Our daughter Kathryn was born 18 years ago today, right about now in fact. She doesn’t show up here in my writing very often, at least by name, because she died 18 years ago September 1 because of a genetic disorder called Trisomy 18. (If you want to read more about her, go here). I mention her today because she is far more important to you than you will ever know.
1. Because of an experience on the day we buried her body, I have no questions about the real existence of a real God. I do understand the questions. I understand doubts. I understand reasoning that doesn’t work. And I understand someone reading this and saying “that may be true for you, Jon, but….”
2. People sometimes say, “that’s gotta be hard.” It was. But when I listen to the hearts of friends who live for years with children with wandering hearts and broken bodies, I can’t imagine how hard that would be. So we cannot play the comparative pain games that we play. (“You think that’s bad, I had to ….”) We have to give each other compassion and prayer and encouragement and the humility to not tell people that we know how they feel. We can, however, feel and pray and speak when spoken to.
3. I’m pretty sure that I wouldn’t be doing what I do and feeling how I feel and having “coaching, caring, creating, crying” on my business card if I hadn’t met Kate 18 years ago. So I’m pretty sure that she changed my life.
4. If you have ever heard me talking about being versus doing, if you have ever heard me talk about people being valuable not because of what they can do but because of their existence and thought that was right, you can thank Kate. She couldn’t open her hands, couldn’t eat, probably couldn’t hear. She couldn’t gain weight, couldn’t smile, couldn’t stop crying some nights. But she mattered, not by some measure of productivity or success or any other measure. She just was…and is.
5. You have heard me talk about Hope. That is the daughter born a couple of years after Kate died. (We also have a son named Andrew, who was 2 when Kathryn was born.) Her name is completely intentional and not at all wishful. As a word, hope reflects a confidence that God can bring healing in pain. As a daughter, Hope proves that…not by what she does, mind you, because that would be a burden no human should carry. No, Hope is an affirmation of God’s healing in our hearts.
So happy birthday Kathryn Elizabeth Swanson. Your life mattered. And still does.
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