Wednesday, December 11, 2013

He's Only 11 :(


Thankfully Matthew was discharged from the hospital last night and got a good night's sleep at home.  His blood pressure medication dosage was increased and this has helped get his bp much more stable.  We got a call back this afternoon from his nephrologist at Childrens and after he met with the transplant surgeon this morning, it was decided that Matthew does indeed need to undergo an arteriogram to look at each of the vessels in his right kidney.  The suspicion is that the blockage in his right kidney has worsened over the last five years and is the culprit behind the sudden increase in his blood pressure.  The only definitive way to look at the tiny vessels is by an arteriogram.  The doctors want it to be done by an interventional radiologist so if there is a vessel that can be repaired, it can be done while they are in there.  Our prayer would be that the blocked artery could be opened successfully and that would do the trick.  Of course, we know that is not a guarantee.  His doctor's have discussed with us the possibility, depending on the severity of the occlusion, that if this is unsuccessful he may need to have the right kidney auto transplanted just like his left one was. We will cross that bridge when it is time and pray for God's healing.

Thursday, November 21, 2013

Hypertension Again For My Little One

Well, we held out hope that by today Matthew's blood pressure would be trending down. That didn't happen. His bp at his nephrologists office was 140/86. MUCH higher than where an 11 year old should be. Given his history and the fact that we know that both of his kidneys are not "perfect", he has decided to put him on a medicine to help control the bp for now until he can have some additional detailed studies done of both kidneys. I am so very grateful that we have been educated and know how important blood pressure monitoring is for children and the importance of every parent knowing what a baseline blood pressure is for their children. We know Matthew's baseline and we knew when to seek help when it became an issue. KYKN.....KNOW YOUR KID'S NUMBERS! It could save their life.
 
 

Wednesday, November 6, 2013

The Weight Is Too Heavy On My Shoulders

Being in a situation where you feel like all hope is lost and you have the weight of the world on your shoulders is not enviable by anyone.  Then, there is always that person of positivity that will tell you God will not give you more than you can carry.  Really?  During the darkest days of Matthew's illness I often had private conversations with God, asking just what He thought I could bear.  Because I knew that my shoulders had all they could carry.  I needed some of the weight lifted.  Why were we chosen to carry this burden? 

There was no answer revealed during those conversations. All I could do was tell myself that there has to be a point to all of it.  As a mom, I needed that point to be made very clear, very soon!  Holding onto my faith and trusting in God is really hard when you want to be on your time and not on God's watch. 

What I learned through all of it is that we are never on "our" time.  God is always the one moving the hands of the clock around in a circle. I am grateful that He always found a way for me to see that he was truly in control and to trust.  Faith doesn't keep bad things from happening.  It just gives you the strength to deal with them when they come.

Tuesday, November 5, 2013

Mommy, Does That Mean I Died?

When your child is laid in your arms for the first time, you look into their innocent eyes and see the promise of a lifetime of experiences. As I prepared for Matthew's arrival, I dreamed of all the great times his childhood would hold.  Playing tball and soccer for the first time.  His first day of kindergarten. I wondered what kinds of friends he would choose.  What kind of foods would he like.  There was so much we couldn't wait to share with this new little being.  I don't think I ever put much time or thought into anything other than the positives.  It was just assumed everything would be perfect and we would be in control of his little life and destiny.  Boy was I wrong.  God had this under control and had other, even greater plans, for Matthew. No where in my mental preparations did I give thought to the first time he would ask me, "Mommy, does that mean I died?"

Matthew's life, just like every other child, has been filled with many "firsts."  Some of these I wish would have been erased. His first IV, first surgery, first Christmas in the hospital. But, I truly realize this is the path we were meant to walk.  And no one understands it better, or puts in into clearer perspective, than my sweet 11 year old.

There was a day in the spring of 2007 that will be etched into the minds of my husband, closest friends, and myself forever.  It was on that spring morning that we stood at my son's hospital bedside and prayed for God not to take him as we feared he was passing from this earth.  A time when his eyes rolled back into his head and went completely unresponsive and lethargic.  It was noted in his medical chart that he had an episode, during an interval of several harrowing minutes, which could not be explained.  After a full CT of his brain, we had a neurologist give us a simple answer of  sometimes there are just things that can't be explained medically.

That time interval of just a few minutes has changed our lives in ways that could not be imagined.  It was nearly a month after Matthew's experience when he shared it with us.  During that time, we knew there was something very heavy weighing on his little soul.  Initially we thought it was just the stress and worry of knowing he had been so sick and in the hospital.  On the night he finally shared what had been plaguing his soul, it was as though a load of bricks were lifted off his shoulders.  From then on, our lives had different meaning to all of us. It was a change of nothing but positive.  We knew that Matthew had a life of purpose.  My husband and I had feared we were losing Matthew on that spring morning.  After he woke up, we were relieved and then moved forward to continue to try and understand what was making him sick.  We did not give any further thought to that specific episode after the neurologist assured us he had not had a stroke or had not slipped into a coma briefly.

It wasn't until the bravery Matthew showed by sharing his experience, did I really come full circle and know just exactly how close we came to losing him. I will say we all live a life of purpose now and have a strong desire to give back and help others.  His story has helped many people already, privately, to heal and understand the peace and beauty that is on the other side.  The prospect of his story being able to help thousands more after his story is finally shared publicly is amazing.  On March 11, 2014, people will have the opportunity to know the full path of events.

Tuesday, October 29, 2013

It's A Hospital, Not A Coffee Shop

For those of us that has had the unfortunate luck to spend any length of time in the hospital with a child or loved one, you can probably appreciate the depth of exhaustion that comes with it. There is absolutely no rest. Tired does not even begin adequately define how your body and soul feels.  It doesn't matter how many times you have been in and out of that setting, it never changes.  It is a 24 hour a day revolving door.

Matthew was hospitalized again last week with a virus and dehydration.  One thing led to another, as it always does, and his heart rate dropped.  A person's heart rate will almost always increase in the setting of dehydration, but for some still unknown reason, his decided to drop and hover in the 40's and 50's.  Initially he was admitted to a hospital close to home that we rarely use for him.  All of his specialist are nearly two hours away and this is typically where we go. But, in this case, we assumed it would be a simple admit for fluids and observation.  I should have known nothing is ever text book with him.

As we got settled in, the constant stream of residents, nurses, hospitalists, techs, housekeeping, dietary, and the mail man (not really, but it sounded good), began to rain in.  The same history and background that I have spewed out countless times over the years to new doctors was recited for yet another team.  His complex renal history is always of interest, especially to the eager med students and residents.  It is so tiring to go through it each and every time.

Being close to home this time, we had the comfort of visits from his little brother and daddy.  We were also pleased to have some visits from some other friends.  They were perfectly timed visits.  Prayers were offered up, a quick word of hello, and well wishes. This was certainly a treat and a welcome distraction to the necessary evils of a hospitalization. When we are in New Orleans, a visitor is nearly unheard of due to the distance. There have been many times over the years where the walls can almost feel as though they are closing in. 

But, how long is an appropriate amount of time to stay if you visit in the hospital. Five minutes? Ten minutes? Half an hour? There is not magic number.  Every situation differs.  It can vary greatly.  I think it takes some common sense on the part of the visitor.  You need to assess the condition of the person you are visiting.  Are they napping? Are they in pain? For me personally, I have made it a rule of thumb that I just don't visit in the hospital, unless it is a close family member or a close friend.  If it is just an acquaintance I would not want to chance bringing anything to someone that is trying to heal.  A germ that may not bother me, could become serious business to someone with a weakened immune system.  If I do visit someone that I am close to, I am careful to watch the time and not overstay.  If I want to chat with someone, we can do that on much more pleasant terms when they are feeling better. 

Visits can be exhausting to Matthew.  He is one that always feels the need to be polite and "entertain" if you will.  He likes to engage in conversation.  When you are sick, you just don't have the energy to do those things.  I thought back to his very first hospitalization in 2007.  After three days in the PICU, I finally cornered his nurse and pleaded with her with tears rolling down my face to help me find a way to limit his visitors.  There was a FLOOD of people who wanted to come by to see Matthew, and to check on me and Billy.  This was something that we truly and genuinely appreciated.  Every visit was with good intentions.  However, the sheer volume of people was beginning to be overwhelming. We were asked the same questions over and over again that we just didn't have the answers to. I was too emotionally exhausted to politely ask that visitors keep their voices low and visits short. No one could even really talk to Matthew, he was just too sick. 

Matthew's sweet nurse assured me that she could help out.  A sign was made and placed on his door that read only two visitors at a time and visits must be limited to 5 minutes or less.  She went on to tell me that each nurse from shift to shift would be notified.   

I don't guess there is a "right" or "perfect" setting for anyone that is sick and in the hospital.  Too many visitors can be overwhelming; and no visitors can be lonely.  If there was only a way to just wiggle our noses and create the perfect environment at the exact time we need it.  Just as with anything in life, it's about balance.  Thankfully nearly everyone has been respectful and has allowed Matthew the rest that his necessary to heal each time.

He is home now and feeling much better.  Thankfully!  God has again heard our prayers! Back to school tomorrow.

Tuesday, October 22, 2013

Really God...Again?

Why does my view once again include the Air Med landing pad?  Well, Matthew is once again back in the hospital.  I find myself more often than I would prefer updating family and friends via FB on Matthew's health status.  Oh how I wish it could just be pictures of an innocent 11 year old playing and doing the things little boys his age do.

Then that sweet boy reminds me with all the wisdom of a 90 year old man that this too is part of God's great plan for his life.  It never ceases to fill me with amazement the amount of grace that Matthew has been given by God.  He will never fail us and he will never leave us.  All things will happen for a reason.

After spending the past 24 hours with a nasty stomach bug, his pediatrician looked at him this morning and wanted him admitted for observation and fluids.  So, we have checked into his "suite" at the hospital.  He has been dining on beef broth and jello!  Yummy!  Poor guy would be much happier with the pot roast. All in good time!

It is so affirming to me that when I have low times and want to call into question "WHY", Matthew is always there to remind us of the answer.  Because it is in His plan.  After that there is no further explanation.  We will continue to find positivity in all that we endure.  We will continue to provide education and advocacy on bp issues in children.  We willl continue to share His word in hopes that it can provide comfort to someone who may need it. 

As a mom, I could not have more pride than I do in my two children.  Those boys understand more at 8 and 11 about God's love and patience than I did at 25. 

Sunday, October 20, 2013

Not Yet God

When thinking back over all of the hurdles we have crossed with Matthew since 2007, the hardest emotionally, is thinking back to the day that changed our lives forever. It was the day Matthew had a glimpse into the beauty and love that is heaven.

It had been a harrowing week of no answers and no hope.  It was all in God's hands and the medical professionals that were entrusted to care for him. Believe me when I say they were doing EVERYTHING in their power to try and figure out what was causing this tiny, innocent four year old to be in such critical condition.  With blood pressures soaring over 200, 210, 220 systolic, we knew that stroke, heart attack, or death could be imminent.  These were deadly blood pressures for any adult, but when you see this thin, frail little body with numbers like this ravaging his body, it was gut clenching.

The day had finally come. It was to be the day he was transferred to another hospital with a specialized team of nephrologists trained to diagnose and treat whatever kidney issue was at work here. Tests had identified the renal system, but without the help of a skilled pediatric nephrologist, a clear cut diagnosis could not be made.

A trauma nurse was sent with the ambulance to make the ride to New Orleans.  The team had arrived and now we just needed to wait for Matthew to wake completely from the bed side procedure he had just gone through to reposition his arterial line and insert a central line.  After a few minutes we were let back into his room. His daddy, myself, and his nanny (who by the way is a registered nurse) gathered around his bed. There was a lot of nervous excitement in the room.  We knew this would be the day to bring more answers.  With answers would come a game plan.  Within just a couple of minutes he woke up and smiled looking almost refreshed.  The dark black circles remained around his hallow eyes. 

"Hey Buddy! Are you ready to go on a fun ride in the ambulance?" He smiled with the tiny bit of energy he had in him. He talked about riding in the ambulance. He was looking forward to it.  Being a huge automobile lover, this was a real treat for him. There was chit chat. He was very lucid and coherent.  Very aware of his surroundings and what was happening this day.

The preparations were under way to get him from his bed to the stretcher and out the door.  This required unhooking the leads and monitors that he had been chained to for the past week.  As the portable monitors were being set up we continued to talk about how much fun the ride would be to New Orleans.  His daddy would be going with him as well. Then, just like the snap of a finger, his eyes rolled back in his head and he was out.  Not asleep, but out. Solid.

There was not immediate panic.  I mentally told myself that he was very tired and maybe the medicine from his bed side procedure was at play.  Even though he had been so awake just a few seconds earlier.  At first there was quiet, stroking of his hands and face. "Matthew, wake up.  Come on baby, time to get up and go."  After an amount of time had passed the attention from the medical staff quickly turned from portable monitors to that of Matthew.  The nurse began trying to ease him awake.  As did his nanny.  I trusted that they knew what to do and what was going on. This was normal right?  This is supposed to happen right?

The nurse immediately pressed the call button for the doctor to come in, and when she didn't come right back in, the nurse bolted from the door.  I could hear the conversation outside the room.  By this time, Matthew's color had turned nearly pale white. His lips lost all evidence of the pink color of life. Our world started whirling at the speed of light.  In an instant, his nanny, quickly moved to the side and told my husband and I to get close and talk to him.  Tell him everything you want to say.  This was an urgent, pressing statement. One I knew that I needed to treat with importance.  We gathered on each side of his head and began persuading.  "Come on Matthew!  It is time to wake up.  We need you to wake up.  Mommy and daddy love you."  The pleas turned from "wake up" to " we love you with all our hearts."  I remember my husband and I glancing quickly up at each other.  Each of us had eyes filled with tears the size of the ocean.  Unspoken words of dread and fear were all over our faces.  We knew this was not good. 

Outside the room, I could hear the doctor calling to the hospital in New Orleans he was to be transferred to.  The call to the PICU stated the down turn in his condition.  When I heard the sentence, "I don't know if he is going to make it" I wanted to just crumble into the floor and pretend none of this was happening.

Then the prayers started pouring from me.  "Please God, don't take my baby yet! He is so young and innocent.  He has a life of greatness to live."  Not really knowing if they would be heard, I just kept repeating them.  "God, not yet.  If you give my son back to me, I will give my life to you."

As the clocked ticked by it seemed more and more hopeless.  Sobs were uncontrollable.  We continued to stroke Matthew's sweet cheeks and kiss him.  Tell him we love him.  This all elapsed over a period that was documented in his medical record as about three to five minutes.  It may as well been five years.

Then, just like that, his beautiful hazel eyes shot open!  It was a second of disbelief.  God, have you really given him back?  He glanced around the room and said, "Mom, why is everyone crying?"  There was a collective sigh that I am sure could have been heard down the hallway of the PICU.  There are simply no words that I have been able to use in the past six years that can truly describe the intense, amazing, emotional weight that was lifted in an instant. 

We just looked at Matthew and I asked him with the biggest smile if he had a nice nap.  There was no time for words.  The medical staff went into high gear prepping him for immediate transfer to New Orleans.  Another call was made to the PICU letting them know Matthew did indeed pull through and was headed there ASAP.  There was to be a full battery of tests to be done as a workup to determine what had just happened in that room.

We would come to realize in later months, that there was such a higher power at work. A power that would lead Matthew nearly two months later to share the most amazing journey of his walk with four angels as he neared the gates of heaven.

His story has been a testament of the power of prayer and the ability to have faith even in the darkest times.  The chance for us to share this, to bring hope and an insight into what is on the other side has been nothing but a blessing. It's a journey that's not over yet. 

A Boy Back From Heaven--Coming March 11th!
Want to learn more? www.celestegoodwin.com

Wednesday, October 2, 2013

I Don't Want To Be Like the Jones Or Smiths Or Any Other Proverbial Family

I read an interesting blog post this morning that spoke volumes to me.  I am a Facebook devotee just like many of you, I love to see what is happening in the world of my friends and family.  Not because I need to see what outfit I am striving for next, or what cool new thing my kids "must have." But, because in the busy lives that we all lead, I simply just don't have time to call up everyone everyday and chat.  I love Facebook for this very reason.  People share snippets of their comings and goings and, to me, it is just a tool of the times we live in to communicate.  It is a tool for information sharing.  Having kids in school, it is great to see reminders posted by other school mommies.  And yes, I have been reminded of something I've overlooked at 11PM the night before something was going on at school the next day.  (Nothing like panic at almost midnight!)

Having raved about how awesome I think Facebook is, I am not na├»ve to realize there are certainly drawbacks.  I have come to the conclusion that you must be an emotionally strong person to use Facebook's platform.  If not, it could literally drive you insane.  And I have seen it happen!  It's human nature to want to share all of the AAAMMMMAAAZIING (yes, that is sarcasm) things happening in your life.  I am guilty!  When one of my children does something that makes my heart beam, I want to share it with the world. After all, that's what proud mommies do, right?  If they excel at something, or achieve something they have really been working hard on, I get very proud of their efforts. 

Now, if you start and end your day going through your feeds to only see all of the stellar accomplishments of your friends, their children, and families, one can tend to start to loose self worth.  Especially if you have had one of "those" mommy days.  A day where nothing goes right and you think you would have been better off just staying in bed.  A day where kids are arguing, can't find your keys, humidity hair, and any other host of issues that can make you feel blah.  Then, you open up your FB page, and right there like a blaring siren, you see a post from Mrs. Smith, or Ms. Jones going on and on about her son's achievement in this, or daughter's achievement in that.  Immediately, your self value begins to plummet like a penny off the Empire State Building roof. 

If you are not emotionally ready to see it you think, why did she have to post that picture of herself looking drop dead gorgeous next to her perfect children and perfect husband, on her perfectly manicured lawn, in front of the beautifully decorated door????

What should our reaction be?  Well, if you are a true friend, it should be shared happiness at the great things she is posting! (And we know that no one would ever post anything to make someone else envious, right? HA!) We all have one of those FB friends who gets a thrill from making her life seem seamlessly perfect!  (Deep down, just remember, she has probably cleaned a toilet just like you have!) There should be joy at the good things happening to those you care for.  If you can't filter through the rubbish, fake life posts, and be accepting of the positives, Facebook can drive you insane. 

I have never thought of myself as being someone who was envious or jealous of the great clothes, cars, or things of others.  I put worth on things that are much more important to me deep down.  The love of God that I have in my heart,  the blessings He has given me in my children, husband, family, and friends, the ability to serve Him and other through volunteerism and giving back, and being able to see that the superficial things in life are the least important.  I am happy when great things happen to those I care for.  I don't think less of them.  Nor, do I have a need to be just like them.  Their life is theirs, and mine is mine.  I kind of like it that way!


John 15:12-15 “This is my commandment, that you love one another as I have loved you. Greater love has no one than this, that someone lay down his life for his friends. You are my friends if you do what I command you. No longer do I call you servants, for the servant does not know what his master is doing; but I have called you friends, for all that I have heard from my Father I have made known to you.



Monday, September 30, 2013

Follow Along

Be sure to follow www.aboybackfromheaven.blogspot.com by email.  Quickly go to the blog, scroll down the right side, and enter your email where prompted.  There will excerpts from the upcoming book and more details about Matthew's amazing journey in coming posts.  Never miss another post!

Making New Memories

For most kids, both native and visitors, a trip to the Audubon Zoo in NOLA would be a very welcome surprise on a Sunday afternoon.  That is exactly what we set out to do yesterday.  Getting up early for Sunday morning donuts, Conner beat Matthew to breakfast.  After an unusually busy and tiring weekend, Matthew slept in a while longer.  Billy got up from the table to ask what time we would be leaving for church.  I looked over at Conner with a trace of milk around his little mouth and said I would like to do something different today.  How about a family field trip of sorts.  Something we haven't done in a long time.  Something for a change of scenery and some family time together. 

Conner had a day last week that brought with it numerous memories of Matthew's hospitalizations and illness.  One of the books he chose to read for his nightly school reading log was filled with things that reminded him of how sad he was when Matthew was sick.  This particular evening he chose to read to Matthew.  Working in the office, I could hear how the reading was going.  About three pages into the book, I could hear Conner's voice beginning to crack, and by page five he was in full on sobs.  I went in to see what was wrong and his reply was how the little boy in the story made him think of Matthew.  To Conner, many of the wounds are still very raw and open, and will probably be that way for some time.  We worked through this occurrence and things were calm by bed time.

After looking over at Conner's sweet little face on Sunday morning, I felt overwhelmed by the need to just have my three boys close at heart on Sunday.  We needed a day filled with each other's smiles and some laughter.  We needed to be reminded that New Orleans is a city of culture and fun activities, not just where we go when Matthew gets sick. Sunday was forecast to be a great September day in South Louisiana. Perfect for some outdoor fun at the zoo.  Conner heard his daddy and I discussing the plans and his eyes lit up with excitement! 

The last visit to the zoo for Conner had been a couple of years ago when we went for his field trip in first grade, which was less than a perfect day.  The buses had been late in arriving from Baton Rouge, the temperature was FREEZING for Louisiana, and our trip was just hours before my daddy had to be rushed to the hospital. 

Conner had made one other trip to the zoo, without Matthew, over the past few years.  The previous one had been a distraction and aversion of sorts.  While Matthew was in Tulane Hospital in 2009 for nearly a month, Billy and Conner came for a visit one Saturday.  I needed some fresh air and some time with my little man, so he and I ended up at the zoo.  I was beyond exhausted from days and days of hospital life.  Conner's mind was 1,000 other places.  But we wondered around pretending to each other that we were having a great time.  The company was perfect, but our hearts just weren't into it.

Today would be different.  Conner wanted to make it even more interesting by letting it be a surprise for Matthew! After Matthew woke up and had his breakfast.  He dressed and got ready for the day.  We told him we would head out for a Sunday morning drive.  No questions were asked.  Everyone loaded up.  The route to New Orleans is nearly robotic for us.  We have had to drive it so frequently.  Rather than jumping on the interstate to get there in good time, we decided to take a leisurely drive into NOLA via Airline Hwy.  It takes about 20 minutes longer, but we were in no rush.  Since it was a different route than what we normally take, Matthew did not associate the drive with a trip to the hospital.

Matthew tried to guess our destination as Conner refused to give him hints.  As we edged closer and closer into the city, I could see Matthew become more serious in his thoughts.  He began to guess less and less as we started down familiar streets near the hospital.  I realized this area of the city is still associated, in his mind, with the hospital.  It wasn't until we were literally turning off of Magazine Street into the zoo entrance did he realize where our day would be spent!

We pass the entrance to Audubon Zoo every time we go to Children's Hospital.  CHNOLA is literally right around the block from the zoo.  We pass it so often, it's almost as though we forget that it's there, or that it is a happy place.  Our minds are usually on other things. But on this day, New Orleans would be bring happy memories to Matthew and Conner.  It would be a day filled with family, laughter, and a whole lot of clowning around!

Mission accomplished!  We live one day at a time, never knowing what is around the turn for us in Matthew's journey.  We live for the good days and embrace the bad.  This was one of the good days! Hopefully the next time we have to venture into New Orleans, this day will play in their minds, rather than have their thoughts filled with medical mystery.

"For where two or three gather in my name, there am I with them."  Matthew 18:20



Tuesday, September 24, 2013

I Am Just A Carpool Mom


First of all, I am not a religious zealous.  I am neither a pastor nor a medical professional. I am a working mom who is  also a Christian that believes in God and heaven.  I am a mom that was thrust into the healthcare arena by being told I have a chronically ill child that will live the rest of his life with kidney disease.  A condition, that up until he was 4 1/2, we had no idea was present. I have had to become educated on a variety of medical terms and conditions.  This was a necessity in order to protect my child.

I grew up believing in God, but I didn't have a full knowledge of just how impacting God was in our lives. After Matthew had his near death experience, I sought to really know and understand what had happened to my child. To do this I turned to my Bible. A book that before this time, I probably didn't pull out enough.  I relied on the paper leaflets I got from church on Sunday with the printed scripture readings and prayers of the day. I was amazed at what I learned and developed a deeper understanding for so many things that happened in our lives. 

I am not a radical. I am just a wife and mother that puts her feet on the floor everyday and hits the ground running like every other working mom out there.  My young son was given an unforeseen path in his life and I believe with every ounce of my soul that God has carried him through.  He has shared a vision of what can only be described as heaven. Because of the unexpected events in our lives, my daily schedule is just much busier now. 

My day begins just as it always has, getting kids ready for school and making our morning commute.  Now I juggle my career as a photographer with the passionate pursuit of being the founding president of the National Pediatric Blood Pressure Awareness Foundation.  The NPBPAF was created in 2010 to protect other children from enduring the type of issues Matthew did, by providing increased blood pressure screenings and awareness. I educate and advocate on the need for increased blood pressure screenings for all children. Speaking publicly and professionally on Christian issues and Matthew's near death experience has allowed me to share the impact God has had in our lives and how He has made His unending presence known to our family.

There was a day in the spring of 2007 that will be etched into the minds of my husband, closest friends, and myself forever.  It was on that spring morning that we stood at my son's hospital bedside and prayed for God not to take him as we feared he was passing from this earth.  A time when his eyes rolled back into his head and went completely unresponsive and lethargic.  It was noted in his medical chart that he had an episode, during an interval of 3-5 minutes, of which could not be explained.  After a full CT of his brain, we had a neurologist give us a simple answer of  sometimes there are just things that can't be explained medically.

That time interval of just a few minutes has changed our lives in ways that could not be imagined.  It was nearly a month after Matthew's experience when he shared it with us.  During that time, we knew there was something very heavy weighing on his little soul.  Initially we thought it was just the stress and worry of knowing he had been so sick and in the hospital.  On the night he finally shared what had been plaguing his soul, it was as though a load of bricks were lifted off his shoulders.  From then on, our lives had different meaning to all of us. It was a change of nothing but positive.  We knew that Matthew had a life of purpose.  My husband and I had feared we were losing Matthew on that spring morning.  After he woke up, we were relieved and then moved forward to continue to try and understand what was making him sick.  We did not give any further thought to that specific episode after the neurologist assured us he had not had a stroke or had not slipped into a coma briefly.

It wasn't until the bravery Matthew showed by sharing his experience, did I really come full circle and know just exactly how close we came to losing him. I will say we all live a life of purpose now and have a strong desire to give back and help others.  His story has helped many people already, privately, to heal and understand the peace and beauty that is on the other side.  The prospect of his story being able to help thousands more after his story is finally shared publicly is amazing.  On March 11, 2014, people will have the opportunity to know the full path of events. To learn more about Matthew's story or how to get your copy, visit www.celestegoodwin.com.  If you are on www.goodreads.com, you can search A Boy Back from Heaven in the title section to find out how to preorder a copy.

Interested in hearing more, don't forget to follow my blog!

Can It Really Be That Beautiful?

One thing is for certain, as humans, we ALL have one thing in common.  We will ALL eventually pass away from this earth.  Death is a certainty for every human being.  It is the human cycle.  It is part of God's plan for each of us. 

I would venture to go out on a limb and bet that each one of us has given at least a passing thought to what will really happen when we die.  I know that I certainly have.  Not so much as a teenager or even into my early and mid twenties.  The maturity and life circumstances just wasn't there to fully grasp the magnitude and finality of death. But as I grew and saw the evolution of life, by witnessing those that I know and love age, I gave more than just a passing thought to what will really happen when our eyes close for the last time.

To be completely honest, it scared me!  I don't know that I had enough spiritual understanding in my twenties or early thirties to believe in my heart that the "other side" wasn't just a dark, void-less pit of nothing.  It was this thought of dark and nothingness that made me fear death.  There was a time that I truly feared dying and feared losing those I love one day.  The fear emerged through thinking that they would be lonely or scared or alone.

The reality is this is not what happens.  The lessons I have been taught the past six years through the first hand account of my own little boy has allowed me to come to a peace in my heart at the thought of losing those closest to me.  This is especially endearing now that I have a sick father and face the thought of losing him in the future.

As Matthew has described to us, when we die, it is nothing but pure beauty and love.  Think about the word love for just a second.........................................................................Let it really soak in.  What does the word love conjure for you?  It should be a happy feeling. Here are some synonyms for the word love:

1. tenderness, fondness, predilection, warmth, passion, adoration. 1, 2. Love, affection, devotion all mean a deep and enduring emotional regard, usually for another person. Love may apply to various kinds of regard: the charity of the Creator, reverent adoration toward God or toward a person, the relation of parent and child, the regard of friends for each other, romantic feelings for another person, etc.

Understanding that Matthew saw something with the eyes and innocence of a child, that allowed him to freely express his full vision, gives us knowledge of the afterlife.  He has described it as somewhere that he didn't want to return from.  His visit was not to an overtly exaggerated placed filled with mystical beings, but rather just a space filled with the brightest white imaginable and he was surrounded by love.  A feeling that gave him comfort and let him know he was protected.

He has seen something that very, very few people have been fortunate enough to see and be able to share.  To those that have had this gift, their life's purpose usually shines clearer to them.  Their understanding and ability to live a life of purpose is a positive step. It is my personal opinion that the innocent eyes of the children are able to see and experience on a different level than adults when they are able to walk the edge of the threshold of heaven.  Their lives have not been tainted yet by society's views and opinions of what can and can't be true. 

Who is to say it does not exist? One thing remains certain, we will all find out one day, because God will call each of us home.

Sunday, September 22, 2013

Do Unto Others

The fundamental ideas that I grew up with as a little girl followed me into adult hood. In many ways, it is the same set of general "be good" principles that parents have taught their children for generations.  Many of the rules have their earliest meanings derived straight from the "Big 10" that is in our Bible's.

As children begin to grow one of the most repeated and shared parenting mantras is, do unto others as you want them to do to you. (Don't take someone's truck or Barbie doll if you don't want yours manhandled away from you.)  We've all seen the meltdown of a three year old who had his favorite toy taken away.

The ten commandments that were scribed on those stone tablets have become a road map for the basic way human beings should go about day to day life.  It is not something you have to have a degree in theology to understand.  There are preschoolers who learn and adapt to these principles pretty easily.

I repeat to my children the really simplistic set of guidelines that were laid out for each of us in hopes that they too will continue to lead their lives in the most Christian way possible.  Always remembering that doozy that play repeatedly in our heads.  Don't be a jerk to anyone, because you don't want anyone being a jerk to you.  We try to get our children to think further into it.  You shouldn't treat people badly, because it is just plain wrong!  Not only because you don't want it done to you. 

Matthew has had a sincere desire to be a rule follower since he started school.  He has never been one to get in trouble for breaking the rules.  To date, I don't think he has ever had to move the dreaded stick in class.  Each teacher has had her own set of rules and consequences since he started kindergarten.  Each year there has been some form of moving a popsicle stick when a child breaks a class rule.  Whether it be going from green, to yellow, then to red light.  (Heaven help you if you go to red!)  Matthew has always known that even moving to a warning was a danger zone he didn't want to get in to.

As a toddler he followed a pretty straight path of doing what was right.  But, after his life changing experiences of walking with the angels, he had a depth to his soul that always made him want to do what was right in God's eyes.  We have been complimented many times through the years on how well behaved our two sons are.  I wish we could take all of the credit. But, I don't think we can.  Matthew had a great foundation of understanding how to treat others in a respectful way, but once his eyes witnessed the glory that he described as "pure love", it was as though he had a mission to prove that human kindness was not a lost form.  People still possess the ability to truly love and understand without judgment.  Having a little brother that thinks he is amazing, made it easy for Conner to want to emulate Matthew and his actions. 

Matthew's story and experience was life changing, not only for us, but for complete strangers. We are less than six months away from being able to share this amazing story with the world in A Boy Back from Heaven.  Look for it March 11, 2014!  Early order info can be found at www.celestegoodwin.com under the A Boy Back from Heaven tab.

In the coming months, I will be updating the blog with relevant information that pertains to Matthew's story and journey.  I invite everyone to follow along through this blog.  Don't forget to share it!




Tuesday, September 17, 2013

Unstoppable

Super excited that a 2nd showing has been added to Unstoppable for our local theater.  I just purchased our tickets.  Looking forward to seeing Kirk Cameron's depiction and insight into where God is in the midst of crisis. 

I always remember what my mom told me growing up....everyone has something!  And this holds true for everyone I know.  We all face strife and difficulties in our lives.  This is part of being human and growing.  Whether the difficulty is an illness, loss of a job, or anything else that affects your life in a way that is hurts and burdens your heart, we all know the feeling of struggle.

It is easy to give thanks and praise to God when times are great.  Personally, I have always found myself turning to him quicker when times weren't so good.  He is my rock and my salvation.  Without the unending love that I feel and know that is ever present, I can't even imagine what the dark times of my life would have been. 

Learning and understanding that my son was chronically ill forever changed my landscape.  We had four years of bliss with dreams and plans, but then to learn that Matthew is affected by kidney disease that will forever be a part of his life was surreal.  When the understanding became harder and harder to process I had to give it to God. He has never left us.

Friday, September 6, 2013

It's Really Not That Complicated

Life can be as simple or as complicated as we choose to view it.  We are all constantly bombarded with the priority lists that must be balanced in order of importance.  The higher the pile gets, the more delicate the balance becomes.  But, there seems to be that tipping switch when the weight gets us down. 

It is when things begin to topple onto our heads that we begin to feel overwhelmed and not make the clearest of choices.  Rushing to get numerous things done at once.  Rushing through can lead to avoidable mistakes.

When this happens, take a deep breath and remember that there is plan and purpose in everything that we do.  God will not fail us, nor will He leave us unequipped. 

"I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me."  Philippians 4:13

Thursday, September 5, 2013

Sights and Sounds

Seeing something that conjures up memories, good or bad, can be overpowering.  We can sometimes hear, or even smell something that floods us with memories.  This afternoon, after picking the boys up from afternoon carpool, we were headed home on our usual route.  Traffic was no more or no less congested than it usually is.  Our usual "ride home" convos were taking place.  I was getting the run down on the day, how they did on their tests, homework for the evening, and, of course, the most attention grabbing facet of the day....what was for lunch!

As I scooted through a traffic light at a busy intersection, the wail of an extremely loud siren blasted my left ear.  It was as though the siren was resting on my shoulder.  From a quick side glance, I couldn't see where it was coming from, but could hear the sound follow us.  Looking into the rear view mirror, I could see the bright lights of the ambulance and hear the siren.  It was still a ways behind me.  I made my usual turn and carefully watched the rear view to see if the ambulance was taking the same track.  Yep, it indeed turned.  As it sped up and came closer I found a driveway to dart in to get out of the way.

The moment the ambulance sped past our car, the wind swirled past as well.  The siren was blaring and in that moment of seeing the rear of the vehicle, I was instantly flooded with an emotion that I wasn't prepared for.  Tears swelled in my eyes and I was completely swept back in time by six years in an instant. The raw memories of the day Matthew made his journey from Baton Rouge to New Orleans rushed through me.  Just a few minutes prior, nothing. Now, I am trying to regain composure before the boys realize I feel like I have a frog in my throat croaking to get out.

Apparently, I wasn't the only one who was reminded by the sight and sound of the emergency vehicle.  Matthew asks from the back seat, "Mom, did the siren stay on the entire time when I went to New Orleans?" I took a deep breath as I drove back onto the road and replied, "I believe it did buddy." 

Will we ever be able to hear the sounds of a siren without having those memories flood our minds?  Probably not.  But, it always gives us a kick in the rear to have just another reason to offer up a quick daily word of "THANKS" to the one who hears all! 

God, thank you for the sights and sounds.  Thank you for the daily blessings and little reminders of everything that we have to be thankful for.  How different our lives could be right now........

Wednesday, September 4, 2013

The Little Things

Yesterday was one of those days that made me really stop and relish in the little things.  It is not the monster moments of life that define our past.  The small moments of time that can be quickly forgotten are right up there in my book with the Disney World moments. Time spent sitting on the porch during an evening rain with my daddy.  Listening to him share stories with my boys.  Stories that will be cherished in the time to come. 

Then the pain sets in my gut.....what will we do when he's not here to share those stories?  Flooded with emotion, all I can do is take a deep breath and convince myself that worrying about the "what's to come" and not enjoying every moment here on earth is much more important.

The pain we will all share will be for our own personal loss and grief.  There will be no more pain for him.  He will see all the glory that can only be a part of God's amazing kingdom.  Reunions with family and friends. No suffering each time he moves to catch his breath. 

It's all apart of God's plan and in His hands.  I trust and I believe...........

Friday, August 30, 2013

Keeping Grounded

Last week when my mom and I were discussing the progression of my father's lung disease, we were trying to find the right words to put into perspective the pace it is changing.  For nearly two years, he has been chronically ill with fibrosis of the lungs due to environmental exposures from his occupation.  We have watched the slow progression over the years from just being a little extra winded, to needing full blown oxygen 24/7.  Over the past few weeks it is as though the rate of decline has sped up.  This is certainly the last thing that we want. But, in November of 2011, we had doctors telling us he would not see Christmas that year.  He has certainly beat the odds. 

My prayer in 2011 was for God to keep him comfortable and for us to have enough time with him that everything everyone needed to say to him could be done.  I asked for a little more time so that my children would have an opportunity to etch memories in their minds they can carry as they get older.

The reality of losing his beloved Ghe Ghe has been especially challenging for my youngest, Conner. It's as though his soul was marked with a connection to my dad from the time we gave him his middle name, Charles.  There has been a bond tighter than fabric between those two. I am grateful for the past two years for Conner to hear all of the old hunting and fishing stories.  Matthew has enjoyed just sitting and listening to daddy talk on. 

Watching someone die right before you a little each day is very hard to put into perspective.  All we can do is pray for God to keep him comfortable and when He decides it's time to welcome him into His kingdom, that he goes peacefully.

My mom was the one to finally make sense of how we all feel about the increase in progression of his disease  She said, "It's kind of like watching your kids grow.  You know they are growing and getting bigger, but it is ever so slight and subtle changes over time. So you don't necessarily see it each day.  But, when you don't see your nieces or nephews for weeks or maybe months, you can visibly see and process the growth." 

I am thankful to God for keeping me grounded and giving me the time to grow and mature in understanding the process of life and illness. I only pray he gives me the courage and strength to endure the next stop in that journey.  The finality of death and grief.  It may not be today, tomorrow, next week, or next month......but there will come an end eventually.  Then, because of the lessons my little boy, Matthew, has taught me, I know that he will finally be at home.  He will be surrounded with the kind of beauty and glory that is unlike anything we physically feel on earth.

I love you daddy!

Thursday, August 29, 2013

And We Have a Release Date!

March 2014 is it! A Boy Back From Heaven will be released in the early spring.  Writing this book has been therapeutic for me in ways most will never know.  To know that your child's last breath was within inches of your face is riveting.  Trying to understand and make sense of what was so clearly evident has been renewing.  From the moment Matthew sat down with us to provide the intricate details of his experience, we knew there was a power much greater and higher than humans can grasp. 

All of the "churchy" stuff we are taught growing up as kids usually isn't fully realized until we seek God in immediate ways.  Death, illness, sorrow, change.  All of the things that force us as Christians to really take a hard look and turn to God in prayer.  To fully realize the scope and magnitude of God's love and great plan for each of our lives is enlightening. 

After spending hours, days, months, and years on this book project, it has helped me to heal and grieve situations I know that I will face personally in the very near future.  There are circumstances in my life that will require me once again to seek comfort in God's word and the vision that Matthew so eloquently and innocently shared.  A vision that leads me to know that when death reaches those we love, there is not darkness or scary scenes.  It is pure, unobligated love, peace, and beauty.  A beauty that makes you never want to return.

Legacy

The only legacy that will be important when I have passed on will be that of being a great mom.  If my two children can't look back and say they had a mom that put their needs above all else, then I have failed.  Is it easy?  Nope!  Do they drive me crazy sometimes?  You bet!  But, through all of the oops, fails, giggles, and silliness they are the driving force for me to be a better person. 

We all know the old cliche', kids don't come with a handbook.  But, with a little common sense, and the ability to laugh off the minor stuff, it can be pretty easy.  I have a few simple goals in life.  One is making sure that I raise two young men that know and understand how much they are loved by God and their parents.  The second is to make sure that I equip them with the means necessary to brave life when it's time to leave the nest.

It is inevitable that we will all stumble along the way.  My toes have been broken, A LOT, in the past 11 years! But, I know that the ride is all worth it.  Those smiling, giggling faces are everything.