Two Between Us
Our son Nathan isn’t the first child my wife and I have lost. Our first child, Mitchell, died
two and half months after he was born, on my wife’s 28th Birthday. He was Nathan’s
older brother who he never met. The emotional pain of losing a child is difficult to describe,
but having lost both, the only two between us, seems beyond description. However, we feel
called to share, with the limitations of words, what it was like for us, then and now. But, more
importantly how God has given us the courage to survive this tragic loss.
At this point, we would like to share a poem that was written in the 1930’s by Edgar Guest.
The first time we remember reading it was when we received it from our church shortly
after Mitchell was born. It came in a “Welcome Package” that they would typically give
to new parents to welcome their newborn. We appreciated the items they shared, but we found the choice of the poem, to be a little odd. You can read it now:
To all Parents,
“I’ll lend you for a little time a child of Mine “He said for you to love while he lives and mourn for when he’s dead.
It may be six or seven years, or twenty two or three, but will you, till I call him back, take care of him for Me?
He’ll bring his charms to gladden you, and shall his stay be brief, you’ll have his lovely memories as solace for your grief, I cannot promise that he’ll stay, since all from earth return, but there are lessons taught down there I want this child to learn. I’ve looked the wide world over in my search for teachers true, and from the throngs that crowd life’s lanes, I have selected you.
So will you give him all your love, nor think the labor vain, Nor hate me when I come to call to take him back again?”
I fancied that I heard them say “Dear Lord, Thy will be done.” For all the joy thy child shall bring, the risk of grief will run, we’ll shelter him with tenderness, we’ll love him while we may, And for the happiness we’ve known forever grateful stay; But shall the angels call for him much sooner than we’ve planned, We’ll brave the bitter grief that comes and try to understand."
My wife, Sandy, not feeling comfortable with its message, put the poem aside. 6 weeks later Mitchell unexpectedly dies! My mother, who was babysitting him, laid him down for a nap and when she returned to check on him, he was blue and not breathing. She called 911, administered CPR until the ambulance arrived and rushed him to the hospital. He was pronounced dead shortly there after.
I remember being at work when my employer told me that the hospital called regarding our son, and I needed to get there as soon as possible. Up to that time I have never felt such an intense fear that seized my mind and body and warp my sense of time and space. I instantly felt a strong sense of heaviness and numbness that emanated from my core out to to all my extremities. It felt like everything, including myself, was going in slow motion. Even though, I was trying to get there as fast as I could.
It’s so hard to understand how a young child with no signs of sickness, would all of sudden die. Especially, with it happening on Sandy’s birthday. We spent many days and nights sobbing uncontrollably in cycles of pain, numbness and exhaustion. The first funeral I ever attended in my life was his. Then, in the process of going through Mitchell’s things, we found the poem that was put aside just weeks before. This time it was read, with tears in our eyes, lumps in our throats, from a totally different perspective. Sandy eventually memor-
ized it, frequently reciting the words to help deal with her emotional and physical pain created by the sudden loss of her nursing child.
As painful, as it was to lose Mitchell, Nathan’s death was so much more. Mitchell’s death came early, with only 2 and a half months of memories and no apparent suffering. He didn’t make a sound. He took a nap and never woke up. Nathan, however lived till he was 22 with loads of memories of growth, joy and love followed by a few years mixed with intense pain and suffering.
Four years after Mitchell’s death, Nathan was born in Sitka, Alaska on my 35th birthday! We called him Nathan, which means, “Gift of God” and he was the best birthday present I ever had. He was born at home with the help of 3 midwifes, but I got to catch him! Sandy and I, have both been married before and have had other children. Sandy had a boy and a girl and I had a son. It was so nice to be able to raise Nathan without him having to see his parents split up and deal with the confusion it brings. We felt that he grew up feeling secure and we enjoyed seeing him grow and develop into a confident and caring young man.
He was homeschooled by Sandy until 4th grade, where he attended a small church school with only a dozen other students of different grade levels. During this time he was taking piano lessons from the same instructor that Sandy was taking lessons from. In the beginning he didn’t seem to enjoy his lessons much, until his teacher turned him on to playing jazz. He loved to create his own songs and it was a joy to watch him put so much energy and excitement into it.
When he made it to the 8th grade, all the other students were between 1st to 7th grade, consequently he was the only graduate that year. Then, since there were no christian high schools in Sitka, we sent him to Auburn Academy in Washington. At first, we were concerned that he might get homesick. He was living more than 800 miles away from home, but even though he struggled with the academics, he loved the social interaction! In Sitka, he only had a few friends his age. In Auburn, he had close to 50, that he not only went to school with, but lived together in a dormBut, then we moved to Paradise, California with our 2 granddaughters, we were raising at the time. The church there supported both an elementary and high school academy, located on the same campus. This made it possible for Nathan and our 2 granddaughters to live with us at home while they attended.
It was soon after moving to Paradise that Nathan was diagnosed with Crohn’s Disease. It’s a condition where ulcers can form at different levels of the digestive tract, producing severe abdominal pain and bloody stools. We were shocked with this development, because he was so healthy and fit up to this point and raised on a natural vegetarian diet most of his life. However, we learned that Crohn’s Disease appears to be related to not only diet, but also to mental and emotional stress.
Some of his stresses included: having to leave his friends at Auburn Academy, including a girlfriend that he was emotionally involved with; going from a cold wet environment to a hot dry one; leaving his exciting life in a dorm, to sharing his home with his 2 nieces. And unlike Auburn Academy, where most the students were from other locations and eager to make friends, he was going to a school where most the students were living at home and already comfortable with the friends they already had.
Then, of course, when he learned that Crohn’s Disease could be a life long debilitating disease, that could lead to multiple surgeries taking out parts of his colon, require ongoing use of toxic medications and restrict his diet even more, his stress levels skyrocketed! On top of that he was already taking prednisone which gave him a voracious appetite and made him agitated and depressed.
Then we saw a transformation occur. Nathan, our courageous and awe inspiring son, made a decision that was an answer to our prayers. He prayed for strength and wisdom and made a decision that he would devote his life to learning how to overcome his disease as naturally as possible, without drugs or surgery, and to help others do the same. We saw him take a new level of responsibility for his life. He applied himself more in school, minimized his stress levels, exercised regularly, got plenty of sleep and learned what foods would give him the most energy and strength. He was able to cease taking all his medications and thrived.
He was also able to connect and make some really strong friendships and decided to take it upon himself to be a resource to both friends and family to better their health. He researched the internet, counseled with health experts and recommended helpful books to help others handle different health conditions.
He got a job with our church’s Youth Pastor, Milton. Helping him organize various youth events. Then during his senior year, one of his teachers, Mr. Gadsen, encouraged him to run for student body president and was elected by the students. The school also decided to make their annual Spirit Day to be Nathan Boyle Day. He was known for his unique style of dressing with color coordinated bandanas, belts and shoes, so everyone came to school that day doing their best to dress like him. Sandy asked him how he felt about this and he said that he felt really honored. He knew he had a strong influence on his friends and he took the responsibility seriously. He proudly graduated from Paradise Academy in 2009.
Then he decided to go to college for awhile at our local community college and take some courses. He designed his own curriculum, which was unique and focused on one thing - fitness. He only took 4 classes: yoga; aikido; kick boxing and weightlifting! It was amazing how he was able to keep that intense level of activity up for the whole semester.
If that wasn’t enough he would bring me along, to play a unique game with his friends called Bean Ball. It was a fast paced game similar to Dodge Ball, but requiring more strategy and skill. Nathan preferred this over the traditional sports, such as, baseball, basketball or football. But because of his enthusiasm and persistent promotion of Bean Ball he was effective in recruiting plenty of participants to play. Most people admired his energy and skill he exhibited during the game and I was definitely one of his best fans. It was one of our favorite father son activities.
Then he decided he wanted to go to massage school. In 2011, he enrolled in Chico Therapy Wellness Center to take a 250 hour course in massage. We already knew he had a gift in giving a good massage, but he excelled in school both academically and technically, improving his skill as a therapist exponentially. As parents we took full advantage of this talent and thoroughly enjoyed his massages.
Then in September of 2011 he decided to go to a private college offering a medical missionary program. Well, He only lasted 2 months when he was so sick, he had to withdraw and come home. However, he believed that the medicine he had taken before, made him worse and he was determined to work through this episode without medication. So, for the next few months he really struggled in and out of the hospital.
By February of 2012, he started to improve, gaining weight and moving forward. Sandy went with him to southern California so he could get some special training in Thai massage. It was a week long course and she was so glad she went with him.
We feel that because of the suffering of his condition, he really turned into such a caring and accepting person. Nathan, Sandy and I spent a lot of time together, We would play cards, and soak in the jacuzzi together. Sandy remembers him telling her, one day as they were driving, that he loved us so much that he couldn’t find the words to express how he felt.
I know he was discouraged, his friends were off at school and he wanted to move forward with his life, but in June he was back in the hospital, he didn’t have a good relationship with the doctors he was trying to work with. They wanted him to stay on a medication and they were not supportive of him using natural remedies. They wanted him go go on a permanent medication and give up on his ideas of healing himself. Then in JUNE THEY WERE RECOMMENDING SURGERY for what they believed was a Crohn's flare up and a blockage of his bowels. Nathan did not believe he was dealing with Crohn’s and his research convinced him that once he started having surgery things would only get worse.
So, he came home, but he wasn’t getting better. We had talked about surgery, but he just wasn’t feeling good about it. Sandy was really worried and we prayed to God for answers and she got this idea that we should try to get Nathan to a natural health program in Florida. Nathan and I had been researching it online. We had Nathan call and tell them what was going on and find out if they would take him. We prayed that if this was God’s will, He would open the doors and make it possible for Nathan to go. Everything seem to fall into place so beautifully that we were so hopeful this was going to make the difference. Nathan knew if this didn’t work that he had no option but to have surgery.
However, the stress of the long flight, and lack of sleep, due to a roommate that kept him from sleeping, weakened him even more. Consequently, he was too sick for them to help him, so they sent him to the hospital in hopes to stabilize his condition so he could come home. However, we found out later that he was actually dealing with a serious c-diff infection, that eventually perforated his colon and he ended up in an emergency surgery.
Sandy and I raced to Florida as soon as we realized that he was in danger. We were in Oregon at the time, but we were not able to book a flight quick enough in Oregon. So, we drove back to California, While our daughter arranged a flight out of San Francisco. It was the longest flight of our lives. We wanted to get there as fast as possible! Then when we landed we had to rent a car to drive another hour. When we finally got there he was in a medicated coma and it was hard to recognize him. . However, we did feel that he had some awareness that we were there with him. At one point I was talking to him and noticed a tear drop from his eye. We, prayed earnestly with a pastor and some local people from our church. However, Nathan ended up dying that night.
Speaking to the surgeon the following day, we learned that it was indeed a C-Diff infection that perforated his colon, but there was no signs of Crohn’s Disease!
Our heart was broken, Nathan wanted to be one of the many people he had read about who had treated themselves naturally and lived long healthy lives. He wanted to teach others about natural healing. But, instead he didn’t even really know what he was dealing with. We feel like there are lots of places to put blame, but we really did ask God for direction and it was so hard then and its hard now to understand why things had to work out this way. Nathan loved life and he had so much going for himself, We have wished many times that it could have been one of us instead.
His memorial service was really beautiful, so many people came to us and told us that they had never been to such a nice service. His friends handled the music and the youth pastor, that he worked for, did the eulogy. There were over 400 people there. 45 minutes of the service was filled with one person after another sharing about how special they thought Nathan was. We feel that if you tried to think of anything a parent would want to hear about their son, it was said.
How do we feel now, two and a half years later? That we should not take our relationships for granted and that our relationship with Nathan has made usappreciate more fully the depth of God’s Love.
Each day brings a mix that comes and goes with no real pattern or structure. Some days are so full of “stuff” I temporarily forget what’s happened or why we are here with an underlying sense of, what’s the use. Other days start with courage and resolve wanting to honor the life our son and glorify our Saviour, feeling no fear because we don’t care whether we live or die. Then on the days we have the time to reflect on the events surrounding his death, reliving the pain with such intensity it shocks us, and realizing this pain is being felt by countless others in this world right now, we drop to our knees begging Jesus to come get us now.
But, here we still are. It’s not our call. It wasn’t our call that Nathan would die so young with so much pain and suffering. It’s not our call on when or how the future will play out. So, much seems out of our control. It’s not our call on when or how we will die, unless we choose to commit suicide! Sandy’s mother committed suicide when she was only 8 years old and both of her children, have attempted suicide. But, we are not interested in that.
We are interested in slitting the throats of that part of us that continues to pop up it’s ugly head into our lives, that old sinful nature. That part of us that wants to leave this world before we have accomplished what God would have us to do. We want to stand guard, with our swords in hand and overcome with his Holy Spirit.
We pray, that if you are caught in the throes of the pain and suffering that comes with the loss of a child, to not give in to discouragement or hopelessness. But instead: “ Wait on the Lord; be of good courage, and He shall strengthen thine heart, wait I say on the Lord.” Psalms 27:14
If you would like some help, someone to talk with or pray for you, Contact us through this website:
Craig and Sandra Boyle
Letter about Nathan from a Friend
(Click on Link)