Every day, in every moment, you’ll be given one of two options – to choose life or to choose death. This was never more present in our lives than during our time in the NICU before our daughter Talyah passed away. It was during that season that Father revealed to me how many times in every day that I’m given the choice between life and death. Many times it has nothing to do with physical life and death but it took me being with my daughter for 6 weeks in the NICU as she fought to live every day for me to realize how much our culture and our environments prefer to choose death over life.
While living next to the hospital that our daughter was in below are the types of choices we had each day:
|CHOOSE DEATH||CHOOSE LIFE|
|Be bitter and angry that one of my daughters is on life support.||Show up as a husband and father and be present for my family.|
|Be jealous of all our friends who’ve had children without complications and of all the other families walking out of the NICU with their babies.||Be RADICALLY grateful that God would trust us with another child, a soul made in His image.|
|Isolate to avoid having to have to answer the question “how’s your new daughter”||Choose vulnerability and honesty|
|Get angry and pissed off when someone tries to relate a petty thing to your child being on life support||Remember that I too have tried to relate in all the wrong ways, remember that most people are never prepared to respond to that type of news|
|Numb, checkout, and distract||Run into the pain, never give up hope and belief that she will be healed, while simultaneously being honest with the depth of the situation|
Then there were decisions we had to make every day that no parent should have to make where “choosing life” was very unclear:
- Do you want to do this surgery which can help in this way and hurt in that way?
- Do you want to take this medication which will stop the inflammation but cause this long term damage?
- Do you want to hold on this procedure which has long term damage in hopes that in the short term she’ll survive without it?
When it’s clear, always choose life – even when your pride, pain, and flesh are telling you to otherwise! When it’s unclear, that’s a great opportunity and invitation to seek God in prayer and listening!
However, those are all small in comparison to the offers the doctors began to push for during the last couple weeks of Talyah’s life. Every time something got worse they wanted us to deeply acknowledge it and fall apart. But, the way in which we received their news never satisfied their expectations. They would deliver a crushing blow like “the surgery didn’t work” and our stance was always to acknowledge the reality of our circumstance yet we chose to also never give up hope, belief, and trust. The more we did this the more they pushed – it was as though because we could acknowledge the facts yet, still hold hope and joy in those moments they didn’t believe that we actually understood the gravity of the situation.
TRUTH TRUMPS FACTS
There is the truth and there are facts. The facts were the third surgery also failed, the truth was God doesn’t need three surgeries to heal our daughter.
So we acknowledged the facts but never put our trust in them. This made a lot of the medical staff very uncomfortable as though we were living in an alternate reality. In some regards, we were! Living heavenly minded is by definition “not of this world”. Yet, by no means, were we ignorant of the fact our daughter had flat-lined multiple times during our stay there and at any moment could pass away – that’s not something any parent is ignorant of.
During the last couple of weeks, you could see more and more staff lose hope and that’s when it started getting really intense. We began to have questions about terminating Talyah’s life. The sanitized safe way of saying that is ‘pulling the plug’ which is a great example of trying to soften the blow of choosing death in a situation. Talyah’s life was incredible and she was resilient. Every day, many times in that day, she was poked, prodded, cut, stretched and moved in ways that all caused incredible pain. We allowed it because those pains were actually life-saving interventions.
Choosing life can mean choosing pain.
The more they pushed for us to ‘pull the plug’ the more offers for comfort came along with all the benefits terminating her life would bring. They would outline all the ways she wouldn’t be in pain, we wouldn’t be in pain, the unknown would be known, we could sleep, etc. When you’re exhausted after months in the hospital and hope is at an all-time low – those things can sound fairly appealing. As my Megan and I had to begin to process our choice in that question is when the Holy Spirit hit me with the following:
Kenn – every day in every moment you can choose life or death. Choose Life! You may not know the outcomes, you may not understand all the details, but when you choose, choose to partner with life every time!
I shared that with Megan and let her know that I don’t fully know what to do from a medical standpoint but I do believe that our posture and position in every decision we make regarding Talyah and our own lives must always flow through the filter of “choosing to partner with life, not death”. So that night in the apartment next to the hospital we resolved that we would choose life every time. As long as her heart was beating on its own we wouldn’t choose to ‘end our pain’ but rather to believe for her healing.
The days grew longer the pressure to pull the plug grew stronger. Many days the temptation was radical but having that simple lense always brought things into focus “Kenn choose to partner with life.” So we did! Ultimately our daughter did pass away and I have zero regrets in believing and choosing to partner with hope, joy, love, and belief for her healing. The alternative was to not believe in her, in her healing or in God’s sovereignty – all of which look a lot like partnering with death and most certainly would have done nothing to help her.
While it took me having to literally choose to keep our daughter alive over killing her to fully understand how much that decision is one I make every day in every situation – it is a lesson I’ll never forget. I realized that in every decision there is a choice that leads to life and one that leads to death. The Bible says it this way:
15 Look at what I’ve done for you today: I’ve placed in front of you
Life and Good
Death and Evil.
16 And I command you today: Love God, your God. Walk in his ways. Keep his commandments, regulations, and rules so that you will live, really live, live exuberantly, blessed by God, your God, in the land you are about to enter and possess.
17-18 But I warn you: If you have a change of heart, refuse to listen obediently, and willfully go off to serve and worship other gods, you will most certainly die. You won’t last long in the land that you are crossing the Jordan to enter and possess.
19-20 I call Heaven and Earth to witness against you today: I place before you Life and Death, Blessing and Curse. Choose life so that you and your children will live. And love God, your God, listening obediently to him, firmly embracing him. Oh yes, he is life itself, a long life settled on the soil that God, your God, promised to give your ancestors, Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob.
Deuteronomy 30:15-20 The Message (MSG)
Whether your decision to partner with life is big or small know that choosing life always brings life – to choose to partner with death brings death – it’s that simple. Choosing life may actually cause pain, be difficult, or create great judgment against you – yet CHOOSE LIFE!
This was so beautifully written. Yes, choose LIFE! It’s a lesson I’ve been learning in a different way, but still it’s a crucial one. Through your pain I see such a triumphant trust in the love of the Father. And I love that you were totally messing with the seriously negative mindset of the medical system! Way to go all the way around. May the Lord pour out His love and blessings on you and fill you up with His joy even in the midst of the pain and loss.
Thanks for the encouragement Linda – we’re simply on a journey but when the filter we view it through is LIFE it will be a better one!
Fantastic read! Great reminders and commendable faith!
Kenn, Thank you for sharing your experience,
learning and vulnerablity with the world. The encouragement from your journey with Talyah, to ‘Choose Life’ is such a huge inspiration and I trust and pray that this concept will transform my life as I put it into practice. Talyah’s life has impacted so many lives, its going to be wonderful to meet her in eternal life. Kenneth, Cape Town, South Africa.
Kenneth, I appreciate your words so much, everything good in that post came from the Father!
Thank you for writing this very personal and extremely touching life event.