by Ann Farnsworth
I have consciously and unconsciously avoided telling this story because it stirs so many somber emotions when I think of the death of our son, it is much more pleasant to remember his laugh. But you should know our story and how I came to find I had been given the key to a wonderful life.
Dale was born in June of 1983, our first child. I was shocked at how fiercely I loved him, even though I fought against the bit as it were, while I learned to fit myself to the role of mother. Our daughter Jody was born 18 months later. I didn’t know until after he was gone that he was filled with happiness, I had no other children to compare him to and so that quality was enjoyed but not to the degree it deserved. He was obedient to the extent that other parents came to us for advice. Of course, we assumed we were doing something right and gave out counsel when asked, little did we know that he was born that way and we were just fortunate to be his parents.
He wore blue jeans and white t-shirts and he was once the luckiest boy alive. It happened at our church picnic when he was allowed to play in a mud puddle while his friends’ parents chased their kids down to keep them from joining him. When the party was over we stripped him down and made a quick stop at the dumpster to dispose of his ruined clothes. He called me Ann because everyone else he knew called me that and it absolutely melted my heart when he would call me mommy every once in a while. He is the one that started calling his sister Jo, I used to catch him playing ball with her – with golf balls! She always grinned at him so it must have been okay.
We are coming down to the week of his death, my heart is racing and my face is flushed, but I will keep writing.
A week before he died my parents had a huge party at their home, kids running everywhere, dads at the grill, moms putting out food and talking. My husband was measuring and cutting some carpet in a room that overlooked the pool. He was kneeling at the window and something told him to look up. He did and saw a little pack of toddlers running around the pool, Dale right in the middle of them. Uneasy, Dana left the carpet and took the kids out to the front lawn and played a game of two-year old football.
Dale surprised us all week. He begged to go and get ice cream and then pizza. He spent time with his ill grandfather and his aunt and uncles, he was ecstatic about getting some new shoes but not about getting caught up with all his vaccinations. He was saying goodbye.
Monday morning came, he played with his friends and when I tried to get him to take a nap he would have nothing to do with it so finally I set him free. After lunch I sat on my mother’s love seat and held Jody while Dale brought me treasures from the window wells, dead spiders, sticks and a frog. Finally, he came in and jabbered at me, telling me he was going to look for the frog that lived in the pool. But I didn’t understand a word he was saying. Jody was drowsy and when he went out the front door I waited for her to fall asleep.
It wasn’t more than a minute or two before I heard a distinct voice in my head saying, ‘Go and get Dale.’ So urgent was the message that I put a sleeping baby on the floor and ran out the front, but I knew that wasn’t right and instead ran out the back. I could tell that something was in the pool and I knew it was our son. I pulled him out and must have screamed for help because Dana came from the office where he was laying that carpet. No whisper to look up this time. He started CPR and my father called 911.
To make a long story short, we arrived at an emergency room that had been trained the past week by an expert in children’s drownings. The doctor was waiting at the curb for a taxi to take him to the airport but he missed his flight and worked on our little boy, never sent us a bill and I never even knew his name. We waited patiently but Dale never coughed or sputtered or woke up.
How careful and kind the Lord was when He took our son, I couldn’t feel like a bad mother because every detail of his death happened with such meticulous care.
I remember the women of our church bringing food and flowers and cleaning supplies. I wanted to ask them to leave the trail of baby nose and hand prints on the windows but they were so anxious to do something that I couldn’t say a word. Next week the eight month prints were back where they belonged but the two-year old treasures were gone forever. Someone brought over a white outfit to bury him in and our bishop’s wife asked if she could buy me a black dress for the funeral. How blessed I was to have friends!
Jody still needed a mother and so I had to wake up every morning and take care of her. I remember thinking, ‘Okay, Jody is hungry. What would a good mother do?’ And I would do it, she needed a mother to smile at her and take care of her. She learned to walk that week, looking for her brother.
What did I learn from losing my child? I learned to treasure every moment, the sweet times as well as the hard times. I learned that all of God’s children are certified miracles. But most of all I realized that I now had a child in God’s arms. The question then became, was I going to be with Dale someday? When I have a choice between love or irritation, between patience and selfishness, what do I choose? Every day, every minute I am choosing what is most important to me, and the path of my choices is leading straight to my destination. I just have to check and make sure I am headed in the direction to be with Dale again.
We call Dale our anchor in heaven and as I look back on my life it is obvious that his death is what is shaping me into anything good I have become. Would I trade what I have learned? Not for anything.