Monday, March 11, 2019

Instead


Jacob,

You were born in unusual circumstances. Instead of being born in a local hospital in Houston, TX, you were born over a thousand miles away in Philadelphia, PA, making you our token “Yankee”.

Instead of being delivered by a doctor who had followed your development throughout the nine months and in whom your mother had built a strong sense of trust, we met your assigned delivery doctor minutes before the procedure that brought you into the world in a strange hospital we had never been in before.

Instead of being swaddled and given to your mother for a ‘golden hour’, after a brief introduction to your parents, you were quickly whisked away to be surrounded by machines and attentive nurses. Your mom and I could only see you and hold you for minutes at a time while medicines ‘fooled’ your body into thinking you were still in a safe, loving womb as you awaited your first open heart surgery five days later.

Instead of going home after a few days after your birth, you endured your first of many open heart surgeries and stayed in a hospital for several weeks to see if you would survive and thrive … which you did!

Instead of a hospital room that resembled a living room with a comfortable hospital bed, your mom was given  a spartan room about the size of a walk-in closet and a bathroom that was down the hall, while you were stationed in a ward wing with five other sick children in a separate hospital.

Instead of a steady stream of friends and family coming through our Houston home to welcome you and coo over you, you were cocooned in isolation, partly out of fear of infection and partly out of fear that anybody who held you would ‘break’ your fragile body.

Instead of a normal childhood immersed in sports and playing outside in the rain and mud, you took countless trips to doctors and hospitals …. Yet you did it with a smile and brought smiles to all who attended to you.

Instead of spending a ton of money to go to the prom in a fancy tux like every other of your high school friends, you spent your junior year struggling to live and then experienced a life giving heart transplant.  And because of that, you got to do something none of your high school friends would ever do – spend a day fixing a meal with Paula Deen!

Instead of a celebratory college graduation with your friends and sharing plans and fears of future careers with each other, your mother and father walked  across the stage to receive your honorary diploma presented by Shorter College posthumously.  Our tears were flowing for a different reason than the scores of parents elsewhere in that gym.

And you were cheated out of a long and happy life …. But you packed a long lifetime of happy into your 21 years of challenges.

Happy woulda been 31st birthday, Jacob!

Love you and miss you ... everyday,

 Mom & Dad

Monday, January 28, 2019

THOUGHTS BY A GRAVESITE


Whenever I am in Marietta on one of my business trips I will take a few minutes to stop at Jacob’s gravesite. A couple of years ago I wrote a blog about another one of my visits there. Here’s a link to it:  


Each time I’m there I will usually see one or two other people standing or sitting by the grave of their loved one.  I can only imagine what is going through their mind but here are some of my thoughts I am confronted with:

  • His smile
  • His laugh
  • His love for life
  • The nights together at home
  • Our visits at Shorter, seeing his immense joy at being there
  • His admiration of his older brother
  • His devotion to his big sister
  • His truly ‘undying’ love for his mother and father
  • His love for God
  • The hilarious funeral service we had for his pet gerbil, Furball (picture the Cosby show & the goldfish funeral)
  • The numerous times I went on field trips and youth camps as a chaperone, so I could keep an eye on him
  • The social bullying he had to endure
  • His circle of friends that accepted him, supported him, and protected him
  • The improbable beginning of life in Philadelphia and the repeated visits there for open heart surgeries
  • The countless cardiologist visits in each city we lived in
  • The bantering he enjoyed with his cath lab nurses at Egleston
  • His ‘shark bite’ scar and his chest zipper
  • Pacemaker checkups via the phone
  • The times I had to give him shots (he claimed I enjoyed giving them to him entirely too much)
  • Those ‘calls’ that were followed by hospitals visits and bad news
  • Those hospital stays and long nights in sleeping rooms
  • The inner circle of friends who would bring ‘appropriate’ food to him that he could eat while in the hospital
  • Those that helped him with homework during his hospital stays
  • Those scenes of watching him rolled into the surgery prep room, wondering if we’d see him alive again
  • The two celebrations of successful heart transplants
  • Wondering what impact did he have on people
  • My wish that his nieces and nephews could have hugged him and played with him, to know him, not just our memories of him
  • Wondering what would he be doing now if he had lived
  • The flood of ‘what could have been’ thoughts
  • The overarching sense of immense and continuing loss
  • The promise of the resurrection and eventual reunion

Then looking at the path I will take back to the car … alone.

Saturday, January 12, 2019

Remembering Jacob


We celebrated our family Christmas a bit late this year.  Ben and his family live in Wichita Falls, TX and left for Georgia on Christmas day after celebrating their family Christmas in their home.  They spent some time with Beth’s family in central Georgia and then arrived at our house on New Year’s Eve. Katie and her family also spent Christmas with Andy’s side of the family and arrived on New Year’s Eve. So we actually celebrated our Christmas on New Year’s Day!

It was great to have everyone in our home for four cold and wet days playing games, going places, and catching up on each other’s lives.  It was the first time for Ben, Beth, and Zane to see our home renovation since the flood three years ago.  It was a blessing to see aunts, uncles, nieces, nephews, and cousins playing and giggling. Our list of who was present:

Ben & Beth - Tucker (10), Libby (8), Zane (6)
Katie & Andy - Abby (23m), Caleb (5m)

Each of our grandchildren is unique, but equally loved.  Tucker was only a toddler when Jacob passed away, but has no direct recollection of him.  All of them depend on their parents and Karen and I to keep the memories of Jacob alive.  But Libby, in particular, has a special fascination about Jacob.  I don’t know if it is because her life began with serious heart issues akin to Jacob’s or she just has that tender spirit concerning him and his life. Every time we are together, a conversation about him happens and she will inevitably say, “I wish I could have known him”.

We have several pictures and mementos of Jacob around our house and they always are conversation starters about all things Jacob.  They are usually what gets Libby asking us about a certain significance of a picture or object. This year it was especially touching to hear her ‘introduce’ Jacob to Zane as they walked around the house seeing these items so dear to us.

One night, my ‘job’ was to entertain Tucker, Libby, and Zane for a couple of hours.  Like any grandpa worth his stripes, I said "let's watch a movie!" We decided to watch the old classic, American Tail. I told the three kids that this old movie holds a special significance to our family.  Then I shared the following story:

When this movie first came out, our family was in the throes of fear and anxiety.  Karen was pregnant with Jacob and we were already aware of his fatal heart flaw.  We had decided on a course of action that involved having Jacob delivered at the University of Pennsylvania hospital (making him our token Yankee) and quickly carted via their network of tunnels over to Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia (CHOP).  My parents agreed to care for 7 year old Ben and 2 ½ year old Katie back in Houston, TX when we left for Philadelphia in March, 1988.

Jacob’s first major open heart surgery was scheduled five days later.  Karen was still at HUP and I was staying at the original Ronald McDonald house which is a beautiful city mansion located about a mile from the hospitals.  As I tried to get some sleep the night before the surgery, I listened to some music and this song from American Tail came on:

Somewhere out there, Beneath the pale moonlight
Someone's thinking of me, And loving me tonight

Somewhere out there, Someone's saying a prayer
That we'll find one another, In that big somewhere out there

And even though I know how very far apart we are
It helps to think we might be wishing on the same bright star
And when the night wind starts to sing a lonesome lullaby
It helps to think we're sleeping underneath the same big sky

Somewhere out there, If love can see us through
Then we'll be together, Somewhere out there
Out where dreams come true

I explained to the kids that the words helped me to remember that Ben and Katie were back in Houston, missing us but were being well cared for by my parents and my Sharpstown Baptist church family. It comforted me, even through my tears, that they were ‘thinking of me and loving me tonight’ and that ‘even though I know how very far apart we are, it helps to think we might be wishing on the same bright star’.  And, though we were thousands of miles apart and missing each other desperately, it was calming to know that we were ‘sleeping underneath the same big sky.”  Finally, I knew and, ultimately put my trust in, that God’s love would see us through and we would be together once again.

I warned the kiddos that if they see me tearing up and sniffling some when that song started, they would now know why.

Sure enough, when Fieval started singing this song, my sweet Libby, who was snuggled up in my arms, sneaked a peek to see if I was alright and patted me on my thigh to comfort me.

And a few seconds later, Katie stole that same sneak peek around the corner of the wall as her eyes were glistening.  We smiled at each other, remembering.

Jacob is remembered …. He is missed …. And he is loved.


Friday, December 21, 2018

Another year's remembrance - #14

It was fourteen years ago, right about this time (1:30pm) that we received word that Jacob's heart transplant (the first one) was successful and that the new heart was strongly beating within his chest.

The worries of him not receiving a heart transplant in time and then that he would not survive the arduous surgery were replaced with overwhelming joy, gratefulness, and a pang of sorrow for our gift of life and the loss of life that was the cost.

Here is an oft shared remembrance of that whirlwind of a day. It was that night that we were able to see Jacob for the first time post surgery.

 He is very much aware of what's going around him. Though, he can't speak because of the ventilator tube down his mouth and his hands are secured to restrict movement he is communicating his desires.

A doctor walked in with a cup of coffee in his hand. When Jacob saw it he pointed to it with his finger and stuck his tongue out. He was thirsty! The nurse said that if things go right tonight, they may take the tube out and he would be able to eat. I joked, "no hot wings yet," and Jacob snapped his finger as if to say, "oh, man!"
He has not lost his spirit! But pray that his spiritedness won't cause frustration as we can't understand a lot of his motions or he can't have all that he wants - like a coke!

 That spirit of wanting to live life in its fullness - hot wings, flaming Cheetos, and all - taught me and many others to do the same (the living of life, certainly not the flaming hot Cheetos!).  That extinguished life is sorely missed at these times when families gather but, hopefully, we will honor him in the way we enjoy that precious family time.  I also hope that his nephews and nieces will ask questions and want us to share stories about their Uncle Jacob.  There are plenty to tell.

Merry Christmas to all that read this.  Many of you knew Jacob and loved him.  Thank you for investing in his life and I trust your life has been made richer as a result. 


Thursday, June 14, 2018

Nine Years and Counting

The anniversary of Jacobs’s death has come around for the ninth time.  It doesn’t seem possible.  Memories of him are still fresh and frequent. I still -


  • See his smile
  • Hear his gravelly voice
  • Chuckle at his odd sense of humor
  • Tear up at thoughts of numerable and interminable surgeries, procedures, and hospital stays
  • See him at our dinner table laughing about events of the day
  • Hear him giggling with his brother and sister (when they weren’t bickering)
  • Watch him worshiping through song

















However (that’s a word that stabs at my heart), in the nine years since his fatal cardiac arrest while fighting off his body’s overwhelming rejection of his second heart at the way too young a year of 21, it grieves my spirit to think - 


  • He couldn’t develop his strong desire to be a doting and fun loving uncle to Tucker.
  • He missed the births and becoming the same type of uncle to Libby and Abby.
  • And now, after our initial meeting of and visit with our newest member of the family, Zane, it is a certainty the two would have quickly bonded while they compared chest scars from their heart surgeries. I know that Jacob would have been able to show off, with pride, his ‘shark bite’ surgery scar.  They would have giggled themselves silly doing this
  • He missed the proud opportunity to represent his love at Katie’s wedding.
  • He has missed numerous times to see and spend time with extended family at various gatherings and reunions.
  • He has missed keeping up with dear friends and teachers in high school (chorus, drama, and BTEC) 
  • And his wonderful and supportive group of friends at Shorter (BCM, dorm dudes, his ‘harem’ and Δ∑Ф). 
  • He never got to begin and pursue a career.
  • He never got to fall in love, get married, and have kids that could play with Tucker, Libby, Zane, Abby, and the little Guice boy coming later this summer.
  • He’ll never spend any time by the creek at our NC home.
  • He’ll never grow older with the rest of us, enjoying all the things listed above that would have given him such joy.   


Instead, it is a day of dread and depression over what could have been but will never be.

Love you, Jacob.  You’re missed; you’re loved; you’re not forgotten.

Thursday, December 21, 2017

Thirteen Years Ago



Christmas Day 2004

December 21, 2004 will always hold these memories that I commemorate today:

On this day, Jacob remains (he first entered on December 8) at Children’s Hospital of Atlanta desperately in need of a new heart as his original flawed heart has worked diligently to continue his life but is giving its last heartbeats.

4:00am – we are awakened to a call in our parent’s sleeping cubicle that a heart has been located for Jacob.  Thinking we have several hours to wait for its arrival, I go get in the shower and Karen starts getting ready. Fifteen minutes later we get another call wondering where we were because they will begin prep work soon with Jacob and we won’t see him again before surgery (and terrible thoughts inevitably run through our minds as we scurry up to the floor).

5:30 am – We finish seeing Jacob, loving on him, comforting him, sharing his excitement, nervousness, and fear.  We say a word of prayer and watch him rolled through the doors, wondering ….

7:00 am – surgery begins and may take as long as 12 hours due to his scar tissue from previous surgeries.

12:25 pm – we get word that the new heart is in and beating!

3:15 pm – Dr. Kantor, his surgeon, meets with us to share that his original heart was on its last beats when surgery came and that the new heart was responding well. Then he shared what hurdles remain.

8:30 pm – Here is a copy of a CarePage entry describing our first look with Jacob:

A few minutes ago, Karen and I sat by the bed of Jacob. He was laid out on his back with tubes and wires running in and out and everywhere all over his body. If you stopped to listen, you would hear the rhythmic 'pssssst' of the ventilator and the bubbling of the pleurovac. You would have thought you were in some mad scientist's laboratory. But to us, it was a place of worship.

The emotions of the last twenty-four hours have drained us but everyone around us can see the relief on our faces. We are, indeed, relieved and grateful to be where we are.


  • We know rough roads lie ahead but we know the divine Map maker.
  • We know Jacob's new heart creates a delicate balance in his body (right now he is running a low-grade fever and his blood pressure needs to rise a few points to keep the doctors happy) but we know the Great Physician.
  • We know financial demands must be met but our heavenly Father is the creator of all that is precious.
  • We know there will be valleys in the future (near and far) but we will never let go of our Faithful Guide's hand.


Today was a day of excitement, exhilaration (I'll never forget the cheer from our crowded waiting room when Karen reported that the new heart was beating on its own), exhaustion, and exaltation of our God.

Many people have sent messages today, quoting words to various songs and hymns. I want to close by adding my own.
He is worthy, our Father, Creator
He is worthy, our Savior, Sustainer
He is worthy, worthy and wonderful
Worthy of worship and praise!


9:30 – A copy of another entry that exemplified Jacob’s spirit:

He is very much aware of what's going around him. Though, he can't speak because of the ventilator tube down his mouth and his hands are secured to restrict movement he is communicating his desires.

A doctor walked in with a cup of coffee in his hand. When Jacob saw it he pointed to it with his finger and stuck his tongue out. He was thirsty! The nurse said that if things go right tonight, they may take the tube out and he would be able to eat. I joked, "no hot wings yet," and Jacob snapped his finger as if to say, "oh, man!"
He has not lost his spirit! But pray that his spiritedness won't cause frustration as we can't understand a lot of his motions or he can't have all that he wants - like a coke!

What a joy he is! What a joy he gives!

Many of you who read this blog were with us in that waiting room or by your computers keeping up with our updates on that momentous day.  We could not have survived without the prayer and moral support we received throughout that day.
Thank you for being there thirteen years ago today … and every day since then.

We celebrate this day and miss him every day.