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".