Joel has been gone for eight months but in the heart and mind of his momma, time has all but stood still. Living after the loss of a child is a pain that Becky knows and only those who have gone through can truly understand. This is her story…
I had been following Joel’s story through Facebook and I remember when I read the news of his passing. My heart went out to his momma, Becky. I could not imagine what pain a mother must go through to loose a child so young.
I prayed and asked God to comfort her and somehow guide her through this impossible nightmare. What strength and devotion she had through it all! I am honored to help tell you what happened. It’s my prayer that it will encourage and bless someone in who needs to hear it!
This is her story….
Joel Loved to Fly
For being so young, Joel really got to see the world. He loved to travel…he especially loved to fly. In February of 2020, Becky was able to take Joel and her family on one last trip to Florida to visit Walt Disney World.
Joel’s health was already starting to decline to the point that he was in pain, but Becky remembers the trip as a time of strength and enjoyment for Joel. She tells how he kept a smile on his face and checked off all the things he wanted to do, see, eat, and buy on their trip.
You see, this wasn’t Joel’s first experience with Disney adventures and traveling. He loved Disney, loved to collect the Disney pins, and always enjoyed his Disney trips.
The first time Becky remembers seeing wonder in Joel’s eyes, he was merely 8 months old. It was when the family lived in San Diego and were able to visit Disney Land quite a bit. She tells of how she will never forget the wonder in his eyes and how much he looked around at everything, even at that young age.
Make a Wish
In January of 2019, the “Make a Wish” foundation took Joel and his family on a Disney Cruise to the Bahamas and Disneys private Island.
The trip took place during a time when he was going through chemotherapy, but was thankfully feeling really well. Becky felt so honored to be able to celebrate Joel’s “Make a Wish” doing what he loved.
In November of 2019, Joel able to take a trip to California to do all of “Joels favorites”. The family went to California Adventures, Disney Land, Knotts Berry Farm, Seaworld, and to visit with family and our church friends.
You see, Joel loved to travel!
Some of Joel’s Favorites…
Despite his condition, Joel loved being social. He loved hanging out with his cousins and older brother, James. Becky tells how Joel and James never fought or bothered each other. They loved being together so much and have so many great memories!
Joel also loved performing plays at school and church. He loved playing soccer with an organization called Team Impact, loved games of all types, and legos.
He was a typical, fun loving boy who loved doing all types of things and never had a dull moment.
In August of 2017 at 9 years old, Joel was diagnosed with Osteosarcoma after a tumor was found below his left knee.
He started Chemotherapy right away and was scheduled for a “Van Ness” surgery for November of that year. The Van Ness surgery is also called “Rotationplasty” and is a partial amputation of the leg.
To remove the tumor, his knee and part of his leg was removed, but his foot was saved. It was then reattached where his knee was and at a 180 degree angle to allow his ankle to perform as his new “knee”. This allowed for better movement and function when he received his prosthetic leg.
He also had surgery to remove spots in his lungs in March of 2018 . Joel finished that round of Chemo in May of 2018 and received his prosthetic leg in June of 2018.
In August of 2018, he was seen for a 3 month scans and the Doctors found another tumor in his lung. He had surgery again to remove that and started Chemo again. That round went through February of 2019.
In June of 2019, shortly after his 11th Birthday, more tumors were found during scans. This time, the cancer was again in his lungs and his ischium bone. In August 2019, he had surgery to remove the tumor from his ischium bone, but they were unable to do another surgery to remove the tumor in his lungs.
He was on experimental oral chemotherapy for a few months, but unfortunately it didn’t work for him and the cancer continued to spread to other parts of his body. He had radiation treatments done in December 2019 and January 2020.
Over all, Joel stayed in remarkably good health and spirits.
He entered hospice care just a few weeks before God took him home. He mom remembers how he stayed with them until the end and spent his final days praying, singing worship songs, watching church services online, and telling us how much he loved us.
When the Time Came Close
A mother’s love is like no other.… she loves long and she loves deep. There is no replacement or exception for her love and nothing that can take it away. This is certainly the case with Becky’s love for her Joel.
She remembers the times when Joel’s health was failing as a time that cannot be described unless one has been through it yourself.
She boldly states that seeing your child’s health failing and know you can’t do anything is horrible. You go through feeling sad, mad, frustrated and keeping a smile on your face so they don’t see it and worry more.
It’s a time of inner fortitude and outward numbing. Nothing can be said or done to ease the pain. Gripping every last memory and surrounding oneself with love became a tonic. When anger set in, Becky reached deeper and held on to what she knew to be true.
She boldly proclaims that this experience taught them (as a family) to enjoy every moment, do anything and everything we could, have faith in God, lean on him and each other.
The Moments After
It’s vividly true for Becky and others who have lost children, that the pain of losing a child is something that can not be compared to any other loss.
Becky said that she had heard it said that it’s compared to loosing a spouse or parent. And, while loss is loss, there is a deep pain that comes with losing someone with so much life left to live.
To confound Joel’s family’s hardship, Covid-19 regulations had just taken effect in her area and the conditions prohibited her family from having the type of shrive they wanted to for Joel.
Becky tells about how her and her husband’s sibling, Joel’s cousins, and other close family and friends had to stream the service from their cars in the parking lot. They were also prohibited from having a proper graveside service. It was heartbreaking to her for her family and friends not to be able to attend these services.
Irregardless, the immediate family gathered around Joel’s coffin as their Pastor said a few words. Then, they prayed together as his coffin was lowered into the ground.
Becky felt as though it was a beautiful time because God met them there, but she still felt like they were not able to honor him the way he deserved.
But with God…
A mother’s strength and devotion are a priceless gift, one to be treasured and adored. She is the picture of hope to her family and the world around her.
A devoted mother is a treasure to be admired. When the pain of loss strikes the heart, she rises above the crashing waves to hold on to the only hand that offers solace.
I don’t think there’s any other way of saying these next few things, except to let her say it in the most beautiful way any mother could!
“What got me through was God. Truly only him. When I couldn’t speak the words to pray, I knew he heard and understood my cries. When the pain was so strong, I could physically feel it on my heart and in my chest, I would lay my Bible on my chest and pray for God to use his word and his promises to sooth me.”
“I am so thankful for the promise of eternity and knowing that in Christ, death is not forever. I have the promise that I will see Joel again in heaven! Each day without him is one day closer to eternity with him. Until that day, I am so thankful for the memories I have, the millions of photos and videos I have to see his face and hear his voice again, friends and family to support me, My husband, Isaac and my 15 year old son, James to love, and Jesus, My God who has never failed me.” -Becky
Serving a God who has Failed Me -Becky
Recently a friend spoke on this verse,
“Great is our Lord, and of great power: His understanding is infinite”Psalms 147:5
We got to talking about how those of us that have experienced loss can continue to serve a God that has to the outside world “failed us”.
How do I continue to trust and serve God? Though things didn’t happen the way I wanted them to, My God has not failed.
Though I wish I could still hold my son, my God has not failed.
Though I don’t understand and I feel let down, my God has not failed.
I don’t have to understand, because I know Gods understanding is infinite.
He sees all, he knows all. I don’t have to understand to trust him. I don’t have to understand to know that he has not failed.
I trust him no matter what.
His understanding is infinite.
The hour is dark and it’s hard to see what you are doing here in the ruins. Where this will lead? Oh, but I know that down through the years, I’ll look on this moment and see your hand on it, and know you were here.
I’ll testify of the battles you’ve won. How you were my portion when there wasn’t enough. I’ll testify of the seas that we’ve crossed, the waters you’ve parted and the waves that I’ve walked.
Oh, My God did not fail. Oh, it’s the story I’ll tell. Oh, I know it well. Oh, it’s the story I’ll tell.
Believing gets hard when the options are few. When I can’t see what you are doing, I know that your proving. You’re the God who comes through.
I know that over the years I’ll look back on the moment and see your hand on it. And know you were here. I’ll testify of the battles you’ve won how you were my portion when there wasn’t enough. And… I’ll testify of the seas that we’ve crossed, the waters you’ve parted and the waves that I’ve walked.
All that’s left is highest praises, Sing Hallelujah to the rock of ages. My God did not fail.
Never ever failed me Oh, it’s the story I’ll tell and I know it well. It’s my testimony I know it well.
It’s the story I’ll tell. My God did not fail.
Joel, you have been gone 6 months, but you are healed.
You are whole. You are rejoicing in the presence of our God who has not failed. What I wouldn’t give to wrap my arms around you, but I know God has his arms wrapped around both of us. Six months without you just means six months closer to eternity with you.
I’ll see you soon, my little, little love.
“He health the broken in heart and binds up their wounds. Great is our Lord, and of great power. His understanding is infinite” -Psalms 147: 3,5