October 31, 2008
We went trick or treating tonight to celebrate one of the best American holidays ever. Some families go to parties or turn out the lights and pretend they aren't home, but we go door to door to support such a great tradition that I never want to see disappear.
We got back home a little later than we'd planned...so this is the first year that we've lived here that we didn't run out of candy. Even so, I still think we got over a hundred kids coming to our door.
Jovana met some friends and they went out trick or treating before the football game tonight. The idea was that they wanted to get candy to eat at the game. The funny thing is that they wanted to keep on going door to door to get more instead of going to the game...but reason overtook gluttony and they quit. What's also funny is that Jovana brought a few of these friends over...one was from France, one from Brazil, and one from Italy. None of them had ever experienced Halloween but they all had a great time together.
October 29, 2008
The care and attention of the staff at Evergreen Hospital was amazing. From the lady at the info desk who rushed us to the ER to the ER admitting lady and the ER staff that rushed off with Evan before they knew his name. The doctor in charge of and coordinating Evan's care was calm, kind and took command of the situation. Everyone listened and obeyed whatever he said. It was obvious that he was respected among his peers. During the middle or end of the attempt to save Evan's life, this doctor came to us and looked us in the eyes and told us that Evan had been without oxygen for a while and that even if he did survive he'd be brain damaged. Even if chances of survival were slim, this doctor still held out hope.
I really liked the girl who had been assigned to stand next to me and answer my questions and concerns. She was kind and attentive. Tymon nicknamed the two that were doing chest compressions for Evan: Tattoo Boy (he had a lot of tattoos up and down his arms) and 16-Year Old Girl (a pretty girl with long brown hair and a young face...probably in her early 20s). These two worked with precision and consistency and didn't miss a beat even when trading places.
The lady I didn't like was the pediatrician that came to the ER to help advise the doctor in charge. She talked to us twice. Once a few minutes after she arrived and she told us that things weren't looking good (now this language still leaves room for hope). The second time maybe 10 or so minutes later (it's hard to judge time in an emergency). She came to us and bluntly told us that they had been breathing for Evan and pumping his heart for 45 minutes and it was time to stop. Talk about a devestating blow! At some point I exclaimed that I didn't want them to stop. This woman was harsh and brash and rash and every other sh word that comes to mind. Why couldn't she have sugar coated it and said that they'd try for another few minutes and if he didn't respond then they'd stop? She told us and soon thereafter everyone stopped working. There was no warning here. Though I could see people swarmed around Evan, I didn't realize that they were doing all of the breathing for him. I could see the monitors and found out what various colors meant and what the numbers meant. I didn't know that Evan wasn't making any of those numbers on his own. I'm not sure knowing that would've helped soften the news, but the abrupt manner of the pediatrician certainly exacerbated it.
How did you feel about your own behavior? How did the doctors and nurses respond to you?
I felt fine about my behavior. I was calm and curious as to what everyone was doing. In the beginning, I even thought about taking a photo of everyone surrounding Evan for my blog. I decided against it because I didn't want to appear like I wasn't taking this seriously. The doctors and nurses were sympathetic and also heart broken that they couldn't help Evan. At the end, they told us to take all the time we needed with Evan. They gave us a phone and even made a phone call to Tymon's work for him. They brought us juice and crackers. We had 3 and a half hours with Evan's body before the coroner came to examine him and it was time to leave. On the way out I approached the "16 Year Old Girl" and gave her a hug and thanked her for working so diligently.
What were your feelings as you left the hospital? Were you warnd that there were hard times of grieving ahead? What support were you offered for those time?
We were heart broken to leave the hospital. My cousin took our boys and my friend took Jovana and Tymon and I left together. They gave us several sheets of paper. I still haven't looked at them. I think they gave some information on grief services. It's kind of a blur. I didn't want to be around anyone. I only wanted to cry and remember Evan with Tymon. We both actually had the thoughts to jump off the parking garage as we headed to our car. But, alas, that would only create more sorrow for our family and we've all had enough just with losing Evan.
October 28, 2008
Yea! Graeden's legal! Well, I mean he won't get questions anymore about being 4 and in kindergarten. I met with his teacher Mrs. Stensland yesterday and she showed me his assessment results and he's doing very well academically, as well as socially. That's a relief. I've talked to her frequently in the past 2 months about him and what's going on in our lives. First, it was about me having a baby any time and so one day someone else would be picking him up. Then it was about Evan dying and some anger Graeden was displaying at home in inappropriate ways. Then Jocelyn came and a new baby always changes dynamics of the family. Then I traumatized him by taking him to the doctor to get 5 shots and the same day took him to the optometrist. A couple of days later, he got glasses and it was all I could do to get him to wear them at school. I am so happy that Graeden has Mrs. Stensland guiding him during this first year of school.
So many HUGE life changing events have taken place and I've been very concerned about his growth and development during this time. Most children don't go through so many changes in such a short amount of time. Graeden has shown so much maturity that really I need to look beyond some of the acting out. Mrs. Stensland assured me that he saves his rotten behavior for me and she gets a delightful boy in class. She also told me about how he has been very open with his classmates and tells them about what happened with Evan and that now he lives with Heavenly Father. She (a Presbyterian) loves to hear kids of this age sharing their faith with each other. It's not so usual to see this in the great Pacific Northwest.
I'm not the best party organizer. In fact, I didn't even plan Graeden's party until yesterday. And well, I didn't even plan it. My friend Amber did and she was in school and couldn't even come. The terrible thing is that I know how much he loves parties and friends and presents and I put off and put off doing anything about it. Well, until Sunday morning when I printed up some invitations and he gave them to his class at church (he also invited his former babysitter, 19 years old, and my visiting teacher's daughters who are 10 and 12). Surprisingly, it went well for being so last minute.
Amber gave me a bunch of ducks from one of her past parties (thus the duck theme). I put them on the cake and had one of the older girls lead the "bobbing for ducks" game. The kids loved it. We also did a slippery soap toss that the kids loved. We blew up white balloons that represented the bubbles of a bubble bath. I think their favorite game was just hitting each other with balloons.
I'm glad that Graeden loved the party. I'm glad his friends had fun. And I'm especially glad that it's over and I don't have to procrastinate making party preparations anymore.
October 26, 2008
The lady stationed to me took us out of the room and asked us if we wanted to call our families to have them come. We just looked at each other and said no. In my mind, we'd call them as soon as we were out of the ER and admitted to a room upstairs. I was oblivious to her real message: Evan wasn't going to be worked on much longer.
We went back in and we could see that little Evan still hadn't responded. I asked if we could have a private room to talk in for a few moments. She showed us to a room and we knelt in prayer. I prayed first and pleaded with Heavenly Father to help Evan respond. Then Tymon prayed and asked that the Lord's will be done. We both felt an incredible peace. We headed back to Evan's room and I was ready for the Lord's will that Evan live come to pass. I don't think we were there more than a few minutes when they said that they'd been doing CPR for 45 minutes and Evan hasn't responded. Several of those helping had left the room while we were gone. For the first time, I approached Evan's head and whispered into his ear, "Respond, Evan, please respond." I know miracles happen when mothers work their love with their children. But why didn't he respond? At this point, I still thought that he'd respond. Someone said that they were going to stop and I blurted out, "No! I don't want you to stop!" I want my boy.
They stopped and one by one everyone left the room. The head ER doctor offered his condolences. The two that had been working chest compressions each left with tears in their eyes. AND EVEN THEN as I held my little boy, I imagined that he'd start breathing again. Even then I couldn't believe what had just happened. He felt like Evan and was soft like Evan and smelled like Evan (except an occasional medicinal odor). In holding him, I came to understand that Evan had really just died. It didn't seem real. And then the tears came. They flowed. I and we were devestated. And beyond us, Evan's older brothers, aged 4, 3, and 2 didn't know yet. We didn't know if we should have them come to the ER or not. We didn't know how to tell them or what to do next. We didn't know if we should pull Jovana, our exchange student, out of school. We didn't know how we should handle anything. The only thing we knew is that we wanted our boy back. We held Evan for an hour before our family started trickling in. After another hour and a half we interviewed with the coroner and detectives. We got about 20 or 30 minutes more after that to spend with Evan. My feeling then and now is an intense sadness, a yearning to hold him and have him hug me back, a longing to hear him laugh.
October 20, 2008
Evan had no fear in his adventures.
October 16, 2008
The other day, I pulled into the post office to mail some letters. Jocelyn was crying and Elliott needed to use the toilet. I can only take so much crying at one time, so I opened the door to the Durango and told Elliott to pee in the parking lot. Because of our close proximity to other vehicles and because our open door blocked him from the view of those inside the post office, he was pretty hidden and able to do his business semi-privately. Then I was able to get Jocelyn out and feed her for a few minutes.
I had parked right in front of the huge window at the post office so I could just run in and still see the kids. So, after Jocelyn finished, I went in to get some stamps from the automated machine in the foyer. Now, I wasn't gone for more than a couple of minutes and only 10 feet away from the truck when I put stamps on my letters. As I approached my door to get in, I notice a big pile of poo right in front of the passenger door. For a moment, I tried to imagine that a dog has come by and dropped his load. But I couldn't reconcile that thought with the pile being right in front of the door and it smelled more human than doggie. I didn't know whether I should be laughing or crying. I opened the door and asked Elliott if he pooped right outside the door. Of course he denied doing such a dastardly act. Then I asked him what toilet paper he used to wipe with...to which he replied that he didn't use any because he didn't have any. Maybe that's why he could be so quick about his business...no clean up needed.
I contemplated leaving the pile there and just driving off...but then I imagined some unfortunate kid in the backseat of the next car getting out and stepping in it. So, I took some newspaper ads, rolled the poo onto them and disposed of the evidence in the nearest trash receptacle. Ahh...kids...who needs comedy shows when kids provide all the laughter you need in a day?
October 9, 2008
Tymon and I were talking today about the number of hits our blogs have received in the past couple of weeks. It gives us motivation to actually do something worth blogging about...and to make sure we have our camera out and getting the perfect shot to make a post look interesting.
Tymon and a couple of his old friends went out to lunch the other day and had an interesting conversation. One of the guys admitted to reading an ex-girlfriend's blog on occasion. They dated a few girlfriends and a marriage ago...and he still finds it interesting to see what she's up to.
So, I'm not sure if I should find that amusing. Or perhaps it's disturbing. But what it really does is make me wonder who reads my blog. My little map keeps track of where you all are...but I really don't know who you are (unless you leave a comment).
October 7, 2008
Many of you have commented that you'd like a copy of the speech that James Schwartz made at Evan's funeral. Here it is. There is also a copy of Evan's eulogy on Tymon's blog.
Evan Johns Memorial Service
September 27, 2008
I’ve heard it said that that flame that burns briefest burns brightest. Now, I don’t know if that’s a true law of science or physics. But as a metaphor to describe the short, sweet life of our beloved Evan, I find those words to be among the truest of statements. It’s so difficult and confounding when one so innocent, so pure, so young as Evan is taken from us, just when his fire was growing brighter and ever more brilliant with each passing week. And oh, what a bright flame!
I think you’d agree, wouldn’t you, that to know Evan, one must know his wonderful parents, Bridget and Tymon, and his band of brothers: Graeden, Elliott and Jett. And in this regard, compared perhaps to most of you, I’m a relative newcomer. When I first met Tymon and Bridget, they were both single. They had come to a church social function, and Bridget’s mom, Pat, was introducing me to them. My family and I had moved to Snohomish only a handful of months before, and I was the new bishop who didn’t really have a sense of the legacy, traditions and personalities in the ward. With a very straightforward tone, Pat introduced me to Bridget by saying, “Bishop, this is our youngest daughter. She’s not active at all in the church. Could you do something about that?” I was taken aback at this brash and direct comment, and I’m sure I stood there with my mouth wide open for what seemed like minutes. And Pat kept the perfect game face…nothing but a stern look of a parent on a mission. And Bridget played along! Finally, the corners of Pat’s mouth turned upward and she let out a hearty laugh…I’d been had! Bridget was serving, if I recall, as the Relief Society President of her student ward at the time. Well, that experience was all I needed to begin to understand and love the Fawcetts and the family that became the Johns family in Snohomish 1st ward!
Shortly thereafter Bridget and Tymon were married for time and eternity in a temple of God. And shortly after that, the new Johns’ family goal of single-handedly birthing and raising a boy’s soccer team or two went into full swing.
Now, I’m sure I can speak for all of us here when I say that we love those Johns boys, all four of them: Graeden, Elliott, Jett and Evan. They’re particularly special to the Schwartz family. Two of my kids “broke their babysitting teeth” with Graeden and Elliott. We’ve loved watching Graeden grow and turn from an unbridled, bouncy ball of raw energy who would use these handrails up to the stand as a Jungle Gym during Sacrament meeting into a more tamed Kindergartener who now has a sense of what it means to be responsible and reverent. He’s the perfect oldest child.
Our 18-year-old who’s now a freshman in college, Michael, has a particular soft spot in his heart for the Johns boys. They always energize Michael and give him a reason to smile, laugh and feel loved. During this past summer, Michael attempted to grow a goatee. In my eyes, it looked like every 18-year-old’s attempt to cultivate facial hair…it wasn’t something to write home about, if you know what I mean. Full of bread crumbs and partially-eaten french fries, etc. During a recent Sacrament meeting, Elliott came over, sat on Michael’s lap, and started to caress the few hairs that were to be the goatee. Elliott then asks Michael, “what’s this?”, pointing at the goatee. Michael whispers, “It’s a goatee.” Elliott looks puzzled, and then he begins to examine and scrutinize Michael’s fuzzy chin more closely, for several minutes on end. “You mean,” he finally asks Michael in a puzzled tone of voice, “there’s a goat in there??” I told Michael afterward that maybe Elliott’s question wasn’t in regards to what he saw...maybe it was what he smelled!
And like many of you, it’s been so fun to cuddle with Jett and watch him grow. He’s been the perfect community baby, so well natured and accepting of everyone. I love watching his affection for his family…for his brothers, parents and grandparents. And, as Jett has found his voice more recently, I’ve snickered as he repeatedly calls out “where Papa?” when looking for his grandfather in midst of quieter moments in Sacrament meetings.
And then there’s Evan, who was the perfect mixture of all of his brothers. He was so sweet, so tender, so fun-loving, so accepting. You could just tell that he had ultimate trust in his brothers and parents and family by the way he looked when he was with them: content, cheerful, just happy to be here. Seeing, for example, Elliott with his arm wrapped around Evan on a recent occasion really captured for me the essence of their feelings for one another and of Evan’s charming, gleeful personality. The boys were walking out of the chapel one Sunday, and Elliott had wrapped his arm gently around Evan’s neck like young boys do…I think it’s the “buddy wrap”. It wasn’t quite a half Nelson, and I’m sure it wasn’t the most comfortable for Evan…but what did he care? He was with Elliott. And Elliott had this intense look of The Protector on his face…he was obviously determined to deliver Evan to some pre-determined destination, and he wasn’t going to let anything or anybody stop him in this mission. And there was Evan, totally carefree, glad to be along for the ride, broad ear-to-ear grin, a look of complete confidence in his brother’s care; a look that communicated the purest trust one human can have in another. And you can only develop that trust---even as a young child---when one’s home and family is filled with genuine love, selflessness, honesty and goodness. As with all of the Johns boys, Evan was certainly a by-product of a family and home environment that cultivated that love, and fun, and trust. A home environment whose chief architects are Bridget and Tymon.
One of my last images of Evan was just a week or so ago, right here in this chapel, when Tymon was juggling Evan in one arm and Evan’s bag in the other. I asked if I could help carry the load, and he handed me Evan who had just woken up from a nap. Upon realizing suddenly that his dad wasn’t his sherpa, he immediately turned toward his dad and stretched out his arms, calling for his father. It was that image of Evan with outstretched arms calling for his father that came to my mind when I learned of Evan’s passing this week. I had wondered if that scene had been repeated as Evan passed through the veil and into the next phase in his eternal existence.
Although 15 ½ months is such a short time in which to get to know someone, those who were fortunate enough to know and embrace Evan had their lives enriched, and we will always remember him for his happy spirit, his full smile and his bright eyes. He was a clever and curious boy, who sought to befriend everyone. He loved to be loved, and we love him. And while we know that Evan is now in his Heavenly Father’s care, we miss his warm and engaging heart.
I think it’s important to acknowledge that strange and sometimes conflicting bundle of feelings that we experience when a loved one passes away unexpectedly: mourning, sorrow, pain, guilt (perhaps for the “coulda’s”, “woulda’s”, “shoulda’s”), anger, maybe some fear --- hopefully we also feel some peace and hope. Peace and hope because Evan’s existence hasn’t ended – it’s not all over – but is merely a new chapter. His body has stopped its physical functioning, but his spirit – that eternal essence that really is Evan – lives on.
The Gospel of Jesus Christ teaches and declares that Evan didn’t just burst into existence when he was physically born here 15 ½ months ago, but that he---like all of us---had existed in a pre-earth life, as a spiritual being, prior to his mortal arrival. He, like each of us, is a literal child of God. Not only are we created in God’s image, but because He is our Father, we have the potential to learn, grow and progress to become more like our Heavenly Father. In short, our Father in Heaven has laid out a plan for us whereby we can fulfill the measure---the purpose---of our creation, and gain a fullness of joy…even with---or perhaps because of---the harsh challenges and perspective-altering and life-changing trials of our mortal experience.
And so, Evan has started a new phase in his eternal journey. His wiry body, which for such a short time housed his spirit, will return to the earth. But his body is not only that which is Evan! His spirit, his real essence – his personality, his character and characteristics, sense of humor, way of looking at and understanding things, the feelings he has for others – his spirit lives on, and will return once again to that heavenly home to live together with God, his and our Heavenly Father, His Son – and his and our Savior, Jesus Christ – and his loved ones. Perhaps this is best spelled out in a short metaphor:
Imagine for a moment that you are about to cross the country on a train. You get on board, and as the train starts you find yourself sitting next to a fine person who is making the same journey that you are. Since the trip usually takes almost four days, you begin a serious attempt to get to know each other. You find that you have much in common, and by the time the train steams into the darkness at the end of the first day you feel a remarkable closeness and begin to feel that the relationship you are forming may be the most important part of your journey.
After a sound night’s sleep in the Pullman car, you rejoin your friend and the two of you spend another day relating to each other and experiencing the journey together. Your rapport grows still stronger, and you find yourself feeling a little sorry that the day passes so fast. By the second night your train is deep into the flat middle plains, and as you fall asleep you are thinking about the things you want to find out and talk about with your friend the next day.
In the morning you return to your seat and find, to your dismay, that your friend is gone. When you inquire, someone tells you that he got off during the night.
Got off during the night? But he had a destination very near your own, and you had planned on having the next two days with him, and there was so much more left to say! Suddenly you realize that you never did find out quite where he came from or just who he really was, and that you never did learn why he was on the train or exactly where he was going. Worst of all, you realize that you don’t know whether you’ll see him again – that you don’t know how to find him or contact him.
The feeling is a mixture of sadness and frustration which together produce something in between bitterness and anger. Why did he have to leave? Did someone or something make him leave? Should you be upset at him for leaving or at someone else who made him go against his will? It’s not so much that he’s gone, it’s that you don’t know where he’s gone and you want so much to see him again.
At that point the porter comes down the row to your seat. The message he leaves is very simple, but changes night into day and bitterness into joy. He tells you that your friend was indeed going to the same place as you – that he was going there to see his father. During the night the train received an emergency message which instructed your friend to get off the train at the next stop and catch a plane to get home more quickly, because his father needed him right then. The porter leaves you a phone number so that you can contact your friend a soon as you arrive.
The simple message of the porter turns your frustration into peace. You are still sorry to miss the two days of discussion you had anticipated with your friend, but your sorrow is no longer bitter or blind; rather, it is sweet with the knowledge of where he is and the assurance that you will see him again.
In short, that is the message of the gospel of Jesus Christ:
1) Our origin is a divine one – that each of us is the spiritual offspring of a heavenly Father, that we existed before this earth as spirit beings, that we were distinct individuals with characteristics and attributes that we brought with us when we were born physically to the earth…
2) Our purpose on this earth is to gain experiences that help us to understand God and to do our best to become more like Him – even in the face of (or perhaps because of) trials and adversity. That is, to learn to become more loving, more selfless, more patient, more caring…
3) Our destination is to return as families to Him and His Son – our Savior and the One who sacrificed so that we might live forever – to enjoy the degree of happiness, peace, joy, contentment that He wants us to have and which He has. The kingdom of heaven is a place where we will continue to progress, develop, and grow eternally.
Your son, grandson, brother, nephew, cousin, friend – Evan Coburn Johns – precedes us in this journey. He enters the eternities uninhibited by pain or mortal discomfort. I imagine he misses you – each of you – dearly. He’ll miss seeing you, and yet is comforted that he’s taking part of you with him for the way that you have contributed to his life here.
And you…YOU…will always have a part of him with you. I imagine his words to you would not be so much “goodbye”, but rather, “till we meet again”.
 Dunn, Paul H. & Eyre, Richard M., The Birth We Call Death, pp. 29-31. Aspen Books, 1999.