There is always more on my heart than words can say, but I find journaling my thoughts or prayers a great exercise & makes a record to view of memories & our history - I invite you to join me if you can relate to authentic life.

Wednesday, November 9, 2011

My View from Room 602

My first view of 602 was very different from the room at University Hospital.  In January, at U of M , I visited Joel with much hope of a bright future for him. Not because it would be easy to live with half a tongue, or go through chemo treatments, but because he was young and otherwise healthy and had a passion to keep talking about Jesus, even though it took phenomenal effort. Plus, it was hard to believe that God would take another brother, so I chose to hope in Joel’s healing. God did use Joel and his passion for sharing Christ, it was just a lot less time than we hoped for. I knew going in to room 602  the other day that Joel’s journey was ending and my view was different. I tried to align my view with God's view, although heartache was what was mostly in my vision. There were precious moments, too, in that room.
Here are pieces of my view from 602, the last few days of Joel’s life:

Joel breathing with effort.
Wendy, my sister-n-law hugging me tight and sobbing when she first saw us arrive.
My sister-n-law administering drugs through Joel’s feeding tube.
Joel’s daughters hovering about him, anxious to be his caretakers.
The nurse asking if anyone needs anything.
Joel’s chest heaving.
Joel telling me he loved me.
Joel returning  his daughter's  ‘I love you’ hand sign from across the room, while someone was reading scripture.
A brilliant blue colored balloon, lightly bouncing in the corner.
Joel pointing to Mark, trying to tell him something.
Joel trying to write something down.
Trying to decipher Joel’s scribbling, due to his weakness. Or, was it the cancer? The letters did not make words.
The respiratory therapist giving Joel a breathing treatment.
My big brother Tim walking in the corridor at 2am with his bags, just arriving on a flight from Tn.
Gowns, gloves, masks everywhere. Taken on and off, on and off, as visitors come in and out of the room.
The IV pump blinking and beeping.
Tim making everyone feel better the moment he came in. Joel’s pleasure at seeing him.
Joel’s legs moving restlessly.
Joel asking for mom and dad.
Long time friends walking into the hospital with mom and dad, after driving down to Illinois to get them. (The same friends who did this for them when my brother Mark died)
Mom bending over Joel with tears in her eyes.
Dad standing at the end of the bed, patting Joel’s foot.
Joel reaching his head over so very far so mom could see he wanted to kiss her, even though it was painful.
Joel putting his hands together to indicate he wanted dad to pray when he saw dad at his side.
Holding Joel’s hand and feeling him squeeze mine.
Tim, Mom and I asking Joel to tell Mark, Steve, Philip and Jonathan that we loved them and missed them when he got to heaven, without realizing each other did so til later.
Joel reaching for Wendy and grasping her hand.
The way Joel’s head would go back a little and his eyebrows would rise when we finally understood what he was trying to tell us.
Joel’s mouth opening as wide as he could get it and his chest heaving so he could get as much breath as possible.
His daughter finding the ‘call’ button for Joel, after we finally understood he was asking for it.
His other daughter giving him a cool cloth for his head.
Tim and Mark trying to sleep in the waiting room, cold and uncomfortable.
Joel with a shower cap on that actually shampooed his hair.
Joel saluting the policeman friend of his when he entered the room, and then putting his wrists together as if being handcuffed.
Dad and Allyson walking and holding hands through the hospital, giving dad's back some relief.
Jan rubbing Joel’s beard and speaking to him when she first got there to see him.
Joel pointing at me when he wanted me to interpret what he was trying to say to someone, because I could usually understand him. Sometimes siblings just know how each other thinks.
Wendy rubbing Joel’s feet, legs, hands.
Dad reciting the 23rd Psalm, with all of us adding our voices, while all gathered around in Joel's room.
Keeping track of Joel’s medicine schedule as he kept needing more and more pain meds and breathing treatments.
Wendy advocating for Joel’s needs.
My children coming and telling their Uncle Joel they loved him and kissing him.
Joel’s pastor reading Psalm 91.
Looking around Joel’s room in the middle of the night and seeing Jan dozing in the chair, Wendy’s head resting on Joel’s bed, Tim sitting at the end of the bed, myself sitting with my head against the wall….all watching over Joel, ready to help with whatever he needed.
Sitting in the hall talking with a friend of Joel’s late in to the night. A new friend made.
Taking turns washing up in the hospital bathroom.
Mark reading his bible for Joel.
Me praying over Joel.
Wendy reminding Joel, ‘ He will keep you in perfect peace, Joel, whose mind is stayed on Him.’
Wendy’s dad rubbing her back, comforting his daughter.
The crazy man who was threatening the nurse loudly in the hall, 2 nights in a row, and telling his imaginary friend to shoot open the door to his hospital room so they can get out.
A nurse running down the hall yelling for security.
A bunch of us talking and laughing in the hall late at night. Then thinking Tim set off an alarm and laughing harder, but thankfully, it wasn’t us - it was the crazy man trying to escape from the emergency exit.
Our kids making a late night run up to us bringing us pop (and a cooler and a bag of ice that started dripping down the hallway, which we quickly cleaned up!)
Nurses bringing our family hospitality carts.
Joel’s son spending alone time with his dad. Jonathan leaving the room with a new set of responsibilities Joel had entrusted to him.
Nurses asking family and friends in the hall to use the waiting room a couple of times, because everyone couldn’t stay away and kept congregating outside Joel’s door to be close.  Oops!
Family talking, remembering, hugging in the waiting room, with computers, phones, blankets, Kleenex and food about.
Bruce, our newly adopted brother-n-law/son-n-law, bringing everyone pizza.
Deb making sure there was soft Kleenex, because our skin needed the relief!
Josh and Allyson being the way they always are – keeping us laughing.
Hilary bringing my kids to Jackson 2x.
Helping Wendy decide that there should be no more treatment, because of the doctor’s advice.
The nurses telling our family how they had grown to love us and how our family was unique and blessed.
The new purple bracelet added to Joel’s arm with just the letters, DNR.
After laying down in the early morning hours, each of us still sitting up to listen for Joel’s breathing. Wendy being the one who heard his last breath.
Wendy feeling Joel’s chest. The nurse checking Joel all over for signs of life.
Me, Tim, Jan and Wendy surrounding Joel’s bed as we realized he was not taking another breath.
The way the nurses took care of Joel and his room for the family to say goodbye and telling us we could have most of the day to make sure everyone could get there for their good-byes, even though the whole floor was full and they really needed the room. They knew it would be the very last viewing of Joel our family could have.
Dad's tears and his praying when he said good bye to Joel.
Mom telling Joel that she was so glad for him that he was with his brothers.
After saying goodbye, mom walking out the door, with hand up in a wave, saying ‘Til we meet again, Joel’.
Wendy's parents keeping watch over Joel while everyone took turns going in to say good bye to his body.
Joel’s 3 girls crying and saying, ‘Goodbye, daddy’.
Holding his cool fingers and being grateful he was finally resting with Jesus.
Holding his cool fingers and wishing he would squeeze mine back.
Kissing his cheek. Not because he felt it this time, but because I wanted to.
Turning to look at him 3x on my way out of the door, because I didn’t feel ready to never see him again.
Leaving Room 602 with a peace and strength that only comes from God. Leaving with the knowledge that Joel is ok and didn’t need me anymore. I might need my big brother, but Joel would want me to trust Jesus for those needs now.


  1. Dear Rachel .. I have been praying for your brother Joel, and I have met your Mom. I met her at Bible Study at Calvary Bible Church in Bradley (kinda in the country) and I know Ray & Mary Johnson, Deanna and her family. I read your 'view from 602' tears and some peeks of what my son and daughter-in-law went thru with their baby son of (2mo) & my other son and his wife with child as they said good bye .. to Baby Alexander ... then when this same son and dil together said good by to their 1st born son after a firery train/truck accident just a few miles from his other g-ma's house near Watseka in 2007, we all said good bye with out ever seeing Trevor again .. The last time any of us saw him was our last UNTIL we see him again in heaven ... I thought of Trevor's younger sister and brother as you shares about your brother Joel and your 4 brothers who were waiting for Joel in heaven ... (((HUG))) Rachel with tears I read about your Mom & Dad's words as they left Joels room 602 .. I love your testimony and your faith and your love even in this very special place you were and are ... I cant say we did too good as we let Baby Alexander go and then 13 yrs later had Trevor leave for heaven so UNEXPECTADLY !! (Trevor was just 16 1/2) I am touched by all I read .. How BEAUTIFUL your family is and your Mom and Dad and Jesus's watch over all has really touched me .. I send my heartfelt care for the family ... Thank you for speaking to me ... with where you were and went with your precious brother - Joel ... ♥ Judi

  2. That's an amazing portrait of Joel and the the love of our family! So blessed to say that I carry the Prairie name. Thanks for writing all of this in what has been another tragic time for our family. -Timothy

  3. I love you, Mom. Beautiful writing :)