Friday, November 10, 2006

Julia's Tribute - WARNING - you WILL cry...

Let me preface this by saying if you don't cry, I'm impressed. This story will touch your heart.


Julia in Germany, 6 weeks old

Julia Lani Spohn was born in Bamberg, Germany on June 9, 2006. Her parents, Wendy and Steve Spohn, were soldiers in the 1ID Band, which is under Scott's command. Wendy and I sat and talked about girls and babies and gestational diabetes prior to Julia's arrival. Shortly after her birth, Julia was diagnosed with a congenital heart defect: complete atrioventricular septal defect. She was born with 3 chambers in her heart instead of 4. She had only one ventricle in her lower heart.

This was cause for concern for many reasons. The 1st ID was scheduled to return to the states in July. It had already been determined that Steve and Wendy would be part of the trail party, in order to give Julia 6 weeks before travel. Unfortunately, the problems with her heart became first and foremost. It was with sad hearts that we left Steve, Wendy, Julia, and their son Lukas in Germany, not knowing if they would ever re-join us in Kansas.

Julia was diagnosed with many other problems in a short time span. She had Heterotaxy, Polysplenia and Biliary Atresia. (side note: this is the 2nd family I have known who has had to deal with Biliary Atresia.). She was airlifted to Walter Reed Army Hospital in Washington, D.C. on the 27th of July. They had hoped, before her other diagnoses, that she could have heart surgery in Germany and then travel to the states...but the liver issues (Biliary Atresia) became priority.

Julia, 3 months

Wendy and Steve kept all their family and friends well-informed. They created a "carepage" website for her. You can read all the details here Julia's CarePage. Her carepage name is julialani. You will have to register with Care Pages, but it's a short process and well worth it to read her story.

Well...Julia fought a good hard fight, but in the end, God's will was stronger and she went to be with her Maker on October 17, 2006. Julia never got a chance to go "home" live outside of an ICU.

Recently, I received a message from Wendy, sharing some information about a song written for Julia by Songs Of Love. You can buy the song for 99 cents here. The last name is Spohn, and the record number is 9959.

Wendy also passed along a letter that was written by Steve's aunt Mary Lou. It was read at her memorial service. With her gracious approval, I post this here. This is the part that will bring many tears, but do read it, as it has SUCH A POWERFUL message:


I have here, by way of heaven, a letter from Julia:

Dear Mom and Dad,
I have so much to tell you! I am happy here in heaven. My little body is now as perfect on the inside as it was on the outside- no tubes, or ventilators, or IV's. Now I can breathe deeply, and babble, and laugh, and roll around to my heart's content. I tasted real food for the first time today - how wonderful it was! I even played peek-a-boo with the angels, just like I did with you.
Although I am content here in my new home, I have to tell you that I did not want to leave you. I yearned to stay with you, to be cuddled and loved, to fall asleep in your strong arms, to spend my first night at home in my own crib. I wanted to sing nursery rhymes with my big brother Lukas, to feel the sun on my cheek and the grass under my feet, to play "mousey, schmousey" with Nana and Pap. Most of all, I longed to grow up happy and healthy, secure in the love of the best parents and big brother in the world.

However, that was not to be my destiny. God intended me for a special purpose. When I arrived here in heaven, I heard a lot of talk about how evil the world had become- so much hatred and selfishness, so little love and altruism, that the Master had begun to doubt that mankind was deserving of salvation. "But how can this be," I asked, "when in my short life, I have witnessed only kindness and generosity?" I began to relate my experiences on Earth to the angels and other souls here. They were impressed with my story and felt that I should be taken directly to see The Master. As Our Lord lifted me onto his lap, he stroked my cheek gently and whispered to me, "Now Julia, I must warn you that I have become very disappointed with the selfishness and cruelty I see everywhere on earth. But my angels tell me that you have seen a more uplifting side of humanity. Please tell me of this!"

Thus I began to recount my experiences on Earth. To begin, I described the supportive doctors and nurses in Germany, who in spite of the difficulties involved in communicating in two different languages, offered you comfort, while attempting every medical approach they knew to treat my medical anomalies. Why, the nurses at the German hospital even presented me with a hand-knit white christening gown to wear for my "emergency Baptism"! Then there was the unbelievable thoughtfulness of your Army friends, Mom and Dad, who processed all your transfer orders and packed up and shipped all our belongings to the States, when you were forced to "emergency evacuate" Germany with me.

Furthermore, I explained to Our Almighty Father, when we arrived in the United States , we were all overwhelmed by the outpouring of kindness and the generosity of so many. For instance, the caring staff of the Ronald McDonald House, in particular, provided a safe haven and a sympathetic ear for you and Lukas, in the midst of the turmoil surrounding each of my medical emergencies. Then, too, Nana and Pap Spohn willingly made the 4 - hour drive to-and-from DC numerous times, not only to offer moral support but also to take Lukas home with them for a few days, to take care of him, with the help of Aunt Pam and Uncle Ed. This thoughtful gesture allowed the two of you to keep the vigil at the hospital together, rather than separately, while I struggled to survive. My Grandma Sandra also flew up to see me and to care for Lukas, as did several aunts and uncles, and friends. How I wish I could hug and kiss them all for their compassion to us! And how could I ever forget the army of dedicated specialists, nurses, and other medical personnel from the two hospitals where I was treated. They worked valiantly and tirelessly to save me, doing everything medically possible to pull me through each successive crisis. Finally, there were the gifts of monetary contributions, the cards, the phone calls and e-mails, and most importantly, the countless prayers offered on my behalf by relatives, friends, acquaintances, and even strangers. So you see, my Savior, I have experienced so many acts of kindness and Christian charity in my short lifetime, that I am sure there is so much more good than evil in the world!"

"Even so, my Lord, the outpouring of generosity on my behalf by all of these people still pales by comparison to the boundless love and sacrifice shown to me by my dear devoted parents. For 4 + months, my father and mother spent most of their waking hours with me at the hospital, cooing to me, stroking me, cradling me in their arms when they could, pleading with the doctors to pursue yet another medical treatment, surgery, even transplant. And praying, always praying to you for a miracle, to make me strong and healthy by whatever means possible, so that they could take me home, and with Lukas, we could finally live as one happy family.

Clearly, my parents put the rest of their lives on hold for my sake. In between keeping watch over me, and living out of a suitcase, Mom and Dad managed to spend time with Lukas and to find a house near the Army base for us to move into. Despite the hopelessness of my condition, my devoted father, desperate to take some action, started to undergo medical testing to see if he could donate part of his liver to his ailing daughter. Meanwhile, my beloved mother sang to me, coaxed me to drink that awful-tasting formula when she could no longer nurse me, caressed my head and cheek, and in her spare time, kept everyone apprised of my progress through a beautifully written cyber journal. Even my big brother Lukas sang to me, patted my head, and blew me kisses, showing me in his own special way how much he loved me. Lord, if ever a soul was blessed with an abundance of kindness, caring, generosity, and deep abiding love, surely I was. Don't you see, Master? If the plight of one tiny infant evoked such compassion and love from so many, surely you must be persuaded that the good in the world far outweighs the evil!"

It was at this point that the Almighty bent down, kissed me on the cheek, and declared, "My sweet child, I am touched by your story, by all the selflessness and love you have inspired in others. You have convinced me that there still goodness in mankind. Now I am assigning you a very important task. You will help keep track of all the acts of kindness, selflessness, and mercy on earth, for my angels to record in this Book. From the recommendations in this book, I will make my decisions on Final Judgment Day."

So you see, Mom and Dad, I have a very important job to do here in heaven. That is why God took me from you to be here with Him. So please try to accept His plan and rejoice for me. Please know that I cherished every moment that I spent with you. Don't ever torment yourself with doubts about any decisions you made on my behalf. YOU DID EVERYTHING RIGHT!!!!

My dear beloved parents, I want you to know that I will always be with you, in everything you do, everywhere you go. When you gaze into the eyes of a child, you will see my big, beautiful brown eyes reflected back at you. You will hear my infant babbling in the cooing of a mourning dove. As you inhale the fragrance of the first spring hyacinths to poke their heads through the hardened earth, you will catch a whiff of my sweet *baby smell*. And some lovely summer day, you will feel a gentle breeze caressing your cheek. That will be me, blowing you a kiss from heaven. I will watch over you every minute of every day until we are finally together again. Thank you for giving me life and love, and then, against your wishes, courageously surrendering that life back to God.
Love Always,


Steve and Julia

Wendy and Julia


rennratt said...

What a beautiful - and tragic - story.

My thoughts and prayers go out on behalf of your friends.

SB said...

can hardly seethe keys to type. What a beautiful tribute. Julia was an angel who is now home with Our Lord. Blessings to her family and those who love her.

Bob-kat said...

Hi. I am here from Micheles. That is a beautiful tribute. And yes, it did bring tears to my eyes. I hope it provided some comfort for your friends.

Mitey Mite said...

That is lovely! Thank you for visiting mine today.

Paul said...

Here from Michele's. You're a good friend to give such a tribute.

(aside) I used to live in Manhattan, on Himes Street or Road only three blocks from the old staium. Now we live in Pancake Flats, KS. We're sorta neighbors.

Paste said...

A very sad story, here from Michele's.

Canadian Mark said...

A very touching story indeed. You have succeeded in making me cry. Michele sent me today.

OldOldLady Of The Hills said...

Such a painful yet inspiring story...To see Julia's little body hooked up to God knows what in that picture is one of the most terrible things I have ever seen....

I was reminded of what Anne Frank said in her book about people: "In spite of everything I still believe that people are really good at heart"...Amen to that and to sweet Julia in heaven.

sage said...

that's very touching--grace is often best witnessed at tragedies. Blessings, here from Michele's.

Mitch McDad said...

I have 2 girls and I can not read this. The poor little pictures are heartbreaking enough. I might try later.

Claire said...

What a beautiful story and such a dear shame for your friends. God bless them for all they've been through.

Sue said...

Beautiful tribute, such a sad story. I should learn to wait until I get home for these.