Thursday, March 3, 2011

Finding Joy

I shared this story at Jonah's funeral but I feel its worth repeating, with a few more details.

When we found out Jonah would be sick at our 20 week ultrasound, Rob and I tried to figure out what we would tell the kids. We decided we needed to focus on finding the joy and seeing the miracles of Jonah's life. This is what we have tried to do.

So pneumonia is a fight to the death for my baby. It is my darkest hour watching helplessly and waiting while my sweet one fights a battle I know he will lose. It is more than I can do. There is no joy in this, only despair. Death comes as a welcomed release for my baby, and for me, from the suffering. I've said it many times, but as horrible and lonely as death is, it is also beautiful and merciful. Every cold my kids bring home strikes fear in my heart as I wonder, "is this the one that will give Jonah pneumonia?" And so it happens.

The Sunday Rob got back from New Zealand I woke up with anxiety. Jonah needed a little oxygen the entire day and we had gotten to the point where I could just give it to him during his feeds. Anyway, when Rob got home that night he and Grampa gave Jonah a blessing. Monday morning I took him to the doctor and he said Jonah had a cold and I needed to watch him. I called him later that day because I was needing to turn up his oxygen a lot- and he told me to take Jonah to the suction clinic at the hospital to see if he would do better if his airway was suctioned out.

It was a Monday night and we had planned on having Family Night. We decided to take it on the road. All our kids came with. We played card games while we waited at the suction clinic-we were informed it would be a very long wait. Meanwhile, Jonah's oxygen tank that usually lasts an entire week-RAN OUT. He required so much oxygen that it only lasted 2 hours. He started turning blue very quickly. Rob and I gathered up Jonah and gear and sprinted for the emergency room to get more oxygen. By the time we burst through the door, found a room equipped with oxygen and a doctor to help Jonah's oxygen wasn't at 85-100 like its supposed to be, it was at 4.

But Jonah wasn't giving up that easily. He recovered with lots of oxygen. They took an xray of his lungs. They told us he had pneumonia so bad he probably wouldn't recover, even with hospitalization and antibiotics. So we decided to bring him home so he could be with us. We got antibiotics and lots of oxygen.

The previous week I took my kids to the dentist and one of them chose a green bouncy ball with a smiley face on it for their prize. So all week that darn bouncy ball kept bouncing around. I picked it up more times than I care to count and I swear I even threw it in the trash. Anyway this green bouncy ball was really driving me crazy! It kept reappearing at the most surprising times.

Tuesday morning we woke up and Jonah was worse. Rob stayed home from work to be with Jonah. I was sitting on the couch holding him and I asked Rob, knowing perfectly well there was nothing we could do, "What do we do now?" And from no where he whipped that green bouncy ball out of his pocket and flashed the smiley face my way and said, "We put on one of these!" Curses to the green bouncy ball! But I laughed out loud. Of course we do. We put on a smiley face.

Let me assure you that it was not a day of many smiles. It was a very rough day for Jonah. It was a very rough day for the rest of us. We understood that the inevitable was coming. We spent the day watching and waiting. Words aren't adequate to explain the stress. Enough about Tuesday.

Wednesday we got up to do the same. Hold Jonah, love Jonah, till the end. I was again holding him on the couch and there was something under my foot bugging me. I reached down and picked it up to examine it and wouldn't you know it: IT WAS THE BLASTED GREEN BOUNCY BALL WITH A SMILEY FACE ON IT!!! My first response was to chuck it across the room! But instead, I took it and put it in Jonah's hand the same way Rob had held it a day earlier, with the smiley face flashing my way. And seeing it there in Jonah's hand he seemed to say to me, "Mom. This is my last day. Enjoy it!" Somehow amidst his life-ending battle he seemed to be smiling on the inside. And it put a smile on my face.

In a flash of inspiration it came to me that even though there was so much Jonah would never get to do, today he would do as much as we could make possible. He would live a lifetime in a day. And so from behind the darkest cloud of despair crept a little ray of sunshine- and I dare say- joy. I dressed my little Moari Warrior. He dunked a basketball. He played tennis. He saved the game winning goal! He climbed a coconut tree and hung upside down. He jumped rope. He fished. He shot arrows. He kicked a soccer ball. He golfed and just like dad, threw his golf club. He supported his Red Devils as the cutest mascot ever. He dressed like a witch-he didn't really want to be a witch-aren't witches girls? He played baseball. He was a missionary. He lived a life time in a day.

We spent every moment playing with him. Everyone helped. Mom, Dad, Mariah, Tahlia, Tai Nui, Sydney, even Jaya wanted to be in the mix. Aunt Maren, Uncle Rick, cousins Ricky and Ezra and Grampa. We were all gathered around fussing over Jonah. I believe he loved it just as much as we did. And I could feel the JOY. Not despair. Not stress. JOY. Not peace. Not acceptance. JOY.

How is that possible? How is it possible that I can be living my darkest hour as my baby lives his and feel JOY? How can all that despair and stress be changed to JOY? How is that possible? Our friend Alma (from the Book of Mormon) had a similar experience and he explains it so much better than I can.

So Alma was a pretty bad guy, he did all kinds of the worst things and felt great about it until an angel appeared to him and told he to knock it off or he would be cast off forever. Alma finally understood what he was doing to himself and the many people who followed his ways. The guilt consumed him.

In Alma 36 starting in verse 12 he says, "...I was racked with eternal torment, for my soul was harrowed up to the greatest degree and racked with all my sins.... I was tormented with the pains of hell... and for 3 days and for 3 nights was I racked, even with the pains of a damned soul. And it came to pass that as I was thus racked with torment, behold, I remembered also to have heard my father prophesy unto the people concerning the coming of one Jesus Christ, a Son of God, to atone for the sins of the world. Now, as my mind caught hold upon this thought I cried within my heart: O Jesus, thou Son of God, have mercy on me, who am in the gall of bitterness, and am encircled about by the everlasting chains of death. And now, behold, when I thought this, I could remember my pains no more; yea, I was harrowed up by the memory of my sins no more. And oh, what joy, and what marvelous light I did behold; yea, my soul was filled with joy as exceeding as was my pain!...There could be nothing so exquisite and so bitter as were my pains...on the other hand, there can be nothing so exquisite and sweet as was my joy."

Alma was racked with eternal torment for a much different reason than I was, but the pain is familiar. And so is the sweet JOY. It is possible through the Atonement of Jesus Christ. He can take all pain regardless of the cause, and heal us because He has already paid the price. There is no earthly pain the Atonement can't compensate for, but we must have faith in Him.

I am grateful for my Jonah. I am grateful for Jonah's last day. I am grateful we could find the joy just in time, and that we remember his last day with fondness instead of stress. And for the rest of my life, every time I see a green bouncy ball with a smiley face, I will smile.


  1. "How Great Shall Be Your Joy" Love you Behka!

  2. Thanks for sharing that. I'm smiling through the tears at your amazing perception and how beautifully you share revelations/promptings that you have. I think there are many people who will smile now when they see those silly little balls. :)

  3. Oh Bekah- thank you for sharing the joy in your sweet and tender journey with sweet Jonah. xo

  4. I'm in such awe of you, Behka. You have such a powerful testimony that really shows in everything you do. Love from Oregon to you and your family. Thankyou for sharing this.

  5. I am so glad you posted your talk because I wasn't able to fully hear it during the funeral. What an exceptional talk. I absolutely love it! Thanks for your strength.

  6. Dear Rob and Behka,
    I have finally had the courage to look at your blog. Its been over a month and I guess I just didn't "Dare". I wasn't ready to see you grieve, again. I just wasn't ready for Jonah to go. He had just smiled. I wasn't ready to frown.
    Finally, I sat down today and looked at your sweet blog. Much to my surprise, I didn't find grief, I found JOY and a smile!
    As I have stood by and helplessly watched your journey with your angels I have seen you both become Saints. (In the truest sense of the word) I love you.

  7. I love this story Behka. just love it. Thank you for teaching me.