April 20, 2011
The time has come to finally have a few quiet minutes to just sit and write about Trent's short life and the night of the accident. It has been two months already and life has been a whirlwind ever since. It is amazing how many emotions and memories can happen in that short amount of time and I only hope I can recall most of them. To really do justice to the the story, tho, I must go back about 20 years. Back to the last few weeks of my own fathers death when God really started to get a hold of me and, unbeknownst to me, was already preparing me for this time in my life.
At that time I was not saved. I had grown up going to church, Bible school and Bible camps and knew enough about the Bible and would even pray on occasion when I needed something, but I did not have an intimate relationship with God, had not repented of my own sinfulness, and did not know the saving grace of Jesus Christ. During the last few weeks of my Dad's life, as he lay dying of lung cancer and Jesus saved him, I literally watched God work right in front of my eyes. It is a time in my life that still holds me captive as I try to understand it.
My Dad was not the nicest of men, he left many in his past with more than hard feelings and bitterness behind. The beauty of this story, tho, is that when God did save him the evidence was all the more real. I remember Dad's remorse over all the people he had hurt along the way and how he individually invited them to come to his bedside and to the best of his ability he expressed his sorrow over how he had hurt them and shared with them about Jesus. The words that still ring through my ears as if they were spoken yesterday are "Terri, there is nothing more important than God.".
At the time that God was taking my father from me at the age of 18 those words didn't make much sense, but all these years later I find myself repeating them over and over again. God did take Dad home to heaven only a few short months after he was diagnosed with lung cancer. I still remember the middle of the night/early morning that the family was called because it was thought to be Dad's last day. The feeling of peace and being "surrounded" can't even be described. Dad was ready to meet his God and happily passed away a couple of days later.
Another thing I remember Dad saying was how he was so grateful that God let all of his 15 children outlive him and that he never had to suffer the pain of losing a child. I held onto that fear and took it as my own, not realizing that that was the one fear I would refuse to give to God for the next 20 years.
My life of course went on and I honestly didn't think much about God until 5 years later when Alexis was born. Looking at the beautiful little girl that we had just been granted made me feel the weight and responsibility of choosing how to raise her. Deep within me I knew it had to include God so when she was just 1 week old I talked my sister Brenda (with Cybil who was only 2 months old) into going to church with me. As it turned out God saved both Rob and I within a year and a half and started to change us dramatically and draw us closer to Him.
When Alexis was only a year and a half old I found out that I was pregnant again. Within moments of discovering this surprising fact I knew it was a boy. I don't know how, I just knew (of course with Cole I "knew" it was a boy too, so how kind of God to humor me on this one). The whole pregnancy was tough on me on every level~ back aches from the start to the point I could hardly get out of bed once in it, emotionally I wasn't ready to have another baby, chasing a spoiled little girl who had become my all in all. The delivery was very long and difficult and painful. As I would tell Trent at the hospital after the accident~ he was a bugger to bring into this world and a bugger to let go. When he was finally born he needed oxygen as he wasn't breathing well. Rob was so proud of his new little boy (big boy, he was the biggest of our babies at 8#3 oz) that he kept stealing him from the nurses.
From his first checkup at a week old Trent had ear problems that would affect him for years to come. Continuous fluid in his ears and numerous ear infections saw us several times in the doctors office and ER. Finally at nearly 2 years old we found a doctor who encouraged us to have tubes put in his ears which cleared everything up. By this time, tho, Trent's speech was very delayed and we spent the next 5 years or so struggling with teaching him how to speak clearly. He always had an "accent" of his very own when talking.
At an early age Trent had a desire to pray. When he was little we used to call him the prayer warrior because he would pray about literally everything. Couldn't find something, let's pray. Needed help doing something, let's pray. I can still envision him squatting down at the bottom of the stairwell in the other house with his little hands folded praying.
Another trait that I saw developing as well at this time was anger. There seems to be a deep rooted seed of anger which rears it's ugly head on both sides of our family. Family sins certainly must be genetic. Frustration over simple things, especially his speech, would boil over into fits of rage. Deep anger that I prayed about and tried hard to help him control and gain victory over for years to come.
At this time as well, when he was about 3 or 4 years old, there was an intense spiritual battle going on over his little soul. At the time I could not explain it, and have tried over the years to pass it off as not having any meaning, but I can still recall so clearly many nights in a row standing in his bedroom doorway at night and literally feeling the spiritual fight going on over him. Of course as his mother I prayed and asked again and again for his salvation, and after a certain point I had the peace that washed over me with all certainty that God had won, Trent was His. Knowing nothing of why such a battle would be fought over such a little boy and what the implications would be only 8 short years later. I have prayed nearly every night for our kids' salvation, but never have I felt the intensity of those days of praying for Trent.
I always struggled to love Trent the same as the other kids and always thought I was loving him too much for some reason. But looking back I can understand just a bit that it was because all my earthly, motherly loving had to be poured into him in only 12 short years and that God was actually allowing me to love him more intensely for it. And love him I did.
God chose to not save Trent until many years later. As we continued to do our best to raise him up to know the Lord, to make him aware of his own sinfulness, to lay out the gospel, to warn him to guard his thoughts and actions, to be aware of his weak points that would allow sin to enter, to teach him scripture, to bring him to church, AWANA, Bible school, and Bible camps, we did not see fruit but rather a hardness in his heart toward God. He grew in head knowledge about God, but when it came to knowing God he refused Him.
Rob has shared about the many nights that he would tuck Trent into bed, pray him his blessing, and talk to Trent about salvation. He would ask Trent "Do you know you're a sinner?" "Yes" "Do you know you're not right with God?" "Yes" "Do you know what God requires to enter heaven?" (perfection, we can never be perfect because of our sin, therefor Jesus Christ had to come as a sacrifice in our place and only by believing in Him can we be saved~ repentance of our sins and belief in Jesus leads to salvation, which is a gift from God alone) "Yes" "Do you want to repent and be saved?" "No."
Scripture teaches that we are dead in our sins. A dead man cannot grab the life preserver that is thrown to him from the boat, just as a person dead in their sins cannot choose to be saved. Scripture says it is God who chooses us and brings new life. And oh how we longed for that day in Trent's life. The head knowledge continued, as well as the sins that Trent could not master. He would struggle intensely with them and knew that they mastered him, but still he would not repent.
Until one day last May. Everybody else had gone to bed except for Trent and I. We were sitting at the dining room table working on a sewing project. He loved to sit with me when I sewed and he helped cut and piece as I chain stitched. I was intent on my sewing, and with the noise of the machine and the late hour we were just happily being together and not talking. For some reason I happened to look up and saw Trent's face in turmoil. I can't explain it any other way because he just looked devastated over something. I asked him "Trent, what's wrong?" Not a kid who would ever talk in the first place (believe me, I tried every tactic over the years, and he was more stubborn than I am) it surprised me when he said "Mom, I'm not right with God."
I was speechless. Rather than open my big mouth and lead him to a false conversion that was based on my words, I just took that 12 year old boy into my lap and held him as he cried (and I think I was probably crying a bit, too, marveling at what God was doing before my eyes). Eventually I started reminding him of scripture, reassuring him of what he knew, of what God said about sin, repentance, and salvation. After quite some time we prayed together and he accepted Jesus Christ as his Savior. Oh glory day!
Life went on as spring and summer became busy around the farm. Trent was not perfect, just because we are saved does not mean we do not sin, but fruit in his life was beginning to appear. He had the head knowledge and God was transforming that into heart knowledge. He began to have little victories over sins that he struggled with, but still the anger reared it's ugly head on many an occasion to the point where he knew it was out of his control.
Lexi shared with us after the accident how he would come into her room many nights after being tucked in. "First he would pick on Grace, then he would jump on my bed and tease me, but after he settled down our conversations always turned to talking about God" she told us. How I wish I could have recorded some of those conversations.
His own Bible reading time became more important to him, and even tho it was required to memorize scripture for home school he willingly chose to memorize optional scripture for his youth group. His questions at family Bible time were full of insight, his knowledge of scripture was ever deepening and curious, and his prayers were sweet words to my ears to hear what God was doing in his young life.
Later in the summer of 2010 he went with his youth group on a canoe/camping trip for 3 days. I remember having a foreboding feeling about his going, wondering what if God takes him and he doesn't come home. Thus started the regular saying with him between the two of us "Trent, if God decides to take you first, do you know where you're going?" "Yes, Mom. Love you" "Love you, too, Trent. See you when I get there then." The whole trip I mentally wondered where he was and what he was doing. I was so relieved to see him come back home. I have gotten much better at letting my kids "live" without being a hovering mother, but I am convinced looking back that that trip was used by God to prepare me for what was to come~ the day that Trent would leave with his youth group and not come back.
Summer turned to Fall, and with it Trent heard about middle school football. Years ago we participated in soccer with the boys, but after many a practice of nobody being ready and not enjoying all the running we gave up on organized sports. For some reason Trent was adamant about playing and did a lot of sweet talking and buttering up (in a way that only he could to soften my heart) and after seeing his determination I finally gave in. Looking back on it I am so glad I did. It gave the family a reason to rally around him one last time for several weeks in a row. He put everything he had into his practices and games. To bless us for allowing him the privilege to play football he worked extra hard on his chores and schoolwork, as well as making sure the other kids did too, so that everyone could get to practice on time. And he was actually really good at football and enjoyed the sport and his coaches immensely.
Trent's other love in life was hunting. Since he could first walk and talk all he wanted was to turn 12 so he could carry his own gun. There was not much talk about him growing up, other than the vague dreams of owning a huge deer ranch in Iowa where all the big bucks were shot on the hunting videos. And no way, no how, did any of his plans ever include a wife. We teased him that he would change his mind, especially if he found a woman that hunted and had her own gun and 4 wheeler, but he was confident that he would never marry. My own prayers for his spouse usually turned into prayers for contentment for Trent, rather than God preparing a young lady for him. I always wondered how God would glorify His name through Trent's love of hunting. We are seeing a glimpse of how God may do that as we are hoping to set up a grant for hunters safety with Trent's story.
Trent lived fully and enjoyed to the most the things he loved. What he disliked (school, reading, writing, cleaning or washing dishes) he put the least amount of effort in and was only excited to do them when there was gain for him, like earning time on the computer or getting outside to do something fun. He loved to cook. He was always suggesting meal ideas like tacos, taco soup, sloppy joes, omelets, smoothies, oysters, shrimp, venison, any wild game he had shot, enchiladas, fruit, etc., etc. And he loved to eat as much as he loved to cook, except for carrots and the beans in chili. His cooking was never bland, but always included extra spices to doctor it up, and usually included fancy ways of serving or fancy china to serve it on.
Trent was my barn helper, if not by choice but for the love of his mother, he did it. He loved to be there when the baby goats were born. I will miss him this year when we go to pick out calves, and if we actually get the milker set up I will miss sharing that with him, too.
He was always right there helping out with all the projects around the farm, too. Helping to build the outhouse at the cabin sight, the horse corral, the arbors, the arena, the calf shed and the fences. I walk by and look at the chicken coop and can still picture him climbing the rafters, or holding the wall up, or standing on the ladder to paint the high spots. I miss that little bugger.
On to the accident~ With extra bills due, Rob's hours being short, waiting for tax money, and several girls quitting and going on vacation at the hospital I found myself working nearly every weekend from November through February. I was on a 4 day stretch of working in scheduling, days from Tuesday through Friday, the week of the accident. I was looking forward to having several weeks off as the goats were due to deliver the following week. We had plans to finally finish the barn and I could devote myself to being full time mom, wife, and farmer for a while again.
The week before my work stretch the weather was beautiful~ even getting up to 40 degrees. We were excited to try tapping maple trees this year to make maple sugar so Trent, always my willing helper and sidekick and protector, came out and helped me put some taps in the trees and set them up in the hopes for sap with the nice weather. Those taps are still waiting for the sap to run, and the syrup will be all the sweeter with the memories of Trent helping.
The Friday before my work week started Trent and Cole were invited to spend the weekend at their best friend Thomas and Samuel's house for a Star Wars all weekend/all night movie fest. They came home very happy, and very tired. The kids found out at Sunday School that there was a youth group ski trip coming up and were excited to go. After finding out that there were no girls going Alexis decided not to go. Rob called Chris and got Trent all signed up then filled out the paperwork so everything was set for Friday morning.
On Tuesday the kids stayed home with Lexi babysitting. Everybody had their list of responsibilities to take care of plus school to work on which kept them happy and busy until I got home. Trent was the lunch man. I remember talking to him on the phone during the week to report the happenings and that there was no sap yet.
On Wednesday Rob was home with the kids. We all went to AWANA and SIGN that night, and Trent especially was having fun "protecting" Lexi from Julio and Jonah. I can see his smiling, happy face as they all chased each other around the church.
Thursday it was back to work and the kids stayed home again. The kids and I all spent time down in the barn Thursday evening as the weather was still so nice. I did some rearranging and just enjoying of the goats, dreaming about the babies to come, the calves and milk to come, the spring farm plans. The kids had a ball playing Star Wars up in the hay mow and didn't even fight. There was such a joy and happiness in everybody that night.
I was tired from working so much so went to bed early to read and relax in anticipation of one more long day at work. I had washed clothes and set Trent's favorite new blue shirt in his cubby hole so it would be ready for him to wear the next day for his ski trip. The kids were of course not as tired as I was so were bouncing off the walls. Trent especially was very happy. I can still hear his voice and see his smile and his new short hairdo that Rob had just buzzed a week or so before, and hear his excitement about the skiing trip. I can still see him opening my bedroom door to jump on my bed and say "goodnight mom, love you" and check on me, making sure I wasn't hiding any cheesepuffs, and giving me one last kiss. After Rob tucked Trent into bed I heard him head down the hall to pick on the girls. I crawled under the covers myself, expecting every day of the rest of my life to have Trent to say goodnight to.
I woke up for work early on Friday morning and got showered, dressed and ready to go. I was happy to be nearly done with my last day of work for the week so I could get back to real life. As I was about to head out the door Rob was heading upstairs to wake Trent up for his ski trip. The weather had turned cold, windy and snowy so I had half hoped they would cancel the trip. I remember driving to work and thinking about a book that I had read several years ago written by a Christian woman who's son was killed in a car accident on the way back from a youth group trip. I remember praying "God, I don't want a story like that."
Work went fine. I chatted with the gals about Trent going on a ski trip on this cold, blustery day and hoping he was staying warm. I thought about him throughout the day and prayed simple prayers for him. Rob had some errands to run with the other kids that day. One of them was to go pick up a milker that we had just won from eBay and were very excited about. Alexis headed over to babysit at Brian and Theresa's house in the afternoon as Thomas was on the ski trip, too. It was just another normal day.
I was in for a 13 1/2 hour day (not unusual in my position). After my day in scheduling I headed back to the ER desk to sit with the new gal who was almost done with her training. There was a full moon, and those of you who work in health care know what a full moon means. It did not disappoint as our little ER had been busy all day and was chaos on every level at the time I got back there. A change of positions for the registrars and doctors, plus patients and the phone ringing off the hook. So the chance that I was actually the one who picked up the phone a little before 5:00 to hear wailing on the other end was only from God.
I couldn't even make out what the caller was saying at first. They asked if this was Terri, amongst the sobbing, and I said "Yes, who is this?", they said "There was an accident". "Who is this?" I asked. More wailing, "It's your husband. It's Rob." Still not able to make out the voice and surrounded by confusion at the ER desk, my first thought was that it was Theresa calling to say that Rob had been in an accident. Finally I made the connection that it was Rob and felt a total peace flood over me, I knew. I asked "Is it Trent?". He said, "Yes, there was an accident." I said "Do I need to come home?" "Yes".
Scripture says there is a peace that surpasses all understanding. At that point that peace flooded over me. I picked up my bag, told Jodi I had to go home, somehow remembered to go punch out, then walked by the cafeteria and called Mom aside. I told her I didn't know anything but that there had been an accident with Trent and I was going home. As I drove home I prayed for Trent; for healing, for the doctors and nurses and those with him, but I knew my prayers were in vain. I knew that there was no healing needed, and God directed my prayers to be prayers for us, for strength, for peace.
I can't say that I gave up praying for Trent's healing, or that I would give up praying until I knew it was not needed, but on some level I knew what I would hear when I got home. I walked in the door to wailing and simply asked Rob "Is he gone?" "Yes."
What happened next was only by God's strength, and is so much the way He made me, because I did not break down or wail with the rest of them. Rob, Cole, Grace, Micah and I clung to each other, and in the midst of their crying I started singing "What a Mighty God we Serve". I started praying out loud, asking God to help us, thanking Him for being God and acknowledging that even this was His plan.
As I function best and clearest in chaos my brain immediately went into check-list mode. The first thing we had to do was have Christians surrounding us; Alexis needed to get home; we needed to get to the hospital in Duluth; we needed a bag packed; I had to call my mom and I had to call work as I wouldn't be there on Sunday; I had to call Traci so she didn't hear about it second hand.
I called our youth pastor, Jerry, and he answered in his happy voice asking how I was. "Actually not so good, Jerry, we just found out that Trent died in a skiing accident, but listen to me, rejoice with me, we know he is in heaven and we need to ask you to drive us up to Duluth." After shock on his end he said that he and his new wife, Ashlee, would be here as soon as they could.
Now God had all of this planned out as well because it "just so happened" that a young man named Seth, who was helping with Trent's youth group and whom Trent had looked up to, was at their house for supper that night. Prayers already were being lifted up which would continue to carry us through the night and days to come. A prayer request was also sent out on our AWANA churches email prayer chain simply asking for prayers for our family without any details, our church called their prayer chain with the news, and somehow a friend of Rob's sister heard about the accident while she was at a home school meeting and the whole group stopped the meeting and were in prayer for our family at the time we were getting to the hospital.
The next call that had to be made was to get Alexis home from babysitting at Brian and Theresa's house. Rob called the pastor from church, Doug, and asked if he could bring her home. He already knew about the accident and gladly dropped off his wife to babysit and picked up Alexis. We asked him to not tell her so that we could be the ones to share the news and comfort her when she got home. The whole ride home Doug continued to keep the conversation on suffering and God's purposes for them. As much as Alexis loves to talk about God and theology she was wondering why, in the first place, we would need her home, and why the conversation kept coming back to suffering.
As I was bustling around getting kids ready, packing a bag, and finishing details Rob picked up Trent's Bible. Earlier last summer Alexis had bought some magnetic book markers at summer camp with scripture verses on them and Trent had sweet-talked her into giving him one for his Bible. Rob looked up to see where Trent had left off reading and found the book marker in Isaiah 65. Verses 17-25 became the promises of God that would sustain us through the night, and many more days, and I am sure months and years, until God calls us home.
Shortly after reading the promises Jerry and Ashlee pulled into our driveway. Thus began a relationship with two people that will be very dear to me for the rest of my life. We had known Jerry for a couple of years as Alexis and Trent's new youth pastor. He was a young man clearly gifted by God in teaching and preaching as well as striving to live every area of his life in obedience to God. We could see the depth in his life and appreciated his example and encouragement. On several occasions we spent time in fellowship with him, and were really excited when he met Ashlee and soon after there was news of a wedding. Such a sweet, Godly young lady to accompany who God had made Jerry. God put these two people in our lives for just such a time as this and helped set the foundation for how we would respond to what God had done. God uses people in our lives to shape and sanctify us in all circumstances, for bringing out the good that He is growing, or for taking us deeper in chiseling out our sins later on in life. God was so gracious to put this young couple in our lives that night to walk beside us and hold up the word of God to and with us. Jerry and Ashlee allowed us to be where God had us, which was trusting Him and rejoicing, and encouraged us greatly to continue trusting in God's plan.
Of course when they got here they were sad for us, giving hugs all around and watching for ways to comfort us. We were waiting for Doug and Alexis to arrive so we could take off for the hospital and spent the time reading the Isaiah passage to them. When Alexis came home Rob broke the news to her. My first words were to share with her about witnessing Trent's salvation last spring. A smile came over her face and she shared her own glimpses of watching God transform Trent's life and her own wonderings if he had been saved then. At the time I wrote a vague blog post about Trent's salvation and told a couple of close people, but chose to keep his news private to share how he wanted. Alexis told us of the changing conversations since then and about how at night, when he would come and talk with her in the girl's room, the conversations always turned to talking about God. As she realized that Trent was in heaven her demeanor changed from crying to smiling.
We shared the Isaiah 65:17-25 passage again with Doug and Alexis, finished our last minute preparations, then all stood together and prayed. He chose to drive his car up to the Duluth hospital ahead of us and Jerry and Ashlee drove our van so we could just ride and process things. I don't think at that point we would have been able to make it to the stop sign up the road, so we all piled in the van and took off. Grace was thrilled because she got to sit on my lap the entire ride, and snuggling her was something I needed at that point as well.
It was a cold, dark February night. Right away the conversation started about the accident, about God, and about Trent. Laughter was not far behind the tears as we rejoiced that Trent was in heaven and shared about his life. One of the first things I remember thinking in the van was how happy Trent would be that he didn't have to finish his dreaded school workbook. I had said for years that my home school mantra was (especially with Trent and Cole) that the most important thing for our kids was that they were right with God. The rest of the curriculum paled in comparison and as much as I had mouthed that saying, tonight it was so true. It didn't matter tonight if he knew his times table or he could conjugate a verb. God saved him and he was in heaven, that was all that mattered.
Cole became solemn and realized that he was the big brother now. What a weight on his shoulders. Grace broke the mood by wondering, then, if since Trent was in heaven and couldn't own his half of the X-box anymore did that mean she could have it? And who was going to wash dishes and clean the kitchen on Monday's? Oh Grace! My little realist. Our conversation turned to scripture verses about Gods plans, God's sovereignty, and heaven.
About half way Ashlee noticed we needed gas so we pulled into a gas station. As we walked into the gas station I looked at my four kids walking in front of me and mentally had to tell myself that this is how it would be from now on. No more counting five heads, no more looking for three boys, no more Ken-doll locks and a black and fluorescent snowmobile coat. The kids had not ate supper yet so we bought some food and drinks and headed back out onto the freeway.
I realized that we would soon have to walk into that hospital room and see Trent's body. Working at an emergency room I knew a little bit about witnessing tragedy, about procedures and smells and curtains and doctors and tubes and weeping parents. The heavy dread of knowing why we were taking a trip to Duluth started to sink in. Talking about your son being in heaven is one thing, seeing the shell of his body is another. As we started seeing signs for Ski Mountain the reality sunk in a bit deeper.
But then came God. Was this not the God who had given me peace to hear the news? Was this not the God who had ordained all things for His glory? Was this not the God who had already given us an hour of peace and trust in Him? Was this not the God who was so gracious to have saved Trent? Did I really believe all those verses about Him never leaving me or forsaking me? Was I really thinking I was doing this in my own strength, or that God would leave me when I got to that hospital room? One step at a time.
We began to wonder about what Trent's body would look like. A skiing accident, a tree, a dead son. That was about all the story that we knew. Was he mangled? Was there head trauma that we would not be able to see him? Broken, twisted bones? Thoughts about what would have to happen in the next few days began to surface. How do you go about planning a funeral? Burial or cremation? How many days off can Rob get? What do you wear to your sons funeral? How are we going to walk into that room and see Trent's dead body?
The lights of Duluth loomed ahead. The hospital was closer. We followed Doug through stop lights and exits and saw the hospital. The hospital where they tried so hard to overcome what God had planned for that day. The hospital where Trent's body was laying in one of those rooms. The hospital where doctors and nurses and registrars had come to work for another shift planning just to get through their eight or twelve hours and go home to bed, not realizing what God had in plan for them.
I remember it was cold outside. We found a patient parking spot and headed for the elevators, only to find out that we didn't need to go up, so we rode back down, walked down around the steps, and outside again to head across the street into the emergency room doors. This was it, no turning back.
There were several guards near the door and in the guard booth. I wondered which one was waiting for us. The gentleman sitting inside to the left of the double glass doors greeted us and introduced himself as the officer who had been at the scene since shortly after the accident. He led us inside to a waiting area near a fish tank and verified that Rob and I were the parents and continued to offer us his condolences. Then he shared what he knew of the accident and asked if we had any questions.
At this point I can only say that I felt a welling up of the Holy Spirit within me. This man in front of me had an eternal destination, just like Trent did. I knew that Trent was in heaven and nothing was going to bring him back. But this man.... what if it had been him on that slope? Where would he be? Rather than asking the typical questions or responding with an outburst of tears I simply looked him in the eyes and asked "What if that had been you? Where would you be right now?" His was the first of many puzzled faces that looked at me with confusion. "I'd be fine". "But where would you be?" I asked. He smiled the smile of one who holds a secret with somebody else and said "Heaven". "How do you know" I insisted. What did I have to lose? That he might get mad at me, or on the other hand he might be saved. That smile again, and the simple words "Because of Jesus."
He led us into a private family waiting room where we all took a seat and waited. A nice, gentle male nurse (I wish I had gotten his name) came in to offer kind words on our loss. He shared what he knew and said the doctor would be in soon to talk to us. Dr. Hans walked through the door and sat down directly across from Rob and I who were on a little couch with the kids. He was a very young oriental man. Knowing the trauma that is felt in losing a patient and imagining how hard it would be to face the family I felt sorry for him to be put in this position tonight.
He shared from his medical point of view what happened since the ambulance came through the doors and offered his apology for the loss of our son. Again the Holy Spirit came welling up inside of me that I could hardly stand to sit there without a smile on my face before I could ask him. Again, the absolute confirmation that Trent was in heaven because of God's promises in Scripture and knowing that nothing could bring him back, and the overwhelming thought that this man, too, had an eternal destination overcame me.
He asked us "Do you have any questions?". "What if that had been you tonight?" I asked. I will never forget his puzzled look. "What?" "What if that had been you who died tonight? Where would you be?" He hung his head and twiddled his fingers. I could sense the others in the room anticipating his response as much as mine and probably thinking I had gone looney in my grief and despair. Somebody later told me after of the grin that was busting to break into a smile on Doug's face.
"We all deal with these things differently" he finally said. "Yes, we do, but where would you be? We know our son is in heaven because of what Jesus Christ did on that cross. Do you know where you would be?" I asked. Again he hung his head and looked down at his hands. "I will choose to keep that private" he responded. I could respect that, but not without at least warning him. I told him that was fine, but that he would be in my prayers that he would know the saving grace of Jesus and that it was not an accident that we had met tonight in this way and that I hoped he would consider where he is with God. Relieved to be let off the hook he said he would go get the chaplain who would take us back to see Trent's body.
Now, those of you who know me, know that I hold firmly to what Scripture teaches. How many times in the last several years have I gone on about women pastors and the churches embracing of a practice and position that the Bible clearly lays out as a man's role? So when in walks the chaplain, a woman, I about burst out laughing, seriously thought about requesting somebody else, then realized that my sovereign God was in control of who walked in that door just as much as He was in control of Trent going down that hill.
We decided that Rob and I would go back first and see Trent then the kids would be brought back. We took a right, a left, another left and another left, and then came to the door with the rose card on it that was shut. Nobody met our eyes as we walked past. They all knew who we were and what we were here for. I have seen it from the other side of the desk before and there is not much you can say or do at that point. But what I hope those people saw that night was God shining through us as we walked the halls to enter that room fully trusting God and his sovereign plan. The guard met us at the door and smiled. The chaplain opened the door and it was time to walk in.
The curtain was drawn and we knew once we crossed into the room we would face our worst nightmare. Just inside the room Rob and I prayed together for the strength to go in and acknowledged God's plan as being good and right because He had ordained it. I walked in first and saw Trent's body laying there. They had to leave a breathing tube in his mouth until the autopsy could be done. I remembered just a few weeks ago the boys taking a tour of our ER with Paul and him talking to them about how to insert the breathing tube and why they would need to use one. What strange things go through your mind.
There was my son, but it was so clearly not Trent. It was truly just a shell. A beautiful, young, 12 year old shell of a body. I walked up to his left side and touched him. "Where are you Trent?" He was so clearly not there. The body was turning cold and yellow already. There was no evidence of trauma other than some scratches on his forehead, not any bigger than he would have gotten playing out back with Cole or falling off his bike. I hugged him and kissed him and touched his hair. I tried to memorize every little part of him that I would never see again. His ears, the mole between his eyes, his eyelashes, his fingernails that he hated to cut. I looked at everything in the room, not wanting to forget a single moment of this night. The sheet, the hospital gown, the cupboard doors, the sink in the corner, the chairs, the Kleenex box, the silent machines and monitors. This was a night that God had ordained and I didn't want to miss a moment of His detail.
I dug out the camera and asked Rob to take our picture. So much of my processing comes through words and pictures. I figured if I never wanted to look at the pictures again I would never have to, but if I never took the pictures I would never get the choice. It is not something that I regret having.
Rob and I spent time together alone with Trent. The whole 23 years that we have spent together as a couple were wrapped up in this moment somehow. I would never have guessed that God would have this in store for two young teenagers in love all those years ago. That this young boy whose body was laying here was a part of both of us. The person he was was because of us. The pain that I felt, Rob felt, maybe even more so. It was not a surreal experience because I forced myself to experience every part of it.
Soon the chaplain knocked and asked if we wanted the kids to come in. Alexis wept when she saw Trent's body. How my heart broke for her. Cole and Micah kept their distance. Grace soon chose to leave. We allowed them to be as much a part of everything that they wanted to be, explaining what would happen next and what we expected to help prepare them, but did not force them to stay longer or get closer than they wanted to.
As the night when Trent was born I began to memorize every part of his body, again at the hospital this night I had to marvel at him one more time. I uncovered his feet and kissed them, counting his toes again. I took his hands out from under the sheet and held them. I touched his hair and his beautiful face. I told him how much I loved him.
I had brought Trent's Bible with and read the Isaiah 65:17-25 passage again, rejoicing in the perfect work that God was doing right now in this emergency room. Holding on tight to the promises He had given us.
More knocking, more interruptions, more questions. Did the kids want to go back? Did we need the chaplain for anything? Did we need anything else? We could overhear pages for doctors and machines beeping. People walking in the hall, patients living their own traumas on the other side of the walls, doctors and nurses and janitors just here another day to do their jobs as God was doing His. I was very aware that everyone knew who we were and praised God again for giving His children peace to trust Him even in this.
The chaplain knocked again to bring Grace back and asked if Leslie could come in. Chris (the youth pastor) and his wife Leslie had been at the hospital the whole time, although we hadn't seen them yet. God ordained even this perfectly (who He would have by our side this night) and I had to trust Him for that as well. I struggled to share this time, but for Grace's sake, because it meant so much to her to have Leslie there, I welcomed her in.
At some point Rob and I were called away to the private waiting room again for a phone call about donating Trent's organs. We both immediately felt peace about donating whatever we could.
When we went back to the room everyone was in there~ Doug, Chris, Leslie, Jerry, Ashlee, us and the kids. It was getting very late and everybody was getting tired. The ski resort had offered to rent us a hotel room if we wanted to spend the night, but being we would not be able to see Trent's body again once we left we decided it was best to head home and wake up in our own beds.
The room cleared out so we could say our final goodbyes in private. The nurse brought a scissor and an envelope so I could cut some of Trent's spiked hair. I kissed my son's face one last time and walked out the door, determining not to look back and determining to trust God every step of the way for what He had planned.
Nobody knew exactly what happened because nobody actually saw the accident. We realized immediately how gracious this was of God. There were twelve boys on the ski trip that day, most of them boys that Trent had grown up with and had been friends with his whole life. One of them was his best friend, Thomas. They had been teasing each other on the ride up wondering what was going to happen to Trent today because, almost without fail, he was always injuring himself in some minor way when they got together. The fact that these boys were spared the lifetime trauma of having to see the accident caused us to praise God, yet again, for how He had ordained the day.
The ride home was spent trying to absorb what God had just done, and what He was going to do. I really expected that if something like this ever happened in my life it would be a surreal experience~ like it really wasn't happening, like it was a dream. God allowed it all to be very real along with much clarity of everything that was happening. Which, looking back, meant I could accept it and live every moment of it without regrets. I was honestly rejoicing that Trent was in heaven and there was no pain of my loss yet.
Jerry said the words that I have held onto as I walk through this "You will have to be careful to be honest with your thoughts and feelings". My family are "stuffers" when it comes to feelings; I am a people pleasing stuffer at my core. At that point I was stuffing being happy that my son was in heaven because others might not understand it, and those words gave me freedom to be right where God had me right then, and for the two months since, and probably for the rest of my life~ wherever and however God has me. Freedom.
The rest of the ride home was spent talking about God and how good he was to us, talking about Trent, talking about heaven, talking about the rapture, trying to sing "It is well with my soul" with a mostly tone deaf family. Cole, Grace and Micah fell asleep. At one point Jerry had to swerve to miss a raccoon~ oh how we thought of Trent. And then finally talking about the obvious, the van brakes had started to go out. Uggh~ life.
We arrived home around 2:30 in the morning, got our sleepy kids to bed, and crawled into bed ourselves, still praising our God and Savior.