Chapter 17

Jerry and I cried together all the way back to Brockville that Friday evening. We sobbed our hearts out to God. A special prayer meeting was held at our church that evening on Jeff's behalf and, once again, our beloved church family cried out to God for our great need. When I talked with my sister-in-law on the phone that night and told her how I felt about the way Jeff looked, she said, "Joan, take the most beautiful photograph you have of your son and place it beside your bed tonight". I did just that.

I telephoned the hospital twice during the night and was told he was about the same. We had definitely requested that if they thought the end was near, they immediately get in touch with us as we needed an hour and a half traveling time to get there and we wanted to be with Jeff. The doctor had told me on Friday that he felt it would be at least another week. I called again very early Saturday morning and the nurse told me he was becoming quite restless. We left as soon as we could and as we drove the familiar highway to Ottawa, I remember simply saying repeatedly, "Oh God, please help us. Please help us."

When we walked down the corridor towards Jeff's room, we met a nurse and Jerry said, "How's my boy today?" At the look on her face, we both immediately knew what she had to tell us.

She took us by the arms and said, "I'm so sorry to have to tell you Jeff died about an hour ago". The staff had tried to notify us but we were already on the way. Jerry confided to me later that he had been praying all the way out that if God was going to take Jeff, that it would be all over before we arrived because he really didn't want me to witness Jeff's death He felt it would have been a scene I would find very hard to live with later. Perhaps he was right, but somehow I felt after giving Jeff my best for over fifteen months during his illness, that now when he'd needed me most, I had somehow failed him. The words Jeff had said the day before pounded in my head -- "Mommy, please come faster tomorrow". Oh my darling son -- if only I'd stayed!

Then, I recall looking down at my hands and I thought, "I really did make mistakes with these hands even though I tried my best. Jeff is now being cared for by divine hands that can make no mistakes". A joy -- was it possible? -- began to flood my soul. Jerry and I stood with our arms around one another. We were never again to see our lively little Jeff on this earth and be able to talk and laugh with him, but we could rejoice because our darling was right this very moment with Jesus. How many times had he said, "It's better to be in heaven with Jesus than anywhere else". I recalled the many times on his return from Ottawa, when he'd run in the back door and yell, "Boy it sure is good to be home!" I could almost hear him saying this to Jesus -- the one he really did love the best.

And so, May 19th, 1979 became the most important day in our son's life. That was the day he met Jesus and was finally at peace in his 'eternal home'.

We were asked if we wished to be alone with Jeff's body for awhile. I did not wish to do so, but Jerry went twice, in fact, to be alone with his son. I just wanted to try and forget the ugly sight his little body had become. I wanted to picture him as I'd known, loved, and cared for him. I knew he wasn't there any more, but the little body I'd tried so hard to keep well was, and I just had no desire to see it lying lifeless. Never once have I regretted this decision.

As I stood waiting for Jerry, I gazed quietly at the I.V. equipment and I could honestly thank God that no one could ever hurt or frighten my son again. After a short talk with the doctor and signing permission forms allowing an autopsy to be performed in the hopes of helping some other child, I returned to the fourth floor where Jeff had spent most of his time while hospitalized. I thanked the nurses for their many kindnesses to our family. Once again, I tried to share God's love for my family and to explain how I felt a great peace even at that moment. When I went to leave, I gave them a picture of Jeff. As I looked back, they stood in a little circle together weeping. My heart goes out to medical personnel dealing with sick children, or adults for that matter. They may act tough when they have to, but many times they also become very emotional about what they have to deal with. It takes very special people to do the job that must be done.

The young man who'd been Jeff's social worker came in to see us. When I commented to him how nice it was of him to come to work on a Saturday holiday weekend, he said quietly, "Jeff was my friend too you know". Since Jeff's death I have received many beautiful letters from those who helped care for him. They expressed how glad they were to have a little part in his life. One of the nurses who wrote stated, "Jeffrey has had a tremendous witness for Christ in his few short years; sad to say, but better than most adults". This was a nurse who had been with us through many difficult days at the hospital during Jeff's year and a half of treatment.

Friends from Brockville were visiting in Ottawa that day, and we called them. Also Faye, Terry, Robin, Mom and Jamie were soon to arrive. Mom had suspected things were critical when the hospital had called, and Terry offered to drive her to Ottawa to be with us. God is so good. He sent just the people we needed to be with the most at that particular time. I could not cry -- it seemed the tears just would not come. I had cried too many when Jeff was sick. Together with our loved ones, we had a time of prayer right out in the parking lot behind the hospital and God's peace flowed abundantly. It was a beautiful day -- sunny and warm and not a cloud in the sky. Jeff had always said that Saturday was the 'best day' of the week' and today was 'Saturday'.

As we were driving home, I recalled Jeff asking me one night a few weeks earlier, "Mommy, when I die, is there a river I'll have to cross like the one people sing about?" He was referring to the River Jordan, and before I could answer him, he responded with, "Oh well, if there is, it's O.K. 'cause Jesus will help me to get across."

But how was I to survive without ever feeling those dear little arms around me ever again? Never again would his sweet little voice say, "Mommy, know how much I love you? Higher than the highest cloud and wider than the widest ocean!". I knew then I needed God's help and strength like I never had before.

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© Joan McMillan #297587

This page was created April 21st 1997. It is maintained by Jonathan McMillan and Joan McMillan