There were so many signs. Undeniable signs from God throughout Finn's life to the VERY end.
For a little background, let me give you a brief rundown on my personal journey with religion and God. I did not grow up going to church and at home God was not a topic of conversation. My first experience with God was church camp with my friends. I believed, but I didn't lean in. I didn't all of the sudden start begging to go to church. I didn't start reading the bible. I was a believer, but I didn't practice my belief.
In fact, it wasn't until I had Finn that I TRULY, with my entire being, knew there is a God. As soon as Finn was placed in my arms, I questioned how anyone who has experienced the miracle of child birth could not believe in God. And from that day forward, I began a true journey with God.
I spoke to God. Prayed nightly with Finn. Proclaimed to Austin my desire to have Finn and our family attend church. We began talks of getting Finn Baptized. We might not have gotten there yet, but we were getting there. Finn brought me God.
Initially, when we found out we were expecting, Austin worked out of town. He had tried countless times to get a job that would allow him to be home, but had always been unsuccessful. But suddenly, just in time for the arrival of our perfect Finn, Austin was able to find a job that would take him off the road and home with us each day. That's God.
If you know me, you know that I felt called to teaching. I threw myself into it. Learning, loving, and growing with my students. After returning from maternity leave that love came back, and for a few months I was happy balancing motherhood and teaching. Then suddenly, out of no where (with the difficulties of breast pumping as a teacher), I realized it was no longer an option.
I remember the morning so vividly. I was getting ready to leave the house, and Finn, who was nearly 6 months at this time, was rolling around in the kitchen in his walker. And as I am leaving, he says (first word PEOPLE) "Mama". I knew at that moment, I had to be home. I went to work that day and by the end of the day, had turned in my resignation. At the time, I was scared, full of regret and guilt for leaving my students, but now, looking back all I see is God. He knew that Finn's life would be short and that I would need to be home to experience every precious moment with him. That's God.
This one isn't like an ah ha moment, but describes how we truly lived and cherished every moment with Finn.
In Finn's 11 months we went on 3 dates and here is how they played out:
Date #1 We left the movie early because we literally couldn't stand to be away from Finn.
Date #2 It lasted 20min. after the wonderful Auntie Jess called struggling to console our sweet boy.
Date #3 The only true, full date in the 11 months.
God knew we needed EVERY moment with Finn.
Finn knew love EVERY moment of his life. We made sure of it.
SO much to the point (and maybe this is normal -idk?) that if the 3 of us rode in the car together, 1 of us always sat in the back with Finn. Never the front seat. Always in the back with Finn.
We would talk about how perfect our life was, because it truly was. How blessed we are. And I can honestly say, we never took a moment for granted. That's God.
Two days leading up to our nightmare, Finn had started mildly (like so mild most people wouldn't have noticed) tugging on his ear and was slightly cranky. No fever. No other issues, but I thought maybe an ear infection?
I decided to go ahead and make him an appt. We couldn't get in to see his normal pediatrician, but I went ahead and made an appt with another pediatrician at the office.
When we arrived, suddenly we had an appt with our normal pediatrician. I was relieved. We love our pediatrician.
She checked his ears and quickly ruled out an ear infection. Checked his mouth...and our poor guy was cutting 5 teeth! So there it was, the reason for the ear pulling and crankiness. Problem solved.
Finn was so happy at that appt. He waved at the doctor, stood unassisted for a few seconds on the table, and laughed with Dada. It was a good day.
Why is this part so important to our story? Because I blame the doctor? ABSOLUTELY NOT. Because a mother's guilt is real. God had me go to the doctor not because anyone would ever have suspected my perfect baby was about to have a brain aneurysm, but because this mama (the one who beats herself up on a daily basis) needed to be relieved of mother's guilt and know that I did EVERYTHING I could have done. That's God.
Finn had never been sick a day in his life. I believe this is why (unlike adults, much less babies) he survived the initial aneurysm. I see this now as God keeping Finn's organs strong so that he could survive the initial aneurysm and ultimately fulfill his purpose in saving lives. That's God.
The night our nightmare began. Austin (Finn's Dada) who works a 2nd shift job, was just coming home at 11:30pm. Just as he was coming home, Finn woke screaming. As Austin showered, I went in and calmed Finn and put him back down. Finn stood back up and began screaming again. I asked Austin to go attempt to put Finn back down (the last time Austin would hold our baby whole). Austin couldn't calm him, so I swooped in once again. He calmed down as I rocked him then suddenly, he screamed and seized in my arms which we now understand was when the initial aneurysm occurred.
So during this horrific nightmare where did God come in?
- Austin was home and got to hold him
- Austin was home and able to call 911 while I held him
- Finn's aneurysm didn't occur in his sleep or worse when he was in someone else's care
- God allowed me to hold my baby during the most horrific moment of his life - because Finn needed me and hopefully, he felt safe and loved up until the very end
For those of you who are not familiar, Finn's middle name came from his Great-Grandfather, Jerry Benton Clements. Jerry, passed years prior to Finn's arrival, but his impact on our family, especially Austin is tremendous, so it was an easy decision to use Benton as Finn's middle name.
When Finn was in emergency surgery after his aneurysm re-ruptured at McClane's Children's Hospital, here is a picture of the name of the waiting room we were in.
As soon as I saw this picture, because my mind was in too much of a fog to realize it at the time, it hit me. Finn's Great PawPaw, Jerry Clements, was there waiting for Finn. That's God.
Despite hearing the worst news possible after Finn's emergency surgery, we didn't give up hope. We had prayers coming from all over the country. We believe in miracles and prayed endlessly, along with thousands of others, for a miracle.
We were told to wait until Monday (this all began on Wednesday around 12am) after his surgery to see a more accurate representation of Finn's brain activity and damage.
However, on Saturday night a friend of the family brought a woman to our room to share a testimony. Her mother had gone in for a routine procedure and afterwards had been declared brain dead. The woman told the doctors that if it took God 7 days to create the world, then she wanted 7 days of rest for her mother. Ultimately, on the 7th day her mother woke up.
Inspired and renewed by this story, we woke the next morning and battled the doctors to wait until Wednesday (what would make the 7th day) for the MRI and allow Finn to rest.
Shortly after, Finn's situation took a turn for the worst, and he was rushed for a CT scan. At this point, we saw the extent of Finn's brain damage, and we knew we could no longer allow our child to deteriorate any further and that our baby was gone.
Surrounded by doctors, I asked about donating Finn's organs. We learned that it would take 24 hrs to officially declare him brain dead and another 24-36 hours to find matches for his organs. All of this time, would ultimately end on the 7th day. Finn would get his 7 days of rest. Although it wouldn't mean healing him, but it did lead to the healing of 3 others. That's God.
Finn was officially declared brain dead at 2:21pm on July 29th. 2/21 is Austin's grandfather, Jerry Benton Clements' (Finn Benton's namesake) birthday. That's God.
We prayed endlessly for a miracle for our Finn. We did not receive the miracle we so desperately wanted, but Finn is a miracle.
Finn is a miracle because his strong organs survived a brain aneurysm and the re-rupturing of the aneurysm. His organs were able to save the lives of 3 individuals: his heart to a baby girl, his liver to a baby boy, and his kidneys to a woman in her 40s.
In the bible, the number 3 represents divine wholeness, completeness and perfection.
We always knew Finn was perfect, his job on earth is complete, and he is now whole again. That's God.
My dear friend Jade assisted us in finding the perfect Pastor to lead Finn's celebration of life. Her hometown Pastor was unavailable but recommended one in China Spring, where we live and after speaking to him, it so happens he lives in our neighborhood. God brought us a church home straight to our door. That's God.
The first church service we attended with Pastor Steve Moss his message was:
1 Kings 20:13
Meanwhile a prophet came to Ahab king of Israel and announced, "This is what the LORD says: 'Do you see this vast army? I will give it into your hand today, and then you will know that I am the LORD.'"
And boy has God given us an army. An army of people willing to share our story, help with Finn's first fundraiser, check on us daily, donate their time & money, and so much more.
If you ask me if I'm okay, the answer is no. No, I am not okay. Will I ever be okay? I don't know. But I do find comfort in all of these signs from God. I am so proud of Finn. So proud of his strength. So proud of his impact. And so proud to be his Mama. I find comfort in knowing that Finn fulfilled an incredible purpose in his 11 months, and I will devote my life to making sure his legacy lives on.