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Jedidiah's Lullaby

by Louise Hogan

I had a baby in Mongolia. This alone is not a remarkable statistic, after all, people have been having babies in Mongolia for centuries, but those were Mongol babies. My baby was not a Mongol baby. Jedidiah Patrick was born November 2, 1994, in Erdenet, Mongolia, to missionary parents, and three older sisters, who all loved and wanted him very much. Jedidiah lived for 52 days in Mongolia, and now he lives in heaven. He died Christmas Eve morning and when he left he took a piece of me with him. I wish you could have met my son. I wish you could have held him and seen how beautiful his hands, eyelashes, lips, . .. everything was. He learned to smile in his last week. He had a smile more gorgeous than a Mongolian sunrise. Jed used to stare so intently at my face, as if he were memorizing every detail. With Jed's older sisters I had a special lullaby, that was just theirs, that I always sang to them. For Jed, I never could find the right lullaby. I know lots of lullabies, but none seemed to fit. The song I sang to him was the song from Sleeping Beauty, "I know you, I walked with you once upon a dream". After be died I found myself humming that song. I always cried and remembered my son and what seemed like a dream. One day I sang it all the way through and realized what the words said "...but if l know you, I know what you'll do. You'll love me at once, the way you did once upon a dream. " This brought me such comfort, somewhere on the other side of this life he will know me. He was memorizing my face for a reason. He will love me the way he did once upon a dream.

That first day was a nightmare I never woke up from. When I had slept through the night and I woke at the first light, I knew. I knew that something was horribly wrong. I went to his bed and he was not there; only his shell remained. My son had gone on before me. That day seemed endless. I would stand and stare out the window and watch all the people pass. Where do they have to go? What do they have to do? Don't they know the world has ended? Can't they see that nothing will ever be the same again? I felt that I had abandoned my baby. My intellect would tell my heart that this was not true. SIDS (Sudden Infant Death Syndrome) deaths happen all over the world, living in Mongolia had nothing to do with it. Jed was healthy. He had a full checkup by an American doctor just a week before he died. Still, my heart was not listening. When a blow this devastating comes to a heart, it shuts down and can't hear from the brain. There was no reasoning, my heart kept saying I had left my son when he needed me most. What kind of mother are you?

My thoughts flew over the oceans and continents to my home. I thought of my friend Ellen, who was dying of cancer. Where was she, somewhere between here and heaven? It suddenly became imperative that I know where she was, I had to know. Overseas mail in and out of Asia, being what it is, it was two weeks before I knew. Ellen had gone home two weeks before Jedidiah. Ellen left behind an eighteen month-old son. Her doctor detected breast cancer days before he was born, so she never fully enjoyed her son. I can't pretend to understand what heaven is like, but when I heard the news about Ellen I knew she had my baby. She took him in her arms seconds after his last breath in life and she sang him the lullaby I could never find. She nursed him on perfect breasts and she loves him the way I do. She will hear his first laugh and words and watch his first steps and teach him his first songs. She knows what color his eyes are. Maybe they are brown like mine. Someday, when the time is right, she will tell him about his mother. Reflecting on this scene has brought me comfort, because I know that I did not abandon my son. He is with someone I know and love and trust.

We buried Jedidiah three days after Christmas on the windswept, frozen, Mongolian steppe, overlooking our small city. We could see for miles away over the winter landscape. The whole memory seems so surreal. We had to hack away at the frozen earth for an hour, to make a small hole for his body. The ice-cold wind blew and, when we cried, our tears froze before they hit the ground. We laid him to rest in a blue crocheted blanket, sent by my 8th grade math teacher. When she made it, she had no idea that she was making a burial shroud. My husband found a lichen covered rock to serve as a headstone and he bordered the grave and made a cross with small stones. Our son was the first American to be born in Erdenet, Mongolia, the first American to die in Mongolia, and perhaps the first Christian to be buried.

Almost a year has passed since that day and in some ways the pain of my loss is more real now, than it was, on that cold December morning. God provides a protecting anesthesia that cushions the blows and jolts of the first months after a shock like this. The Novocain has worn off now and the reality of my loss is settling in. The sense of loneliness has taken me by surprise and left me stumbling to get my balance. It camps out at my door and dogs my footsteps at every turn, like a hungry street urchin begging for money with outstretched, grimy hands and imploring eyes. If I give in and acknowledge this pest, will he go away and leave me alone or will he dog me to my grave? Some days the loneliness is overwhelming, it feels that the whole world has gone off and left me with my guts hanging out, the raw Siberian wind whistling through the vacuum left behind by my son's premature departure. Other days I feel abandoned by Jedidiah, how could he do this to me, doesn't he know that he was supposed to bury me? That's the way it's done. Children bury their parents, not the other way around. How unfair of him not to play by the rules!

In the three years that we have lived in Mongolia, we have seen a church grow from no believers to over 400+ members. Before we came there were no Christians in our town. Now there are Mongols worshipping our Lord and King for the first time in history. The church is now fully self-supporting and self-governing. The church has also planted five daughter churches, one granddaughter church and a Russian church for the small Russian community in our town. In spite of this success, I felt that I had failed miserably. As a wife and mother, my duties are much the same as at home, only far more difficult in a different climate and culture. I had little to do with the daily training and running of the church.

When we came to Mongolia, I had two goals for myself: I wanted to learn the language like a native; and have close intimate friendships with the local women. Well, I speak Mongol well enough to survive, and I have one close Mongol friend who speaks English. I do not consider this success. I realize that I am looking at my time in Mongolia from an earthly perspective and God looks at me from a heavenly perspective. Man makes his plans but God directs his footsteps. If He had told me what his goals were for me before we had left California, I would have never boarded the plane. The price we paid to see Satan's kingdom pushed back was costly, but what we bought was priceless.

Our time in Mongolia is coming to a close soon. No matter where we go in this world, even if I never come back to this country, I am always, eternally, irrevocably linked and bound to this land. There are two sides to grief, on one hand I have complete assurance that my son is rejoicing with Jesus. As a mother this is my ultimate goal for my children, I have one down and three to go. On the other hand Jedidiah's death has left me wounded and in need of healing. God is gracious and in his timing that healing has come and continues day by day. Because I still live in my physical body, there is a ripping and burning that I feel about leaving the place where my son's body is buried. When I leave here, I leave behind a piece of me. As I move on from this place I realize I will always carry a tiny piece of this sorrow with me until I hold my son in heaven. There are many questions that I will never, in this lifetime, know the answers to. It is a mystery to me how one so small can leave a hole so large, how one so tiny can leave behind a path of destruction and grief a mile wide. But I know this "..I'll love you at once, the way I did once upon a dream".

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