He was Our Sunshine
My son, Justen, was born in 1990 when I was just about to turn 19. He was born with Down syndrome. The first time I got to touch him, my first words to him were "Hello, Sunshine!" From that day on he was Our Sunshine. Thirteen months later his brother, Cody, was born. Fourteen years later, I became a single parent.
I started quilting in 2008 at a Mystery Quilt fundraiser given by a friend at church to benefit a school for children with autism and I was hooked! From that moment on, quilting became my therapy. It was my respite from all the stresses of being a single parent of two teenagers.
In 2012, God blessed me with an amazingly wonderful husband who has such a gentle, humble, quiet, loving spirit. Justen and I were enamored! When we got married, Justen called us Mr. and Mrs. Awesomest.
Our New Journey
Four months later, Justen was diagnosed with leukemia. Not uncommon for small children with Down syndrome, but unusual for someone his age and more difficult to treat. I know that if God had not blessed me with my husband and amazingly supportive parents, I would not have been able to handle Justen's illness very well. Quilting became my therapy, my refuge, my little bit of control when I had control over nothing else. My parents and my husband gave me the time to myself in my sewing room that I needed to recharge my soul.
After remission and four subsequent years of treatment, the leukemia came back with a vengeance. One day, while pouring my heart out to God, I very clearly heard Him say, "Don't waste your breath praying for healing." So, I asked, "Well then, what do I pray for?!!!" I then started thinking about how through all of life's ups and downs, David of the Old Testament prayed that God be glorified. So that's what I started praying for. I prayed that God be glorified in every single interaction Justen and I had. Doctors, nurses, friends, family...all would be witness to the faith that not only I had, but Justen too!
I talked to Justen about dying in the days following his relapse diagnosis. I had been given some sage advice from one of his nurses who told me to tell Justen that when he sees Jesus, to run to Him! I told my son that some people pass away when they're really old, some when they're really young and some when they're in the middle and it's all ok. He replied, "I have my cross necklace, my holy bible, and I've been baptized in the river. I'm all set!"
On his last day, I got a glimpse of Heaven. He was on a lot of morphine because he was hurting and had a high fever. He was lying in bed and he looked at my mom who was sitting with him and he asked, "Who are you?" She answered him and he turned over and said, "Take my spirit. Take my soul." My mom didn't think a lot about it at the time because she knew that I had been talking to him about death and dying. Then it was my turn to sit with him. As I walked into the room, he sat up in bed and pretended to throw a football, nearly falling off the bed. I said, "Ok, it's time to go to the hospital. He's not safe here right now. I need help managing his medication." He sat up again and blew a huge raspberry. I thought, good grief!
We got dressed and wheeled out to the car and he got in, sat down and my husband drove us on our 45 minute trip to the hospital. I had some pillows in the middle of the back seat between us and he laid his head down on them. After a few minutes, he sat up and blew three huge raspberries. I put my hand over his mouth and asked, "What are you doing?!!" He said, "Blowing the trumpet!" and he laid down again. After a few more minutes he sat up, chunked another football and then put his arms up in the air and said, "Red team wins! You got owned!" He did the happy dance and laid back down on the pillows. Then again, after a few minutes he sat up, leaned against the door of the car, looked at me and said, "Ready! Set! GO!" and lunged for me with all his might putting his arms around my neck. We held each other in the best hug I'd ever had for at least 10 minutes and then he was gone. When my mother told me what he had said earlier, it made sense. He was already in Heaven playing football with Jesus before he took his last breath on this earth.
A Calling is Answered
I think that there are so many people, even Christians, who are so unsure of what happens after we die that they will go to enormous lengths to find any means possible of staying alive. Treatment after treatment, medications, experimental treatments, anything to be able to say that they had done all they could to stay on this earth for every single moment possible. This life is temporary! We are not meant to be here forever! Why not choose to live in peace and contentment, giving glory to God instead of suffering physically and emotionally?
Justen had an amazing life. EVERYONE who met him loved him. I heard so many times, "Justen, you just made my day!" But I think the best story of his life was in his dying. That's why my business is called Sunshine Quilting. I want to be able to open doors for people to hear his story. It's not mine to keep. It's my gospel to share.