Our Story

Matt wrote the following words in the days after we lost our beautiful son. He read these words at Isaiah's memorial service on 2.7.2010.

At 6am on Tuesday morning we flipped on the television and watched as the morning news personalities waxed on about the prediction of a large, bucktoothed squirrel named Puxatoney Phil. I remember telling Lauren how stupid I thought this holiday was. While waiting in the ultrasound room before our regularly scheduled 32 week appointment I remember continuing my rant on the ugly squirrel. As the ultrasound tech glided her instrument across my brides beautiful stomach I was thinking about how silly newscasters are and there obsession with a groundhog.

Then my world collapsed. The tech ran out of the room saying that she would be back in two seconds and we stared at each other in terror. We both knew this feeling. Last year we had a miscarriage in the first trimester. But this was the third trimester. Our son was almost 5-1/2 pounds and judging by the shape of Lauren’s midsection, he must have been tall enough to go on the amusement park rides at 6 flags.

Through throbbing ears and melting eyes I watched as our doctor explained that our son no longer had a heartbeat. We screamed uncontrollably. We just felt our son kicking yesterday! When the doctor left it was time to lay into God. We yelled at him like animals. If the God of the universe had stepped into that ultrasound room at 676 North St. Clair Street in human form, I would have punched him. We were so angry and hurt and empty and alone.

We were taken across the street to Prentice-Northwestern Memorial. An amazing female nurse (I can’t for the life of me remember her name) led us to a birthing suite on the eighth floor. The room was bigger than our entire condo and it was lined with warm, wood floors and illuminated by soft recessed cans. In the corner of the room stood a small bed and warming light meant to comfort a newborn baby’s chill. God, how could you be so cruel?!

Moments after telling family and friends, people started responding in such gracious acts of love. Lauren’s closest friend at Deloitte, Kristen, grabbed Lauren’s belongings and raced to the hospital. Rob Toal, a pastor here at Missio Dei, a neighbor and friend, wept with us in the birthing suite. Our bible study family at Joe and Tanja’s home sat with us through the night talking and crying. My mom and dad jumped in the car and drove east, turning interstate 94 into a 400 mile-long autobahn. Simultaneously, Lauren’s mom was pulling the Indie 500 on Interstate 57 as she headed north from Tennessee. Though I didn’t know it then, the LORD was rallying his people around us, literally forming a huddle around us to block the cold darkness beyond the pack.

I didn’t sleep Tuesday night. I laid on what looked like a bench on a CTA bus and stared at the passing clouds as they rolled off Lake Michigan and then were pushed back again by the western wind. I had never seen this phenomenon or maybe I’ve never been so still to notice. I could see a piece of the John Hancock tower as it soared as a piece of muscular energy. But, mostly I could only see WaterTower Place. It’s really an ugly building.

That night our doctor broke Lauren’s water and began inducing labor. Our fears intensified as the reality of delivering our deceased son drew. God how much worse could this get? Not only does our son die, but now we must give birth to his breathless body?

Another pastor of this church, Josh Taylor, arrived Wednesday morning. My mom and dad and Lauren’s mom was there as we sat around Lauren’s bed wondering what lay ahead. I asked for prayer and we mentally laid ourselves on the floor before the Throne of God. Josh’s words rang in my ears as I suddenly had images of the LORD weeping with us. He was again bearing the weight of the shame-ridden cross trudging to the hill of Golgotha. This time, the cross also bore the added weight of our loss. The more I screamed at HIM in my head, the more he told me, “Matt, my son, give me all your pain. Let me take it. Let me be the one to bear it. I am the only one who can carry this massive weight.”

After our time of prayer, our family and josh left the room as our doctor entered. I was typing an email to Lauren’s friend Kristen, when I looked up to see our doctor moving quickly. She told me that Lauren was already in labor and that she could see Isaiah’s head. The room suddenly began to spin.

Across the river, Lauren’s friends gathered for their regularly scheduled prayer group. They gathered at 11:30am to lift Lauren, myself, and Isaiah in prayer. While the words rolled from their lips our son was born.

Where the first screams of a newborn should have been, there was only warmth. I could sense this sudden warmth on my back as the briefest ray of sun shone through the perforated sun shade of the delivery suite. You probably think I am making this up, to give this story a nice “touched by heaven” glow. But I’m not. If you know Chicago in the winter, you know how relentlessly gloomy our days are. And yet there it was. The sun faded and I looked at Isaiah David, born at 11:39am, 5 pounds 6 ounces and rocking-out at 19-1/2 inches.

All my anger toward God melted away. How could I be angry when I looked upon the features of this beautifully intricate, delicately crafted child? He was so masterfully and wonderfully designed by the greatest architect in the universe.

Isaiah’s cheeks were definitely mine. They were huge and round and weighed heavily on his face. His thin little lips were Lauren’s. I’m sure they would have almost disappeared when he smiled. When the nurse pressed his delicate feet to the ink for a footprint, we looked back in astonishment. The second toe on each of his feet overwhelmed the rest. If you’ve ever seen Lauren’s feet you know where this comes from. He had black curly hair. Neither of us have black or curly hair. Perhaps this was God’s special surprise.

We cradled Isaiah for two hours, passing him back and forth, tracing our fingers over his folds., remembering with our hands his mortal body. While his soul rejoiced in the glories of heaven, we were left with an echo of our son. As we looked upon all of this beautiful emptiness, I began to feel so homesick. I feel homesick because a piece of my small family is in our true home, the great fields of heaven.

As we left the birthing suite and left our quiet Isaiah under the warming lamps that would never warm him, I thought of that awful Bill Murrey movie, Ground Hogs Day, and desperately wished for a do-over. Can I just wake up again… and maybe today… that buck-toothed squirrel would not see his shadow. If he didn’t see his shadow we wouldn’t have to endure this desperate and vast winter ---

We returned home Thursday afternoon. Lauren and I walked into Isaiah’s nursery. I had painted the east wall a deep cerulean blue. The cerulean color reminded me of the waters of Lake Michigan, only 5 blocks east. Isaiah and I were going to build glorious sand castles to the sound of waves and seagulls. We would have built beautiful castles but they wouldn’t have been castellated or medieval. No, they would have been modern and sophisticated. They would have captured light and space and been poetic to look at. I would have built my castles a good yard from the water’s edge so as to protect them from erosion. But, Isaiah, being so much more daring than I, would have built his dangerously close to the water’s edge. He would have been so brave and bold.

On this beautiful cerulean wall, I had stenciled 6 foot high dandelions that gently bend in the breeze. Next to these dandelions I had planned to stencil a passage from Psalm 8, words from God that my wife and I had stumbled across many months ago. Two weeks ago, I had even taken a photo of the room and superimposed the text on the wall to get the right proportion and typography. The photomontage that I made two weeks ago was on the screen before this service began. I think it’s time to read that passage again.

I need to read it because the Jesus I knew before this mess is still the Jesus I know today.
I need to read it because I was so excited to share my faith with Isaiah.
I was going to teach him to walk boldly with the Lord.
I was going to teach him to be an honest and just and loving man of GOD.
I was going to teach him to pursue others with a relentless and selfless love.
They would have thought him different.
They would have wondered why.
And they would have learned that Jesus was in his heart.

psalm 8
How majestic is YOUR name in all the earth.
YOU have set YOUR glory above the heavens
From the lips of infants and children
YOU have ordained praise
When I consider YOUR heavens
The work of YOUR fingers
The moon and the stars
Which YOU have set in place
What is man that YOU are mindful of him?
The son of man that YOU care for him?
YOU made him a little lower than the heavenly beings
And crowned him with glory and honor.
YOU made him ruler over the works of your hands;
YOU put everything under his feet:
All flocks and herds,
And the beasts of the field,
The birds of the air
And the fish of the sea,
How majestic is YOUR name in all the earth.