January 23, 2017
“Naked I came from my mother’s womb, and naked shall I return; the LORD gave, and the LORD has taken away;
blessed be the name of the LORD.” Job 1:21
It is interesting how you can read a verse multiple times over the course of your life, but then something happens that makes the verse come alive in a way that you never expected. My name is Cameron Edman and my wife Genavive and I would like to share the story of our son Clark Job Edman, who died from a birth defect minutes away from being born.
Genavive and I were both raised in strong Christian families that appreciated the sanctity of life and the fact that babies are God’s greatest gift; created through a synergetic force between the love of husband, wife and God. Our backgrounds would enable us to withstand an extremely trying time during which our faith and beliefs would be put to the test. Genavive and I first met as student-athletes at Gonzaga University in 2010. We married in the winter of 2012 and had our first son, Gabriel, one year later. In the spring of 2015, when Gabe was about 15 months old, we became pregnant with our second child. We were beyond elated — Gabe had been an incredible blessing and we were excited to bring more little Edmans into the world. We were especially excited for our children to grow up together as siblings. We had our first ultrasound and went home happy to have seen a glimpse of our child, alive and moving in Genavive’s womb. But two days later, we received a call — the doctors had noticed an abnormality in our baby’s ultrasound and we needed to schedule a follow-up appointment with a specialist in Spokane. Afraid and confused, we met with another doctor in Spokane, who gave us the bad news — our baby boy had acrania. Our fears deepened as he explained that acrania is when the top of the skull does not fully develop, leaving the brain exposed. He told us that this condition made our son “incompatible with life” outside of the womb. There is no known cause or treatment for acrania; we were left with two options — either he dies now via abortion or he passes naturally. Because of this "hopeless" diagnosis, many babies with this condition are aborted, leaving observation and medical research in a very similar, hopeless dead end. We were frustrated and heartbroken.
We didn’t know what God was doing or why this was happening, but we knew this — he was our child, he was fighting to stay alive and we would not dictate his end. We may not have the privilege of knowing God’s ways, but that didn’t take away from the miracle of life that had been given to us. God entrusted Clark to our care, if only for the nine months of pregnancy, and that was something that we did not take lightly. Setting our minds on the story of Job, we trudged forward, grasping at Scripture, the sacraments, books, articles, quotes and anything else that inspired us to love and trust God through this difficult time. It turns out, while difficult, his pregnancy was also a beautiful time that our family will always cherish. Clark was very active in the womb: he had a schedule, he responded to the pressure of the ultrasound wand, he sucked his thumb and he was very loved by his family. Contrary to what many would have us believe, Clark was far from brain-dead and we are thankful to God and the prayers of many to be able to say we have no regrets in loving our son to the fullest before giving him to God!
On Sept. 15, 2015, the feast of Our Lady of Sorrows, we induced Genavive a few weeks early to give Clark the best chance of surviving birth in hopes that we would be able to baptize him, make eye contact and feel his heartbeat. Babies with his condition have been known to live minutes, hours or sometimes, miraculously, years! But God had other plans; Clark died two minutes before he was born. It was the most beautiful, painful, joyful, bittersweet experience we have ever felt. We held and cherished Clark’s body, knowing that his spirit was in the presence of God.
We had a photographer in the hospital room the entire time and we shared pictures of his short life, death and burial on Facebook in hopes that our family and friends would be able to join us in remembering and loving sweet Clark. Three months later, Clark’s photo album went viral, unbeknownst to us. In three days, the album had been shared more than 200,000 times on Facebook by random strangers who sympathized with him and our family. We were flooded with messages, comments and friend requests, 98 percent of which were positive and incredibly encouraging. Some people related similar stories of losing children, while some were moved to cherish their children more and yet others were impacted by how we were devoted to Clark’s well-being, no matter what. Even a few pro-choice folks were changed by Clark’s short life. The timing again was not a coincidence. His story spread worldwide in the weeks leading up to Christmas, that time when we rejoice at the coming of our Savior in the form of a tiny, helpless baby. God was and is truly with us as we live this life with part of our hearts forever void — void until they are filled with that heavenly banquet where we don’t doubt we will meet our heroic son, alive and whole!
Often, we have no way of knowing what God’s plan is for us in this life; sometimes, it may seem like the situation is unbearable. But, with each little "Yes" as we embrace our beautiful cross of a child lost, our eyes are opened to His eternal, perfect love. Our Catholic faith has carried us through and brought so much meaning into our suffering, the greatest comfort is our hope in heaven. Genavive and I are forever changed, for the better, by our son’s life. We are proud to be parents to now three amazing boys, one here with us, one in heaven and another son in the womb due the end of January — “blessed be the name of the Lord”. ￼
Often, we have no way of knowing what God’s plan is for us in this life; sometimes, it may seem like the situation is unbearable. But, with each little ‘Yes’ as we embrace our beautiful cross of a child lost, our eyes are opened to His eternal, perfect love.
We didn’t know what God was doing or why
this was happening, but we knew this —
he was our child, he was fighting to stay
alive and we would not dictate his end.
Cameron and Genavive Edman