Garret and Jennifer Jones

Garret and Jennifer Jones
Garrett and Jennifer Jones

Sunday, April 28, 2013

What's Different? April 27, 2013

As I think back over the last two years today, I have started a list of things that are different. They have come to me slowly, so it may not be a long list. But sometimes I start typing and I can't stop for a while. I never know......
1. We don't have to add chairs at the kitchen table anymore when all the kids come over to eat.
2. I wear my sons wedding band.
3. I haven't heard "Daddy-o" in a mighty long time.
4. The Auburn house key on my keychain has no door to unlock.
5. We have TWO boxes with sons' names on 'em, full of memoribillia from Kindergarten on up that they will never take to their houses.
6. I now have to pay to have my AC & heating worked on, and my computer.
7. Easter pictures never meant so much.
8. Opening presents on Christmas doesn't take as long.
9. Auburn National Championship football (numbered, limited edition, display case) still sits in our den. It was supposed to be a 2011 Christmas present.
10. 115 Alpine Street.
11. Kevin's middle child syndrome has been replaced with the only child syndrome. If we go out to eat, we are spending his inheritance.
12. The incredible neck rubs that were swapped. He had big strong hands.
13. Daily decisions and life in general have become simpler. Something is either important or it's not. If it isn't, get rid of it.
14. I now measure time by how many times I have filled up my "Daily Pill (morn,noon,night, M-F) Planner and refill prescriptions.
15. I am closer to God than I've ever been

9th Floor Memories 4/3/13

Tonight, I went back to UAB's 9th floor. I had another reason for going to the hospital, but I was only 1 floor away, so I thought, Why not go see who is still here from the night shift of April 27, 2011. I had no idea how my heart or mind would take it. You see I have good memories of those 5 1/2 weeks spent there. What? Good memories? How can you say that? Let me explain. I remember it fondly first and foremost for what I saw and experienced. I saw people, who answered their life's calling, and in so doing, were there when so many needed them. No complaining, no negative comments, no shirking of responsibility. Instead, working endlessly, sometimes feverishly, always lovingly. Calling on their bodies and their minds to go beyond the normal requirements and demands of their talents. Daily, thinking outside the box, outside the hard covers of the textbooks and beyond normal, almost to supernatural. I remember it fondly, because of special people who made it their purpose in life for those 12 hours of their day, to save my sons life.

As I walked throught the waiting room, I remember the night, maybe in the last week, (the days have run together for this old dad's brain) that the charge nurse came out and sat with Janell and I. He shared that in all his years in nursing, and on that floor, he had never seen one person/family affect a staff so much. He had seen doctors in a conference room, brainstorming and shedding tears to try to come up with solutions to Garrett's problem of the day. He had seen nursing staff, in the break room at supper, praying for my son. He had more staff asking to be asssigned to Garretts care than he had shifts for. And he had felt love from us more so than from any patient he had ever cared for.
I remember, fondly, the last two weeks of Garrett's life that I and others got to communicate with him. The afternoon when he was told that one of his best friends was gonna put Roll Tide shorts on him, and he'd have to wear them till he got well enough to take them off himself. He pretended to reach into an imaginary pocket and pulled out a one-finger-salute, since he couldn't talk. He knew I didn't approve, but it was humerous. And then the final hours before the induced coma, when he assured me with a nod of his head, that if things "went south" he would be in Heaven with Brandon, because he was certain of his salvation.
I remember the days when friends and families, who knew nothing else to do, would just come and sit and talk. Sometimes I was not a good host, for when "the words" started coming to me, I had to be on my computer, sharing my thoughts. But they came and sat just the same. Folks shared goodies, drinks, and other comforts when they had the time. And then there were three persons that I could and would call when "Garrett" needed prayer, no matter the hour of the day or night. But I think they knew it was also the broken shell of a dad on the other end of that connection that needed prayers.
So Yes, I have fond memories of that place. Do I have memories Iwould just as soon forget? To be honest, No. For all of them, happy or sad, good or bad, are just that....memories. And with God's help, I hope to never forget them. Including the one I have from tonight. As I was leaving the unit, two nurses were talking, coming towards me. As we approached each other, one asked "Do you need something, sir?" I said No, I just came to visit the staff. She looked at me and said "I know you from somewhere". I recognized her as a nurse I think cared for Garrett maybe one shift out of about 40 days. My son spent some time up here. Then she started tearing up and said "you're Garrett's dad." I nodded, she started to cry a little bit more, and tried to apologize for it. I said "Please don't apologize, you've just paid my son one of the biggest compliments of his life. Thank you" And we hugged.
Yes, I have fond memories of the 9th floor TBICU of UAB.


Holiday Tears 12/4/12

This has to be the hardest time of the year for me. We have a beautiful tree we put each year, and on it some very special decorations, as most parents probably do. Ornaments created in Sunday School or VBS or 1st grade. Ornaments given by grandparents or ones we bought to put their picture in. Sleds made from popsicle sticks with their name written on them. A few given by friends to commorate a trip they took. One of my favorites is a Green Bay Packers football player, glass, hand painted that we bought when we were the beneficiaries of a wonderful trip to Green Bay and Lambaugh Field. Brandon had been promised a trip with his family, by Brett Favre, Bart Starr Jr. & Sr. Brandon had met Brett, courtesy of Paul Finebaum and Bart Jr. And Brett told Brandon he would see to it that we would get to come up there. On the evening before we were to leave on an early September Sat Morning, Brandon's neck broke and the trip was cancelled. A year later, after Brandon has passed away, Bart Jr. called and asked if we were still open to going, this time in Brandons memory. We made the trip, had tickets (Bart Jr's personal seats) to a game, got to go snow mobiling, and felt Bubba with us every step of the way. We bought that ornament in Lambaugh's gift shop.
It's also time to hang stockings. That's pretty hard, too. Janell does monograming and each son and each daughter in love, and each grandson have one that she has specifically picked out for them, and lovingly put their name on it. Janell hangs them because I can't. Three of them are empty this year. Then there is the photo ornament from when we took our two "kids" to Disneyworld (along with the one daughter in love). Better late than never. But there we all are, with the castle in the background.
I cannot imagine how folks that have lost loved ones that were not Christian, or are not Christians, deal with the separation, especially at this time of the year. I can so easily see how depression can creep in and cause problems. Were it not for the blessed hope and promise I have that Jennifer, Garrett, Brandon, JayMomma and Pop are all together, in the presence of each other and The Gift of the Ages, their Savior and mine, I honestly don't believe I could function. Prayers arew a tremendous help, and I thank God for each one said for me and mine. But there is still that hole, that immense hole, that can never be filled. Yes it heals up, but it's a scar. It's never like it was. I have new friends this year that I didn't have last year. I am most undeservingly blessed to be a fractional part of people He has called to be in ministry. I have friends that have come back from my past, some I had forgotten, yet a couple that I have never stopped loving since we were kids, just now in a different way.
I believe that those in Heaven can see us and what we enduring here on Earth. After all, they have been made "like Him" and He can see us. So when tears come as I look at a stocking, remember a smile or a special moment, or look upon my grandsons or the son who has become such a great DAD himself without a real good role model, or tears come when I look at a wife and mom who has endured much more than most moms ever have to and still does for others more than herself; I hope that those watching from Heaven understand they are tears of happiness. And I bet they shed some themselves. After all, John 11:35 says "Jesus wept".
I sincerely hope that each one who reads this experiences a loving, happy and blessed Christmas. And if anyone reading has not received the Gift of the Ages I spoke of earlier, please message me. I'd be honored to share the story.

Looking Back and Forward 10/29/12

As we near 6,200 likes for "Prayers For Garrett Jones", Wow, what a difference 18 months make. Here in Hueytown, outside of Birmingham, we were hearing of the storms that were coming. We knew the path that most of the storms coming out of the southwest take, so there was some concern. Hueytown has always managed to avoid serious damage, only by the grace of God. Things were getting bad that afternoon, as some small tornadoes and straight line winds had done damage earlier in the day. Janell and I both got off early, and decided to meet at Cracker Barrel for an early supper, since we could just bet on losing power later. And when our food was delivered to our table, I said a blessing as I always do. And in this blessing I specifically asked God to keep our sons, daughters in love and grandsons safe. I called each one by name. And I thought no more about it till 3 hours later when I saw the weatherman giving the path an F5 was expected to take. But I had prayed for each, and you know, it never happens to anyone you know. But it had happened to Janell's mother & father and sister in '98, when another F5 followed an almost identical path 1/4 mile away from this one. It hit their home while they were all hunkered down in the shower. So, we had already had our close call. At 6:00 I get a call from Kevin who was looking at an empty basement where Garretts house once stood.

That started a 6 week nightmare, that still comes back to haunt me. Days where a vision of him in the hospital bed looking at me as if to say Dad, can't you do something". All I could do was pray. Visions of his last breath, as I held his hand, and out of the corner of my eye, saw a monitor go flatline. But as a reuslt of that nightmare, my life has been forever changed. I no longer take things for granted if I can help it. I pray more for others than I ever have. I am more understanding of those who get mad at God. I haven't gotten mad at Him, but I can see how someone could. The memory of standing beside Kevin as we looked at his brother for the last time. But.....

I NEVER HAVE A BAD DAY! Just that some days are not as good as others. So good has come from bad. And God has allowed me just a minute glimpse of what He can do with a Dad who has been hurt and tested and tried by fire. It's been a while since he's opened a door for me to go and share. I had been hoping I'd be going monthly if not more. But He has quieted that ministry. I feel like I'm about to burst sometimes when I want to shout to the world what He has brought me through and how He can do it for others. I opened my will to write a book if that is what He wants, but I haven't felt the tug inside of me, like I have felt it from outside of me. I did feel led to do a CD project, and He supplied what was needed for that. (And I felt like I belonged there every time I put those headphones on in the studio) I'm not sure how to describe what I feel most days. The closest I can come to sharing it, is I feel restless. Like there is something I'm supposed to do with whatever time I have left.

So when you are reading the prayer requests, or going through your prayer list, How 'bout saying a little one for me. I need clarity and peace. But I thank God for all of you. I think maybe 5 thousand don't visit anymore or very seldom. But none the less, I think 6,200 is just an incredible testament to what God can do with social media, when it's done the right way. Thanks to Janis and Stephanie and other, it has been and will continue to be.

Sept. 4, 2012

This past weekend was the one year anniversary of Janell's stroke. What an incredible recovery God has wrought! I think of how, at that time, we were still reeling from our loss of our baby boy and our newest daughter -in-love. And then the injury Kevin received in January. You, our extended family, held us up with such praying and pleading. As some of you know, my motto is "I Never Have A Bad Day...
!", and I truly mean it. Some days are not as good as others. But every day I get to experience the love, grace and faithfulness of our Heavenly Father, I am a blessed man. Not many dads can say they have have had two sons, who thru their life and/or death, played a part in so many people lives being changed. On the way home this afternoon, I had a CD in, and the Cathedral Quartet sang an accapella arrangement of "Great Is Thy Faithfulness". And I cried. I hit replay and cried some more, and then I did it again. And as I sit here typing this now, tears fill my eyes. Not because of our trials, but because of our victories, and the very, very evident faithfulness of my God. If I had not had His peace, strength, providence, guidance, protection, grace, love and mercy, I would be one angry and messed up individual. But I was constantly remembering an aquaintance (not a close friend) saying "People were watching you more this time than when you lost Brandon", and I prayed over and over, "Lord, get me through another day, please don't let me falter or show weakness in witness". And He heard my prayers, but He heard ya'lls too. I am living proof He did. So are Janell and Kevin.

July 1, 2012

Today would have been your 31st birthday. And I wonder all the time what you would have done in life, had cancer not attacked, and God not called you home. I think you would have had a gunsmith shop. You should have been a lawyer though, cause you could take anything your mom and I said, decipher it, tear it apart and put it back together so smoothly, that you could make us think we said ...
sonmething we didn't. And you were the King of Loopholes. But I could not be any more proud of you than I am. As you told me after one of your fist 2 or 3 speaking engagements, at McCalla Baptist church where over 50 kids accepted Christ, that was why you had cancer. Because they would listen to you, before they would listen to anybody else. And theres no telling how many will be there because of you. You know, we quit counting at 400. And thats just the ones we knew about. I know you and Garrett have gotten reaquainted. How do you like Jenn? He did pretty good for himself didn't he. Kevin married one just like your momma. Oh, I called Dr. Hilliard, your oncologist, the other day. Been years since we said Hi. She remembers you and says you are still one of her fave's of all time. I imagine you have met John Chappell, one of my bass singers from choir, by now. I told him if he made it ther before me to look you 3 up and tell ya'll how much we love ya'll and miss ya. Kevin's milkin' this last kid standing thing to the max. Says we better be extra good to him. But it sure does hurt on days like today, when I should be giving birthday hugs.

I am trying to carry on your story and add our recent journey to it, in hopes I can make a difference in the kingdom, like you. You taught me a lot, son. You taught me about faith, trust, living life to the fullest, and just giving in to God completely. And you taught me how to die. Not many dad's can say that. I hope I bring a smile to you face up there occasionally, and if you can put a good word in for me about my ministry, Go for it.

Again, happy birthday, #1 son. Mom says you're eternally 19, and I can understand that. If thats the case, Garrett is eternally 25 which makes him your BIG BROTHER, for eternity, lol. Nanny Nanny BOOBOO.

Tues, June 5, 2012

Tiny Man:
One year ago today, God did what I did not think He would do. I honestly beleived He would pull you out of deaths grip, miraculously, at the last minute. But for the second time, mom and I held our childs hands as you took your last breath of machine delivered air, and went home to join your incredible wife (our beloved 2nd daughter in love) and awesome brother. The pain has been almost unbearable, as you know. You lost a brother, grandmother and grandfather. But I'll tell you now, I would never wish the kind of pain your mom and I have felt on anyone. And I say "almost unbearable", because the prayers of thousands and the love of a Heavenly Father are helping us cope.
I'm sure you're aware of the page on Facebook, bearing your name and photo. Bet you never thought when you took that picture, that it would go worldwide. But it has. And many say your smile has a reassuring effect on them when it pops up,
because they know they will find love on that page. Just as you showed love for those kids in Tuscaloosa that you helped get Christmas for, and they never knew you, so has your love reached out through your "old man". And that love was put there by our Creator Father.
This past Sunday, Bro Herman started a 4 part series entitled "God's Waiting Room". And he started off with Job. Now since you're already up there, but probably haven't met him yet, go look him up please. You know the story, he lost all 10 kids, all his wealth, (bless your mom's heart, she missed out on that part) and then his health. But in the midst of it all, he stayed faithful to his Lord. And the neat thing about this story: God knew Job. Now I know He doesn't forget us, and even knows how many hairs are on my head, though He definately doesn't have to count as high as He used to. But the Bible says He said to Satan "Have you considered my servant Job". And what I had not thought about, but Bro. Herman mentioned, was SATAN knew Job. I wish that could be said about me. But your earthly father hasn't created many troubles for the ole Deceiver. Shamefully, not enough that I would think he knows me by name. But ask Job for me, what was it like when you found out up here, that Satan knew you down there. But because God had seen how all of us handled it when Brandon went home, (like it was some surprise to Him) he chose to test us even further. I am sorry it had to be you and Jenn and not me.
But as you may have already talked to Him about, He knows more about us than we do ourselves. Whatever the reasons for our tribulations as a family, I pray that we will be good examples of His faithfulness, grace and strength and we will continue to point folks to the SUPPLIER of such. I pray He opens doors for me to do just that.
One last request. I have had many folks down here telling me I should write a book about our families journeys. But I'm very reluctant. But someone came up to me Wednesday night at church, and just out of the blue, almost shamed me into going through with it. A little favor for the old man? Ask God to please write it on the wall. You know me. He does too. Need I say more?
Oh by the way, just in case you were too busy with Jesus, Jennifer, Brandon, Jay-Momma and Pop, I have attached my Facebook post of your homegoing day. Some other folks may have missed it, too. I hope it's worth reprinting.
Sunday morn
We have healing, At 6:56 this morning, God united Garrett and Jennifer for the 2nd time in 9 months. This time, it's eternal. I never thought this day would come. Honestly, I did not believe it would happen. But as I sit here in the waiting room, waiting for them to clean him up, I'm reminded of the Southern Gospel song, I've Got More To Go To Heaven For Than I Had Yesterday". When you think about it, Brandon, Jennifer and Garrett all got to Heaven on the same day, eternally speaking. Because a day is as a thousand years. We've made no arrangements yet, except that he and Jennifer will be side by side. All other arrangements will be posted later. To Darra, Janis, my sister Stephanie and Mark Weldon, my best friend next to Janell, thank you all for being there night or day. Words fail me right now, but thank you. For the thousands that have lifted us up, God bless you. For the staff of UAB TRAUMA ICU, we will never be able to thank you enough for giving so much of yourselves for our son during this journey. And Lord, haste the day, when my faith shall be sight, The clouds be rolled back as a scroll For the trump shall resound, and my Lord will descend, Even so, IT IS WELL WITH MY SOUL. The roller coaster has stopped. War Eagle, Tiny Man. You won! Miracle Delivered.
This morning, after Garrett had taken his first breath in 3 weeks on his own, in Heaven, we left his room for the staff to clean him up and call us back in to spend time with him. When I returned to that room, the scene completely overwhelmed me and I lost all composure. I had to sit, because the pain was taking my breath away just as it had his. I realized that all the times I had walked into that room previously, the monitors, the ventilator, the Nitric Oxide infuser, the pumps delivering medicine right down to the hum of the pump inflating his special matress had actually been "delivering" life to Garrett. And had in turn, given me a false sense of security. Now suddenly the stark reality that he was without aide and was no longer in that body, just flooded my entire body. I say this to encourage everyone to not take life for granted, but also don't assume that false sense of security that "hey, I walked the aisle when I was 10 years old and was baptized, so I'm a Christian". The going to church, being in a choir, tithing, reading your Bible and all the other monitors and ventilators and pumps in your life can give you a false sense of security. Please examine your relationship with Christ. And when you get past all the "aides", is Christ really inside or is it just a ventilator keeping you going?