Looking at Nolan sprawled across his covers, mouth open and in deep sleep, I could almost see him morph into a teenager. I thought about how hard it would be to wake him up for school in the mornings. I thought about the gigantic appetite he will probably acquire in 10 years. I thought about how long it would be before he was taller than me. I looked at him and thought about the fact that probably every parent sees their child as both fragile and invincible. I'm pretty sure that any parent that holds their child in their arms for the first time is thinking both about the enormous task of keeping them safe, and the bright future that awaits them during a long, happy, healthy life. I know I dance between those two thoughts several times a day. I can't help but think that most parents probably look at their child and see them living forever. No, I'm not talking about eternity in Heaven. I'm talking about sustaining life in a physical body. Thinking about the death of a child is too much. The mere thought is hard to grapple with. So, that day I peeked in on Nolan, I didn't think only about his future. . . I thought about my friends.
Bryan and Samantha Kirby are friends of ours from med school. Bryan and Brian share a lot of common interests, including the most important one. Yes, they are both Georgia Bulldog fans. They both love sports and both have a relationship with Jesus. Samantha and I had a lot in common. She's more shy and soft-spoken than I am, but we enjoy a lot of the same things. We both got a kick out of the fact that we were pretty short and happened to marry guys who weren't. We liked to talk about different recipes and were in Bible study together.
By the time med school rolled around, Bryan and Samantha had been married for longer than most of us had dated. I NEVER saw them fight or angry at each other. In fact, I have only seen them be kind, loving, and supportive to each other. Marriage seemed to come very easy for them. Unfortunately, having children did not.
I'm not sure how long the Kirbys "tried" for a child, but I know a lot of us were already on baby #2 when we received an e-mail titled "Pretty incredible news". That e-mail told us that they were pregnant with twins. We were nothing less than ecstatic for them. I cried. I was so happy that this couple who loved each other so much would be able to share their love with not one, but two children. Sadly, a few weeks later we received an e-mail saying that Samantha had miscarried at about 20 weeks along. I was so heart-broken for them both. We prayed diligently that God would bless them with another baby. Soon, He blessed them with two! Asa and Elijah Kirby were due September 3rd, but were born June 8th. Most of you moms out there just felt your stomach drop. If you've been pregnant, you know that you want your baby to stay put until at least 37 weeks. When talking about weeks, you definitely don't want them to make an appearance in the 20's. But, Asa and Elijah came very early. In their first days, the Kirbys started a blog. Each day I couldn't wait to get home to check the progress of their babies. Every tiny bit of progress was documented. Every scary moment was highlighted with an undertone of hope. I was often amazed at how upbeat and positive the posts were. In fact, one post read "Our boys are fat! Asa went to 1516 g today, but Eli went even higher to 1536 g!" (That's a little over 3 lbs each.) As the weeks went on, the news just kept getting better. There were definitely some hiccups along the way, but before I knew it, I received a message asking for Brian's rib recipe. The boys were celebrating their 2nd birthday! Sure, several of us reading the updates wondered if that day would ever come. Landry prayed every night for the Kirby boys. So did I. I would be willing to bet that there are hundreds of people who can say the same thing.
I wish I could change the earthly ending to this story. On September 21st, I received a call from a friend telling me "The Kirby boys passed away last night." I was very confused. . . then shocked. . . then ultimately crushed. She told me that it looked like their heating system was faulty and turned on over night, heating their upstairs (where the boys' room was) so much that they died of heatstroke. No need to tell you how sick I felt or how much pain I felt as a parent and a friend. No need to tell you the amount of time my mind was consumed by the tragedy that happened. No need to tell you that I still cry for two boys who will never graduate college or get married. And surely no need to tell you that I see my children differently now. I don't love them more (how could I?), but I treasure them more. I feel the reality of the fact that when a child dies, the possibility of what may have come dies with them.
I am writing this post as a tribute to the Kirbys. The day of their boys' death, their facebook status read "Bryan Samantha Kirby are thankful for the time God gave them with Asa Walker and Elijah John". That sentence changed me. I have never seen a thankful heart like that before. Never. What an awesome testament to our God. The Kirbys are an awesome testament to our God.
"For our light and momentary troubles are achieving for us an eternal glory that far outweighs them all. So we fix our eyes not on what is seen, but what is unseen. For what is seen is temporary, but what is unseen is eternal." 2 Corinthians 4:17-18