Wednesday, May 21, 2014

Remembering Judah Daniel Zwicker, Our Son

Judah's memorial service was held on Saturday, May 17th, 2014.  I know that many were prevented from being there with us due to geography, prior commitments, and other limitations.  I have collected in this post some of the material that was shared at that service, as well as some additional tributes from friends and family.

I want Judah to be remembered, and I also want what we say here to be a help to others in similar situations as they come across this post.

"It is better to go to the house of mourning, than to go to the house of feasting: for that is the end of all men; and the living will lay it to his heart." - Ecclesiastes 7:2

From Grandma Harris:


Oh God,
Oh God,
Oh God. Today we celebrate little baby Judah. May I count the ways you have blessed me?

For 20 minutes, as I held your 7 pound beautiful body with your head toward my knees - so I could just ponder your precious life that existed just a few short days ago in your mama's womb - I could see into heaven. Judah, you gave me that view. I will never be able to thank you on this earth but I can testify to that tangible gift given to me.

You have transformed my vision from THIS VEIL OF TEARS to my real home in heaven. What a glory it will be to join you there some day.

You have planted me even more firmly next to my Savior to walk hand in hand with Him for the remainder of my tasks on earth.

You have helped me lift my eyes to heaven where my true strength comes from. To know that the view of reality belongs there and not on this earth. My life is so short, like a blossom that springs forth and then withers, I purpose to step with Jesus however He has called me to be and do.

My tasks seem lighter and my days are more full to experience everything God has for me just because I held you.

Little, precious Judah, your mama and daddy and sisters love you so much and cherish all the little giggles and movements you shared with them. You are a permanent part of our family and will forever have a place in our hearts.

Heaven is brighter because you lived.

From Auntie Anna:


Our nephew's memorial service was so beautiful today. Cried through the slide show sitting between my triplet brothers. David passed the Kleenex and Josh put his arm around me. Heard the story of his name, Judah Daniel Zwicker, from my brave brother Tim. Judah, a man who faced his mistakes and took responsibility for them; Daniel, a man whose integrity and intercession for his people made Him beloved by God; and finally Zwicker, a permanent member of our family we will love and miss. He will not return to us but we will go to him in Heaven. We bless God both in the sunshine and in the dark, and we do it together. Story of our life as a family. We pray our response to God brings Him glory. Now relaxing with the other nieces and nephews at my sister Sarah's house. Thankful and comforted in being together.

From Mom:


Judah Daniel was joyfully expected around May 20th. Shoshana and Abigail frequently asked to "feel baby Judah" and collapsed into fits of giggles any time they successfully felt him move. He was an active boy who always quieted down whenever Grandma Harris came near. His personality was not as exuberant as Shoshana's but his movements were more forceful than Abigail's. I expected him to be a strong boy to be doted on and bossed around by his big sisters. Another difficult pregnancy, I was eager for another early delivery. Sure enough, my body began giving me signs that it was almost ready for labor at 37 weeks gestation. Two days of false labor led up to a routine appointment. Alone, expecting to meet my boy in the next day or two, the midwife could not find his heartbeat with the doppler. That was the first time in all my pregnancies but I refused to jump to conclusions. An ultrasound was eerily still and I held my breath until the doctor quietly said "I cannot visualize any heart movements." 

Judah was induced and born at 5:01, May 4th, surrounded by family and friends. He was 6 lbs. 14 oz. beautiful, and perfect. He looked so much like his sisters and had Tim's feet but my toes. We took many photos, foot prints, and even foot impressions. I ask every day that Jesus would give him a hug and kiss for me and to tell him how much I love and miss him.

From Dad:


Names have always been important to me.  At the age of five, I decided that I would no longer go by Timmy, and declared to my family that I wanted to be called Tim from then on.  Of course, whenever I was in trouble it was always “Timothy Daniel Zwicker!”  [I love you, Mom & Dad.]

I like names that carry meaning.  Growing up and growing in the Lord, I have always taken the stories found in the book of Daniel with extra weight, as if they were intended for me in a special way, for me to display the integrity and bravery demonstrated by Daniel and his friends, and to intercede in prayer for my family like Daniel interceded for the Jewish people.

In the same way, I have always taken Paul’s letters to Timothy personally, as if they were written specially to me in addition to my first-century namesake.

So when it came time for Elizabeth and me to choose a name for our son, I wanted to give him a name that could provide an identity rooted in the Lord, and serve as a moral anchor in his life.

Ever since we were pregnant with Shoshana, our first child, Elizabeth had picked the name Judah as a favorite if the child were a boy, and we have always wanted a boy.  Elizabeth has gone through some rough times during her pregnancies, and she wanted a name that expressed our anticipation of the joy of our child’s future, in some ways in contrast to the feelings in the present.

Judah means ‘Praise’.  In the book of Genesis, Jacob meets Rachel and they fall in love.  He agrees with her father Laben to work seven years for her hand in marriage, but on their wedding night, Laben substitutes his older daughter Leah in Rachel’s place.  After a rather awkward morning conversation, Jacob agrees to work an additional seven years for Laben in order to marry Rachel as well.

So here’s Leah, the unloved wife, and I’ll read how she names her first three children (Genesis 29:31-34):
Now the Lord saw that Leah was unloved, and He opened her womb, but Rachel was barren.Leah conceived and bore a son and named him Reuben, for she said, “Because the Lord has seen my affliction; surely now my husband will love me.”
Then she conceived again and bore a son and said, “Because the Lord has heard that I am unloved, He has therefore given me this son also.” So she named him Simeon.
She conceived again and bore a son and said, “Now this time my husband will become attached to me, because I have borne him three sons.” Therefore he was named Levi.
Leah’s first three sons are named out of her desperate desire to be loved by her husband.  But something must have changed in her with her fourth son, that she stopped focusing on her unfulfilled desires, and instead chose to be thankful for the blessings that God had granted to her. (Genesis 29:35)
And she conceived again and bore a son and said, “This time I will praise the Lord.” Therefore she named him Judah. Then she stopped bearing.
Judah means praise, and so she chose to praise the Lord for his goodness despite her unchanged, unhappy circumstance.

Part of Judah’s middle name is also in this passage a few verses down (Genesis 30:1-6):

Now when Rachel saw that she bore Jacob no children, she became jealous of her sister; and she said to Jacob, “Give me children, or else I die.”
Then Jacob’s anger burned against Rachel, and he said, “Am I in the place of God, who has withheld from you the fruit of the womb?”
She said, “Here is my maid Bilhah, go in to her that she may bear on my knees, that through her I too may have children.”
So she gave him her maid Bilhah as a wife, and Jacob went in to her. 5 Bilhah conceived and bore Jacob a son.
Then Rachel said, “God has vindicated me, and has indeed heard my voice and has given me a son.” Therefore she named him Dan.

In this passage, ‘Dan’ means vindication, and the name Daniel takes the word ‘El’, meaning ‘God’, and combines them into ‘Dani-El’, which means “God is my Judge”, or “God Vindicates Me”.  To me that is a vital perspective in this present circumstance.  God vindicates our Baby Judah.  From a human perspective it would be easy to look at Judah’s short life with us as a waste, but it is God who judges the worth of every human life.  It is his to assign to us the days of our lives.  Judah was given to Elizabeth and to our family, for a short time.  While he was with us, we loved him.  We welcomed him into our family and thanked God for him.  Now he is gone back into the arms of our heavenly Father, and he is no less loved, and we are no less thankful for His gift.

There are some events in the life of Judah’s namesake that I wanted Judah to learn from.  Judah was not always a nice guy.  He sold his brother Joseph as a slave into Egypt, and he made some poor choices as a husband and father.  But at some point, Judah finally grew up and became a man.  Judah had failed in his obligations to his daughter-in-law Tamar.  When she realized this, Tamar tricked Judah into getting what she wanted anyway.  You can read about the details, but Judah had a choice:  He could have pretend to be in the right, and have Tamar killed.  Instead, he admitted he was wrong and said “She is more righteous than I am.”

I wanted Judah to learn from this imperfect situation how a man of God responds.  Judah created this situation with his own sins, but it was not too late—it is never too late while we live—to begin to do what is right, and accept the responsibility for our actions.  That is what a man does.

Later on, Joseph unbeknownst to his brothers had become the ruler of Egypt.  When they came to him he insisted that Judah and his brothers return with their youngest brother Benjamin.  It was Judah who put his own life as surety for his brother to their father.  When they returned to Egypt and Benjamin was caught with stolen property, it was Judah’s insistence that he be imprisoned in the place of Benjamin that convinced Joseph that his brothers had repented from the way that they had treated him when they sold him as a slave out of envy.

A real man takes responsibility on himself for the well-being of others around him.  I wanted my son Judah to know that, and to carry it with him in his name.

Finally, Judah’s last name is Zwicker.  That makes him a part of our family.  In 1752, Peter Zwicker sailed from Germany to the new world, and settled his family near Bridgewater, Nova Scotia.  In 1964 Edson Zwicker took his family from Bridgewater to Whittier, California, including his son David Zwicker.  David grew up and married a Dutch girl named Geri, and they had five children whom they brought up in the Word of God.  Timothy Zwicker, their son, moved from California to Washington after college, and met a pretty, swing-dancing nursing student named Elizabeth.  Elizabeth and I have three children:  Shoshana is almost five years old, Abigail is two and a half, and Judah Daniel Zwicker was born into heaven on May 4, 2014.

We love him, and we miss him very much.


 

 
"When many of his disciples heard it, they said, "This is a hard saying; who can listen to it? ...So Jesus said to the Twelve, "Do you want to go away as well?"  Simon Peter answered him, "Lord, to whom shall we go?  You have the words of eternal life." -John 6:60, 67-68

"Now may the God of peace himself sanctify you completely, and may your whole spirit and soul and body be kept blameless at the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ.  He who calls you is faithful; he will surely do it." -1 Thessalonians 5:23-34

"For I know that my Redeemer lives,
and at the last he will stand upon the earth.
And after my skin has been thus destroyed,
yet in my flesh I shall see God,
whom I shall see for myself,
and my eyes shall behold, and not another."
 - Job 19:25-27a




Thursday, August 01, 2013

In Hope

A recent exchange on Facebook:
Friend 1: "But what is Saturn for?" -[her daughter]
Friend 2: To scream His glory... perhaps among other things?
Sometimes I miss being involved in the kind of church/culture/family I grew up in.  This kind of conversation, and a community mindset that every conversation is also a theological conversation is something I don't have right now, and something that I dearly miss.

Today, I buried our goat Rosemary, who was the matriarch of the herd, and a very sweet, productive, and steady animal.  I'm not sure how old she was, since we got her from a family that Liz grew up with (who had taught her how to keep dairy goats).  Our herd became infected with coccidiosis, a particularly nasty gut parasite for goats and other cud-chewing animals.  It started with two of the kids, and spread.  Once we figured out what it was, we treated them for it, and did our best to keep them eating, hydrated, electrolyted*, and free of other parasites, but thus far it has reduced our herd from eight to four.

Rosemary
Digging a hole deep enough to bury a medium sized animal is a good time to think.  As I dug Rosemary's grave, I was pondering the question:
Lord, what is Rosemary's death for?
My mind thought of many things, but all of them ended up being a form of that same answer.  Of course in the end, everything is for God's glory, but perhaps this situation makes it a bit easier to see, since from an earthly "under the sun" perspective, it seems so senseless.  Rosemary's death did about as much direct good as Saturn had an effect on your daily commute.  Since the earthly purpose is unsatisfactory, we are more willing to look for divine purpose.

So, why do animals die?  In particular, why do the animals that serve us, that we love, have to die?

While I was digging, I was thinking about a passage of scripture in Romans 8:
For I consider that the sufferings of this present time are not worthy to be compared with the glory that is to be revealed to us. For the anxious longing of the creation waits eagerly for the revealing of the sons of God. For the creation was subjected to futility, not willingly, but because of Him who subjected it, in hope that the creation itself also will be set free from its slavery to corruption into the freedom of the glory of the children of God. For we know that the whole creation groans and suffers the pains of childbirth together until now. And not only this, but also we ourselves, having the first fruits of the Spirit, even we ourselves groan within ourselves, waiting eagerly for our adoption as sons, the redemption of our body. For in hope we have been saved, but hope that is seen is not hope; for who hopes for what he already sees? But if we hope for what we do not see, with perseverance we wait eagerly for it. - Romans 8:18-25
When we lose something that we love, we suffer, but the suffering that we endure in this life (and also all of the suffering of all of the creatures) is worth going through in order to achieve the final result that God has in mind.  Hence the analogy to childbirth.  This applies to our little situation, but it also applies on the grand scale.

When God created the world, including the animals, according to this passage, He made it subject to entropy.  Animals die.  Plants die.  Stars explode or burn out.  Left to its laws as we understand them, the universe will either collapse back in on itself, or (more likely) expand itself into a frozen waste.

And at every stage in its creation, God called it good.

Why would He do that?  According to this passage, the current order of the universe was chosen, not because it was a perfect idyllic place for Adam and his sinless intended progeny to live, but specifically because it was a broken order and needed to be fixed.  Mankind, too, was created as corruptible (though our corruption was our own doing).  God's audacious plan has a purpose for that, though.  He intends, through corrupted humanity, to flip the whole of creation from a corrupted state into one that cannot possibly be corrupted ever again:
Behold, I tell you a mystery; we will not all sleep, but we will all be changed, in a moment, in the twinkling of an eye, at the last trumpet; for the trumpet will sound, and the dead will be raised imperishable, and we will be changed. For this perishable must put on the imperishable, and this mortal must put on immortality. But when this perishable will have put on the imperishable, and this mortal will have put on immortality, then will come about the saying that is written, “Death is swallowed up in victory. O death, where is your victory? O death, where is your sting?” The sting of death is sin, and the power of sin is the law; but thanks be to God, who gives us the victory through our Lord Jesus Christ. Therefore, my beloved brethren, be steadfast, immovable, always abounding in the work of the Lord, knowing that your toil is not in vain in the Lord. - 1 Corinthians 15:51-58 (Emphasis mine.)
From the passage in Romans, the whole creation is waiting, in its entropic spiral, for the true consummation of our adoption as sons and daughters of God.  When that happens, the whole creation will become subject to a new order.  Where the old order steadily breaks down, the new order is ever-expanding and bursting at the seams with life.  Where the old order would lead one to despair, the new order inspires hopeful expectation.

The little pain of Rosemary's death makes me long for the day when God has designed to redeem the entire creation through those whom He has adopted as His children (including me!)

Both of these passages focus our attention on Christ, by whose sinless death we are cleansed from our sin and declared worthy to be God's children, and by whose resurrected life we will, with Him, bring glory and incorruptibility to this universe, just as it has been brought to us!  Both passages encourage us, in view of Christ's certain victory, to not be discouraged by the death, destruction, and futility we see now, but to take actions that are consistent with the expectation that the old order and its trappings will be swept away when Christ is revealed for who He is.

It brings to mind this hymn, which is one of my favorite hymns from growing up:
In hope we lift our wishful, longing eyes,
Waiting to see the Morning Star arise;
How bright, how gladsome will His advent be,
Before the Sun shines forth in majesty.

How will our eyes to see His face delight,
Whose love has cheered us through the darksome night!
How will our ears drink in His well-known voice,
Whose faintest whispers make our souls rejoice!

No stain within; no foes or snares around;
No jarring notes shall there discordant sound;
All pure without, all pure within the breast;
No thorns to wound, no toil to mar our rest.

If here on earth the thoughts of Jesus' love
Lift our poor hearts this weary world above;
If even here the taste of heavenly springs
So cheers the spirit, that the pilgrim sings;
  
What will the sunshine of His glory prove?
What the unmingled fullness of His love?
What hallelujahs will His presence raise?
What but one loud, eternal burst of praise?


Saturday, January 26, 2013

++computerHackingSkills

There's never a perfect time for anything.  A couple of weeks ago, I was presented with an opportunity to brush up on my software engineering skills.  My company was offering a series of courses online through a university that would result in a C++ certification.  I have been thinking about doing something like this for some time.  The position I am currently in provides me with a little bit of programming practice (mostly in the form of scripting), but almost nothing in terms of actual software design and engineering.  I would like very much to change this, but I feel the effects of skill rot.  Without recent practice, I would not feel very confident representing myself to a hiring manager.

I took a look at the course descriptions.  The first of four courses would be a cake walk, the second one looked interesting, and the third and fourth looked very intriguing.  I have been wanting to get more experience working with the design patterns since college. The earlier courses feature using the STL and Boost libraries, which I would like to be more proficient at. 

So, I requested the challenge exam in order to skip the first course.  There would be no sense in lulling myself into a false sense of an easy course, only to be shocked by the work load later on as I encountered truly new material.  That, and I don't want to spend my precious time learning something I already know.  I have a wife and kids who deserve better.

The challenge test was a three-part assignment that appeared to have been the final exam for the previous year.  I was given a week to complete the assignment, which was about how long it took me (I finished testing it early the evening before it was due), working on it during the evenings after work, and most of Saturday. 

I don't want to commit myself to something that will take more time than I have, especially with Elizabeth working, and she, Shoshana, and Abigail needing me to spend time with them, but as I said before, there is not going to be a perfect time to make this move.  The intensity of Shoshana's treatment will decrease in the coming months, and I am working on the paperwork to officially hire Kristen as a nanny.

Even after just taking the test, I am much more confident in my skills and ability to perform, both in general as a programmer, and specifically using C++.  There were several things I had to look up online, but I knew what to look for.  I haven't gotten the results back, but I would be surprised if I did not pass.

Of course, if things get too crazy, I may need to drop the course or stop early, but even in that case, it will not be a vain effort.

Thursday, October 18, 2012

Shoshana: New Blog

And no, I don't mean "new blog post", as some do when they say "new blog".  There's a whole new blog, with its own posts (or at least, future posts), in store for you.

I decided to break out my regular posts about Shoshana's Leukemia into its own blog, so that it would not be interrupted by the other things that normally occupy this blog, assuming a degree of normalcy returns, or some new definition of normal, in which her care does not consume such a majority of my time, energy, and thought.

I may occasionally still post on this blog about Shoshana and her care, and I may occasionally link from here to there, or there to here.  My intent is not to draw a barrier between aspects of my life, but to make them more comprehensible and digestible to those who care to read about them. 

I would also like Elizabeth (and perhaps some others) to contribute posts to the Shoshana: Leukemia blog.

Without further ado, here is the link: Shoshana: Leukemia

As you read, please be praying for us, and especially for her healing.


Thursday, October 11, 2012

Shoshana: Intensive Care

The last few weeks have been a roller-coaster.  Shoshana was in the ICU when I last posted.  She has stayed there most of the intervening time, and is there currently.

Shoshana and Daddy
This is due to her respiratory condition.  One of the chemo drugs she was on--vincristine--caused vocal cord nerve damage, resulting in lots of throat pain and also vocal cord paralysis, to the point of preventing her from adequately breathing on her own--especially while asleep.  This morning I learned that Shoshana is the 6th girl on record who has had this kind of reaction to vincristine, and vincristine is an old drug.  Usually this kind of symptom clears up in a matter of weeks.  With Shoshana, it might take months.  I hope it's just months.

Mommy and Abigail with Shoshana
Abigail in the playroom on the cancer floor
Shoshana started her second phase of chemotherapy, 'consolidation', two weeks ago.  Thus far, only observable side effect of the new drugs has been nausea in the past couple of days.  Vincristine was scheduled for her as part of consolidation, but they will not administer it unless and until her current symptoms from it are resolved. 

The doctors kept expecting Shoshana to recover quickly.  She was doing pretty well, only on the BiPAP while sleeping at night or napping during the day--and not on the nasal cannula at all during her breaks.  They transferred her from the ICU to the cancer floor at the beginning of this week, hopeful that she could be discharged on Thursday (today).

Shoshana and Grandma playing with Play-Doh
To determine if she was ready to be at home, they stressed her system by having her sleep without the BiPAP for as long as possible one night (she made it until 5:00 AM, and then proceeded to sleep on the BiPAP for 11 more hours), and then the next night, they did a sleep study where they monitored her in half a dozen different ways while she slept.  She slept for three hours like that, at which point she was doing so poorly that they put her back on the BiPAP.  At 7:00 AM she spiked a fever, and was transferred to the ICU, where again she slept until 4:00 PM.  She was on the BiPAP pretty much constantly for the next day.

Wednesday morning, Elizabeth's mom Kristen called me and said she couldn't fill in for Elizabeth while she went to work for a few hours because she was sick (staying in the hospital with a kid on chemo with no immune system while you are sick is a no-no).  I called in to work, and came up to be with Shoshana.  When I arrived, Elizabeth told me that she, too, was feeling sick.  A few hours later, she called and told me that she had a fever.  She went to bed and basically slept all day, so I've been here at the hospital, and anticipate staying here until at least Sunday night.

Visitors
Shoshana seems to be doing pretty well, considering recent events.  She is on the BiPAP only to sleep.  However, the doctors seem to be coming to terms with the fact that Shoshana's vocal cord damage is not going to clear up any time soon.  They would like to give her a tracheotomy, which would provide immediate and sustainable relief from her difficulty in breathing, and would not cause long-term damage.  (They had before suggested the possibility of removing part of her vocal cords, which would have permanent effects on her voice.)  They are confident that she will heal quickly, and that the risk of infection will be manageable, even while on chemotherapy.  They would wait to perform the operation until her blood counts go back up (they are currently at a low due to where she is in this phase of her chemo).

Painting
She was slated to return to the cancer floor today, but there isn't room ready for her at the moment, so we will spend one more night in the ICU. 

These past few weeks have also been rough on my family.  Abigail has been sick with an ear infection this past week, and thus not able to visit her sister, or be visited by her mommy, daddy or grandma.  Our dear friends Ian and Amanda have been taking care of her.

Elizabeth and I have had some pretty heated arguments, misunderstandings, distrust, and hurt feelings (as well as some burnout).  We are on the mend, and it has resulted in some changes for the better, but needless to say it has been very difficult on both of us, and trust and hurt feelings will take time and consistency to rebuild.

Last Thursday was Elizabeth's birthday.  We had been planning to go out to eat, but Elizabeth suggested that we also go swing dancing.  We did, and we both had a good time.  I definitely need to be getting more exercise (Elizabeth, on the other hand, had better stamina than she was expecting, thanks in part no doubt to joining a rec volleyball league).  I also threw together a surprise party with some of our friends on Sunday, although in order to get her to actually leave the hospital, I had to spoil the surprise.  I tried and tried other angles, but she didn't see any compelling reason to leave Shoshana's side.

Tickles
Please pray:
  • That Shoshana would recover quickly from the damage to her vocal cords.  That she would respond well to treatment, and live a full life to the glory of God.
  • That each member of our family will be healthy and strong: Shoshana, Elizabeth, me, Kristen.
  • For me, that I would be given strength and endurance to do all that I need to do.  It has been difficult to be away from work so much lately.  I have become less dependable, and understandably have not been given many critical assignments as a result.  It can be difficult to stay motivated when you feel like what you've been given to do is not very important.
  • That Elizabeth and I, that we would be able to love each other and communicate and work together in love without misunderstanding or falling into unhealthy patterns of thinking.  That this difficult time would drive us closer together, and not be an occasion for destructive friction.
  • For Shoshana and Abigail, who miss each other and their parents very much.

Sharing berries

Add-a-cat app

Blowing bubbles: fun and theraputic

Also fun and theraptutic


Proud artist