This blog is where I can pour out my heart with my longing for God.

Archive for the ‘Death’ Category

Remembering Caden: a message to parents to cherish their children

Before I had kids, I thought I loved children. I suppose I did, to the best of my ability, but that love cannot begin to compare to what I feel now for children. All it took was giving birth to Meghann a quarter of a century ago to convince me that the love of a mother is perhaps the fiercest love on the planet.

In a parallel fashion, take away a woman’s child and you will see the most intense grief imaginable. My mother’s heart cannot comprehend what crushing pain would ensue at the permanent loss of a child here on Earth.

But tonight, I got a small taste of that pain through the death of a child I don’t even know.

Each day, I had been checking the Caden Beggan Facebook page for updates on a six-year-old boy in the United Kingdom who was battling a horrible disease. I found out about the child through Beth, a friend in Scotland whose aunt goes to my church here in the U.S. Each day, the boy’s dad would post “Caden is alive” as the opening message for the daily update on Caden’s condition. I was always overjoyed to see those three words of hope: CADEN IS ALIVE.

Tonight as I went to the Facebook page, the three words were missing. Instead, the dad’s daily post read:

Dear friends,
Caden Riley Beggan
Born 29th September, 2006
Died 20th November, 2012
. . . in Mummy and Daddy’s arms.

Thank you for all your support.

Caden is alive forevermore . . .

Despite the blessed assurance in the last line, I gasped aloud and dissolved into tears. Looking at the innocent little face staring at me from the cover photo, I could not imagine what the parents must be feeling to know they would never again see that adorable little boy on this Earth.

Yes, the hope of Heaven brings great peace but does not displace the grief of missing someone you love while living out this mortal life.

I read that post nearly two hours ago, yet tears still stream down my face and occasional sobs rack my body. You see, I have an eight-year-old son–my baby boy Malachi–who is about the size of a six-year-old. He is a little boy with big brown eyes, a ready smile, a delightful heart and infinite love to give.

In fact, he sounds a lot like little Caden as his daddy described him on the FB page.

As I look at the pictures of Caden, many of them taken fairly recently, I note his strong little legs and arms, ready for play and action. Just two weeks after being diagnosed with meningococcal septicaemia on October 23, those legs and one hand were amputated in an attempt to save Caden’s life.

I see his alert eyes and smiling face–taking in the big, wide world around him. But after being found lying on the bathroom floor of his home that horrifying October morning, little Caden’s responsiveness was dimmed–the eyes closed more often than not, the smile erased by a destructive disease that ravaged his small body.

A nation went pink as Caden’s story swept the UK and indeed the world. Pink was the color the Beggans hoped to see as the blackened skin damaged by the meningococcal septicaemia was replaced by healthy, pink skin. A bus was painted pink for him. Followers of the FB page worldwide donned pink, painted their fingernails and toenails pink, drew pink pictures, sent pink flowers, did whatever they could to “think pink” with regard to well wishes for Caden’s skin to grow rosily pink once more.

But it was not to be, for whatever reason. Caden’s little body could no longer fight the nightmarish disease, so his little heart stopped beating as he slipped from the arms of his mummy and daddy into the arms of Jesus.

This little boy’s plight had captured the attention of his homeland and many people around the world. Close to 45,000 people were following his day-to-day battle via the FB page.

But around the globe, there are multitudes of other sick children suffering and dying at this very moment. They may not get the same media exposure, yet their plight is just as dire, their parents’ grief just as bitter. Please help me lift them all up in prayer on this cold November night.

In my own life, I watched my precious friend Heather give birth to a beautiful baby girl who passed away a couple of days later. I saw my cousin Rosanna deliver two babies who now rest in the arms of the Father. In my newspaper job, I interviewed the parents of a teenage girl who was killed in an automobile accident. The list goes on.

I cannot fathom what sorrow these parents have known. In all of these cases, the parents were Christians who believed in life after death and knew they would see their beloved children again one day.

But even though that blessed hope fills the heart, it does not fill empty arms right now.

My first marriage ended in divorce–a bitter regret for me despite my happy second marriage. Two of my children are grown and on their own. Although I see my three non-adult children pretty much daily, there are some nights when they stay with their dad. This night that Caden died is one of those nights.

As I called to say good night as I always do on the nights that they aren’t snuggled up here at home with me, I held it together pretty well as I talked with my older son Elijah. My little Abigail had already fallen asleep, so I knew I would have to wait until she jumped into my bed early in the morning to talk to her.

But when little Malachi’s voice came through the phone, my eyes welled up with tears once more. He told me to tell his stepdad Alan and our dog Rocky good night, then he exclaimed happily “Yay!” when I told him Alan would pick him up early in the morning to bring him back to me. As always, he let his stuffed doggie tell me good night. By the time he said, “I love you, Mommy,” my voice was trembling, and I quickly said, “I love you, buddy” and hung up the phone before dissolving once more into sobs.

I want nothing more right now than to hold him in my arms. Tomorrow does not seem soon enough.

We as parents have been given these precious, impressionable lives for whatever time God decides. They are ultimately not ours, but His; however, He has blessed us with them for a season–to nurture them, teach them, provide for them and most of all, LOVE them. What a privilege is this most wonderful state of parenthood!

Hold them tight while you can, don’t sweat the small stuff and know that the love given to you by your little child is unconditional at this point–something we can usually only count on from God.

And while you hold them close, remember to say a prayer for Caden’s mum and dad who are longing to feel the warmth of little Caden once more. Wrap the Beggan family in your arms, dear Lord, and comfort them with your love.

Weeping may endure for a night, but joy cometh in the morning–that eternal morning where Caden is waiting with outstretched arms for his parents to join him when their race is run.

Yes, Caden is indeed alive forevermore. . .

“Get Right, Church, and Let’s Go Home!”–remembering my friend Scottie. . .

Pretty Scottie

I was covered from neck to wrists to ankles in horrid, red, scaly sores. Clear skin was becoming scarce on my body, particularly on my trunk where the sores seemed to thrive. Embarrassment was my constant companion when I had to go out in public.

Finally, a diagnosis came–pityriasis rosea–a viral, itchy, scaly skin disease. Cure? None–it runs its course in about two months or less and can recur. Its trigger? Unknown–possibly a lack of sunlight.

“Great,” I said sarcastically. My dad had been diagnosed with Stage 3 Lentigo Melanoma the year before, so I had determined to avoid the sun for fear of skin cancer. Now I avoid the sun and get a disease–albeit not deadly–that can be caused by too little sun. Just great. :/

So I sighed and swallowed my pride each time I went to church and had to wear a dress. Even pantyhose couldn’t disguise my sore-stricken legs. I felt like a leper.

Here she came across the pews after church service one Wednesday night back in about 1993–my friend Scottie, a vivacious brunette with a contagious laugh that was almost like a little girl’s giggle. She gave me that look that would cut right through you–a very real look that could detect anything hidden. “What’s going on with you?” Scottie asked.

I told her my dilemma, and she patted me on the back. “Come up to the shop tomorrow,” she said. “I’m gonna put you in the tanning bed and clear those things up.” I hesitated, not sure how to tell her that at this crucial juncture in our lives, I didn’t even have money for tanning sessions.

“I’m not gonna charge you,” she seemed to read my mind. “Come up tomorrow on your lunch break.”

So the next day, I hurried just up the street from my job as an orthodontic office manager in Kernersville to Scottie’s hair salon on Main Street. She welcomed me into the suavely-decorated shop (grays and pinks maybe? It’s been a long time) with her characteristically big smile, full of pretty white teeth.

Before long, I was settled into a tanning bed for the first time in my life, praying fervently that the UV rays would zap those disgusting sores. Scottie would have me back up every few days until, within two weeks, those sores were fading rapidly. Her joy was almost as huge as mine.

“What’d I tell ya?” she giggled that melodic giggle that always made me want to laugh along with her. I was so grateful and never forgot her kindness.

That was nearly 20 years ago, but still those nasty sores try to come back every now and then. When they do, I head to the tanning bed (a rare occasion) and often think of Scottie and her big heart.

Scottie was so at home in her various barber shops throughout the years.

It came as quite a shock to me when the phone call came this past Sunday night that she had passed away. Scottie? A woman so full of life that you just knew she was going to live to at least 120? No way!

I had heard a couple of years ago that she had been diagnosed with cancer, but I had no idea it had gotten to this point. I kept up with her via Facebook, enjoying the pictures of her in seemingly good health. My problem was that I couldn’t imagine anything on this Earth getting the best of Scottie. She was a bit larger than life to me, I guess.

We both had left the church we used to attend together–me in 2003 and her in 2010–and we lived in different areas. I had seen her a time or two through those years, but as often happens when people move away–even if it’s just to another town in the same region–you lose touch.

Scottie back in the day, a few years before I met her.

Yet I thought of Scottie often, like when I’d get a haircut. During my first few years at our church back in the ’80s, I had let my hair grow out to my waist–no bangs, no layers. I was “Plain Jane” Leslie. That vibrant Scottie got hold of me at a makeup party she hosted one night and said, “Come up to the barber shop! I’m gonna cut that ole long hair off and make you look your age.”

I thought I would faint as I saw those long brown tresses hit the floor of the shop she then shared with Jesse on West Mountain Street in Kernersville. “My hair, my hair! What have I done?” I was crying inside.

But when Scottie whirled that chair around to show me the finished product in the mirror, I was pleasantly surprised. Soft layers framing my face down to my shoulders. Scottie was right! I looked like a teenager again! She was like the cat that swallowed the canary when I walked into church on Wednesday night, stunning everyone with my new do.

When spiral perms became all the rage, here came Scottie, telling me my hair–steadily growing longer again–would look great with those long ringlets of spiral curl. And guess what? She was on the money again. Oh, the time we spent together at her shop as she spent literally hours rolling up my hair in those heavy spiral curlers every few months!

Spending time with her was fun–made me feel like a little girl again, sharing secrets and giggling. When she gave birth to her daughter Tiffany, I hurried over to see if maybe childbirth had slowed down that irrepressible Scottie.

Of course not. There she was dressed in nothing but one of her husband Greg’s white shirts, positively glowing with happiness and still laughing. Her joy, like her laughter, was contagious. “They told me I might never be able to have children,” she confided in me. “But they were wrong.” And she always gave God all the glory for it.

Scottie and her beloved Tiffany!

Scottie proudly showed us her little Tiffy. “I prayed for a girl, and that’s what I got!” she declared, shooting Greg a look that dared him to disagree. Not that he would’ve–already he looked proud as a peacock when Scottie would show her many visitors a picture of him as a baby to prove how much Tiffany resembled her daddy.

We were all part of a close-knit church family–sharing birthday parties, camping trips, choir practices, youth camps, revivals, fellowship dinners. Scottie made every party more fun, bringing her infectious laughter and fun-loving personality.

She would tell me how she visited Graceland once right after Elvis purportedly died and how she thought she briefly spotted him there. Once when our pastor mentioned Elvis for some odd reason in a sermon, my family looked over at Scottie from our third-row pew on the right to her second-row pew in the middle. We teased her, mouthing the words, “Elvis is dead.” Her expressive eyes lit up with fire and she pursed her lips together defiantly, shaking her head no. Oh, the fun we had with that.

When I first heard she was battling cancer a couple of years ago, I kept saying, “I’ll go see her.” I did get her mailing address to send a card, but I never did actually lay eyes on her again. I had gone through a tough divorce that left me embarrassed as a Christian, and I let my pride keep me from showing my face around many of my old friends. My irrational fear of possibly being treated differently by those I had so loved (certainly not by Scottie and probably not by anyone at all–the enemy tells us things like this to keep us separated) kept me holed up here in Stokes County. Pride/embarrassment is no excuse; it was selfish of me.

Plus, we humans have this procrastination gene that prompts us to say, “I’ll do it real soon.”

Well, guess what? Real soon became two years, and I lost the chance. Yes, I prayed for her and I communicated through Facebook, but how I wish I could’ve seen those sparkling eyes one more time or heard that musical laugh that just tickled my insides somehow.

If you have somebody you long to see again, don’t put it off. Go now. Tomorrow is not promised to any of us.

“As for man, his days are like grass; As a flower of the field, so he flourishes. For the wind passes over it, and it is gone, And its place remembers it no more.” Psalm 103:15-16

I’ve cried several times this week when I’ve thought of Scottie and how her days on Earth were over so soon–only 57 years old when she left us. But some of those tears have also been happy ones because of beautiful memories of her praising God at church, deep gratitude that I was able to know such a strong woman of God, joy thrilling down in my soul that Scottie isn’t gone–just in another dimension–an eternal one where she waits for us to join her in the presence of the Lord one day.

I have lost a lot of beloved people in my life. But somehow I can’t imagine any of them being quite as excited as I can imagine Scottie being when she first saw Jesus. That’s not a slam on any of those other saints of God that I so loved; it’s simply a statement about Scottie’s bubbling joy that she was never ashamed to express. Others of us–with me as chief–let pride hold us back from so much. But not Scottie. She was REAL, as real as real gets.

And I know she’s REAL happy right now–finally at home with the Savior that she so adored and was never ashamed to proclaim.

Scottie loved her family–husband Greg, daughter Tiffany, son-in-law Clayton and precious grandson Clay.

I’ve heard that Scottie requested that someone sing “Get Right, Church, and Let’s Go Home!” for the funeral. We’d all do well to listen to the message of that song and prepare ourselves to enter in. It won’t be long, and we’ll be there with Scottie, shouting along with her and the other saints in glory who have been cheering us on all along.

Scottie fought a good fight, she finished her course, and most importantly, SHE KEPT THE FAITH. Henceforth there is laid up for her a crown of righteousness in a place where there is no more cancer, no more pain, no more crying, and the Lamb will be the light. I figure Scottie’s gonna be snuggled right there next to Him.

“And God shall wipe away all tears from their eyes; and there shall be no more death, neither sorrow, nor crying, neither shall there be any more pain: for the former things are passed away.” Rev. 21:4

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