Wednesday, August 17, 2011


Baby Jenna died today.  She was nine months old.  At 9:40 in the morning she passed away quietly in her mother’s arms in a hospital in Indiana.   I’ve been praying for Jenna for a few months.  Praying for a sick child is not something to brag about, so I kept it to myself, unless I was encouraging others to pray for her, too.  I do not know Jenna or her mother.    I have few details about her illness.  She had a heart defect and was a candidate for a heart transplant.   Her doctors did everything they could for her.

I have a soft spot for cardiac kids.  My daughter was born with a congenital heart defect that nearly took her life when she was four months old.   When she was sick I witnessed something that was utterly amazing.   She received prayers from around the world.  I cannot begin to describe the feeling of having complete strangers contacting me to tell me that they were praying for Captain Chaos, that their churches were praying for Captain Chaos, that their relatives were looking for updates on her condition.  It was a good thing, too.  In the heat of the battle, praying was very hard to do.  I prayed.  I prayed earnestly, but I was mentally and emotionally numb during a great deal of the experience, and if God was answering me, I couldn’t hear it.  It took all of my power to make it through each day and digest the diet of complicated medical information that had become my daily fare.   Praying for Jenna was far easier, far more satisfying, and far more cathartic.   I prayed with a clear head.  I prayed with confidence.  I prayed with peace of mind.

I received news of Jenna’s passing from a cousin through a Facebook message.  While I wrote a response to her message, Captain Chaos decided she was hungry.  Against my directions not to forage for food, she climbed onto the kitchen counter, opened a cabinet door, and knocked a jar of instant coffee off of the shelf.   It fell onto my USS Portsmouth coffee mug, an irreplaceable souvenir from my submarine days, and chipped off a huge section of mug, instantly transforming it into a pencil holder.   And in that moment I was reminded of a lesson I have learned over and over again since bringing my daughter home from the hospital.

I prayed for this.

When your child is near death, you pray for their survival.  There is little else about which to think.  I wasn’t praying for her first steps or her first day of kindergarten or her first date.  I simply prayed for her to remain with us.  That meant, of course, the good with the bad.   Throughout the years, with all of its challenges, with the View Master disks in the aquarium and her love for eating dog food and the writing on the walls with permanent marker, I kept remembering how hard I prayed for her survival.  My prayers were answered, answered positively, and I would not be ungrateful.  It didn’t alleviate my frustration but it did prevent me from getting angry.  And the goldfish got to see Mount Rushmore.

After her timeout, and after her lunch, I returned to the computer to complete my message to my cousin. Captain Chaos decided that it was time to show me her Hula Hoop skills.  She stood next to me wearing her “kajamas,” gyrating violently to keep the hoop spinning.  Of course, her kajama pants were a bit too big for her, so after five or six revolutions they slid down past her bare butt, causing her to burst out laughing while dropping the hoop to pull up her pants before she started spinning again.  She just might be learning a bit of modesty, but obviously not enough to stop and put on underwear before continuing.    

With the start of the school year a few days away I take great delight in adding my daughter to the class as my third fulltime student.  I take great delight in her enthusiasm for life, expressed last Wednesday night at Cabela’s where she walked into the bargain basement with her mother, pointed to a black rifle on display, and said, “Oh, yeah! Let’s take that baby out and see what she can do!”   I marveled at her sincerity today when she walked up to me and apologized for breaking my coffee mug.  She’s learning.  It’s wonderful.

My heart breaks for Jenna and her parents.  I shed a few silent tears before asking God to help them.  I’ve walked a mile in their shoes, but their journey is far harder than anything that I’ve ever gone through.  Because baby Jenna died today. 


  1. Thank God for His mercy endures forever. May all who feel loss find peace in the tender arms of the Lord.

  2. This story touched my heart, Arby.

  3. You are so right about how hard it is to pray for your own situations. I'm sorry for Jenna's family.
    My sister told me when Joshua was in the hospital, a woman in the waiting room told her to be careful how they prayed for him; that her daughter had also been excessively premature, and they begged for God to spare her life, just let her live, that was all they wanted. And she did. She was over 30 years old at that time, and had never been able to talk, walk, or feed herself. Her mother regretted not trusting more to God's will. My sister was very touced that the woman shared this with them, although many people would probably be offended.
    I will keep Jenna's loved ones in prayer.

  4. I'm so sorry. I'm praying for Jenna's family. And so thankful for Captain Chaos.

  5. praying for Jenna's family... and I am so glad the golfish got to see Mt Rushmore.

  6. Praying for Jenna's family. Only one who has gone through those struggles can really appreciate how the family is feeling.

    As parents we pray that our children will be healthy and strong. There are times when I lose patience or temper with my children. Thank you for the gentle reminder to be grateful that God chose me to be their mother.

    And if Captain Chaos has any more fish to field trip with, we can take them through OR and CA for her!!

  7. When I read something like this it's all I can do to not burst out sobbing. My family has had so many tragic deaths I won't recount them here but I have had my heart broken by death so many times I'm sure it's only God's duct tape holding it together.

    I hate that life is so hard and I hate that babies die and that so many horrific things take place in our world every day. Unlike many people, I long for the day I can leave this earth and be with my Lord and join so many loved ones who left me (and my family) far too soon.