A Grandfather’s Grief
By: Bob Jerden, grandfather to Joshua Ryan Bruenning
Our first grandson was born on Good Friday, April 21, 2000, about two months premature. We got the phone call early in the morning from our daughter, Jenny, and son-in-law, Kurt, to meet them at the hospital. Our ride was quick and quiet. Quick because we were in an obvious hurry.
And quiet because Jan and I were both silently praying that our new grandchild would overcome the difficulties predicted for him during Jenny’s pregnancy.
Joshua was born shortly after we arrived and was immediately placed in the NICU at St. John’s Mercy. For the next three hours our family, including Kurt’s parents, and our 4-year-old granddaughter, prayed together, prayed separately, walked the NICU halls, watched over Joshua, and finally, consoled each other.
They say everyone grieves in their own way. I don’t know if I can say I was stricken with overwhelming grief… perhaps because the pregnancy problems had somewhat prepared us for what happened; perhaps because I believed I should be as strong as possible for my daughter, my son-in-law, and granddaughter; or perhaps because I believed Joshua was now safe in heaven and we were to continue on.
If not overwhelming grief though, there was a tremendous sadness, a sadness that continues to the day of writing this article.
I recall how all of our family members, including our granddaughter, were able to hold Joshua for one final time. I can see the NICU walls that held pictures of smiling faces that were able to make it home. I can hear the thoughtful words of condolences from family and friends at our loss. I feel the deep sense of his absence on his birthdays, every Christmas, his first day of school, other past would-be milestones in his young life and on my trips to the cemetery. At other times, thoughts of Joshua just come to me as the loss of something very special.
But besides the sadness, there are always other elements at work when I think of Joshua.
Curiosity: when I wonder if he would be happier scoring goals as a forward or stopping them as a defender, how many books he would have read in the Read, Write, Run Marathon at school, or merely what he would look like at certain ages.
Happiness: when I hear his younger siblings, 7-year-old twin brothers and a 3-year-old sister speak fondly of the brother the never had the chance to meet.
Pride: when I see his newborn picture prominently displayed with his two sisters and two brothers on the family room wall.
Strength: to carry on, which I feel he imparted to all of us in his short time with us.
About Bob Jerden
Bob first learned of Share in the spring of 2000 after the loss of their first grandson, Joshua. He and his wife, Jan, had been fortunate to raise their two children, Jenny and Brian, without a tremendous loss like that experienced by their daughter and her husband, Kurt. As grandparents, they were unprepared on how to react or offer support for them and their daughter, Sarah. Fortunately, Jenny and Kurt heard about Share through another family and benefited greatly from Share’s support and services in the months following their loss. They have since added twin boys and another girl to their family. During that time, Bob came to appreciate that an organization such as Share did exist and was available for families like his in their time of need.
When Bob retired in the spring of 2005, he decided to volunteer some of his extra time. Share was a natural choice, partly out of appreciation, but also because he believed that Share provide a needed service to many families. Since 2005, Bob has worked one day a week for Share at jobs as varied as the office work of answering phones, mailings, filling pamphlet and book orders, computer input, to minor repairs and setting up for Share functions, to putting up the Christmas tree.
Every day while at Share, Bob is impressed at the work the staff, most of which have been affected by a personal loss, continues to do for other affected families, often at the financial and emotional sacrifice associated with working for a charitable organization. Their dedication to their work is very apparent and well appreciated by a grandparent who lost a grandchild.
Bob you and your family are such an inspiration.