21 Years 9 Months

Happy Birthday Emily Grace

As my family and I celebrate what would be my first-born’s 21st birthday, I remember back.

 After a few years of marriage Ruth and I decided to expand our family.  In late February 1993, we were blessed with the knowledge that we were parents via a pregnancy test (Realization of fatherhood step 1).  Because of family history the OB doctor suggested an amniocentesis that had risk of miscarriage, just to determine if we should abort due to a genetic disease.  
This was totally unacceptable to us and we found another doctor (Realization of fatherhood step 2).  Over the months I felt movements, hiccups and other signs my child was alive and kicking (Realization of fatherhood step 3). On father’s day a “Focus on the Family” show featured people calling in and thanking their father.  This touch me and showed me how important my job as father was going to be (Realization of fatherhood step 4).  
 On October 19th 1993 after many hours of labor my first child was born (Realization of fatherhood step 5).  At first she seemed very healthy and she was doing great, two weeks later the phone call came in from the doctor’s office informing Ruth and I that our daughter had the same disease that claimed the lives of two of my sisters, one just a few years before (Realization of fatherhood step 6).
 That same night, I gave a very life changing commitment to Jesus because I know I could not handle this on my own and yes he has changed my life or at least God gave me the direction and courage to change my life though Him (Realization of fatherhood step 7).  Cystic Fibrosis, a lung and digestion disease, put Emily Grace in the hospital for the first time at six month of age and averaged four hospitalizations a year thereafter (Realization of fatherhood step 8).

I enjoyed having her lay against my chest, feeding her, holding her hands to begin to walk, teaching her words, but most importantly teaching her morality and God’s love. I truly believe God gave Ruth and I the responsibility to raise our daughter and we take that responsibility very seriously (Realization of fatherhood step 9).   Over the years, there were mostly great years and some challenging times with Emily’s health.  
In 2004 our life changed dramatically with the doctor’s report that Emily needed to be assessed for a double transplant. After a visit to Saint Louis, the report came in that she was a few years away and that we need to raise $500,000 for the transplant (Realization of fatherhood step 10).  Both sides of that news was devastating, however God had different plans that would change not just our lives but hundreds of others.  
Two of my sisters stepped up big time and put in overwhelming hours in a fund raising effort that Emily named “Emily’s Breath of Hope”.  Many other family members, friend, coworkers, church members and among dozens of just acquaintances stepped up and made great sacrifices for this fund raiser.  For seven incredible months, lives were changed while thousands opened there wallets and gave of their time.  
Many stopped looking at their own troubles and gained prospective in helping another.  God truly knows how to work though others in changing people’s lives.  Over $500,000 in seven month but more importantly, hundreds of lives changed, moving more towards Jesus’s characteristics (Realization of fatherhood step 11).

For the next several years, Emily’s health was up and down, however not reaching the level for her lung transplant. Still averaging 4 hospitalizations a year and on oxygen at night, Emily had a high quality of life with school, friends and family.  She loved to read and dress in Williamsburg type dresses.  She Danced and love to praise the lord at church. 
Becoming a teenager, she began wanting to venture out on her own and had an incredible week with the youth group from church in the outer banks of North Carolina.  Yes, with oxygen and medications she did a great job without her parents (Realization of fatherhood step 12). 
March 31st, 2008 Emily went to the hospital with what looked to be a normal stay with IV meds.  A day later she was struggling more than normal and by the morning of the third day I know things were on the down turn as Emily struggled for every breath.  

Her lungs were not able to transfer the oxygen to her blood and things were getting serious.  Fear entered Emily’s eyes as if she was drowning.  They moved her to the ICU and put her on more oxygen and at higher pressures which helped a lot, however still not out of the woods.  

The mucus in the lungs was not clearing with treatments (Realization of fatherhood step 13). About 14 hours later, Emily crashed and they quickly put her on a ventilator.  For Emily, this meant she was not conscious while on the ventilator.  This was devastating to me because she never fell this far and it happened very quickly.  
Now the doctors were talking odds of her coming out of this alive.  Three painstaking days later, talk about bringing Emily to Saint Louis for the transplant brought hope into the picture. Without an hour of sleep for 4 days, on April 5th, the day before my 40th birthday most of my hope was taken with a call stating that she was too sick for the transplant and she would have to get better first (Realization of fatherhood step 14).  
For 8 more days of prayer and waiting, Emily was losing ground, and not being able to be conscious for about ten days.  Odds of Emily surviving much longer was decreasing daily.  Finally about midnight April 14th, 2008, I had to call Ruth to the hospital to say her last goodbyes and pray.  After praying for a few hours and clearly and undeniably knowing that Emily was in the arms of Jesus in heaven we knew our prayers were answered, she was alive in heaven and fully healed.

That day God sent hundreds of people to put their arms around Ruth, Emily’s sisters and myself.  On the saddest day of my life, God wrapped his arms around me.  Although we desperately wanted more time with our daughter here on earth, Ruth and I know we will spend eternity with her without grief or despair.  I know without doubt that God enjoys Emily dancing for him with leaps Emily could not accomplish here on earth (Realization of fatherhood step 15: this step was huge).   
God blessed Emily with three younger sister so my journey of realization of fatherhood continues with 3 teenagers, dating and a wedding coming January 2015.    Today October 19th, 2014 would have been Emily’s 21st birthday.  

Emily, your mother and I, along with your sisters, extended family and many friends are so glad God allowed you in our lives.  You were an inspiration and changed more lives than you could imagine, although somehow I think God is showing you, and you have every right to smile with what God did though you. 

Emily you made the world a better place and you are missed down here on earth.  Emily, while God has a lot left for me to do down here, I am never scared for my own life because I know I will be with God and with you for eternity.  
For my sister Beth who passed away before my birth, I cannot wait to meet you.  For my older sister Mary, who passed away in 1987 when I was 19, I miss you so much.  You taught me a lot and looking forward to seeing again.  


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