Hold On Daddy's Coming!

Stories, rants and reflections by a clueless father of three

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A Journey Through Shawn Kuykendall’s Awesomely Random Facebook Page: Part 4

This is the fourth and final installment of a series on Shawn Kuykendall’s epic Facebook page.  In case you missed it, Parts One, Two, and Three gave us a glimpse into the life of a man who could make us laugh with the best of them.  But what follows is Shawn at his very best.  Brace for the story that redefines what it means to be strong. 

2013 (July – December)

July:

Encouraging messages start pouring in for no apparent reason, while throwbacks of Shawn with his friends suddenly flood his Newsfeed.  Clearly something’s wrong.  Then, the dagger:  a friend requests prayer as Shawn begins “his first round of chemotherapy.” 

Wait, what?  For Shawn? 

On July 16th, Shawn would announce that he had a rare form of cancer in his chest, and that it was spreading.  Stage Four.  The body of a professional athlete was now failing him.  Shawn was dying. 

My biggest ray of hope is that God has a purpose for me…” he explained. “I love you all and hope to connect soon.  Shawn Kuykendall.  #Kuykenstrong.”

Days later, after a second round of chemotheraphy, Shawn shaved his rapidly-thinning hair.  For those who couldn’t believe it, this was tangible, undeniable proof that Shawn was in the fight of his life.  Nothing would ever be the same. 

Shawn Shaved Head

Meanwhile, this “Kuykenstrong” thing caught fire and spread fast.  Almost immediately, a Kuykenstrong blog and Facebook page began tracking Shawn’s treatment, while “#Kuykenstrong” shirts and bracelets started selling like hotcakes. Had someone embroidered “Kuykenstrong” on a leather couch it would have gone for thousands.  Indeed, with one quick hashtag, Shawn created a moniker of hope for everybody who knew him… and countless others who didn’t.   

In time, hundreds of people would post pictures of themselves wearing their Kuykenstrong swag.  After all, this was one fashion statement upon which Shawn and the rest of the world could agree.  Friends, former teammates, and current professional soccer players all posed in their new gear.  Heck even this thoughtful DC United intern offered his support…

Landon Donovan

Just kidding. I know he’s a famous snowboarder.

Of course, Shawn didn’t ask for the fanfare – all he requested was prayer.  And on August 16th, he got lots of it.  From Georgetown University Hospital, Shawn announces he is preparing for round three of chemotherapy.  

Afterward, his doctors reported the mass in his chest had shrunk, and that his body was responding well to treatment.  Obviously great news, but tempered by the reality that the disease was still taking its toll.  Shawn then thanked his family for making life feel “normal” despite the “abnormal” circumstances – all of which represented their new normal. 

Shawn Chemo Daggers

September 5:  Shawn posts a video of “red stuff” going into his body and smiles like a lunatic as he gives a big thumbs-up.  That red substance, of course, is chemo-related poison.  No big deal.  Days later, Shawn would be honored at RFK Stadium by the DC United Soccer Team.  For someone as humble as Shawn, it’s easy to forget he once played soccer for this storied franchise.  You know, no big deal…

September 26:  Shawn confesses he’s “drained” and requests prayer to get through his fifth round of chemotherapy.  “It’s not easy to fight and I can certainly put on a brave front,” declares Shawn.  “Today I want to say how difficult it is and I need God more than ever.”  Scared, weak, but never quite so strong, Shawn would soon announce that the mass in his chest had shrunk yet again, rendering the torturous rounds of chemotherapy worthwhile.  God bless him, he was fighting back. 

October:

Cancer will force a man to make some difficult decisions, but on October 7th, Shawn faced an easy one.  Indeed, Shawn reports that 90s hit Wannabe by the Spice Girls is playing on his iPod, forcing him to decide whether to “hit next” or “let it ride.”  Of course, Shawn being Shawn, we know exactly how this ends: “Just kidding.  I let it plaayyyyyyy.”  And rightfully so. 

October 17: Shawn notes that his rare disease makes him the first person ever at Georgetown Hospital to receive the formula that encompasses his chemotherapy.  He also observes that he is usually the “first one in and last one out” of the infusion center, and that bald is “still not his best look.”  His conclusion?  

Whatever you face today…be bold.  Be brave.”   

Selfie Shawn

November: 

Shawn declares “God is good,” which is how most of his posts now begin.  He then reveals the disheartening news: his cancer is spreading.  Aggressively.  So much so that he was in the emergency room to control the pain.  Despite this gut-wrenching post, Shawn insists: “Don’t give up, and smile today.”  Well, I didn’t smile that day. 

Shawn did make me smile on November 20 when, paying homage to some of the best music ever made, he notes: “when someone yells ‘STOP’ I am not sure if it’s in the name of love, it’s Hammer-time, or if I should collaborate and listen.”  Well well well.  Looks like Shawnsington’s back with a brand new edition! 

Days later, the Washington Post publishes a front page article on Shawn, which ignites a wildfire of shares, posts and praises.  “I Need God More Than Ever” was the title, and those who regularly read the Post know that faith-centric articles are a departure from the norm.  But then again, there was nothing normal about Shawn, and now there was no denying that he was legitimately famous.  Indeed, followers from around the world wanted to know more about what it meant to be Kuykenstrong.    

2014:

January: 

Shawn spends nearly the entire month at the Georgetown University Hospital in high spirits and in excruciating pain. The disease would keep Shawn from his sister Sami’s wedding – perhaps cancer’s biggest blow yet.   

Kuyenstrong Wedding

Photo: Nichole Haun Photography

Shawn didn’t post much of anything this month, and the silence was deafening.  Then, on January 27th, Shawn announces: “This bachelor is sexy for sure.  But he is boring me fast.”  Now chalk this up to things I never thought I’d say: Shawn’s insider commentary on ABC’s the Bachelor was a legit breath of fresh air.  For those praying for Shawn, this post was sexy for sure

February:

Shawn shares a post from his “most smart friend” Sergio Del Valle, who drops wisdom on an on-going debate about the existence of God.  Knowing thousands of people were tuning in, Shawn figured they should understand why he believed God was real.  Fittingly, this was the last thing Shawn would ever post on Facebook.    

February 21: Shawn turns 32 and spends the day fighting for his life in the hospital.  Says Shawn’s mom Sherry, one of nearly 500 people who would post on his wall that day, “Happy birthday to the strongest man I know.”   The Kuykendalls, who had been by Shawn’s side for countless selfies, surgeries and soccer games through the years, were determined to be at his side through the finish.

Kuykendalls 2013

And then, on March 12th, it was finished.  Shawn’s fight was over.  He was now at someone else’s side…

Shawn could have cursed his disease, but chose instead to raise awareness for the cure we have in Jesus Christ – the man who walked this earth without sin, and then died on a cross so that we could have a relationship with God.   Jesus isn’t something Shawn believed; He’s someone Shawn knew. And boy do they have a lot to talk about…

Indeed, both had thousands of followers, both faced death sentences in their early thirties, both endured seemingly endless suffering, and both brought life to a dying world.  One went bald, the other wore a crown of thorns – the parallels are impossible to ignore.  Of course, Shawn wasn’t without sin and that’s precisely why he needed Jesus each and every day.  I’ll let him explain this better than I ever could:

By God’s endless mercy, Shawn is now free.  His Hot Body Campaign is complete, and the results, I’m sure, are SILLAAAYYY.  Which brings me back to why we started this journey in the first place…

Shawn’s Facebook page is epic because it highlights so beautifully the life of a friend who left nothing on the field of life.  It tells the story of a man who provided so much light in an oft dark and dreary world.  That’s why I leave you with this: 

Yep, what you watched was a music video featuring Shawn, his sister Sami, and actor Robby Stone dancing, fist-pumping and deer hunting their way through Justin Bieber’s “Eenie Meenie,” with sweet cameos by Audrey Hepburn and Jason Kuykendall.   It’s an eenie meenie glimpse into a man of incredible character who had the heart of a child.  It’s classic Shawn. 

Shawn got cancer, but there’s victory in knowing cancer never really got Shawn.  He was a fighter all the way, and through his story, scripture has become real to people around the world.  It’s a narrative of triumph over tragedy – a legendary account of how Shawn was made weak, and in his weakness, he was made strong. 

Kuykenstrong. 

Shawn 2013

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A Journey Through Shawn Kuykendall’s Awesomely Random Facebook Page: Part 3

This is Part Three of a four-part series on Shawn Kuykendall’s epic Facebook page.  In case you missed it, Part One featured #throwbacks and YouTube throw downs, and Part Two brought us numerous surgeries and selfies.  We now pick up where we left off, with yet another treasure chest of Shawn-given amazingness.  Let’s go!   

2012:

What’s notable about 2012 is that Shawn kept the fire that is his Facebook page burning brighter than ever.  Here are a few snapshots of brilliance:   

I just had a Baconato combo. I am about to throw up,” and

Sometimes I get nervous when I see an open door,” and

Recent poll (conducted by me) found that girls don’t like guys with a dumpy butt. #screwed.” 

Ahh, yes.  He’s still got it!     

2012 is the year Shawn proves he may be a thirteen-year-old girl trapped inside the body of a grown man.  As evidence, I note that he takes his use of the word “jeally” – a tween-friendly substitute for “jealous” – to extreme levels.  Further, he makes no mistake about his fondness for pumpkin spice lattes, The Bachelor, and Hansen’s hit song MMMBop.  Throw in status updates like “Omg Biebs and Selena broke up!!! #devastated” and it’s a no brainer. 

And then there’s “SIKE!” See, “Sike!” is a great way to note that the previous statement was totally false, and made with intent to deceive.  Ex: “Ankle socks look great with sandals!  SIKE!”  Shawn used this expression back when he traded Pogs and knew all the lines to Free Willy; but then, like the rest of his generation, he stopped using it shortly after the sixth grade…

SIKE!  Shawn will turn 30 this year, and he’s still going strong.

#Kuykenstrong

See? He works out…

Our last new word is “cised,” which appears to be some kind of synonym for “excited.”  Ex: “100% chance I wake up at 3am to preorder the iPhone 4s. I’m cised!”  As with most Shawn-isms, “cised” can stand alone as an entire sentence and be spelled with seemingly unnecessary letters, like this: “Banana Republic is introducing a new line of European-cut suits!  Ciiiiiised!” 

So to recap: “jeally” means jealous (if you’re still in middle school), “Sike!” means just kidding (if you’re still living in the 90s), “cised” means excited (at least I think), and “ciiiiiiised” means super-duper excited (with a cherry on top).  Got it?

Now let’s get “cised” about the highlights from this rather fantastic year: 

February: Shawn turns 30.  To mark the occasion, hundreds of people post on Shawn’s wall, and each of them has a different nickname.  Here’s a few: Shawny, Donald, Uncle Donnie, Prawny, Brodo Baggins, Sine, Dino, America, and Americaaaaaa.  And the notion that people actually call him “America” makes me so ridiculously jeally.    

March: Shawn takes everything I know to be true about fashion and throws it out the window.  Indeed, first he announces that cargo shorts “couldn’t be more” out of style.  Then he claims he’s “over” plaid in all forms (including Target brand pajama pants), leaving me with practically nothing left to wear.  What’s next?  Is he gonna tell me I shouldn’t be wearing workout sneakers to social functions?!?! 

April 21: Shawn posts a picture and asks everyone to “name what’s wrong with it.”  Guesses include (a) that it’s a close-up of “some dude’s crotch,” (b) the fact that the man “doesn’t have arms,” and (c) the notion that “he’s physically disabled and you just don’t like that about him.”

Sneakers

All of these answers had promise, but as it turns out Shawn took issue with this man going to a social function in… you guessed it… his workout sneakers.  I should have seen this coming. 

May: Shawn asks Facebook if anyone “wants to cuddle?”  He gets one response from a female, but unfortunately it’s just a recommendation to “get a dog.”  Just as it started to look like all hope was lost, friend Jason McGraw saves the day with this rather adorable response: 

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May also marks the month Shawn drops this bomb of amazingness:

Yep.  What you just watched was a video of Shawn wearing questionably snug white pants to compliment some well-choreographed dance moves (with sister Sami), all to the tune of some song called “I Don’t Feel Like Dancing,” and all in front of the sheets that Shawn slept on when he turned seven years old.  By the way, did anyone else catch Shawn’s amazing intro slide about five seconds in?  Yea, the only reason I don’t feel like dancing is because I feel like slow-clapping instead.   It’s glorious! 

June: After years of keeping it in the dark, Shawn finally admits: “I think I like blue.” Wow.  Good of Shawn to finally get that off his chest… 

August:  Shawn posts one of his patented while-driving selfies.  To think: this is one of those valuable skills that driving schools simply aren’t teaching their students. It’s an outrage! 

Shawn Selfie 2012 Driving

The Inventor of Driver’s Seat Photography

September: Shawn’s friend Melanie posts a close up of Shawn’s torso, and if you look closely it appears to contain feint traces of definition.  Now, I’m not sure if this is the result of (a) a successful Hot Body Campaign, or (b) Shawn wearing smaller shirts.  Option (c) of course is man boobs.  But I seriously doubt that’s the case…

Hot Body Campaign 2 2012

October: American University’s finest soccer coach reminds us why he isn’t cut out for a desk job…

Election Day: Shawn contrasts political candidates with a man named Jesus Christ, and lets just say things don’t go so well for the politicians.  Say, this is legit wisdom!  Kuykendall for Congress! 

December: Shawn’s friend Kimberly takes him to the White House Christmas Party, where he apparently meets President Obama and then just kind of strolls around the Executive Mansion for a few hours with seemingly unfettered access.  Here he is stealing fruit belonging to the most powerful man in the world…

Who let this guy in?

Who let this guy in?

Days later, Shawn finishes the year off right by demonstrating how just one misplaced letter can account for the difference between having a sick mind, and being legitimately homesick:      

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2013 (January through June):

2013 marks the year Shawn assigned a fun little name to each day of the week.  From what I gather, they are as follows: Cabernet Sauvignon Sunday, Tickle Me Tuesday, Way Back Wednesday, Throwback Thursday, Man Up Friday, and Selfie Saturday.  And apparently Monday no longer exists. 

February: Shawn earns something called an “A” Coaching License.  This is a really big deal to Shawn’s mom, who’s going nuts about it.  But that’s not saying much because as his former homeschool teacher it’s likely she goes nuts every time Shawn earns an “A.” Heyoooo!  

March:  Shawn posts the following picture of a cute little puppy taking a “legit” selfie while lying down for an afternoon nap:    

Concedes Shawn: "I have to respect it."

Concedes Shawn: “I have to respect it.”

March 28: Shawn is publicly admonished for that night’s dreadful goaltending performance.  The ensuing conversation sends Shawn spiraling through the four stages of grief: 

1.  Denial: “Sometimes you save it.  Sometimes you don’t.  What can I say!

2.  Anger: “I didn’t have gloves!  Blame Billy Knudsen!

3.  Depression:  “KuykenBotch in goal today.  Disaster.” 

4.  Acceptance:  “All I can say is sorry…

April: This happened…

Selfie in Bath 2013

Yep, leave it to Shawn to post a scandalous mid-bath selfie while eating an ice cream cone.  Even better are the comments, which range from “porno!” to “weeeeiiiird” to “I just threw up” to “I approve of this.”  And for the record I too approve of this…

June 17: Speaking of weeeiiiird, Shawn posts a picture with his parents and notes that they “made” him – both “figuratively” and “literally.” And I don’t know about you, but Shawn’s unsolicited crash course on human reproduction really makes my day – figuratively, and literally.  

Made Shawn 2013

Well folks, that’s the end of this leg of our journey through Shawn’s amazing Facebook page.  As a parting gift, I leave you with this picture of Shawn getting SILLAAAYY on the dance floor while other men judge him in the background.  So nice of the DJ to finally play MMMBop just for Shawn…

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A Journey Through Shawn Kuykendall’s Awesomely Random Facebook Page: Part 2

This is Part Two of a four-part series on Shawn Kuykendall’s epically peculiar Facebook page.  In case you missed it, Part One featured a classic Christmas video, a larger-than-life pimple, and a late night run-in with Norman the Zebra.  With that in mind, it’s hard to believe things could get any more spectacular.  Oh but they do…

2010:

On March 27, after a two year Facebook hiatus, Shawn announces that he is “BAAAACK” and “better than ever.” And indeed he is.  But what truly makes 2010 such a special year is that Shawn linked his Twitter and Facebook accounts, opening up a floodgate of profound must-reads.  Like these:

Soooo I burned my mouth on hot cookies haha” or

“Golf at Oak Marr.  By myself haha again” or

“Aaaaand someone farted during prayer at the morning devotional.”

Note: can’t you just feel yourself becoming more intelligent?  

2010 is also when Shawn regularly begins using several variations of the word “donk,” which I confess is a new one on me.  The context in which Shawn uses this word leads me to believe it’s an abridged version of “donkey,” used to mock someone as both a noun (“haha you’re such a donk ”) as well as an adjective (“those cargo shorts are “ri-DONK-ulous”).  Which could explain this:  

"DOOOOOOONK!  It was so cold.  I had to!

“DOOOOONK! It was so cold. I had to!”

Botch” becomes another regularly employed Shawn-ism, especially when spelled with about seven extra “O’s” and used in the following context: Mess up of night by me…  I said, “down to your nutties” and “down to your uhohs!” BOOOOOOOOOTCH haha”  

Oh, and speaking of things botched, here are a few statements I’m sure Shawn would like to take back:

– August 14: “Redskins…Super Bowl.  There I said it.” (Finished dead last in the NFC East…). 

– September 14: “I could not be happier about having Donovan McNabb as our quarterback.”  (Replaced by backup Rex Grossman four months later…). 

– November 30: “The Miami Heat will NEVER win a championship.” (NBA Champions 2012, 2013).  

And since we’re talking sports, lets discuss the 2010 World Cup, during which Shawn’s 24/7, non-stop commentary created a flood of soccer analysis that nearly drowned my Newsfeed.  Think: “Wow Netherlands, WOOOOOOOOOWWW,” then “Come on Netherland,” then “Holland is not sharp right now,” then “Dumb foul by van bommel,” then “Violent tackle from de jong”…  all in the course of, like, fifteen minutes. 

Other highlights from this great year:

May:  Shawn portrays a main character in “For The Glory” – a movie about how Kurt Kuykendall found Jesus and became really good at – shocker here – the sport of soccer.   Shawn insists his dad is a living legend, but does so by merely referring him as a “ledge.”  To recap: Kurt Kuykendall = “ledge” = living legend.  Got it?  

May also marks the launch of Shawn’s “Hot Body Campaign,” inspired by the realization that he is both “fat” and “soft.” And while normal humans would characterize this as “getting in shape,” Shawn insists it’s all about “getting his body RIIIIIIIIIIIGHT.”  Right.

June:  Shawn gets stranded on the side of the road with a “double flat tire” and praises God for it “in all seriousness.”  Funny how Shawn sees God’s wisdom in something as crappy and bizarre as a car breakdown.  In the future, Shawn will face circumstances that are infinitely more crappy and bizarre, and his response will be no different.  In all seriousness.      

July:  Shawn publicly eats Captain Crunch cereal and collects silly bands because, you see, he’s actually seven years old.  

"Seriously, if you wear silly bands you are nuuuuubs”

“Seriously, if you wear silly bands you are nuuuuubs”

August: Shawn has the most highly documented ACL surgery in the history of mankind.  And I’m not joking:

That's the knee...

That’s the knee…                                           

Same knee...

And here it is again.

And here it is again...

Same knee…

 

 

 

 

 

 

October 2: Shawn announces that he is “In a relationship” with a girl that he clearly met that night. Here’s her classic take: “hahaa you’re a creep. I never accepted you as being in a relationship…and I just met youYou’re ridiculous.” 

Shawn’s response? “Were in a fight…our first fight.”   

It’s for the best that things didn’t work out, because if Shawn had a lady friend by his side then the following “Selfie of the Year” may very well never have been taken.  Props for an amazing caption: 

“The Owls of Ga’Hoole 3D IMAX! By myself!  Siiiick!”

“Owls of Ga’Hoole 3D IMAX! By myself! Siiiick!” 

Fashion Statement of the Year: “men can wear cardigans.”  Hooray!  Wait.  What about everything else Mr. Rodgers wore?  Any restrictions?  HELP!!!!

And then there’s this:   

Yep, what you just watched was Shawn (and sister Sami) dancing, leaping, and crypt walking around a miniature Christmas tree, with cameo appearances from a fake swordfish and just about every power tool in the Kuykendall shed – all to the tune of Mariah Carey’s “All I Want For Christmas Is You.”  It’s literally all I want for Christmas. 

2011:

This year ushers in a tidal wave of profound status updates.  Brace for the brilliance:

– “My butt just went numb from sitting on the floor next to the wall charger so my iSilly could charge…” and

– “At an orientation for new staff… This guy across me has a money coffee stain on his collar…. Yiiiiikes” and

– “Ryan Reynolds is a boat of dreams;” and

– “Thursday? yup… looks like a great night for a bath.”

2011 also marks the year Shawn becomes the king of “liking” his own comments, links, pictures and statuses.  There were times when Shawn was the only one.  He was never deterred…

Highlights from the year that was:

January:  Shawn gets stuck in an epic traffic jam (oft referred to in the DC area as the “Traffic-pocalypse”) and posts a video of himself singing “Hakuna Matata.”  What a wonderful phrase!  

May:  Shawn’s team makes it to the finals of the American University staff volleyball tournament.  Says Shawn: “we live for opportunities like this.”  And indeed we do. 

Shawn also launches a soccer training camp called the Kuykendall Academy.  My guess is that this is just an excuse to play soccer 100% of the time he is not otherwise sleeping, eating Popeye’s, or attending weddings.   

July: Shawn finally figures out why he’s “fat.” His explanation was lengthy, but the culprit was, of all things, his “extra volume” shampoo.  Oh Shawn…

July was also the height of his recreational soccer league.  Having played against his Kuykendall-heavy team on numerous occasions, our strategy was always to “keep the ball away from Shawn.”  And if that failed he was to be tripped.  And if that failed we were to make fun of his mom.  It was cutthroat…

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August 1: Posting from his vehicle, Shawn is not at all surprised that the incompetent driver in front of him is a female.  According to Shawn, this entire interaction is dictated by “science.” 

October: Shawn publishes the “Selfie of the Year.” And I ask: what could be better than a picture of Shawn driving eastbound on Route 66 while wearing an oversized Count von Count costume?

Nothing.  Absolutely nothing.

Nothing. Absolutely nothing.

November:  Shawn has yet another surgery on his “#kuykenknee.”  The bad news?  Shawn’s mom drove him to the hospital while “slamming” some McDonald’s with full knowledge of the fact that Shawn couldn’t eat.  The good news?  The procedure was followed by some “siiiiiiiick” chicken from Popeyes.  So all is well…

Fashion Statement of the Year: “Girls with Jorts are not money.”  In case you’re confused, this is Shawn’s unique way of conveying his aversion to the way jean shorts look when worn by women.  Honorable mention: “no one looks sexy eating wings.” Of course… 

And speaking of fashion statements, here we go with a deluxe new profile pic:  

Best comment: "no homo you look like a model!"

Shawn looking “SILLAAAYY” with his “iSilly”

And that about wraps up the epic years that were 2010 and 2011.  But worry not, because the next segment of this series contains still more hilarious songs, selfies, and statuses – all of which are nothing short of ri-DONK-ulous. 

Here’s Why Alec Baldwin and I Owe Our Lives to a Flimsy Piece of Rope

This Thanksgiving, I’m thankful for a non-descript piece of rope that dangled off the back of the Mayflower in 1620, without which I would not exist.   Curious?  Hang on. 

In September of 1620, a 21-year-old Englishman stepped aboard the Mayflower without the slightest clue of what was in store.  His name was John Howland.  The “New World” toward which he was headed represented a new beginning, but it also presented some serious dangers.  Indeed, circulating the ship was speculation of starvation, disease, and savagery.  As it turns out, these fears were well founded.

Howland was an indentured servant, which, if my recollection of American history serves me correctly, meant he was in some serious debt.  His conditions were far better than those of a slave, but it’s worth noting that when John Howland came to America, he was not a free man.   

After months of logistical and financial shenanigans, the Mayflower set sail on September 6, 1620.  Unsurprisingly, the journey SUCKED.  Strong winds and severe storms kept all 102 passengers off the main deck and tightly cramped into the decks below for weeks at a time.  Food and supplies were scarce, turbulent waves rocked the ship night and day, disease spread, and it smelled freaking awful.   Not exactly your average cruise through the Bahamas…

With all this in mind, Howland needed a breath of fresh air.  Against orders, he climbed up the ladder to the main deck.  Immediately drenched, Howland took in a few deep breaths of glorious fresh air while waves crashed around him. 

And then, out of nowhere, a gust of wind blew him overboard. 

As Howland hit the Atlantic Ocean, he was a dead man.  See, ships like the Mayflower don’t just turn around like some Kawasaki Jet Ski – especially in a storm.  It was cold, and the waves likely made it impossible to see.  All bad news.

But then, a frantic Howland finds of a piece of rope dragging behind the ship, and desperately grabs it with all the strength he can muster.  This rope is technically called a “Topsail Halyard,” which sounds very fancy.  Anyway, the Mayflower was moving so fast and pulled him so hard that the rope dragged him nearly 10 feet underwater.  He was quite literally hanging on for his life!   

Moments later, members of the crew found Howland in the water and pulled him aboard.   He was sick for weeks thereafter – a small price to pay for cheating death.  The sequence of events that transpired minutes before was nothing short of a miracle.   

Image

“Pilgrim Overboard” by Dr. Mike Haywood. The pilgrim-looking dude at the bottom would be John Howland…

In November of 1620, the Mayflower landed in Massachusetts, which is hundreds of miles north of the intended destination: Virginia.  Uhh… oops. 

It didn’t get any easier when the passengers found shore.  Howland was part of a small group that first disembarked the ship and looked for a settlement site.  Unfortunately, the Northeast weather was far colder than anyone expected.  Faced with below-freezing temperatures, inadequate clothing, and wet shoes, several members of this group died within hours of hitting land.  Half of the 102 passengers died that winter. 

That spring, John Howland’s master died of a stroke.  This made him a free man. 

What he did with that freedom makes his story worth telling.  A few years later, John married a much younger woman named Elizabeth Tilley.  He earned his living selling furs, and served his community in the militia and in local politics.  By all accounts, he was a passionate follower of Jesus Christ – which is the precise reason his master and fellow passengers came to America in the first place. 

John and Elizabeth lived in a house that stands to this day.  In fact, my dad took me there when I was in high school and I recall thinking the whole thing was “lame.”  But in retrospect, it was actually amazing.  The house sits at 33 Sandwich Street, Plymouth, Massachusetts.  Google it! 

Image

John and Elizabeth Howland had 10 children, which went on to give them 88 grandchildren.  88 GRANDKIDS!  Consequently, millions of Americans can trace their lineage back to John Howland.  Here’s a few notable descendents:  President Franklin Delano Roosevelt, the entire Bush family, Henry Longfellow, Ralph Waldo Emerson, Brigham Young, Chevy Chase, and yes, Alec Baldwin. 

Every last one of us descendants can rightly declare “our faithers were Englishmen which came over this great ocean, and were ready to perish in this willdernes; but they cried unto ye Lord, and he heard their voyce, and looked on their adversitie. Let them therfore praise ye Lord, because he is good, & his mercies endure for ever”. – William Bradford

God had a vision for John Howland, and his story perfectly captures what makes this country so great.  

Of course, none of it would have been possible without a flimsy piece of rope that just so happened to be hanging off the back of the Mayflower at the precise moment when he plunged into the Atlantic Ocean.   

Heck, even Alec Baldwin has to be impressed by that… 

Happy Thanksgiving. 

“In a mighty storm, a lusty young man (called John Howland) coming upon some occasion above the gratings, was, with a seele of the ship thrown into the sea; but it pleased God that he caught hold of the topsail halyards, which hung overboard, and ran out at length; yet he held his hold (though he was sundry fathoms under water) till he was hauled up by the same rope to the brim of the water, and then with a boat hook and other means got into the ship again, and his life saved; and though he was something ill with it, yet he lived many years after, and became a profitable member both in church and commonwealth.”  – Firsthand account by fellow passenger William Bradford 

Part Two: Beer and a Box of Pregnancy Tests

This is the second installment of a two-part story on how my wife and I lost our first baby, and fought like crazy to have another one.  Read “Part One” of the story here.  

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So there I was, beer in hand.  And there she was, pregnancy test in hand – apparently it was positive. 

We were definitely skeptical.  Even though all three pregnancy tests showed up the exact same way, Jackie and I figured there may have been something wrong with the box.  So, we marched back to the same store, grabbed more of the same pregnancy tests, and paid the exact same cashier.  Umm…awkward!   

It took about five tests to finally convince us that Jackie was pregnant.  I was a giddy school-girl.  But I was also very cautious.  “Oh please God let us keep this one!” was our constant prayer, and we took it seriously.  Please, please, please let us keep this one. 

Meanwhile, we were determined to keep the pregnancy our little secret.  We agreed: absolutely NOBODY can know about this until the second trimester!  Nobody… except some of our close friends.  And some family members.  Aaaaand some people from our church.  When you continually find yourself saying “but you can’t tell anyone…” you know your secret is doomed.  Well, ours was doomed. 

Of course, there are ways of telling people the news without *actually* telling them.  I mean, you can only order so many lemonades at an open bar wedding before people (like my dad) become suspicious.  And as a general rule, if you are a woman near 30 and refuse alcohol in any social setting for any reason, the pregnancy flags start flying.  It’s science. 

Either way, pretty much everyone knew about the pregnancy within two weeks.  Secrecy fail.

From the beginning, I enjoyed following the progress of our baby.  Indeed, I had a “pregnancy calendar” set to Jackie’s due date that I checked daily.  And while I still have no idea what a baby’s “crown to rump length” means, I was sure excited that it was getting bigger.  Our little tadpole was growing up!

I was particularly excited about Jackie’s first sonogram.  I couldn’t be there in person, but I got one heck of a phone call: “there’s two of them!” 

Two tadpoles.

Random side-note:  I see lots of “LOLs”, but am often suspicious that no one on the other end is laughing out loud.  For this reason, I hereby propose we add “ALOL” – or, “actually laughing out loud” to our online vernacular.  And I’m about to be the first person to ever use it in a sentence…

So, I get the news, and all I could do was ALOL.  Twins?  Really? 

Throughout the pregnancy, Jackie was a trooper.  Since she was carrying twins, she was deemed “high risk,” which meant constant doctor appointments, endless contractions, daily monitoring sessions, and bed rest.  I’m no expert on pregnancies, but I have seen the movie “Juno” and thus feel minimally qualified in saying that this was not a normal one by any stretch of the imagination.

That said, Jackie did go through many of the same experiences other pregnant women go through.  For instance, one day I got a frantic phone call from what I thought was a heroin addict.  Turns out it was my wife.  She needed a cheeseburger from Five Guys and she needed it RIGHT NOW!!!

The months flew by for me.  Working full time and going to school at night will do that.  I went to as many doctor visits as I could, and was amazed by how many other fathers went to them as well.  Like most men, seeing them move around for the first time was the coolest experience of them all.  Our little girl, “Baby B,” was already throwing punches.  And our little man, “Baby A,” was already taking them.  It’s been 13 months, and I can tell you nothing has changed.

When we had free time, we watched the TV show “Lost.”  All 121 episodes.  That show was awesome, and Jimmy’s name came close to being “Sawyer.” **

**Actually that’s not true at all.  I totally just made that up.

Speaking of Lost, there I was one morning studying for my upcoming Evidence Law final… totally lost.  Jackie’s due date was over a month away, and I get a call: “it’s happening this afternoon.”  The first thing that popped into my head was that their birthday would be on Cinco de Mayo… LUCKY!  In the meantime, I was told to “keep studying” (a downright laughable order).  I had to do something productive, so I moved the lawn instead.  I also cleaned up a little bit around the house and re-arranged some of our furniture.  I was basically nesting. 

The C-section itself was rather anti-climactic.  I mean, this is supposed to be one of my life’s most beautiful moments and here I am staring into a strange, creepy operating room.  I went in with camera in hand and sat down.  Minutes later, both babies were born.  It was so bizarre.  And instead of saying something meaningful, I just asked questions like “is all that blood normal?” Useless.  Oh, and Jackie was totally high from her epidural.  So to recap, we have a useless dad and a stoned mom.  Great start. 

Picture 9 nurses and 1 doctor all scrambling to care for our babies, and me sitting there wondering what I’m gonna post on Facebook.  That was our delivery room. 

I knew one thing: those babies were tiny.  4 pounds, something ounces.  Out of nowhere, a nurse handed baby Jimmy to me.  As happy as I was to finally meet him, I desperately wanted the nurse to take him back before I dropped him.  Indeed, holding a newborn baby is far more responsibility than a man like myself should bear.  Heck I shouldn’t even be allowed to hold a cell phone!     

And then nurse placed Riley in my other hand.  I’m pretty sure I blacked out for the next 30 seconds… 

Anyway.  Those babies spent a while in the “NICU” (where newborn babies go for intensive care).  Neither of them were breathing well, and Jimmy wasn’t eating.  Seeing my daughter in an incubator and my son with a feeding tube in his mouth was hard – my first experience as a helpless parent.  That was the moment when it *truly* hit: I was a father.  Holy cow.    

Somewhere in there, my sister flew in town and I took my evidence final.  For all I know I could have killed a man, too.  It’s all a blur… 

Eight days later, Jimmy and Riley were healthy enough to come home.  Finally, the page of our lives that was marked by the loss of our first baby had been turned.  What a mountain we climbed. 

Without a doubt, adjusting to lack of sleep, crying babies and diaper disasters has been challenging.  But know this: we count our blessings daily.  We know what a miracle it is just to bring a child into this world, and our hearts melt for those who are trying desperately to experience that miracle as well.     

God doesn’t promise everybody that they will get to have a child of their own, but He does promise us life through Jesus Christ – the child He lost.  God was graceful to give us both.  This is His awesome story of trial and triumph. 

It’s one that ends with Jackie and me holding two healthy, beautiful babies… and one that, oddly enough, began with me holding a case of beer and a box of pregnancy tests.  

His awesome story indeed. 

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