The rainbow has taken on so many different meanings over the course of time, but none greater than that of God’s promise after the storms that wiped out the Earth. For someone facing a significant loss in their life, they often find themselves looking to God for help and guidance in their time of their personal storms. We consider all significant losses, like a death for they are the death of the dreams you had for your life and that of your loved ones. I believe everyone here can identify with loss on some level.
Our family has been no stranger to loss. My husband Hugh found himself jobless when the market tanked and the shipping industry he worked in no longer needed as many works as Imports to our country drastically decreased. The job he lost was finally the good paying job we had been praying Hugh would acquire after difficult struggles with medical issues and finances. Our family had been taken aback when a few years prior, our son Joshua was diagnosed with Mitochondrial Disease, a life threatening metabolic disease. Medical care was scarce to come by and required many out of state trips to meet basic needs. We had to become educated and I became Joshua’s doctor. It came no surprise when our son Michael was diagnosed with the disease a year after his birth. I could no longer work and Hugh was working two full time jobs to just pay medical costs and basic living costs before he landed this dream job. There have been so many moments we felt as if we were just able to keep our heads above water.
Not once in all of those trials did we lose our faith but rather found ourselves clinging to our faith when there were no answers. We always believe that God will provide. Hugh was devastated after his layoff when job after job interview proved to not turn up anything promising. He was our provider and knew so much rested on his shoulders. Shortly after his layoff, I was needed to care for both of my elderly grandparents who were ailing and returned home to God Oct 29th and Nov 29th of 2008. Following their deaths, Hugh’s father was diagnosed with cancer and returned to heaven Nov 15th 2009. We were both instrumental in his end of life care. We were not walking alone in these losses, our children were right there with us feeling the ups and downs associated with it all. We came to realize that often times children are the forgotten ones in moments like these…we discount their feelings and often times can’t see past our own pain and upset.
Thrown in that mix, we were blessed to find out we would be welcoming another addition to our family. Hugh and I were elated to find that God had yet again entrusted us with one of the most precious gifts he can give, even if we faced harsh criticism by many around us. George Charles Garman was welcomed into our family September 09, 2009, yes 09/09/09. I would always tease saying he just wanted to be the one who’s birthday we would finally remember being the 4th boy in our family. From the very beginning I had a very special bond with George. Deep inside, I knew he was only going to be with our family for a short time, even though I prayed that feeling was wrong. George showed symptoms of the same disease his two big brothers battle and I knew he was my sickest little guy. I took him to doctor after doctor trying to get them to help me but he would never do anything odd in front of doctors. By that point all of our doctors familiar with the disease, were no longer in practice or taking patients and we were on our own.
January 29th, in his sleep, George was called home. Hugh woke to find him unresponsive in his bed. I will never forget that scream as I ran upstairs and Hugh thrust George into my arms looking at me, hoping I could save our son. Despite all my efforts and that of the officers, EMT’s, and hospital staff, George did not return to be part of our family here on Earth. We stood watching the hospital staff work on his lifeless body. In the back of my mind all that I could think of was “God, please let this cup pass from me, but thy will be done” I knew deep in my heart what God’s will was for my little monkey from the moment I first held that blue eyed blond haired wonder in my arms for the very first time and it was to change lives but not necessarily through his life but rather his eternal life. The moment Hugh handed George to me that awful cold January morning; I knew my baby was gone. I had to still try everything to save him but through the chaos, an internal calm came over me as I told the hospital staff to stop working on him. George would never have been that happy smiling baby and it would only be my own selfishness to want him to stay. I wanted the best for my son from the moment I knew he would be mine to watch over, and I knew then that the best thing for him was heaven, even though I knew my arms would forever ache until I was reunited with him again someday.
The first person we asked to be called was a minister, followed by our family. The very last thing George wore was a baptismal outfit because we knew we were turning him back over to God. Never once has our faith waivered, even though we would like to know what God is thinking sometimes. We have our good days and bad but both Hugh and I were not concerned for ourselves or even George; it was for our children that were left behind. Richard was 11, Joshua was 4, and Michael was 2 and Joshy and Mikie witnessed all the chaos of that morning. Along with other family members, we spent hours poring over the internet praying for God to help us find somewhere our children could get the help we knew we were not capable of giving them. Trying to find help for them was virtually impossible, add in that you wanted a faith based program or therapist along with our financial problems and the only program listed was the Rainbow’s program.
By the time we found the listing I had given up on finding help that was so desperately needed and my mom actually made the first call. Brother Sim was the person to return her phone call. My mother thrust the phone at me; I rolled my eyes at her figuring it was another dead end. As when I called all the other places, he told me that the program wasn’t running because of lack of interest but that he would hold onto our information and get back to me if they were able to come up with enough people the following summer. I was at a loss as to help my children when they would just break down crying in sheer pain over the loss of their brother and the deep aching they felt that I could not ease no matter how hard I tried. So many nights I cried myself to sleep not only for my pain but for that of my children and how I could not help them. Often times I could never even formally pray and would just cry out in pain to God asking him to help me…”Please God, I can’t do this alone!” Finally that phone call came and God answered all of my prayers!
Hugh and I were excited to be able to attend this program as a family but the kids were reluctant at first. I knew if we could get them to the first meeting, it would all work out in the end. The second week, we didn’t have to even tell them when it was time to go, they were telling us when it was time. We found ourselves looking forward to, and also needing the camaraderie of others who knew loss. Each of us had a different type of story and loss, be it divorce or death, but we were all able to respect one another in such a way that we found God was with us at these meetings. You could feel his very presence during the moments we laughed and cried, through the kind words of another, passing of tissues, a much needed embrace, or just having someone to listen without judgment.
In our day to day lives, neither our children nor we adults found this sort of love and compassion like we did when attending a Rainbows session. The facilitators, all not only gave of their time but they gave of themselves. They showed us that there are people who care and understand. Compassion and God’s love were what so many were seeking and only found here through the Rainbows program. The skills we learned transferred to daily life on so many levels and everyone who attended walked away changed for the better and knowing God’s love like never before. These walking works of God, gave not only us the gift of themselves and God’s love, but they gave our children things we could only ask God to do. All of the children, along with us adults were so sad to see the program come to an end in August…if we could have done it every single week I think we all would have and there were families who drove an hour or more to attend a meeting ever week.
By your church allowing this program to take place, you have come to change the lives of many people who will also go out in the world and change the lives of others…there will be such an outpouring of God’s love to the world by those who allowed our Lord to call them to do his ministry through this program. Thank you just is not enough to express the gratitude of all the families who were blessed to attend now hold in their hearts. The last night we all gathered just summed up the road we had traveled as a newly found family that had started out as strangers. There was laughter, tears, embraces of facilitators, children, and parents alike, but most of all there was this amazing feeling that filled the room as we all crammed in for a final prayer. There was not a person who left this program not wishing it was not ending and praying for it to continue in years to come.
Our family still knows loss every single day; September 3rd the home we brought all of our children from the hospital to went up for sheriff sale. In all of this we have to trust in God’s bigger plan but this program helped our whole family come to terms with this obstacle, unlike before when we faced another loss in our life, this time we were able to place it in God’s hands. We don’t always know why things happen when they are happening, but applying many of the tools learned from the Rainbows program, we are able to fully trust in God and know he has not abandoned us in our hour of need but is instead using these moments to glorify His name.
Hugh’s loss of his job did ultimately lead to the loss of our home but it gave him all of my pregnancy and the 4.5 months that George was with us, to get to really know George as a little person. We were able to show George unconditional love, and there is no price that can be placed on that. Our home is always where we are, not a physical place, and God’s greatest gift to us was time with George; his gift to George was that he never had to know the pain of this world. Even through all of this, God has also blessed our family with our own personal rainbow, Gabrielle Grace. She is what, in the child loss realm, is known as a rainbow baby; a child that survives after a miscarriage or the death of a child. Every day God shows us mercy and grace through the people he has put in our lives. Our family is slowly learning how to live without George, but we know with God as our foundation, we will stay strong through it all.
One of the biggest things I learned from this program was that, it is how we adults allow our children to view personal tragedies and our reactions to them. God uses us to help these precious souls, process obstacles that have caused them to know the trails of this life early on. Many of you probably don’t know, but the adult part of the program is called Prism. In order to create a rainbow you need the sun, God’s grace and love, and a prism, the rain or personal tragedy, to form a Rainbow. “The soul would have no rainbow if the eyes had no tears.” Our children are now able to go into the world and show they are a rainbow. God is using them to show his grace in the face of tragedy. We need to accept and learn to process our own grief pertaining to our loss in order to allow these children to be just that…God’s walking Rainbows.