And twelve years ago today, Joseph was called home. I can still remember very clearly what it was like holding my baby boy as he stopped breathing, listening as his heart stopped, and knowing that he had quietly passed away in my arms. It was sad, of course. And it was hard to watch. But I also knew that it was his time, and that his suffering was over. And more importantly, I had faith in the reality of the resurrection, and that we would see him again. But there were a couple of things that happened during this whole experience that I wanted to share today that really taught me what it means to
First of all, as soon as we knew that Joseph's condition was terminal, we starting working with the StarShine Hospice & Palliative Care organization from the Cincinnati Children's Hospital. (you can read more about them here.) Both the professional staff and the volunteers were amazing. Compassion is defined as "a sympathetic consciousness of others' distress along with a desire to alleviate it", and these hospice workers/volunteers were a great example of what it means to show compassion. They played with our older children. They provided information (which was more valuable than you may think). They listened to our concerns. They trained us how to take care of Joseph. I can't imagine what it would be like to be in their shoes, and having to deal with dying children and their families over and over and over and over again. But they did and they do and I appreciated them more than they probably knew. They were the ones that we called first after Joseph passed away, they took care of calling the funeral home and making all the necessary arrangements, and they stayed with us until they knew we were taken care of. Yes, I know it was part of their job, but they treated us like we were their only concern and that made all the difference. And I think one of the things I learned from this was that compassion and service are the most meaningful when we focus on the individual. It doesn't matter how many others we may be responsible for (and this applies to parents, teachers, bishops, home/visiting teachers, etc.), we have to take the time to minister to the individual. It doesn't work any other way.
The second example that I wanted to share happened when the two gentlemen from the funeral home showed up to take Joseph away. It was probably around 2:00am or so when they pulled up in front of our small townhouse apartment in their hearse. They spoke with us for a little while, answered our questions, and then walked out with us as they prepared to take Joseph's body away. Tabitha was holding him as we walked towards the vehicle. One of them opened the back door, and I remember seeing a small box-just the right size for an infant-sized body-sitting there in the back. As the other gentleman gently took Joseph from my wife, he looked at the two of us, then at the back of the car, and then turned to his partner and said "I'll just carry him up front with us." Who knows, they probably just drove around the corner and out of sight and then placed the body in the back where it was supposed to be transported, but at that moment, that one small act of compassion made a lasting impression on us. How grateful we were to see them treat our child like he was one of their own, and not just something to dispose of in the back of their vehicle. And I'll be forever thankful for that.
Small and seemingly insignificant actions on our part can have long-lasting effects on the lives of others. Hopefully we can all take a little more time from our busy lives and hectic schedules to look for, recognize, and act on opportunities to be compassionate.