such grief and loss, which I know I can't fathom, even poetry falls short. Like other posters on this page, I know that Samuel and your family have affected many people in durable ways that will not be forgotten. At the same time, I feel empathy for your having to confont the strangeness of life going on. And it breaks my heart that you even need to deal with outright callousness (like that of the people at the funeral home).

    About suffering they were never wrong,/
    The Old Masters: how well they understood/
    Its human position; how it takes place/
    While someone else is eating or opening a window or just walking dully along;
    In Brueghel's Icarus, for instance: how everything turns away/Quite leisurely from the disaster; the ploughman may/Have heard the splash, the forsaken cry./But for him it was not an important failure; the sun shone/As it had to on the white legs disappearing into the green/ Water; and the expensive delicate ship that must have seen/ Something amazing, a boy falling out of the sky,/Had somewhere to get to and sailed calmly on.

  14. Thank you for sharing your Samuel with us. My heart breaks for you, and I do not have the words to express my sympathy for your unspeakable loss. I am so sorry. May the Lord comfort you and provide for your every need.

    The LORD is close to the brokenhearted and saves those who are crushed in spirit.
    --Psalm 34:18

  15. P.S. I wanted to share this post with you:

  16. I am so sorry for your loss. I know I cannot say anything that will comfort you but I wanted you to know how much Samuel and your family touched me. Your faith and love for your family is so apparent in everything you do. I will always remember Samuel and the unconditional love your entire family gave him. And I will always remember and love Samuel despite only knowing him for a short time. My thoughts are with you and your amazing family.

  17. Bryan, after seeing you stand up and speak today, instead of going to work, I went and checked my kids out of school. We went to Baskin Robbins...of course Lindsay wanted Ice cream and Matthew wanted a soda. As I have told more than a few people today, you are the toughest man on the planet!! If everyone had the passion and faith that you and Momma K display, everything would be absolutely smoothe and peaceful. We surely miss you and wish you all were still in the hood. Even though you are about 11-12 yrs my junior, you displayed today the kind of man I should be. Let's get that biscuit soon. I would take your pain if you could pass it on...
    Gab'm is right up there with the way we should be. You are all AMAZING to have the faith to keep up with this trying time. Love to all, R