Justin Ryker Swick

Justin Ryker Swick

Friday, December 30, 2011

I Give (It) Up

I've struggled lately more with having a heavy mind than having a heavy heart. (Other than the other night of course.)  But within in the last couple days it just seems like a lot of things have been weighing on my mind.  I can feel that the Lord is gaurding my heart, but sometimes it seems as if the devil is trying to get me to feel bad by putting thoughts in my head instead. 

One night, awhile ago, I was having a really bad night!  I had posted on facebook, "I give up".  I put that as my status more for me than anything else, I think I needed to see it written down to know not only exactly what I meant by it, but to feel the words inside as well.  I have been at "that" place, (a few years ago), where I did want to just give up, give up on struggles, give up on strife, and ultimately give up on life.  I am not there, and haven't been in a long time, thank God.  So when I wrote on my status that, "I give up" what I was wanting to admit to myself and to the world is that, "I give it up," I was at a loss as to what to do, I didn't know where to go next, how to feel, or how to even deal with what I was feeling, and I knew at that moment that I needed, more than anything, that I couldn't "deal" with it on my own, my feelings were overwhelming me and I needed to give it to God, which is what I should have done when I first started letting my head control my emotions.  I can't do this on my own, any of it, that is why God has placed amazing people in my life, that he continues to surprise me with his strength, his control, and his plans.  Even in the last week he has shown me that he truly is an all powerful, knowing God, and even when I don't know what to do or where to go, He does, and He will make it happen for me, if I just 'GIVE IT UP'!

Wednesday, December 28, 2011

When It All Catches Up With You

Here I was feeling awfully proud of myself for getting through the holidays with only a few tears shed.  Christmas was great, we made it through the cemetery trip just fine, Riley sang songs to Justin and while it was still hard, we got through it...the first time with no tears.  Later that day, my mom and I went up to the cemetary again, just us, and that was a little harder.  It's easier when you are putting on a happy face for your children, but when you are the child it's not so easy. 

I was happy though that we were able to make it a joyous day none the less, and like I said I was feeling awfully proud of myself...that is until last night.  All of a sudden it was like I was punched in the stomach.  Everything I thought I had overcome, all the feelings that I thought I had dealt with came back with a vengence. It's crazy how it happens like that, when all of a sudden everything catches up with you, and a normal day takes such an odd twist for no reason, and all of a sudden you are thrown back into reality and you remember just how human you are.  And like my aunt said last night, it is such a humbling experience when you realize how childlike you really are realizing that even as an adult sometimes you just need to be held, whether it's by a family member, a friend, your husband, your mother, or even God himself who holds you up when you are feeling down. 

I am so thankful that I have family that will stay up until wee hours in the morning, just because all of a sudden I am having a hard night.  (Thank you Janie, I am sure you are cussing me right now as you are probably falling asleep at work, don't worry I'm cussing myself right now too:) ). 

Saturday, December 24, 2011

A Christmas In Heaven

Christmas is my very favorite time of the year.  I love the lights, the music, the church services, and especially the faces of my children on Christmas morning.  This year is obviously going to be a little different.  Though I should be heart broken, and in a way still am, I could not think of a better way to spend Christmas than with Jesus himself.  I could wallow in self-pity that we don't get to see Justin's face on his very first Christmas, watch him try to upwrap gifts, or play with wrapping paper and boxes, but I'm not going to.  I am talking myself out of every sorrowful emotion that crosses my heart tonight.  Instead I am focusing on the fact that Christmas on Earth, could not even compare to spending it in the arms of Jesus Christ himself. 

On Christmas morning, we usually wake up to  see what Santa brought us, have a little family Christmas, eat a yummy meal, and spend the day with family.  If things were "normal" we would have Justin here with us, so we are going to make sure we involve him.  While we are still going to do everything we generally do on Christmas morning, this Christmas will also include a trip to the cememtery, which again could be a little depressing, but instead of focusing on that we are going to make it a joyous occasion, where are whole family can be together, even if it is just for a few moments. 

Sprinkles, (our magic Elf on the Shelf), is leaving us for an entire year tonight when he rides back to the North Pole with Santa to help get things ready for next Christmas; so tonight he brought the boys parting gifts, which included a little stepping stone maker where you make and design your own stepping stone.  He brought them this specifically so that they could take something to Justin on Christmas morning that could stay with him forever. 

I love that there are things we can do to encourage joyful feelings instead of heart break on days that are meant to be joyous, such as Christmas.  Again, what a beautiful sight it would be to celebrate Jesus' birthday with him!!! So, with that, Happy Birthday Jesus, and Merry Christmas Justin!!! I hope Christmas in Heaven is the most miraculous thing ever!!!

Wishing you all a VERY Merry Christmas!!!! From---The Swicks!!

Friday, December 23, 2011

Wow, what a year!

Four months ago, Ryan, the boys, and I decided to stay at my parents house for awhile so that we didn't have to start a "new" routine without Justin.  I remember sitting in my old room talking to my aunt on the phone about different things that had happen since Justin passed; what Riley had been telling us that week, different things people had done, and just all the craziness that week brought on.  As I was talking to her she had asked me if I had written everything down.  I told her I had written about what Riley said about the angels on facebook, calling it Justin's Angels, and if she meant I should write down everything so that when I have bad days I could go back and look through it?  She told me, "well that too, but you need to be writing all this stuff down, because I tell you what you have enough for a book!"  I thought about it over the next few days as I was trying to figure out how to tell people what had happened since I had posted Justin's Angels.  I decided that there was no way I could ever write a book, but I could write a short story and post it on facebook letting everyone know the events that had taken place.  After I posted Justin's Jesus on facebook, it seemed like every day there just seemed to be something else I wanted to put in it.  After posting it three times on facebook, it had gotten too long to post it anymore, so I told people I was done with it and if they wanted to read it I would send it to them.  Little did I know, I was NOT, by any means 'done with it'. 
The day I got the packet from the Iowa SIDS Foundation, (after I settled down and looked through the viable information provided) I had stumbled across a list of resources for bereaved parents, a list of books, dvd's, cd, etc and then it had something stated about publication companies and how to share your story....and now 4 months later Justin's Jesus is completed and in the publishing process.  I'm not even sure what to say....Wow, what a year!!!!

Publication Update
I wanted to let you all know that I submitted Justin's Jesus to Westbow Press earlier this week.  I have heard back from them the past couple of days and right now Justin's Jesus is in the content review stage of publishing, where they go through and make sure that I did not infringe on any copyright laws.  We are also in the process of designing the cover!!!! Very exciting!!!! I asked the lady yesterday what the estimated release date would be and she said 6-8 weeks!!!!!! SOOO, Justin's Jesus should available through Barnes & Noble, Borders, most christian book stores, Amazon.com, as well as the Westbow press website, by March 2012!!!! Thank you again for all of your support through all of this.

Thursday, December 15, 2011

Sweet is the voice of a sister in the season of sorrow. ~Benjamin Disraeli

When we were younger my little sister and I bickered all the time!!!! I remember my parents telling us that one day it wouldn't be like that, that one day we would actually get along....and may even become friends.  I did not believe that at the time.  After all, she did steal my spot of being the "baby" of the family, which I was quite comfortable in for 7 years.  Well, low and behold, parents do know somethings!  ;)  Now that we are older my little sister is one of my best friends.  Don't get me wrong, we are still sisters, which in turn means, we are are not going to agree with each other's decisions all the time, but the nice thing about being sisters is that we are not afraid to tell each other when we disagree with some of the choices we make.  I love that about having sisters, the honesty, the compassion, the protection, and the fearlessness of knowing that we will always be there for one another.  Not just when times get hard, or when times are great, but always.  I talk to my little sister daily, see her almost every month, even though money is tight and time is scarce she is always there, not only for me, but for my children as well.  She was present during the birth of each of my children, even though with Riley and Jake it was over a 5 hour drive, and with Justin it was still 3. (Jack was there too, claiming that Justin was waiting until his 'Godfather' got there to make an appearance).  It wasn't so much her support during that time, that means the most to me, but when Justin was transferred to Des Moines, it was Jill who stayed with me those 11 long, long days, and even longer nights.  She sat with me, she cried with me, laughed with me, and helped ease my mind on the the trying days.  And even though I am sure I was unbearable at times with being frustrated, scared, confused, and overly tired, she never once complained, even though she had every right to do so.  She also left as soon as she heard about Justin's passing, once again, staying after everyone had left and helped me adjust to a different life without Justin in it.  It was not so much the days right after Justin passed away that were the most difficult, don't get me wrong they were awful, they are days that I never ever want to relive again, but with all the hustle and bustle of getting things done, and all the people that surround you, (once again I am so thankful for all you), and just being in utter shock, those days seem like a blur to me.  It was the days after everything seemed to settle down and it was time to pretty much relearn "life", that were really hard.  I am not sure I would have gotten through it without her by my side.  Not only have Jill and I gotten really close, but we know each other, the good and the bad, what makes each other happy, what breaks each other's hearts.  We have a sort of empathetic connection that even though there are times we don't agree with decisions each other makes, we know each others hearts well enough to know why those decisions were made.  We feel each others pain, know each other's sorrows, and embrace each other's happiness and joy.
Jack and Jill mean so much to us and our children, once again, not because they are there for the good times, or the bad, but because they have always been there for everything, even the moments that are dull, boring, and everyday sort of life days, they are there.  That is why they were named Justin's Honorary God Parents. 

I love you both so much, thank you for all you both have done!  Jill, you are the best little sister in the world, and Jackeious....you're not too bad of a guy yourself ;) Love you!

Here are Jack and Jill's letters to Justin:

Justin Bustin,

            Hey buddy I am not completely sure what to tell you in this letter. I never thought I would have to write a letter under these circumstances, I honestly never thought I would be strong enough too. I know the only thing helping me write this letter right now is the strength God is giving me and my love for you. You have touched so many lives in the short time you were here and even now after you have gone. You have helped countless people find Christ in a way they never thought possible. You truly were an amazing little man. You always were one of the most special little boys I had ever met. The day I called your grandma Tjarks back because she had called and said it was urgent was the worst day of my life. The last thing I ever expected to hear was that my precious and perfect little Justin Bustin’ was no longer living. In that moment I thought my world was crashing. Nothing seemed right anymore I remember begging God to change it, just let me wake up and it be yesterday, please don’t make anyone in this family face this. Well those thousands of prayers I said in that short time were never completely answered. But this isn’t a letter to tell you how much I am hurt that you are no longer with us. This is a letter to tell you how much you mean to everyone you ever had contact with physically or not, especially me, and all the great memories I had with you. I remember when your mom thought she was going into labor the first time and I rushed down there as soon as I could the next day. It ended up being a false alarm, but it wasn’t long after that you were here with us. The whole time your mom was delivering you Jack and I took your big brothers to the mall to keep them, and well us, occupied. We were all so excited. Your brothers kept asking every 5 minutes if you were here yet and if they could see you or hold you and I was looking at my phone nonstop awaiting a call from your daddy or grandma. I remember not long after you were born you were sent to Blank Children’s Hospital, I rode in the ambulance with you because I just couldn’t imagine taking my eyes off of you, being too far away, and letting you make that trip alone. You would stay at Blank for 11 days and I am so honored that I got to spend most of those days there with you. I would not trade those days for the world! I also remember when your mom and dad brought you up to see everyone and the whole time you were here I didn’t want to let you go. Other people wanted turns holding you but in my eyes you were my nephew and I didn’t ever want to let go. I later had to let go in a way that I will never fully heal from. Even as I am writing this letter to you I find it hard to see the computer screen through the tears I miss you so much my precious little boy. You know I was your godmother another great honor your parents bestowed on me. And another great honor that I would not trade for anything. I miss you a little more and more everyday people say it will get easier but that is only if you push it to the back of your mind which I find hard to do since you were always one of the first things on my mind anyways. But again I am going back to how hurt I am. The last time I went up to see you, you were 12 pounds and your chubby little cheeks just made you that much more adorable and cuddly in my eyes. You were being kind of a punk the whole time I was there though. You would only smile when I wasn’t looking, I think because you knew that was one thing I wanted to see more than anything. You always had your own little personality when you weren’t happy everyone knew it and everyone always ran over to help you and see what was wrong. Even the last time I saw you I didn’t want to put you down every time you would cry I would rush over to you side and pick you up. Partially because I just saw it as an excuse to hold you and cuddle you, but also because I didn’t like to see you cry, but you will never have to do that again. You meant the world to me Justin and I cherish every moment I ever got to spend with you and every moment I get to spend with you now when you are with me. I swear I feel you with me sometimes and those are the only times that this is truly ever a little easier. I cannot wait until God grants me the chance to see you again I hope you are one of the first faces I see at the end of that bright light. Well buddy I am sure this letter is getting a little too long, I could go on for pages about how much you meant to me and still not have it all written in here. Words cannot describe how much that was or how lost I feel without you here. Without being able to call your mom and hear you whole I am on the phone or being able to drive up there and see that smiling face (that you didn’t like to show me very often)  and especially knowing I will never get to hold you in my arms again. It kills me to end this letter but I know if I keep going I’ll drown the keyboard. I love you so much my angel boy!!!! And I will miss you always!!!

Love you forever,

Aunt Peanut

      Dear Justin,
      You were a very special little guy you changed so many lives in the little time you were here. There are so many things that I want to tell you I could go on forever. I remember when I first heard the news of you. I was so excited to hear that you were going to be born. I had  never known  anyone that was having a baby. When the date was set I was just finishing welding school and was offered a job in the city one of the first things I thought of was it was going to be during the time that we were expecting you. I was in the last week of my job and I got the news they were expecting you early. I was upset because I wanted to be there when you were born. When I was on my way home I received news that you and your mother were sent back home and that they wanted to wait a while longer. I was really glad to hear this news because it meant that there was still a chance that I could make it up to see you when you were born. I made plans to come up that Friday and during that weekend you were born. I was the first person to know your size and weight it made your Aunt Peanut really mad at me because she wanted to be the very first to know. We went to the hospital to see you and you were in the nursery getting cleaned up so we couldn’t see you yet so while we were waiting for them to bring you back to the room peanut went to get coffee. While she was gone they brought you in and I was able to touch you and talk to you. I was afraid to touch you I didn’t want to get you sick or make Jill anymore mad at me. Through the next week I came down to see you in the NICU when I could. I hated that you had to be on the machines they looked so uncomfortable and like they were hurting you. I would just hope that you would do all the things they wanted you to do so you could get out of there and go home. When you finally got out of the Hospital Jill and I would come down to see you when we could. I always was excited to see you and loved to hold you and see the funny faces that you would make or when you would smile at me and frown at your aunt peanut. I’ll always think of the things I could have showed you, like batman. I wish I could do the things with you like your brothers always want to do anything from seeing the cows or spinning them around. I always wonder what you would be like today. What your personality would be how you would act or what you would even look like. I wish I could watch you grow up and be a part of your life and watch you succeed. I’ll never understand why your stay was cut so short. You made an impact on my life the first time I held you and I will always miss you. Look over your family and keep an eye on your brothers.
Love, Uncle Jack

Sunday, December 11, 2011

Worldwide Candle Lighting

Today is the day of the Worldwide Candle Lighting, I believe founded by Compassionate Friends.  Tonight from 7:00PM to 8:00PM, we light a candle in rememberance of every child, no matter what age that has passed away, we do this so that there is not only a light shining for them, but for the families that miss them as well, especially during the holiday season.  It is such a bitter-sweet thing to do.  I love that there are things like this that family and friends can do, symbolizing the light of their love that they hold for these children.  It makes the day feel special in a way.  However thinking about why we are doing it is also a sad one.  I wish that children didn't leave us so soon, so that there would not have to be a day in which we light candles for them, but then again, what sort of place would Heaven be if there were not kids in it to make it even that much more special?
 My life has changed drastically since Justin went to be with Jesus, my faith is stronger, my family is closer, and I have learned to cherish all the time I have to spend with my husband, my children, and our families.  Once again, I am so thankful for the amazing people God has put in my life, and I am learning not to dwell on the fact that Justin is not here with us, but that there is a light in our hearts that will shine for him until the day we meet again. 
Tonight I light a candle for Justin, and also for Dakota Cleland, Ben Holbrook, Dacey De Whitmire, Keeley Settles, Victoria Westfall, Ethan "Fred" Metz, Jarid Anderson, Tyler A. Bird, Marshall Barhite, Justin Kniefl, Kaleb, and Bailey.  I will be lighting one more for EVERY other child.  God Bless all you that have had a child, a nephew, a niece, a grandchild, a godchild, a sister, a brother, or even a friend, that has gone to Heaven long before you desired.  My heart goes out to all of you, and to those children.

 If you have a child you would like to write a message to compassionatefriends.org has a memory book people are able to write in tonight... the link is http://www.compassionatefriends.org/AddRemembranceEntry.aspx

Thursday, December 8, 2011

Justin's Angels

With the holidays approaching I haven't had much time to write, and for those of you who wrote letters to Justin, please don't think I have forgotten about you.  I will get the letters in the blog soon!! I wanted to take a quick minute though to share, once again, Justin's Angels, that I shared on facebook only a few days after Justin's passing.  It really is where all of this started and was the first stepping stone to finding peace and hope in such a tragic event.  I wanted to make sure to post it in the blog for those that read my blog, but do not have access to the story on facebook.

Justin's Angels

This is my story this is my song...

As most of you know we are living in my grandparent’s house. When my Great Grandma died, my grandma took it really hard and was having trouble sleeping. One night when she couldn't sleep she went into the back bedroom to lie down, as to not wake up my grandpa.   As she was crying she heard a voice and saw someone standing at the end of the bed asking her "Why are you weeping when your mother is up in heaven, and I am here with you?" Grandma has always believed in Angels and I believe she was visited by one once after that.

Riley does NOT sleep in Jacob's bed and when we would have company we would make him sleep in there with Jacob so our company could use his bed. He threw a fit every time, he did not like sleeping in Jakey's bed. We had put Riley and Jacob to bed that night in Riley's bed said our prayers, read some stories, and sang a couple songs before they fell asleep, Jesus Loves Me was one of those songs. A few hours later Ryan took Justin up to his crib to put him to bed, this was the last night we would ever be able to put Justin down to sleep. When Ryan came down he had told me that Riley was sleeping in Jacob's bed (that is also in the bedroom with Justin's crib). I thought this was odd but didn't think much of it. The day Justin went to be with Jesus we had taken the boys up to my aunts house for my cousin to watch them as everything was going on and we wanted them out of the house so they didn't have to see anything. They were gone before they put Justin in the ambulance.

Later that day after we picked the boys up and had a talk with them that we were no longer able to keep Justin with us and that he was in Heaven with Jesus, Riley started telling a story about an "alien in his closet" he then went on to talk about the ambulance that he had seen at the house (he had seen the ambulance, he was just not in the house). Riley had talked about a guy being in he closet when we first moved in (a year ago) but I have not heard of it since. When I asked Riley who the guy was he told me that the guy [with gloves] shut Justin's eyes.

I wanted to talk to Riley a little more about it, as he was not scared of this "guy" and seemed completely comfortable with it and would talk about it willingly telling me something about a little ghost and singing “Twinkle Twinkle Little Star”, to Justin before he closed his eyes.

I had told my family this story and we were wondering if Riley knew what Angels were. We do not have a single picture, statue, or anything that would lead him to know what they are, what they look like, or what they do. After Justin was gone my mom had been given a flower arrangement made by a friend with an angel figurine holding a baby, her wings were covered by the flowers. Last night I asked Riley, "Riley come here, can you tell me what this is?" and moved the flowers so you could see the whole angel. He goes, "ah! That's an ANGEL, she took Justin away!" I said "was this what was in your closet?" He said, "yes mommy, she flew up and took Justin to Jesus!".

There is no way Riley would know that Angels "fly up" or that they take babies to Jesus. It is amazing to me that the eyes of the innocent are able to see and comprehend these things. Thank you Lord for this story as it calms my soul, strengthens my faith, and puts peace in my heart.

Friday, December 2, 2011

Finding Joy

As we go through our day to day lives we complain about work, kids, finances, etc.  But what we keep forgetting to do is finding joy every day.  Not every day is a good day, some times it seems like there is too much going on in life that you won't be able to get it all done.  This makes me crabby.  I hate my house being a mess, and yes, it makes me a bear, just ask my husband.  Poor guy, generally gets the brunt of it, but there are times during the week that cleaning the house, just doesn't seem fit into the schedule.  Even as a stay at home mom, it seems my life has gotten busier than it has EVER been, keep in mind I was married with two kids finishing up my BS degree in education, while still working part time, that was cake compared to life keeping up a with a 2 and a 4 year old.

One day we went to church, shortly after a young local girl had passed away in a tragic car accident.  I believe it was mother's day.  Our pastor was talking about finding Joy in all circumstances, not "happiness", but "joy", and what it meant to be "joyful".  This sermon comes to my mind daily.  As I picture Justin in Heaven, (every day), I have mixed emotions, I am heartbroken that he is not here with us, that I don't get to snuggle him everyday, smell his hair, see his smile, or watch him grow up, and I am not "happy" that he is not here with me, I am, however, "joyful" that I know where he is, I am "joyful" that he gets to spend eternity with his maker, I am "joyful" that he never has to feel pain or heartache, I am "joyful" that I will see him again, I am "joyful" that we have a perfect little angel watching over our family. 

So when I think about how Ryan has to work 6-7 days a week, I have to keep in mind, God gave us his job, so that I can be home enjoying watching everything Riley and Jake do, even when it's naughty, that I get to teach them, and grow right along with them.  I am "joyful" that he has this job, and that I have a job that allows me to stay at home while still contributing to our monthly income.  And while my kids can, and do, drive me nuts at times...ie. when my vacuum breaks due to a million mini chocolate chips that were dumped out on my $250 rug, I am still joyful that I get this time, these stories, that I am able to tell their children.  I am joyful for everything, good or bad, because God gave all this to me, and I have nothing else in this life I need.  Thank you Lord, even for the things that I complain about most!

Tuesday, November 15, 2011

A Letter From Daddy

I don't have much time to write today.  But I do want to say how much I love my husband, he has been my rock through all of this.  I am so glad God chose him for me.

Also and update on the publishing of Justin Jesus, we have not gotten the final draft sent into the publisher yet, I still have a few things to add to it (prologue and acknowledgements) and I need to get all the letters added to it, then we should be good to go.  Obviously getting it done by Christmas is out of the question, but it WILL be done by Justin's first birthday.  I will keep you posted on the progress! 

Dear Justin,
There were so many things I wish I could tell you, so many things I wish I could do with you. I will never forget the precious times I got to spend with you. Holding you for the first time, watching you fight from the beginning. I can remember how strong your mom was being with you in the hospital. I know how much she loved you. She could not stop talking about you and how precious you were to both of us. I remember when your mom called my work, to tell me that you were going to get to come home. My excitement grew with each minute and each mile I drove. I remember the few nights where we fell asleep on the couch and your mom would wake us up(well me anyway) to tell me to come to bed. Days seemed to be filled with new excitement. I remembered the times when you would smile, it brought so much joy and happiness to us. All the little things you did without having knowledge of it, how our little guy brought happiness to not only your mom and dad, but to your brothers as well. They both loved you and cared so much about their little brother. I remember your sweet baby smell, then I look for your blankets to remind of how close you are to me. Knowing that I will not get to play with you when you are older, play catch, shoot hoops, or take you to the tractor store which is your brothers favorite activity when we go to town hurts me because I know what’s missing. But I know you see it all from where you are, I just wish you would get to do it with them. There are nights when I wake up and I think I hear you cry, it’s hard for me, but I know where you are your cry is a happy one, but more of a giggle. Mom and Dad love you with unconditional love. I find myself thinking of you and don’t have to wonder what your mom is thinking because I already know. When I have my rough days I close my eyes and I see your smile, and at that time I feel that you letting me know that everything is going to be ok and that you are safe. I know that you will always be a part of our family, but our family has an angel watching over his family from heaven. You will always be in my heart, my prayers, and always in my thoughts, but I know that you are among the angels in heaven. Your dad will always remember your first smile, the first time I heard you giggle, and how you made me feel when I held you. You will always be one of Daddy’s little boys. I love little buddy, keep an eye on your brothers, your mom, and me.

Thursday, November 10, 2011

My Sister (the real writer)

If any of you have read Justin's Jesus (the full story) it says in there that I have never been much of a writer, until God placed Justin's Jesus in my hands of course.  However, I cannot take credit for Justin's Jesus, I am simply the hands that type the words that the Lord has given me to put down, to not only help others get through a hard time, but for myself as well.  My older sister on the other hand has always been an excellent writer.  In high school she had books upon books filled with poems she had written.  She has always had a knack for expressing her feelings so eloquently and reaching readers with heart felt words and expressions that a reader could get lost in. 

I have always been close to all my sisters, but Kandi and I have had more ups and downs than the rest of us.  There were a lot of times I didn't agree with some of choices she was making for herself and I told her so(most times distastefully) on numerous occasions.  I am sorry for this. 

Kandi has had a lot of really hard struggles in her life and at times couldn't seem to catch a break, even from her own sister's judgement.  I was in wrong.  I would like to tell you all how very proud I am of her.  She had been battling a long hard stuggle with addiction, and sometimes it seemed to all of us that the addiction had consumed her life so much that there was no turning back, forgetting that God is bigger than struggles, problems, and even the strongest of addictions.  What a great and powerful God we have.  Since Justin's death, Kandi has turned her life around.  Kandi Iwant you to know that you are a wonderful sister, a great mother, and an all around beautiful person.  I am so proud of you, and thank you! 

Here is Kandi's letter to Justin 

To My Sweet Nephew, Justin Ryker Swick,
Since you left for Heaven, the lives of those you touched have been better because of you. Our faith has grown stronger, our families have grown closer, and our hearts have grown more thankful. You were, and continue to be, a blessing in more ways than any of us could ever have imagined. Only He could have known what you would do for all of those who knew you and I know that He knew you were exactly what all of us needed.

For me, your short life and sudden passing brought a new beginning, opening my eyes to the value of life. Prior to your passing, I was consumed by addiction, barely surviving every day. I took unnecessary chances, gambling with not only mine, but the lives of others as well. I hurt those I loved without reason. I took life for granted, every day putting myself, my son, and complete strangers at risk. I was weak, thoughtless, and unworthy. It was through you, Justin, that God touched me. Since your passing I have been sober. I treasure every day like it is my last. My relationships with my family have grown stronger than ever, and my son has the mother he always deserved. Though I miss you tremendously and wish every day that I could hold you again, I feel certain that if it were not for your life, I might not be here today.

Your life, though far shorter than any of us desired, had such an incredible impact on our livelihoods, that your memory will live forever in our hearts and on our lips. Your story will be told for generations, by family, by friends, and by strangers, as the boy who brought us closer to God and to each other.

My love forever,
Aunt Kandi

Wednesday, November 2, 2011

Mommy's letter to Justin

I am in the process of getting Justin's Jesus ready to submit to the publisher, although there is a lot left to be done!  One of the things I want to add in Justin's Jesus is letters from his family and friends.  If anyone would like to write about Justin, a letter to him, or how Justin's Jesus has touched you, please let me know before I send it to the publisher, I will be sure to add it.  I have been dealing lately with being angry, and I'm not sure what about.  Generally when I see a baby and I am happy, I am happy for the babies parents that they get that baby, that I am able to see them, and even sometimes I get the privilage of holding one.  The past couple of days, my arms feel empty, and it is such a heart breaking feeling, that a lot of times, if I let it, turns into bitterness.  I do sometimes think, "you know there are a lot of families out there with multiple kids, living in proverty, in horrible situations, and, Lord, why not save one of those children from living a life of proverty on the streets, than to take mine?  Horrible, I know.  I try to think, "why not me", when these thoughts pop into my head, but sometimes I do let human nature take over and I start to feel sorry for myself.  I am sorry, Lord, I know your plan is better and bigger than mine, I know I should be happy Justin is with you, (Riley tells me everytime he sees me crying about missing Justin), and I am, I know Justin is happy, healthy, and will never feel heartache or pain, but I am still living among human flesh Lord, and I still do, this heartache and this pain is very real.

Here is my letter to Justin, in Justin's Jesus

A Letter to Justin:

From Mommy:


There are so many things I want to say to you.  I never thought I would have to write them in a book, though, I just always thought I would always be able to tell you.  As much as I worried that this would happen, once it did, I was at a loss as to what to do next.  You are and always have been so precious to me.  I think about you, everyday, as if you were here.  I wonder what I would put you in to wear that day, if your hair would always be baby soft, if I could cover you in baby lotion forever, just so you would smell the way you did when we first brought you home.  I snuggle with your blanket, I rub it across my face, the same way you liked to fall asleep, and it still smells like you.  I miss you so much, I can’t even begin to put it into words.  I know you are happy in Heaven, and you are in the care of so many amazing people, but I’ve got to say, sometimes I still wish you were in my care.  My arms feel empty without you in them.  I see a baby in church, or at the store, and my heart breaks for me, and yet I am so happy for their mommy’s and daddy’s that are still able to hold their babies.  I hate so many things about you being gone, I hate that my arms are empty, I hate this hole in my heart, I hate not being able to watch you grow up, or feel your hugs, your kisses, or  hearing you say, “I love you, Mommy”.  There are so many things I want to see you do, hear you say, and be proud of you for, but I want you to know that, little one, I am so proud of you! I am so proud to be your mommy, and there are so many things I am glad about also! I am so glad I got the chance to feel you in my arms, to hear you giggle in your sleep, to see your smile, to smell your hair, touch your skin, and watch you roll over.  I don’t remember the sound of your cry, and that’s okay because you don’t cry in Heaven. I am so thankful to have a baby in Heaven, I am so glad you will not feel any pain, that you live among rainbows and light, that you are always happy, and what better place to live than among Jesus and his angels.  I miss you, Justin, and I always will, but I have peace in my heart knowing that Jesus is keeping you safe in his arms until I can see you again.  Please watch over your brothers, as sometimes they get into more mischief than even I can handle.  I love you so much.  I still buy things for you, we talk about you every day, and you are in all of our prayers every night.  Please ask Jesus to keep your soft baby hair so that I can rub my face against it when I get the chance to see you again.  If mommy and daddy ever have another child, please know that we are not replacing you, you could never be replaced!  You are amazing and wonderful to us, you always have been and always will be, and please give that new baby kisses from you, I find comfort in knowing that you will be with your brother or sister before we ever get to know them.  There are so many people that love and adore you, and I cannot even imagine how many lives you have touched, you really have been a work of God and again, I am so proud of you!   I love you, sweet baby, and I will see you again, at the feet of Jesus, in a world without sin.    

Thursday, October 27, 2011

Photograph from Heaven

On October 25, the night before my oldest son, Riley's, 4th birthday I sat there thinking.  This was the first birthday we would be celebrating since Justin passed away.  It got me thinking about Justin's birthday, how his first birthday would have been, what we would have done for it, who all would join in the celebration, and what he would look like.  I have a frame on my wall that has a picture of Riley eating birthday cake on his first birthday and underneath that is a picture of Jacob eating at his first birthday eating his cake.  There is one more slot that is filled with our very first "family" picture.  I look at it often, I'm not sure why, but I remember thinking that we would put Justin's first birthday picture there, especially since our first family picture only includes one of our children, (I have recently decided to just put a picture of all three boys in there).  But I thought how cute it would be to have a picture of each child eating their first birthday cake, all in the same frame.  Now we would not get the chance to have that picture of Justin.  A thought then crossed my mind. I wish God would send photographs from Heaven, just like we send pictures to family that lives far away, I wish we could receive them from Heaven.  I think that would be "fair". I wondered what Justin looked like now at 5 1/2 months, what he would look like on his first birthday, 5th birthday, middle school, high school... I really wasn't upset about it, I was just wondering and thinking how I thought photographs from Heaven would be an awesome thing!
We found this great idea on Pinterest, where you fill up a bunch of helium balloons and on the morning of your child's birthday you put them in his room while he is still sleeping so that he wakes up to a room full of balloons. So the morning of Riley's birthday a took about 30 filled balloons up to his room while it was still pretty dark out and took some pictures of the room before the boys woke up and then took some more after. I got a new camera and it is a little advanced for me right now, but I took about 50 pictures.
I sat at the computer later to try to go through the pictures because a lot of them were the same.  Out of all the pictures there was just one that stood out quite a bit.  It had a huge "glare" in the middle of it and it looked like his room was filled with fog or smokey stuff.  I clicked on the thumbnail of the picture to make it bigger and at first it looked like Jacob was standing by the bed, once I realized it though, I remembered that there was no way he could have been it was one of the pictures that I took while it was still dark and both boys were sleeping in Riley's bed.  It looked like a little boy sitting in the toy box, when I showed my friend she said, "mary, don't freak out....but it kinda looks like Justin, he just wanted to celebrate Riley's birthday with him!"

  There are a lot of crazy things about that picture, and I do believe there is something special about it.  I don't believe in "ghosts" or "haunted" houses, I do believe in angels and demons, it talks about them in the bible, and with all that went on shortly before and after Justin's passing I have no doubts about that, but whether or not it was the camera freaking out or something else, I will always cherish it as my photograph from Heaven.

To see the actual photo (large) and variations of it (with the brightness removed) and a photo of what the room actually looked like, Go to www.justinsjesus.com and click the tab Photo From Heaven. :)

Iowa SIDS Foundation

I didn't realize until I was posting my last blog about publishing that I hadn't posted since I went off on my tangent about the Iowa SIDS Foundation.  I need to tell you that I talked to the lady who is in charge of sending out materials to families, DHS, hospitals, etc.  She was so sweet!! She explained to me that there are different materials that go out to different sources.  There is a packet for grieving parents, one solely on prevention given to hospitals, and another for DHS and other services.  They try to make sure that the one for grieving parents doesn't deal with the "reducing the risks" side of SIDS, however when she looked back it is in their main pamphlet that has a lot to do with "prevention", sadly this was the first thing I grabbed, (and the last until I cooled down).  She and the board had not realized that about the main pamphlet and she was taking it to them right away to discuss making a specific pamphlet for grieving parents that does NOT involve reducing the risks.  She was very sincere and apologetic.  I have to give thanks to the Iowa SIDS Foundation for the rest of the materials provided.  It is because of some of the resources sent that we were able to get the ball rolling on the publication of Justin's Jesus.  The director is also assisting with getting everything arranged for the "Walk" Stolzman Photography will be putting on near Justin's first birthday.  So all in all, the Iowa SIDS Foundation has been a blessing and I am so glad that because I did get a little heated :)  that they are looking into changing that part of their packet so other parents don't have to deal with that on top of everything else.  Crazy how things work :) That something I was so upset about turned out to be again one of the biggest steps in getting to publication, what a blessing! Thank you Iowa SIDS Foundation.

Tuesday, October 25, 2011


"The Lord gave some a Word; great was the company of those that published it." -Psalm 68:11

I wanted to first thank all of you for your prayers, we couldn't have done ANYTHING without them.  We have been praying and prayingthat God would make it clear to us which publishing company to go with to get Justin's Jesus out to the public.  We have decided to go with West Bow Publishing.  West Bow is a Christian based publishing company that is associated with Thomas Nelson Publishing, (the company that published Heaven Is For Real).  We have started the first steps in the publishing process today and the book could be completed as early as Christmas, however, we aren't in any hurry to get it done within 2011.  It will for sure be out by May 14, 2012 which would have been Justin's first birthday. 

And speaking of Justin's birthday, it is probably the one day I am dreading.  Thank God for wonderful friends he has so strategically placed in our lives.  My employer has decided to do a "walk" for SIDS afround Justin's first birthday, so we will be able to make the day a celebration, rather than a heartache.  I will keep you posted more on the walk as time goes and things fall into place a little bit more, and be sure to look for updates on the publishing process of Justin's Jesus.

It is amazing to me how much God blesses you through some of the hardest trials and times in your life! He reminds me everyday of his promises and his love, what a GREAT God we have!
Psalm 147:3 He heals the brokenhearted and binds up their wounds
Matthew 5:4 Blessed are those who mourn for they will be comforted. I am sooooo thankful for the many blessings He has bestowed upon us, especially during this difficult time and also for the comfort he has provided us with Justin's story as well as those who will be comforted by it in the future.

Wednesday, October 12, 2011

SIDS Prevention

Most of you who are reading this have already read my tangent on Facebook about the information and "resources" I received from the Iowa SIDS foundation.  If you haven't here it is. I received a pamphlet of information from them and in it was a lot of "information" on how they believe you can "prevent" SIDS.  While I know that it is fully researched, I also know that there is no found "cause" of SIDS, there for it is hard to have a definite way of "preventing" it, and I do not believe that after a person has dealt with the passing of their child due to SIDS is the time to stuff them full of information on how to "prevent" it.  Here is my e-mail to them:

Hello, I would like to start by thanking you for your condolences and the book you sent us regarding grieving the passing of a child who died of SIDS. While we appreciate the resources I was very deeply hurt and saddened that, while you meant well, that you would throw in so many things about SIDS prevention. Prevention IS definitely important and I understand that, but I believe that there is a TIME and a PLACE for it! After the passing of a child due to SIDS is NOT the time to be sending it to parents! What that does is ultimately places blame on the parentsb that they should have done something different. When the fact is, there is nothing that prevents SIDS, while the prevention is a great tool for parents and I do believe the precautions should be followed, that is NOT the way to go about it. Why not talk to parents who still have children LIVING instead of the ones who have already lost their child. You don't think that a parent of a child who died of SIDS would take every precaution the next time(if there is a next time) they had a child to prevent it from happening again?! Believe me they will! They will do their own research, the doctors will talk to them, and it is not up to you to ever make a parent, a family member, a childcare provider, or anyone else who may have been around during that time, feel like it was their fault! The truth of the matter is Jesus is in control, our days are numbered, and our children are in Heaven waiting for us. That is part of the grieving process, taking into account what death is, where my child is, and accepting the REAL facts! It is not part of a grieving process, however, to be told what I could have, or should have done that YOU feel MAY or MAY NOT have prevented my child going to Heaven. The TRUTH is there is no prevention, there is NO proven cause. Thank you again for your condolences and I am sorry this e-mail is so rude I don't mean it to be I am not by any means a hateful person and I do appreciate the other materials sent with your packet, however the prevention part was NOT one of them that I appreciated. Thank you so much.

Here are my feelings on SIDS "prevention".  I don't believe there is an actual way to prevent SIDS.  As stated before Jesus knows our number of days that we will be on this earth before we are ever a thought in our parents minds.  Justin's number of days was only 89. I don't believe that had we done ANYTHING different that night that Jesus would have changed his number of days.  Justin's life had a purpose just as his death has. His life's purpose was obviously fulfilled and it was time for him to go "home". 

I wonder has there NEVER been a baby who died of SIDS who was put to sleep on his back, without a blanket, in a 72 degree room, with no bumper pads, an approved mattress, who was sleeping by himself, and didn't have a stuffed animal in his crib?  Justin was in his crib, with an approved mattress, by himself, in a comfortable room with no stuffed animals, he was on his tummy, (but he knew how to roll over) he didn't have a fluffy blanket, however he did have his blanket.  Because there are no answers to SIDS we try to come up with a plethora of ways that we could "prevent" it from happening.  Next thing you know it will be caused by what time they ate, how much they ate, if they were sleeping upstairs or down, if their hair is dark or light...the truth of the matter is it is not preventable, there is no cause.  I am not saying that the SIDS foundation is wrong, I am just simply saying that know one really knows.  I am not saying tha tit is wrong to put your child to sleep the way they say, maybe that is best, but only God knows when our time to go home is and if it is our time, it's our time.

Tuesday, October 11, 2011

Day By Day

Earlier I had said that I wasn't sure where to go next in the blog, today that's kind of how I feel about life.  I thought that this blog would be a way to add on to the story Justin's Jesus later, but I'm just not sure that's where I'm supposed to be going with this blog.  Maybe it's supposed to be a way to share my feeling on Justin's passing, or maybe it's to help others with feelings similar to mine, either way, this post is not going to be in chronological order of Justin's story but I have been praying about what to write and I think it's more about life and feelings than just trying to ge a story down. 

Most days, I am in complete acceptance of Justin's passing.  I can generally take it for what it is, which is knowing that God had Justin's days numbered before we even knew there would be a Justin to miss, just as he has all of our days numbered as well.  We were beyond blessed to have Justin in our lives, even for a short time, and I am so extremely thankful for those days.  I am grateful to be able to hold him, love him, feel his soft hair, and get to see and capture his little smile.  Justin will live in our hearts forever, just as he is living in light with Jesus forever.   Other days, however, are tough.  I try not to get bitter or angry and for the most part I do pretty well with it, sometimes though it is hard to not dwell on what I feel I am missing out on.  Sometimes it's hard to remember that my perspective is wrong but God's perspective never is.  Today I question where to go from here.  Now that I don't have a lot to write in Justin's Jesus, and most of the craziness of his passing is over, and we are settling into a different life without Justin, it's now that it gets hard. 
We have gone through all of his clothes, keeping what he's worn in a box to keep and all the clothes he "was" going to wear in other boxes and in storage.  I kept out his blankets, his binkie, and a few other things that I want to keep with me daily.  I refuse to take down the crib.  I know it's probably a sign that I have not accepted his death, and that's not it.  I know he's gone, I know he's with Jesus, and at times I can even be joyful that my baby is in the presence of the lord and I am at peace with that, even on the hard days.  My feelings about the crib are just that it is something that doesn't have to be done right now.  It's not taking up any needed space, it's the last place Justin slept soundly, and it's where Jesus came to him.  Eventually I will take it down I'm sure, just not yet.

As far as where I go from here, I'm not sure yet. Today it's one day at a time, and I am thankful I have gotten that far.  Right after Justin died we were living minute to minute, hour to hour, at least now we have gotten to day by day.

My Family

I'm not quite sure where to go from here, so I will start by telling you a little about the people closest to me.  My family is amazing, we pull together through hard times and always have each other's backs, even if sometimes we don't always get along. :)  My mom got pregnant young, got married  in high school (to Marty), and had a miscarriage.  She got pregnant shortly afterwards and had my sister Kandi and later my sister Heather.  My family is a little confusing when trying to explain all the twists and turns in our family tree, but that is what makes my family so special.  To us there is no half-sister, full-sister, or step-family, to us we are all "family" no matter where the blood lines branch.  My dad got married young as well and both marriages ended in divorce after their own trials and my mom and dad got married had me and my little sister, Jill.  That marriage, also ended in divorce and my mom and Marty (her first husband) were able to rekindle a relationship that had once been broken, but thankfully not shattered completely.  Marty is an amazing guy, a great father, devoted husband, and a wonderful grandpa.  He took me and my little sister in as his own daughters and we are so grateful for him and for all of our family.  My grandparents are one of the biggest inspirations in my life.  They have been together for 56 years and the love and support they provide their family is remarkable.  What a blessing to have them in our lives. I have amazing Aunts who are always there and at times have had to drop everything to be by our sides when we needed them most.  I could not ask for a better family, every single one of them, in their own ways has helped me become who I am today and I am so thankful for them.

Wednesday, October 5, 2011

Where are you from?

"Where are you from?"  This is a question that for a lot of people is really easy to answer.  My husband for instance can answer this question without skipping a beat.  He lived in the same area during his whole childhood.  He went to the same school K-12th grade and when he went to college he was only 35 miles from home, so when he gets asked this question it is simple for him to say, "I am from Northeast Nebraska" or "I went to school in Newcastle." For me on the other hand, this has always been a question I have dreaded answering.  Between Kindergarten and 12th grade, I had moved 14 times and attended 11 different schools, all over Iowa and in Florida.  I am not an Army brat, my parents just moved a lot. :)  I am not complaining, however, it is things such as these that has shaped me into the person I am today, some good and some bad.  In fourth grade my parents separated then got back together, same with fifth, and in sixth I spent in entire year at one school.  Then in Seventh grade they decided to get divorced.  I moved down to Florida with my mom and my soon-to-be stepdad and my sisters.  This was a HUGE adjustment for me! Things are already hard for 12 year old girl, but when you add a whole new life to the mix, a new family, a new school, new friends, and living in a completely different area, it tends to take it's toll.  I moved back in with my dad half way through my Seventh grade year, after already being in two different schools in Florida once my mom and step-dad bought a house that was in a different school district than we had lived in when we first moved down.  The next few years were really hard for me, and I made it REALLY hard on the people around me.  I resented my mom for moving, for throwing me into this new life, and most of all for not understanding how I was feeling.  It took a long time for our relationship to get back to "good" after that year.    I moved back down to Florida right after school at the end of my Sophomore year.  I ended up graduating from a school in Florida, and then going back up to Nebraska for college.  So...where am I from??? A little bit of every where! :)  But as of right now, God has brought us to a sweet little town in north central Iowa.  We are purchasing a house that my grandparents lived in for 44 years, in Alden, Iowa

Tuesday, October 4, 2011

Justin's Jesus

For those of you who don't know me or know my situation, about 2 months ago we lost our little boy Justin Ryker, just shy of 3 months old to SIDS.  This is our story that has unfolded before us in just the past couple months.  This blog is dedicated to anyone and everyone that has experienced the feelings of having a child be called to Heaven so soon in life, also to all of our amazing friends and family that have pulled together to help us through such a difficult time in our lives.  I have found peace and hope in KNOWING that our son is in fact in the arms or Jesus and that I was blessed to have him for the short time I did, as God's timing and mine are not always synchronized.  There are so many people that have read my posts and stories on Facebook that I thought I would start a blog as Justin's story has gotten too long to post anymore.  Eventually we will make a book out of Justin's story in hopes that it will help other familes going through trying times.  We fully believe that God has a purpose and a plan for everyone of us and this is our story to share with you. I will add a little more to Justin's Jesus as I write my blog, but I feel I need to start our story out a little sooner in our lives than where I started in Justin's Jesus.