Friday, March 27, 2009

A Hamster Named Emily

Jackie always wanted a hamster for a pet. After her diagnosis and prognosis by the neurosurgeon we decided to get Jackie a hamster. Why not? Jackie, Jessica and I went down to the local pet store to pick out a hamster. Jackie looked intently at each hamster available, holding them and examining each one to the nth degree. She picked out a little brown and white dwarf hamster and named it Emily. We brought Emily home and that little hamster became Jackie’s constant companion. She took Emily with her everywhere she went – even to her doctor appointments and radiation treatments. Jackie had a little game she would play. She would bring me and Carrie into the living room and then let Emily go and she’ run around the room and I’d chase her. She’d usually go under the couch and Carrie and I would move the couch to catch Emily. Jackie would just giggle and laugh. She got such a kick out of watching her mom and dad frantically chasing after the hamster.

One day Jackie, Emily and I were driving in my car on a sunny spring day. Jackie turned to me while I was driving and said, “Daddy, will I see Jesus the moment I get to heaven?” I said, “Yes you will, you’ll see Jesus right way.” Then she asked, “Daddy, can I take Emily with me when I go to heaven.” I thought for a moment and then said, “Yeah, I think we can arrange that!” Then I looked at Jackie and asked, “Sweetie, you don’t really think you’re going to die do you?” She looked me square in the eye and with a smile on her face said, “Silly Daddy, we’re all going to die someday.”

Out of the mouths of babes …

I believe God gave Jackie a keen awareness of her ultimate home in heaven. Jackie was not afraid to die and even had a sense that she was going to die soon. Her focus was on seeing Jesus and having her hamster with her when she did. I will never forget that conversation and that moment.


Tuesday, March 24, 2009

Recording my Heart for Jackie

At the time I was pastoring a fast growing church in Palmdale that my wife and I had started seven years earlier. I also had a radio show called, “Practical Living” that aired M-F on the local Christian radio station (KAVC). About a week before Jackie’s birth, a DJ from the radio station named Jim DeVore called me and asked if I would come down to the station and record my initial feelings about my daughter’s birth. I went down to the studio a couple days after her birth and just shared my heart. Jim set some background music to it but I never got to hear how it turned out. I didn’t do a recording like this for the other two kids. Jackie never got to hear the heartfelt words I recorded that day. I just recently listened to it and transcribed it here. Somehow I think she knows ….

Hi this is Dave Page. Jacqueline, I would be your father. I’m in the recording studio right now and its December 23rd, three days after you were born on December 20th. Your mother Carrie and I have been looking forward to this for the last couple of years. We were planning for another baby and we were so excited to see you come out of your mother’s stomach and to see such a beautiful baby. You have beautiful brunette hair that barely covers your whole head. You have five fingers on each hand, five toes on each foot, beautiful eyes, a beautiful mouth, and a beautiful nose. I know you are going to be a beautiful young lady and a beautiful woman someday.

I just want to tell you on this day, December 23, 1994, just how proud I am of you and how much I love you. If anything ever happened to me just know that you are the apple of your daddy’s eye. I love you more than I love myself. I just thank God for you. You are definitely a blessing from God. You are a gift from God. You were born during the Christmas season and we know that Jesus is the reason for the season. God gave his greatest gift in the person of Jesus Christ to pay for our sins so that we would have new life in him. I’ll never forget that you were born just five days before Christmas. This will most likely be the happiest Christmas your mom and I have ever had. The main reason for that is because you were born. I just hope you get to listen to this someday. I hope to give it to you someday so that you will understand how excited I am that God brought you into this world and how much you matter to God and to your daddy and mommy.

I’ll let you know that one day after you were born (December 21st) your big brother Joshua (5 years old) came to see you and hold you. He was very excited and that’s interesting because when Jessica was born just a few years ago Joshua refused to even have his picture taken with her. But he held you and was so proud of you. He was a proud big brother … so was Grandma and Grandpa Page … so was Grandma and Grandpa Finch and all the others who came to see you. I just want to let you know that Jessica loves you too; she’s your older sister. She also held you right beside her mom. We gave Jessica a baby doll when you were born and she named it Jackie. She even has a little stroller for it.

Jacqueline, I just wanted to let you know that your daddy loves you! You are so loved and I just pray that you would follow God all the days of your life and that you would walk with him and become a woman after his own heart. That your beauty would not only be on the outside (which it surely is) but that your beauty would inward as well – a woman who fears God, a woman who is to be praised because she fears God. I pray that you would be a great woman for God … that you would follow him and live your life for him. And I pray that you have a happy life not devoid from suffering, for we all suffer as you will find out. May you live in the fullness of God and through that may you come to know God’s abundant joy and experience the life that God has intended for you. I love you Jacqueline. I love you from the bottom of my heart and I’m so excited this day, just three days after your birth. Thank you Jesus!

It's a Girl!

My wife Carrie was scheduled for a C-section at 6:00 a.m. on December 20, 1994 so we decided to get a cheap hotel near the hospital as we lived an hour away. We didn’t sleep very well that night as we anticipated the birth of our new baby. After already having a boy (Joshua) and a girl (Jessica) we didn’t really care what the gender of new baby was going to be so and unlike the other two kids we didn’t know if it would be a boy or girl. It would be a surprise! We just prayed that the baby would be healthy.

As we arrived at the hospital it donned on both of us that we hadn’t decided on a name for our new baby. Carrie always wanted a girl named Jessica and I got to name our first born son Joshua. I think you have a week or so after the baby is born to come up with a name but the idea of our baby being born without a name was unthinkable to Carrie. If it was a girl I suggested Jacqueline spelled with a Q and Carrie really liked the name. We started a J thing with Joshua, Jessica and now possibly Jacqueline. We had a good friend in our church named Jacqueline and we both really liked the name. Carrie came up the middle name …. Jacqueline Brooke. The rest is history. She was born Jacqueline Brooke Page on December 20, 1994 at Kaiser Permanente Hospital in Woodland Hills. She was 20 inches long and weighed 8 pounds and 6 ounces. What a beautiful baby girl!

Monday, March 23, 2009

Jessica's Essay Regarding Jackie/Death

Photo: Jessica is 4 in the red dress; Jackie is 1.

Some critics believe John Steinbeck's The Red Pony represents one of his best works. It is through the red pony that Jody, the main character, receives as a gift from his father that he learns about death.

My daughter Jessica was asked to do a critical analysis on the book when she was in 8th grade. Her analysis was published in the Steinbeck Review (Vol. 3, No.2) from San Jose State University. The article was sent in by her teacher who wrote these words:

On the last day we worked on this book in class, doing peer reviews of our essay rough-drafts, one of my brightest (and most sarcastic) students shared with me that she didn’t care for the book at all. She looks over her four pages of writing, frustrated, and confesses she’s not sure she really wants to do this essay. “How come?” I ask.
“Well, it isn’t the writing. The writing is very good.” “So, is it the subject?” She pauses, “Yeah.” “So, has your life been touched by death?” I ask sympathetically. “Yeah.” “More than the death of a pet, or a grandparent?” “Yeah.” “Who?” Her eyes begin to tear up, her chin quivers. “My sister.” I take a long pause to process her words. “Was she younger or older?” “Younger,” many tears now. “She was five; I was eight.” “Would you like to take a break outside with me for a few moments?” “No.” “My life has been touched by death as well,” I say. “Similar deaths, two brothers – and my daughter.” She stares at me. She knows I am telling the truth. “Each of my two younger brothers died of cancer.” “My sister did too,” she says, “of cancer.” “Are you able to talk about it with anyone?” “A little bit with friends and family. But not much. Not anymore.” I say, “That’s what I like about Steinbeck the most, I think. There’s a place in his writing – in life, for death. Death and loss are a part of life. We have to acknowledge it – even when it’s not fair.” She stares at me for a long moment, a couple of tears running down her cheeks now. “I think he’s right,” she says finally. “As you write your essay,” I suggest, “talk about your sister.”

Jessica’s essay, it turns out, as I’m grading it a few days later, does not mention her sister. Instead, in her introduction, she has these words,

“Steinbeck was so great because he gave people not necessarily what they wanted, but what they needed.” And later on, “So while death is raw and makes one think they’re in a nightmare of eternal sleep, it is a part of life.” And finally, in her conclusion, “Most people don’t want to read about death, but need comfort – and knowing someone else has gone through it is comforting to some. Just keep living.” The writer is thirteen years old.

Friday, March 20, 2009

Daddy's Home!

As I pulled my car into our driveway I could hear my daughter’s scream that echoed throughout the neighborhood, “Daddy’s home! Daddy’s home!” As I looked up I saw my five year old daughter Jackie bounding down the stairs on our deck to greet me. As I opened my car door and stood up she jumped into my arms. I caught her, held her, and kissed her little head never realizing what a cherished memory this moment would become. This wasn’t a one time announcement to the neighborhood but a regular ritual that occurred nearly every day during the work week. Oh how I miss hearing those words ...


Check out this video by the Jackson 5 called "Daddy's Home."