Zac, my one and a half year old son and myself were busy getting our new home in shape for the arrival of Spenser Tyrone Job. We had just moved into our house a couple of days before. We still needed railings on the stairs, tile in the front entrance, and a lot of boxes unpacked.

Spenser Tyrone Job arrives!

Val gave birth to Spenser on March 27, 1987. As much as your children change your lives from their birth onwards, I never expected the changes that laid ahead for Val and myself. Spenser was one of those kids that could eat a great meal (bottle) and then throw up half of it on you when you weren’t looking. I remember one time heading into town with Zac and Spenser (three months old) and watching two boys holding hands and just talking to each other. To me it looked like they were planning their first 2-on-2 basketball team. I imagined my two sons doing that one day. Four and a half months went by very quietly. It was now mid August. Val just left with Spenser to help cook at Camp Tulahead. For one week Zac and I were on our own. I didn’t realize then that in six days my life would take a change in a direction that would affect me for the rest of my life.

I didn’t know that you could feel so much physical pain from an emotional loss.

I remember Sunday morning looking out of our upstairs living room window and seeing the neighborhood kids and their parents playing by the swings at the park down the street. They were laughing and having fun. A car drove up to the mailbox across the street, the lady picked up her mail and left, just like many others did. People walked on the sidewalk, cars drove up and down our street. Everyone’s life was moving at its normal pace. No one seemed to care that my world had come to a complete stop, that even though I may have looked normal on the outside I was in so much pain on the inside that I felt as if there was a hole blasted through my chest — only it wasn’t a clean hole. The edges of the hole felt as though they were torn all around and the entire way through. I didn’t know that you could feel so much physical pain from an emotional loss.

Spenser Tyrone Job is now with Jesus

The day before, Saturday, August 22, 1987, Spenser died. I was young and didn’t expect life to throw me a curve like that. We were camping at the group campsite at Allouette Provincal Park with our young couples’ group from church. Val met Zac and me there on the second day of the weekend as she came straight from Camp Tulahead. Spenser had a minor cold that week and was a bit crabby, probably from the long drive.

I remember putting Spenser to bed on his stomach, in the tent, on top of one of our sleeping bags. Twenty minutes later I went back to check on him. He was in a different position, very quiet and face down into the sleeping bag. As I rotated his head to help him breathe better while sleeping, I saw blue colouring around his mouth and under his nose. As I shook him to wake him, major panic struck my body. He wasn’t waking up.

The next thing I can remember was running out of the tent carrying a limp Spenser yelling, “He’s dead.” From then on until the ambulance came is a fog to me. All I remember is that a friend of mine did CPR on Spenser until the paramedics took over.

The next few hours were very draining on Val and myself. We spent those long hours praying, not even knowing what to pray for (to live or to die as Spenser had been without oxygen for quite some time), and we spent time crying. As I think back, I don’t even remember where Zac was, except that he was with one of our friends.

What now, God?

Zac was two years old then. Even though we tried to tell him his brother was now with Jesus in heaven I don’t really think it made real sense to him. That next day I saw Zac sitting on the property peg in the back corner of our lot, so I went out to see what he was doing. He told me that he was making a phone call to God to see how Spenser was doing. It wasn’t till a month later that Zac would cry wondering when Spenser would come back.

That next day on Sunday, August 23, I remember a lot of people coming and going and I remember, as I said already, looking out of our living room window. The rest of the things I remember happened on the inside. Have you ever wondered what to think? What to feel? What was happening? Life did not prepare me for the death of my son. The emotions that I had were all mixed up and included the normal emotions of loss, and heartache but with an added sense of non-reality. At times I expected Spenser to start crying for food, the next minute I was trying to make a deal with God to trade places with Spenser.

Was it my fault?

I had feelings of guilt for what had happened. I really didn’t want to deal with Spenser on Saturday because he was grumpy and crying. What kind of Dad would not want to spend time with his son after not seeing him for the past week? For the longest time I felt I killed my own son — that I put him on sleeping material that was too soft that he could suffocate on. Even after the autopsy came back, death by Sudden Infant Death Syndrome, I questioned for a long time and still to this day wonder if I wasn’t so disinterested in dealing with a crying child, would I have paid attention more to how I put him to bed. Would Spenser be alive today? Did I kill my own son?

When I would look at someone’s baby, I wouldn’t look to see it smile. I would look at the chest or back to see if he or she was breathing.

Isolation began to set in quickly. None of my friends could relate to what Val and I were going through. Our thinking changed. Many things became trivial. Our reason for having another child, as hard as it seemed to us at the time, was to have more than one just in case another one dies. When I would look at someone’s baby, I wouldn’t look to see it smile. I would look at the chest or back to see if he or she was breathing. Some of my friends didn’t know what to say to me, so they didn’t say anything. Two years later one of my friends came up to me in tears, finally able to talk to me normally as we did before.

Over the next few months and years, although less frequent with time, emotions which I never had before, were uncontrollable at the most inconvenient of times. I was told that time heals. Well, I discovered that in time you also forget. It was good that in time I forgot the pain of Spenser’s death, but it was forgetting his voice, his touch and his character — I would feel guilty that I was forgetting my own son. I felt ripped off that my friends got to have all their kids grow up with them and what memories I had were fading. To this day I only have a few real strong memories of Spenser and find myself guarding them.

“I Will Never Leave You”

Hebrews 4:12 tells us that God is always with us; he will not leave us. I learned this as a young boy. I started to grasp for something that was constant in my life, something that would not change, someone that was there yesterday and would be there tomorrow — God. God became a stronghold in my life. On that Sunday morning of August 23, 1987, as I looked out the window of my living room at the normality of life in the presence of my chaos, I remember feeling glad that someday I will see my son again. I also felt sad that some of the people in the park across the street playing with their kids more than likely do not have that same assurance of salvation that will make reunion in heaven possible.

During this time my relationship with Val became a more important part of my life. We heard that childhood deaths cause many marriages to break up. I could not understand how that could be, as I wanted Val close to me more than ever. We went through our grieving together. We needed each other.

Jesus Gave His Life for Us

One thing I have come to understand a little better through my time of grief and years of contemplating the short life and death of Spenser, is that I would not want to give one of my children’s lives up for others — to the point of death so that others could live. God did just that. In John 3:16, we recognize that God the Father gave us his only Son Jesus to die on the cross. But do we realize what God the Father must have gone through seeing his son hang on the cross? If I had the power to save my son, I would have. God had the power to save his son and yet he chose not to. God loves me so much that he chose to allow his son to die for me.

I know in my own heart that God had a purpose for Spenser’s life. I trust that one day, when I meet Jesus face to face, I will know and understand completely God’s plan for his life.

Tags: SIDS grief
Photo Credit: Carl Nenzén Lovén