I’ve always loved a good story. My kids do, too. Especially Jonathan.
I remember the first time I got to hold Jonathan. I can’t pinpoint those early moments quite as clearly with his siblings, but I clearly remember holding Jonathan. It was days after he was born, just before his first open heart surgery. He was hooked up to more wires and tubes than I had seen in my life. Well, up to that point in my life. Little did I know how many more would be coming.
Time moves strangely when in the hospital, and Jonathan spent plenty of time there. But this boy – his smile made time stand still. I remember when he was little and we would read Chicka Chicka Boom Boom. He loved when the tree fell over and letters scattered. His smile lit up the room. Every time.
Let’s talk about Jonathan’s hair for a moment. Jonathan’s siblings have stick-straight hair like their dad. Not Jonathan. Nope, his was wavy with body and style. Thanks to his partial heart, his forehead sweat mixed with his hair, curling up the ends and framing his darling face in a not-curly-but-not-straight way.
Our favorite place was in our oversized recliner, lovingly called the Big Brown Chair. Jonathan, his big brother, and I would pile into the chair and read for days. When the boys sat in the Big Brown Chair with my husband, they sometimes read but often played video games. They took turns with the controllers and giggled away many evenings.
Another favorite place in our house was The Circle – the hallway connecting the dining room, kitchen, and entryway in a circle. We have a video of four-year-old big brother wildly pushing Jonathan in a stroller while yelling, “Chuga Chuga Choo Choo.” The video zooms in on Jonathan’s beaming face. Those boys!
We found out we were expecting our third child when Jonathan was two years old. We decided to wait to find out her gender until she was born. But that didn’t stop us from having Jonathan and his brother predict if they would have a baby brother or sister. Jonathan accurately guessed sister every time. They never got to meet. Jonathan died twelve days before she was born. Nowadays she’s his biggest fan. I wish the ending was different.
Here’s the thing with a story like Jonathan’s – we do not get to choose the ending. I can cling to these beautiful memories and plead all I want, but Jonathan’s last breath doesn’t change.
Jonathan’s story would be incomplete without mentioning an incredible medical team who brought him through multiple open-heart surgeries, ECMO, chlyothorax, cath labs, emergency pacemaker surgery, g-tube, scary infections, wheelchair, so many prescriptions and syringes, and other odds and ends. He brought out the best in the community, and we are forever grateful for the support from our family, friends, and organizations like Help-A-Heart.
In the days after Jonathan died, our five-year-old reassured my tears, “Mommy, things will still be good. They will just be different.”
I long for happy endings. Sometimes, though, there are just endings. They leave us wanting more, asking questions, and wishing they were different.
Sara Lockie and her husband Kyle parent three fabulous kids. They enjoy family time filled with books, nature hikes, and messy craft projects. Jonathan’s twenty-week ultrasound detected a list of CHDs including hypoplastic right heart, interrupted aortic arch, and transposition of the great arteries. Their family advocated for pulse ox screenings for all babies, and Sara now volunteers with the Help-A-Heart bereavement team. Nowadays, when Sara isn’t working behind the scenes for the family farm, she is developing educational resources for nonprofits and government agencies.