If there was ever a time my husband and I desperately needed hope, it was four years ago when our third child Bowen was born on my husband’s 39th birthday. I knew when he was born, something wasn’t right. He needed oxygen and assistance to breathe. Thus, he was taken immediately to the neonatal intensive care unit.
After 24 hours of monitoring and testing, the doctors told us that our son had polycystic kidney disease.
It meant that his kidneys were the size of an adult’s kidneys in a baby’s body. His kidneys were not working and not making room for anything else including his lungs. I will never forget the first time I held him. The ambulance was waiting to take him to the Children’s hospital down the road. Never did I ever imagine that would be one of the only times I would hold him alive in my arms. Once arriving to the children’s hospital, it was a roller coaster ride of ventilators, surgery, dialysis machines, IV drips, doctors, numbers, and making life and death decisions for our son.
It was so hard to watch our son go through all of that suffering. As a mother I just wanted to hold my baby. Thirteen days after Bowen was born, our doctor told us there was nothing else they could do for him. His kidneys continued to grow and they could not stop them from growing. We had to make the decision that no parent should ever have to make; to take him off life support for him to go to Heaven. I couldn’t believe only after 13 days Bowen was gone.
After Bowen died I was so angry at God for allowing him to die. We had a Caring Bridge site where thousands of people prayed for Bowen. I thought there is no way that God wouldn’t answer our prayers to heal him with that many people praying.
Never in a million years would I have imagined that in my pain and grief, is where I found God’s love most.
Having a son suffer and pass away, I had a glimpse of the pain and suffering God went through when he sacrificed Jesus for our sins. Having a child die is one of the most unimaginable pains a person can go through. After Bowen, It made me see God in a whole new light. No one would ever willingly sacrifice their son for someone he didn’t love. He loved me that much to do that for me.
It brought me to my knees.
As I cried out to God, I never heard him so clear in my life. As I was weighed down with pain and despair all I could hear him say is “Do you trust me?” And I said ‘yes.’ I know God didn’t want this for me. In fact he was hurting with me. I knew He was the only one that could bring me to the other side of my grief. As I gripped on for dear life holding on to God’s promises that He will not leave me or forsake me, I started to thank Him for everything that He had given me in my life. I was so quick to be angry at God and ask him “Why did you to this to me?” In reality, I should have been asking him “Why have I been so blessed up until now?” Bowen’s passing made me see that His plan is real. He hasn’t left us. His plan allows for us to be able to see our son again.
Many have asked, ‘Why didn’t God answer your prayer to heal Bowen?’ God may have not answered our prayer the way we wanted Him to, but He did answer our prayer for healing. Bowen’s disease wasn’t healed on earth, but he is healed in heaven. Dealing with grief is a hard, long road that will be for the rest of our lives. Each step of the way I am learning to say ‘yes’ whenever God asks me “Do you trust me?” because even when I don’t understand, God does. When I trust in him, it allows him to turn my sorrows into treasured joys and provide whole-hearted healing.
Even though Bowen isn’t physically here with us, he is indeed with us. Just because he died, doesn’t mean the love for him in our hearts died. It still exists. What we do with that love matters. We are doing things now that we would have never done before if it wasn’t for Bowen.
God continues to ask us ‘Do you trust me?’ Each time we say ‘yes,’ He continues to work within us. Each time we say ‘yes’ something even more amazing happens, God’s glory shines brighter, bringing pieces of heaven to earth.
In our journey, God has asked me to leave my church to go to another one, leave my job to go to another one, sell our husband’s thriving oral surgery practice, sell our dream home that we built, serve the kidney kids at the same hospital Bowen died, start a ministry, write a book, move our home after nine years to Alaska.
Our lives have been renewed and restored only through God’s love. My husband and I now live in Alaska with our two living children. Mac serves in the United States Air Force as an oral surgeon, all because God asked “Do you trust me?” We both said ‘yes!’ Looking back, I was so angry about Bowen’s life being taken from us, and the life we once knew. I can now see that God was rescuing us from our despair and guiding us towards whole hearted healing –something only He can provide.
God has big plans for our pain.
I am able to rejoice even in our grief, because when I say ‘yes’ He is able to turn our pain into something so much better, a life filled with HIS abundant joy, peace, love, hope and freedom.
Heather Gillis works full time as a Certified Registered Nurse Anesthetist at a surgery center. She is author of “Waiting for Heaven: Finding Beauty in the Pain and the Struggle,” and founder of Bowen’s Hope, a ministry that helps kidney disease kids and their families. Heather was a participant and finisher of the 2013 Boston Marathon. She has a heart for women’s ministry and currently serves on the Protestant Women of the Chapel Board in Alaska. Her husband Mac, is an Oral and Maxillo-Facial Surgeon serving in the United States Air Force. She and her husband live in Alaska with their two living children. Contact her by connecting here: