Today we share with you two wells built in Honor of the same sweet girl,
Quinn Ruthie Weber.
First is #129, called Kodike well. It provides clean and safe water to about 1,500 people.
Holden Uganda #129
Quinn Ruthie Weber
September 9, 2010
Safe in the arms of Jesus
Constructed by Lodoi Development Fund
The Lord will guide you always; he will satisfy your needs in a sun-scorched land and will strengthen your frame. You will be like a well-watered garden, like a spring whose waters never fail. Isaiah 58:11
Here's a little bit about Jason & Joyce Weber—
Joyce and I have four kids–Owen is 8, Helen is 6, Jack is 5, and Henry is about 19 months. I farm with my dad and Joyce is a stay at home mom and leads the local chapter of MOPS at our church. We found out about HUF from some friends and thought "That's really neat, we should do that sometime……." and nothing ever happened. Joyce was in a book study at our church and the participants had a yard sale to get rid of excess stuff and decided to donate the proceeds to HUF. About the same time our church was holding their annual spring yard sale (about 50 families participate) and gave people the opportunity to donate their proceeds to HUF. The local paper ran a story and Joyce started getting calls from people wanting to donate. I received unsolicited donations from a local tractor dealership and peanut buying point. It feels like God thought it was a good idea and the money just came in. Funds are being sent a week before Quinn's 3rd birthday for a third well.
Well #132, called Okaboi well. It provides clean and safe water to about 1,500 people.
Holden Uganda #132
Quinn Ruthie Weber
September 9, 2010
"I belive that I shall look upon the goodness of the Lord in the land of the living!" Psalm 27:13
Constructed by Lodoi Development Fund
When asked if he could share about Quinn's story, Jason directed me to a note he wrote on Facebook. You can read it below, and I guarantee you will be encouraged, uplifted, and thankful for the power of Jesus Christ.
Quinn–one year later
We didn’t plan on having Quinn. Joyce and I wanted a fourth child, but we were thinking of putting a little more space between the last two. Having three children age five and under was daunting enough without adding a fourth. I had just started training for a marathon and Joyce was debating whether to join in my insanity or stick to the half marathon. We began suspecting that baby #4 might be on the way during the last half of December and confirmed our suspicions while visiting her family over the Christmas holidays. It took us a little bit to adjust to the thought of another baby coming but it didn’t take that long for us to become excited.
In late March of 2010, we travelled to Tennessee for the Knoxville Marathon/Half Marathon. Joyce and I ran the first half together and at the thirteen mile mark, I kissed her, slapped her on the butt, and set off on the second half of the course. What followed was the most physically miserable two and a half hours of my life. It was an experience in endurance, perseverance, and good old-fashioned pain–in forcing myself to continue when I had nothing left because the only respectable way out was across the finish line. I didn’t know it then, but the lessons in perseverance and endurance would become very important to me in the last half of the year. I wonder sometimes if God may have inspired my stupid whim to run a marathon in order to give me a fresh and vivid memory of what endurance feels like.
Some of our good friends from church were expecting a baby due nearly the same time as ours. About four months into her pregnancy, they discovered that their son had Trisomy 18–a third copy of the 18th chromosome and a condition which is always fatal. They knew their son would be born, but would not live. Joyce and I had grieved for them, prayed for them, and felt guilty about our own uncomplicated and trouble free pregnancy. On August 16, Josiah was born. In a direct answer to prayer, he lived for a little under two hours and his family was able to hold him alive.
September 8, 2010:
We knew that Quinn would be arriving soon. Joyce had never gone into labor on her own and really didn’t want to be induced. I thought that our options were an induction or making plans to deliver a baby beside the road–but I deferred to Joyce on this one. By late afternoon the contractions were close enough together that we decided to let the kids sleep at my parents just in case. Around 8:30 we went for a two mile walk to try and speed things up a bit and by 10:00 we were leaving for Pensacola. On the ride down the contractions slowed down so we walked the parking lot for an hour and finally checked into the hospital around midnight.
September 9, 2010:
After Joyce’s epidural took effect, the nurses turned down the lights and told us to get some rest. I actually fell asleep and woke up right when Joyce began to push. Quinn entered the world right around 3:00am. I listened for the expected cry but it never came. The midwife (Joyce’s doctor was recovering from shoulder surgery) began suctioning her nose and mouth but the cry just wouldn’t come. Before we really knew what was happening, Quinn was on the warming table getting CPR. Doctors and nurses began appearing from out of nowhere. The crew from Life Flight came down to manage the code. Joyce and I were in complete shock. It was as if we had entered some horrible dream yet we knew that we would not wake up because this was real. Terrifyingly, shockingly, numbingly real. At one point, and I don’t remember exactly when, the midwife told us that our baby “appears to have some sort of syndrome” and that she had club feet but that was all she could tell us. Quinn had a heartbeat but was unable to breathe on her own. Somehow, I managed to call both of our parents and our pastor and tell them the news.
We knew enough to realize that babies who begin life like this don’t automatically get better. Syndromes have an underlying cause that is never good. Nobody is born with “Athletic Good Looking Bill Gates” syndrome. Syndromes are bad. I remember watching Quinn’s heart monitor and feeling ashamed and conflicted because I found myself pulling for the line to go flat. We didn’t sign up for another child with health problems. We didn’t plan for Quinn to spend her childhood at some children’s hospital undergoing one surgery after another. We didn’t agree to spend the rest of our lives caring for a handicapped child. This was NOT in our plans.
Eventually the doctors moved Quinn to the nursery where she could be put on a respirator and they would be better able to manage and assess her condition. Joyce and I moved to a room on the maternity wing and waited for news from the doctors. Gene, our pastor, arrived sometime around 6:00am. All the while, Quinn’s blood oxygen levels refused to make any steady progress in the right direction. (An autopsy later revealed that her lungs failed to properly develop) We agreed to have Quinn transferred to the children’s hospital at Sacred Heart a few miles away where a better ventilator might have a chance to give her body the oxygen it desperately needed. The transport team arrived and began preparing Quinn for the move. It wasn’t until then, roughly four hours after her birth, that Joyce and I were finally able to touch (but not hold) our little girl. We held her little hands, touched her cheeks, kissed her, cried over her, and tried to absorb as much of the moment as we could. One of the nurses took Joyce’s camera from me and began taking pictures. When we were through, Quinn was placed in a tiny, clear, plastic box that perched atop the portable version of all the equipment that was keeping her alive. We returned to our room and waited for the word to come that Quinn was ready to leave. Instead, we learned that her condition was deteriorating.
Joyce and I have had enough experience with medical professionals to recognize when they are being deliberately evasive. We understand the reasoning behind the practice, but having to filter through “doctor’s bull” still annoys us. This time, a transport nurse from Sacred Heart did the kindest thing she could have possibly done for us–she spoke with complete candor. She told us that Quinn was was very sick and her vital signs were barely compatible with life. They could try to transport her to Sacred but she may not survive the trip. If she did, the better ventilator could possibly prolong her life a little bit but there were no guarantees. We could try heroic measures or we could take her off everything but the vent and have whatever time was left with her. Finally, after five hours of agonizing uncertainty, something was certain. For us, the decision was not a difficult one to make. Looking back, I believe God gave me the ability to think clearly and make a quick, sound decision because for several weeks after Quinn’s death I did not trust my own judgement. We knew she would not survive and we desperately wanted to hold our little girl while she was alive. Joyce and I have never once regretted our decision.
At eight o-clock in the morning, five hours after she was born, we finally got to hold Quinn. The nurses curtained off a portion of the nursery to give us some privacy. (Later we learned that they moved babies into their offices to accommodate us.) Quinn was beautiful. We tried to memorize every little detail of her face because we knew that this was our only chance to be with her. We took turns holding her, talking to her, telling her about her family. About her big brother Owen who was already proud of his little sister, her sister Helen who was beside herself with excitement, and Jack who was a too young to really know what was happening but was excited anyway. About her grandparents. About her home. About her new room that she would never get to use. Around 9:00am, Joyce went to use the restroom and handed Quinn to me. I was alone with Gene, and we noticed that Quinn was starting to feel slightly cool. I motioned for the doctor to come and he confirmed my suspicions. Quinn was gone. Her official time of death is listed as 9:00am, but we believe Quinn probably died earlier while Joyce was holding her. Later, Joyce would tell me that she had noticed Quinn’s temperature was changing but had not wanted to mention it. We never heard her cry.
At Baptist Hospital, mothers with newborns are kept in the rooms beside the nurses’ station and down the hall to the left of the waiting area. The hallway directly in front of the waiting area is where they put mothers who no longer have a baby. The doors to these rooms have a cheesy little black card with a leaf falling to let all the employees know a baby died. This was our new hallway and our door had a card. The nursery workers had taken Quinn to bathe her, change her clothes, and and get her ready to “meet” her family. When we got to our room my sister and her husband were waiting. My brother, his wife, and their two oldest children arrived next and we all took turns doing what families with a new baby do–passing her around, holding her, taking pictures of and with her. The only difference was that this was not just the beginning of a life on earth, it was the end as well. My parents arrived next with the rest of our children. Owen, Helen, and Jack knew that Quinn was very sick, but Joyce and I broke the news to them that their sister had died. Owen burst into tears. Not the kind that indicate a skinned knee or bruised ego but the kind a six-year old cries when his heart is truly broken. Helen immediately teared up and said, “But who is going to sleep in her crib?” before she joined Owen in sobs. Jack, at just over two years old, really didn’t indicate much comprehension of what was going on. The hospital arranged for a photographer (who happened to be a friend from church) to come and take family pictures. Taking pictures of a dead baby seems morbid–until the baby is yours. When the baby is yours, you want pictures.
My family left soon after lunch and Joyce and I were alone with Quinn for the first time. We took turns holding her, kissing her, crying over her, talking to her, and dreading the moment that we had to send her back. How do you decide when you have held your daughter long enough for one lifetime and you need to send her to the morgue? In the end, we didn’t really decide, we just sort of knew. It didn’t feel right to just call the nurses to come get Quinn. I was her daddy and it was my job to walk my little girl where she needed to go. It is just what a Daddy is supposed to do. I placed Quinn in her little bassinet and walked her down the hall to the nursery. That walk is burned into my memory. I remember thinking that I looked just like anyone else pushing my baby down the hall and wondering if the people I passed could tell that my daughter was dead. I rang the doorbell at the nursery and told the nurse, “We’re through.” I kissed her cold little forehead, pushed her through the door into the nursery, and walked back down the hall to a room full of baby stuff and my heartbroken wife with no baby. .
A little bit later the hospital grief counselor knocked on our door and said that our friend Melissa was here. Three weeks earlier Melissa had been a patient in the same hospital in the same hallway with the same stupid black cards on the door. Having someone to share your pain doesn’t make it any less painful it just makes it more bearable. There is an instant connection between parents who have lost children. I believe that God knew we would lose children at the same time and, in His mercy, He put us in the same church family.
The next morning, Joyce’s parents arrived after driving all night from Indiana. They wanted to see Quinn and the hospital staff had said that wouldn’t be a problem. It seemed to be taking a long time for them to bring her and Michelle, the grief counselor, finally pulled me aside to tell me why. They had taken Quinn out of the morgue and were trying to use heat lamps and warm blankets to warm her up but it just wasn’t working. We could still see her but she would not be warm–or really even close to warm. I decided not to see her again feeling that I had said goodbye the day before. At the last minute, I joined Joyce and her parents but hid behind the camera and took lots of pictures. I finally decided to hold her again and when it was time to go, I waited alone for the nurse to come and take her. I bent to kiss her cold little forehead again and this time it wasn’t just room temperature cold, it was ice.
The following day we got to go home. I packed up all of the presents, our luggage, and Quinn’s new diaper bag. Michelle wheeled Joyce down to a side entrance of the hospital where our vehicle was parked and we said goodbye. We drove home just like we had come–Jason, Joyce, and an empty baby seat in the back. When we got home I walked through the house to the little room we had finished for Quinn and put the still full diaper bag into her empty crib. It stayed there for several months. The next few days are kind of a blur in my memory. Family arrived from out of town, we made funeral plans, and just sort of existed. Late Saturday evening I had to track down someone in the forensic pathology dept. to find out why Quinn hadn’t been turned over to the funeral home yet. It is amazing how helpful people can suddenly become when you begin a conversation with, “Hi, my daughter passed away on Wednesday and I am trying to find out exactly where she is at.” We went to the funeral home to pick out a casket and discovered that an infant sized casket/vault combination looks about just like a sewing machine box. The home funeral only had two options to choose from–I guess the demand for infant sized caskets is not very high.
We scheduled the funeral for Monday morning and, borrowing an idea from Josh and Melissa, planned a private, graveside service for family members only. While we appreciated the support and sympathy from our friends, the thought of a long visitation line and a big public service was more than we (especially me) could handle. We were exhausted. The day of the funeral was a typical warm September day in Alabama. We chose not to dress in black. We wanted to celebrate the fact that Quinn was with Jesus and, to be blunt, we didn’t feel like going shopping or spending the money to get everyone a suitable black outfit. I don’t remember much of anything that was said. I do remember my brother singing a beautiful arrangement of “Safe In The Arms of Jesus,” a song that began going through Joyce’s head the moment Quinn died. I remember how tiny the coffin looked and how sad Owen and Helen were. I remember that the whole event just seemed surreal–except for the presence of God. That was very real.
Cotton harvest came several weeks early in 2010. The day after the funeral I started picking cotton and did not have a significant slowdown until November. For me, work was therapeutic. I had enough alone time in equipment to process my thoughts and emotions but my job required a level of focus that prevented me from being overcome by grief. I love music and almost always have a radio on in the tractor. Last fall I spent hours in complete silence.
I wrote most of this note in the winter of 2011 and just left it on my computer. I learned that writing about difficult experiences is a healthy way for me to process what I am feeling and I also wanted my children to know what I was thinking when they get older. I thought about posting it initially but, after some wise questions from my wife, was unsure of my motivations for doing so. I finally decided that the only good reason to post about our experiences of the last year was to direct all of the focus back to God–so what follows is what really matters. One disclaimer–this is a personal reflection on my experiences of the past year and not my attempt to solve the problem of evil in the world. I don’t have the solution and if you want to find it the first step is to look somewhere other than facebook.
I have never really struggled with asking God why He allowed Quinn to die. We are only a hundred years or so removed from the death of an infant being a common occurrence. Children die–and living in 2010 does not make me exempt. In my head, I know that God has a purpose for everything He allows and doesn’t owe me an explanation. If He were to give me one, I probably wouldn’t like, agree with, or understand it any more than my children comprehend some of my decisions. God is not cruel, He is not a petty tyrant, He was not picking on my family.
Hebrews 12:7-8 says “Endure hardship as discipline; God is treating you as sons. For what son is not disciplined by his father? If you are not disciplined (and everyone undergoes discipline) you are illegitimate children and not true sons.” I believe that there are times when God allows difficult circumstances into our lives in order to teach us something that we would or could not learn any other way. I am not talking about the natural consequences of bad decisions but rather God’s manipulation of circumstances beyond our control. His goal is to make us Holy, not happy. Some of us are so stubborn that our bad habits and sinful attitudes can only be rooted out through pain. If the answers were easy the lesson wouldn’t stick. (This is the same reason that people who build wealth through hard work over a long period of time usually keep their money while lottery winners often go broke.) God loves us too much to treat a broken leg with band-aids and pain killers when true healing requires the pain of surgery.
Recently, I decided that Owen, our six year old, needed to learn how to ride a bike. Owen liked the idea of riding a bike without training wheels but the prospect of falling and the work of pedalling hard enough to stay upright did not appeal to him at all. As a loving dad, I ordained a period of “suffering” for Owen. We practiced riding in the yard while I ran beside Owen and held the back of his seat to steady him. We drove to a nearby parking lot to practice on a better surface and he made real progress. I knew Owen could circle the building if he really wanted to but his fear was getting in the way. I promised him that if he could ride the whole way around the building without stopping and without help from me I would take him to the BP station for a Sprite. (A big deal in Owen’s world.) Several weeks after the first attempt we went back to try again. Owen was deathly afraid of falling and would break down in tears and beg to go home. Being the sympathetic person that I am, I made him stay on the bike. The one time he did actually fall, I made him pick his bike up without help, brush off his mildly scraped knee, and get back on. I ran beside him encouraging him, marking his progress, yelling at him to keep pedaling. When he finally made it, I snatched him off the bike, hugged him, congratulated him, and loved on him. I gave him the option of circling the building two more times to earn Sprites for Helen and Jack and he did it non-stop. Owen had his first test in facing fear head on and he passed. It wasn’t easy, it wasn’t fun, but it was good. We drove home with three bottles of Sprite, a sort of skinned knee, a little boy grinning from ear to ear, and a very proud daddy.
I love my son and would never intentionally hurt him–but because I love him I will allow or cause pain to enter his life when it is for his ultimate good. If I never allow Owen to suffer, and instead let his will rule his world, he won’t be able to function as an adult, and I will have unleashed an insufferable brat on the rest of the world. Good fathers love their children dearly, but they also have to deal in pain. It is cruel not to. Owen can’t really comprehend this any better than I can comprehend why God chose to let Quinn live for only six hours.
I am the little boy on the bike. My Daddy is running right beside me, protecting me, encouraging me, understanding my fears, yelling at me to keep pedaling, wanting desperately see me learn what He is teaching, and celebrating with joy and pride when I finally get it.
In His sovereignty, God chose to use our daughter to train us rather than using us to train her. Through all of this, His Goodness has never been more evident. C.S. Lewis wrote, “We are not necessarily doubting that God will do the best for us; we are wondering how painful the best will turn out to be.” He couldn’t have been more right.
James 1:3-4 says, “…the testing of your faith develops perseverance. Perseverance must finish its work so that you may be mature and complete, not lacking anything.” Romans 5:4-5 says “…suffering produces perseverance; perseverance, character; and character, hope. And hope does not disappoint us…” Whenever I think of perseverance my mind goes straight to running. I remember running alone in a driving rainstorm, knowing that I was seriously fatigued, and realizing that the little “16” sign by the road meant that I still had ten miles to run. By the time I finished, this was going to hurt a whole lot more than it already did–but I was going to finish. It wouldn’t last forever. No suffering ever does. We are learning to persevere. I obviously have not finished yet because “mature, complete, not lacking anything” does not describe me at all–but I am learning. I am more convinced than ever of the faithfulness and goodness of God and I do not think that this conviction could have come without pain. God loved me enough to know what I needed to learn and He orchestrated the events of my life to make sure the lesson had a chance to stick. I pray that it does–because I really don’t want to take this course over.
September 9, 2011
Today would have been Quinn’s first birthday and instead of holding my daughter I wear a ring on my right hand with her name inside it. I finally finished the process of ordering her headstone this morning–within fifteen minutes of the time we believe she died. I didn’t plan to do it on her birthday it just worked out that way. We decided to have a party for Quinn and Helen, who usually sleeps late and wakes up grumpy, was up at 6:30 bouncing with excitement because “its’ Quinn’s birthday!” Joyce and I planned a fun afternoon with the kids and came home this evening to have her cake. The afternoon turned out to be fun but the cake part was a little anticlimactic. Watching the three kids blow out Quinn’s candle left me feeling a little empty. It was a good day, but I am glad it only comes around once a year.
In the past I have said that I would gladly give up everything I have learned and go back to being a selfish jerk in exchange for having Quinn back. I don’t think I can say that anymore. Being a good father to Quinn means that I want what is best for her. Which is better, being with Jesus or being with me? My reasons for wanting Quinn back are selfish and in my own interests, not hers. The only decision I ever got to make for Quinn while she was alive was to let her die in peace. Now that she is gone, the only way for me to be a good father to her is to submit my will to the will of my Father even though I don’t understand His reasoning. Her life on earth was about God’s plans, not mine. My life needs to follow the same pattern. When I ask my children to do something for me, the desired response is “Yes Sir,” with no whining and no complaining. (It would not be correct to assume that is always the response I get–just to be clear) I have to give the same response to God that I want from my kids–”Yes Sir.” No whining. No complaining.
I have so much to be thankful for and so many ways to see God’s goodness. Joyce and I have nobody to blame for Quinn’s death and nobody to forgive. We have three beautiful children and another one on the way who, after two ultrasounds and a trip to a specialist, appears to be completely normal and healthy. When I compare my suffering to what God asks and allows others to go through, I really haven’t suffered very much. Some people lose a cage fight and I stubbed my toe. I am not saying it did not and does not hurt–trust me, it does. But it could have been so much worse.
When I graduated from college I was struck with just how much I didn’t know. Now, I feel like I have taken a course on the goodness of God and I feel the same way. I haven't scratched the surface.