loren Eric Swanson: Family Sadness

Tuesday, December 06, 2005

Family Sadness

On Saturday, while driving home from a delightful time with Jeff's wife Ashlie, our new baby grandson and the Cauhape family we got a call from my mom, who through her tears told us that little Tommy, my niece Brenda's son, had died in his sleep on the eve of his second birthday. We are all in shock and grieving for this sad, sad loss. Tommy was in perfect health and a subsequent autopsy showed his heart, lungs and brain were all healthy. The physicians mentioned something about sleep apnia since he was older than the typical SIDS (Sudden Infant Death Syndrome). My nephew Matt caught a plane Sunday and landed yesterday in Brisbane, Australia to be with the rest of his family. They are holding on tightly to each other and to God. Brenda and Christian's pastor, neighbors and family have been wonderfully kind and full of grace. It's hard to find words for times like these. My 80 year old mother said it was the hardest loss she has ever been through. My brother Bruce said it was so difficult to experience his grandson's death, but to also see the pain of his own daughter's loss that made all of this so difficult.

Bruce's wife, Lynn Maree, just sent this note to us:

My dearest family,

Thank you so much. We are living in the moment holding each other up.Brenda and Christian have been amazing witnesses for the Lord and strength of Christ and have really comforted us and keep us all standing strong. It is still very hard for us to understand and everything that you read about grief - sadness, anger, guilt, pain happens over in over in cycles. On Sunday we were lost for words - there was no comfort but to hold on to each other and as one person moved around the room another one would bethere to hold arms, hands, legs any thing to be comforted and close. The autopsy was performed yesterday and Tommy was in perfect health and perfect organs, his heart was sound and his brain was perfect. An angel came and took him home. The police, the paramedics, the coroner, the forensic detectives were very kind, professional, and understanding. Bruce has been very strong especially his pain is great yet he has beenmy strength and my comfort even as he watches his child suffer so. We cry then we are comforted. Yesterday we laughed, we had the joy of being with Jayden (Brenda and Christian's second son born a day before Gentry) and Georgia and they brought us such happiness amongst our greatest sorrow. Thank you for loving us and praying for us.

The funeral will be Friday in Brisbane. We hold all of them in our prayers.
December 13 update from brother Bruce: "The Service was awesome with over 300 in attendance! We went to the Sunday 10:30 am Service at GCC and all sat as a group. One of the pastors who attended the service honored Brenda and Christian as did the whole congregation. This particular mate said that in his 30 years in the ministry, this was one of the most powerful events he has ever attended."

December 16 I sent this email to family:
I wanted to give you an update since the funeral. Matt arrived on Tuesday and worked Wednesday and Thursday and then drove down from Fort Collins with Leah and met the Lambs, Wilcoxes and us for dinner at a little place called "Efrain's". A big shock was that someone had been totally disgusted with all the dust that was on the archives in the library and all of them were taken down, the shelves were dusted and the newly-cleaned archives were re-arranged on the shelves. The shelves needed to be thinned out but gone is our whole China display of the Xian terra cotta warriors, the praying hands of Efrains (captured in my blog) and a few other things. Oh well, they served their purpose for a time.

After dinner we went over to our place and I set up the LCD projector and speakers and Matt gave us the programs from the funeral. They were beautiful. They not only contained the order of the service but cute things Tommy said and did. He then showed us the DVD that was shown at Tommy's funeral. All of us of course were sniffling and crying, not just at the death of Tommy, but by the beauty of such a loving family--blended and different but holding on to each other and being there. All the sets of grandparents and half-sibblings and step-sibblings showed up to love and care...even if they didn't know exactly what to say. Tommy was a beautiful child...so absolutely cute and to see him constantly surrounded by people who loved him and that he obviously loved to be with. Many of the pictures we had seen before because Simon or Christian would pass them our way, so even for us who had not personally met Tommy, we felt like we have watched him grow up. At the funeral, Bruce spoke, Matt and Lyn spoke, the pastor spoke and then Christian and Brenda spoke. Brenda read from her journal--the first entry when Tommy was born and the last one, the night before he died. Matt estimated that some 350 were there.

Matt then showed us all of the pictures that he / others had taken during the week. I guess Brenda and Christian's house was full of people who cancelled life for the week just to be with them. The capaccino machine was going, people were whipping up speshes...the house was filled with flowers and balloons. People brought by snacks and food. The pictures of the funeral were moving. A few people had the foresight to take a camera to capture the moment. This should always be done. (Andy and I flew back to Pennsylvania in March to be at the funeral of the son of a Campus Crusade who was killed in Afghanistan on Easter weekend. He was one of Andy's best friends. I took a few pics with a disposable camera of Brett's military funeral and sent them to Roger and Roxanne. Roxanne later told me that these were the only pictures they had from the funeral and wished she had more since during the actual time she was in such a daze.) When Tommy was laid to rest hundreds of colorful balloons were launched into the sky. It was beautiful and stunning. The reception, at Brenda and Christian's was again packed with neighbors, family and friends. The pictures were in color...not in black and white. There were lots of smiles. Brenda baked the batman cake that had been planned for Tommy's 2nd birthday. It was reminiscent of Paul's words about not mourning "as those who have no hope." There is plenty of mourning...and we in the states are mourning, but we are mourning with hope that the resurrection brings. We'll all see Tommy again one day. So in some ways we feel like we were there with you.

It's great to be part of a family.


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