Jennifer DeMeo called the office asking to speak with me. She explained that the words I spoke to her came to pass and she wanted to share her joy and her thanks to the Lord. I first met Jennifer when Bobbye and I spoke at local church’s Wednesday night study. Her story was heart wrenching and I could not even imagine how anyone could actually live through it. I had no words of comfort but continued to pray for her while she spoke. At the end of her story, the Lord clearly told me to tell her that the loss of her own children would be replaced through the joy of helping the church’s children. I knew that these words seemed insensitive to my ears but I prayed that she might accept the message as an encouragement from the Lord. Obviously, the Lord did a lot more than that. Here is Jennifer’s story in her own words:
“THE NOTES OF LIFE”
by Jennifer DeMeo
Have you ever tried to reach that note at the end of the Star Spangled banner? …”for the land of the Freeeeee…” Do you hold the note or do you hold your breath until it’s over then join in on the lower notes? The musical scale offers us a good illustration for life. My life was full of many high notes and low notes, and I would like to share just some of them with you.
It was my junior year in High School when my best friend surprised me when she stopped partying and started going to church, I decided to go with her one night. After the movie, the pastor explained that God wanted me to have a personal, one-on-one relationship with Him. I went to church with my Mom every week, but I realized that this relationship was what was missing in my life. That night I asked Jesus to come into my life and forgive me of my sins. Definitely a high note moment!
As I studied the Bible, I learned about Gods promises to believers. He promises “to never leave me or forsake me”. And He never did. He promises to be “my strength when I am weak”. And He was. In college, when my professors challenged my newfound faith with their criticism of the Bible, my faith was only strengthened by the truth God revealed to me. He promises to provide for my needs. And He has. After college, I moved back home and soon met my future husband. Another high note moment! Lee and I have been married for over 20 years. When my new father-in-law died from a stroke, we relied on God’s promise of comfort.
Little did we know that the sadness was about to be ratcheted up a notch. When we brought our long-awaited first child for a routine checkup, his pediatrician wanted us to consult a neurologist. Well, that was our first clue that something was very wrong. We trusted in God’s promises, but our faith was severely tested over the next few years as our son, Lee Jr, was submitted to many tests and sent to specialists to determine why he was not developing normally. Our move to San Diego from Philadelphia was prompted by our son’s condition for which we still did not have a name. The specialists at UCSD determined that our son had a rare disorder called, ironically, Leigh’s Syndrome, a type of mitochondrial disease. This was a worst-case scenario since children with this disorder rarely survive past the age of 5 or 6 years. Little Lee, now 4 years old, was a very happy child but was now wheelchair-bound with multiple disabilities, unable to see, walk or speak by the age of 4.
Since, by now we knew that the disorder our son had was genetically inherited, the news that I was pregnant with our second child was very scary. We had Jacob tested at birth. The test came back confirming our worst fears. Jacob carried the same disorder as his older brother. Talk about another low note moment. But, our faith was again tested one day. While I was out with my Mom and 8-month-old baby Jake, he began to fuss and refuse his bottle. I knew instinctively something was wrong. We brought him straight to his pediatrician, but by the time we were seen, the baby was going into shock and the doctors and nurses rushed him to the emergency room. Due to his underlying condition, the doctors were unable to stabilize him and Jacob died 2 days later from an enlarged heart in the Pediatric Intensive Care Unit at USCD. It was twenty years to the day from that night so many years before when I had invited Jesus Christ into my life. And God was right there with me still as he provided comfort through family and friends who brought me food and who sat with me while I mourned my baby and even cared for little Lee when I could not.
It seems a bit ironic that God would allow the lowest moment of my life on the same day as a high note moment. God was preparing me for just this kind of trial. But, all I could think about was how Jesus was carrying my baby to heaven and I how much I wanted to go with him. The grief and heartache were too much to bear. Yet, I had no time to grieve my poor baby. Within 2 months we had to hospitalize Lee Jr, and I lived in the hospital by his bedside for 4 more months hoping beyond hope to bring our son home. Church friends gathered to pray by his bedside, but little Lee Jr died and flew to Jesus to be with his baby brother Jake. After that, I just felt lost in a deep dark tunnel, but, somehow, I knew God was still holding on to me. My husband and I had a hard time communicating during this period of our lives, but our commitment to God and each other helped our marriage survive the turmoil this tragedy had created. God has been my comfort through the darkest years of my life. But, amazingly, God was always down there with me. I still have days when it feels like these events happened only yesterday. I still struggle with depression. But as I learn more about God, I have more reason for hope. I read in the Bible recently that “though it may be necessary to endure sadness for a time because of many kinds of trials, our faith is refined like gold in the furnace so that it may endure.”
Today, I am helping high school youth at my church. I never thought I could have joy again after my loss, but those kids always bring a smile to my face. Lots of high notes here! God has graciously allowed me to find new purpose in my life. I have a relationship with God that offers hope regardless of circumstance — a faith that endures. It is still hard to live with the memories of my loss, of what I had, and of what could have been, but God is constantly surprising me and challenging me to become the person He wants me to be.
Do you take it for granted when life brings you joy in the high note moments of life, do you dread having to deal with the low notes of grief and sorrow? Well, we all do. But to whom do we go, in the high notes or in the low notes? My favorite Psalm reminds me that, “My God is my refuge and my strength, whom shall I fear, though I walk through the valley of shadow of death, I will fear no evil, for you are with me.”
I cannot tell you how thankful I was to see Jennifer again. She greeted me with a smile and she shared story after story of the faithfulness of God to counsel her, lead her, speak to her and restore her.
Life circumstances are not any easier as a believer than a nonbeliever. However, we have the Lord who promises to walk us through every path and give us hope for the future.
Thank you Jennifer for making a difference in my life and for the encouragement you gave me in again confirming the faithfulness of God.