Saturday, December 26, 2009

Not done fighting...

It was a very good Christmas.

Understatement perhaps as you look at all that we have gone through over the last 6 months, but it really was a very good. Rob, Jake and Jensen - our three sons are in themselves a tremendous gift. Honestly it was not the "Leave it to Beaver" perfect family Christmas, but we all know that does not really exist as each has a bit of dysfunction of its own. There was the typical irritation at one point or another as we do things that the others do not like. I was writing to someone this week as I realized that I was probably more relaxed this Christmas as compared to the last two. Yes I am still not "working" but through so many we were blessed beyond expectation. "Working" right now is still caring for and moving Jacob toward independence as we continue to deal with antibiotics through his picc line, physical therapy, occupational therapy, doctor appointments, school etc. In each moment there is the gentle reminder that we have come so far and have seen the miraculous.

Writing here on the blog has been harder lately in that I feel like there is not much new to share - the roller coaster is a bit more predictable I guess. I realize as I sit here that it is very easy to get back into "coasting". We are not putting on the brakes and trying to avert disaster and are also not putting on the gas speeding through life - we are coasting. Honestly, coasting is good for a time - it is a time of slowing down, resting a bit perhaps (although rest is hard). In times of "crisis" we may pray more, focus more, pay better attention. While forging ahead we may step out in faith and take risks praying more, clearly focused, alert to adjustments. But what about the in between time? How do we keep this demonstrated dependent faith while in neutral?

I honestly believe that nothing changes. In times of shattered dreams, jubilant celebrations and mundane normality moments exist where faith is tested and hope is questioned. In each moment of one's existence we are offered opportunities to recognize and choose God's gift of love (Himself). It matters not as much if we perceive the moment as good or bad. It matters more that we recognize the divine moment and act in dependent faith - even in mundane normality we are able to display a character of righteousness. Sadly though I often choose to cultivate the opposite as I put forth a false self - an altered self - a self longing for acceptance and self-engrandizment. We give glory to God by simply being ourselves - the problem is that who I am has been muddied, altered, concealed. It takes a lot of faith to simply be myself. Yet that is where God meets us and declares his love for us.

Not everyone who reads these words agrees that God even exists. Not everyone to believes in God is able to accept that God loves them. Not everyone who accepts God love dwells fully in that love. It is a daily struggle of faith to dwell in that love.

As a father I look at Jake in his wounded vulnerability and love him. There is not a day that goes by that I do not wish I could completely change what happened to him. Yet what he has gone through is also a shaping of who he is becoming - it has changed him - it will forever affect future choices he makes. I know it has changed mine - changed me.

I guess from where I sit right now I am wondering what is next for us. What steps of faith are next? Surgery we hope in January on Jacob's head, more therapy, job change for me - where does our family go next? It is a step forward in faith as we trust that God will give us leading and insight. But no matter what I pray that we would be focusing on becoming more and more real.

E.E. Cummings said, "to be nobody but yourself in a world which is doing its best day and night to make you everybody else, means to fight the hardest battle which any human being can fight...never stop fighting."

Grace and peace

Tom (Dad)

Thursday, December 24, 2009

Merry Christmas

From our family to yours - Merry Christmas

Thankful to be together celebrating the life our son as we celebrate the birth of God's Son.

The Kirkendalls

P. S. Robbie has a mustache even though you can't see it here. (It's blond).
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Tuesday, December 22, 2009

Expanding things a bit...

Jake is asleep. He is in his own bed. From the laundry room where I type, I can hear Jensen and Robbie as they negotiate through a video game together. Helping each other. Debbie is up reading on the mattress that we have thrown on the floor next to Jacob. It has been there since Jacob went upstairs to his room. Debbie has slept next to him each night since - well since he has woken up. She will not leave his side for neither of us want to miss his needs during the night; neither of us want him to wake up and get up and fall down. Though he is incredibly stable, he still has no skull cap and he still hardly is able to use his right arm.

The toll that this whole journey has taken is tough on family. It sneaks up on, this toil, for you do not really think about what needs to be done you just do it. There is absolutely nothing you won't do when you are fighting for the life of your son. My heart is with the Keller family as their boys are in ICU. (see the last post or the side panel for a link) I also can't shake thinking about Jessica's and Andrew - though there is progress - they will all be in the hospital for Christmas. I am also praying often for Sarah's family. How do you go through this family season having lost your teenage daughter? I suspect from the little I know about them, you do so with the community that you have around you - surrounding you and holding you up.

Faith is truly tested in these moments. Life is truly put on the line when you face these trials. We are so quick to give pat answers, quick conclusions, and naive judgments. Though we do not know the trials that others walk we call upon a heart of compassion and gracious mercy to try to understand and pour our hearts out in prayer.

I do not quite understand right now - why I should be so blessed. What a blessing it is to be unemployed right now. I am able to focus on my family and be a part of helping my son finish his senior year...we have a long way to go and need to double our efforts but we can do it together - what a blessing. Jake is getting stronger. Though we are still watching closely over his thumb we do see growth and it does continue to move slowly in a positive growth direction. We are still hoping for surgery on his skull by the end of January.

I have recently been reading Philippians over and over again. These verses are not dogma but are the expression of the heart of a man who has known suffering. There is in them challenge, correction, comfort and just plain pouring out of his loving heart. He is writing to a community that he deeply cares about. Paul wrote this sentence that so many have used time again:  "I can do everything through him who gives me strength." (4:13) Taken by itself that verse gives me great guilt. For I really can't do everything. If that is dogma, I am an utter failure. But if I read it in context it is far from dogmatic - it is the heart of one on a journey.

Here is part of the all of Philippians and perhaps portions of Acts to really understand but this helps:

I rejoice greatly in the Lord that at last you have renewed your concern for me. Indeed, you have been concerned, but you had no opportunity to show it. I am not saying this because I am in need, for I have learned to be content whatever the circumstances. I know what it is to be in need, and I know what it is to have plenty. I have learned the secret of being content in any and every situation, whether well fed or hungry, whether living in plenty or in want. I can do everything through him who gives me strength. Yet it was good of you to share in my troubles.

This is all about community and God's presence. In the midst of those two things I am strengthened and can move forward and find in the midst of the journey that I am on a contentedness that has nothing to do with the external circumstances: that is where hope begins, that is where faith sustains, that is where peace holds on. It seems to me that this brings a whole lot more freedom. I am so thankful for community. I am so thankful that God is not restricted to what I think that he should be like or should do. For miracles do still happen - I have seen them.
Miracles do still happen.
Tom (Daddy)

Sunday, December 20, 2009

Monty and Ruedi Keller

Sunday night and all three of my boys are home. Such a blessing; especially after getting this email from Austin asking for our community to pray:

here is the CaringBridge website link: here
Subject: Please pray for my 2 dear friends.

I've been following Jacob's story every step of the way. I'm so happy that everything turned out to be ok.
Now prayer is needed for the Keller family. Monty Keller, as Matthias (18) is fondly called, just finished his first semester at University of Hawaii. Brother Ruedi Keller (20) attends SF Culinary Accademy. Coming home for Christmas break, Monty's flight was supposed to arrive around midnight on Friday, December 18. The plan was for Ruedi to pick him up from the airport and take him home to Ruedi's apartment before going to the family home in San Rafael the following day. The flight was delayed several hours due to mechanical difficulties. Monty texted Ruedi at 4:00 a.m. that his flight had arrived. Ruedi drove his bright green Geo Prism to the airport. His apartment is within 15 min from the airport. Monty checked no baggage, so the pick up was quick.

The boys proceeded to Ruedi' apartment from the airport. They came off 280 onto Junipero Serra, traveling north. A 911 call was received about the accident at 4:33 a.m. They had been rearended by a late model turbocharged VW driven by a 21-year-old young man from Fremont. Officers at the site estimated from the wreckage and the scattering of debris that the VW was traveling at about 100 mph. We do not yet know what happened to Geo after the rear impact. We do know that it was mangled beyond recognition. The VW traveled perhaps 100 yards down the median of Junipero Serra until striking a pole. The VW driver did not survive the crash.

We surmise that Ruedi was tired and asked Monty to drive--Monty was found in the driver's seat and Ruedi was found in the back seat by officers at the accident scene. God was looking out for the boys--they could hardly have picked a better place to have a terrible accident--the accident occurred within a mile of one of the top 3 trauma hospitals in the country, San Francisco General Hospital. What's more, the top neurosurgical team from UCSF, a top neurological team in the country, was on shift at the time, and both boys are attended by the chief of that team. The boys arrived there within about an hour of the crash. Both arrived unconscious but breathing on their own.

Mother Meg received the call at about 5:30, as she neared the end of her nursing night shift at Novato Community Hospital.Between the two of them, the boys suffered only Ruedi's two broken ribs. Spinal cords check out fine. No internal bleading. Ruedi suffered a lung puntured by broken rib, but that resolved early in the day Saturday. Initially ultrasound showed a cut on Monty's kidney, but later films showed that to be gone.

The Concern:
Head trauma for both boys is the concern. Throughout the day Saturday, both boys remained in a coma, under sedation and anti-siezure medications. They were placed on respirators. The team performed two CT scans and placed intracranial pressure and H2O monitors on both boys.

Monty had the most significant injury. His CT showed relatively small bruising/bleading on the back of the brain. Ruedi had no bruising/bleading. Both had intracranial swelling. Monty's swelling resulted in pressure early in the day at about 23. That later reduced to about the 6-10 range. Under 20 is desired. Ruedi's pressure was under 10 all day.

The medical team's plan is to check the boys' mental status three times per 12-hour shift. They reduce the sedation and assess the stumulus that evokes response from the boys. Monty remained non responsive each time he was checked yesterday. Ruedi reacted to poking. One nurse reported that in checking Ruedi he gave her a "thumbs up" when asked a question designed to assess higher brain function. However, that report could not be confirmed on later inquiry. Also, the last assessment before 9 p.m. received no response from Ruedi.

Please get the community aware. Please pray for them.

As so many of you have been praying for Jacob and then for all those that we encounter on this journey, we invite a tremendous concert of prayer to be raised for Monty and for Ruedi. Miracles have and do continue to take place.

Lord, hear our prayer - the cry of our heart.
Restore our sons, heal our children.
Cover them with your strong loving arms and
envelope them in your spirit.
Help them, Lord, to know your pressence, to feel your comfort.
I ask Lord if I might, that your peace may cover each and every family member
that has been impacted by this trajedy:
      - the Keller family and friends
      - the family of this young woman that lost her life
      - doctors, nurses, therapists and fireman that responded
Lord this touches so many. Pour out your peace, compassion, grace...
Restore, heal, and comfort these brothers and bring them home for Christmas.
The burden is so great - ever widening net of suffering - ever widening opportunity to bless.

With great burden,

Tom (Daddy)