Just over 11 years ago I was introduced to a song while it played at the first birthday party of Drew. This song was moving and even all those years ago brought an instant lump in my throat.
Drew Michael Vandlen on ECMO after his surgery August 2000
Back ground on Drew, he was the first experience I ever had with a congenital heart defect. Drew was born with Transposition of the Great Arteries. This is a defect where the two main arteries going out of the heart—the pulmonary artery and the aorta—are switched in position, or “transposed”. Meaning, too little oxygen is in the blood that is pumped from the heart to the rest of the body. When Drew was born it was unknown that he suffered from this defect and was a just a couple days old that he was transported to U of M Motts Children’s Hospital to undergo his life saving heart surgery.
Drew with his friend Pooh
I remember this time very clearly as I had just had my first son Carter and was pregnant at the same time as Jen even sharing our baby shower for the boys. Carter however was born in June and Drew was born in August. I remember hearing the news of Drew’s birth for the first time and immediately feeling guilt over having a perfect baby while Jen and Tim, two of the greatest followers of Christ were in turmoil. Fighting for the life of their first born child. I remember going to the Hospital in Grand Rapids to see the family before Drew was transferred and my heart breaking for what was such a life changing moment in their life. Yes it was life changing in many ways having a child, then the fear of losing a child, the questions etc.
I was sitting in the position you all are sitting for Ron, myself, Eli and our family. Waiting to hear anything, praying for healing, and strength, questioning why. I remember clearly checking my email on the hour waiting for the coveted email to come from Tim, or anyone. Crying when I read of the struggles, for Drew, Jen and Tim. Looking for the tiny piece of good news to cling to.
After a long stay and many complications Drew did make it home! It was Thanksgiving and our family was together and we prayed and gave thanks for Gods love for Drew, I remember the knot again in my throat as I held Carter on my lap. It was beyond my comprehension at the time.
Drew on far Left, Jacob Center, Carter Right. The boys celebrate three years old!
One miracle year later, around 50 people or more, had joined to again give thanks for Drew and celebrate his life. Tim is also a great photographer and videographer capturing ever moment of Drew’s journey he could and cutting it together to remind us how far Drew had come. The lights were dim and again Carter sit on my lap as the song “He’s my son: by Mark Schultz started to play with the first beautiful images of Drew and his heart journey. The song starts “Down on my knees again tonight, hoping this prayer will turn out right. See there is a boy that needs your help, I’ve done all that I can do myself. His mother is tired, I’m sure you can understand. Each night as he sleeps she goes into hold his hand, and she tries not to cry, as the tears fill her eyes. Can you hear me? Am I getting through tonight? Can you see him? Can you make him feel alright? You can hear me, let me take his place somehow see he’s not just anyone he’s my son.”
Yesterday I sat in my car and this song came on. How to describe this moment? Thinking hard, wonder, hearing the pain that comes with these words and knowing how I did this very thing just under 6 months ago. I was in a different place in my soul, when I realized I was singing every word of this song. The song was in the 2nd verse where it says “Sometimes late at night I watch him sleep, I dream of the boy he’d like to be. I try to be strong and see him through, God who he needs right now is you. Let him grow old. Live life without this fear. What would I be, living without him here? He’s so tired, and he’s scared, let him know that your there.” We all know these were the very prayers I cried out throughout my pregnancy and Eli’s Life.
I was jolted awake last night at 1:03am as I realized I had to write about this today when I woke. I lay restless thinking of all I wanted to say, I remember looking at the clock last at 3:48am. Not believing I had stayed awake so long and thinking of all I wish I could share and knowing there was no possible way to put it all down.
12 years ago I thought about how frightening it would be to be is that situation, and thought I don’t have the strength to do what Jen and Tim did. Today I know that I am provided with everything I need in every situation by our heavenly father. The last verse of the song says “Can you hear me? Can you see him? Please don’t leave him, he’s my son” I think not only have I suffered but truly so many others have suffered losing, or having a sick child, and no one knows better than God, and his sacrifices.
Look at Drew NOW!!!
Grieving still goes on, I know it will never cease fully. When it comes I embrace it and the feeling. When it goes I am left with peace.