Title: TRIumph: A Story of Finding Hope in a Love that Knows No Bounds
Author: Susan Yurkewicz
Publisher: Harborlily Creative
Year Published: 2013
You can find this book on Fr. Larry Richards’ Foundation website, The Reason For Our Hope Foundation.
A Tiny Soul’s Mission for Life
The purpose of this book review is simple: to aid in the mission of a sweet little saint, John Michael Yurkewicz, to change hearts on the dignity of life. This book is written from the perspective of Susan, his mother, and captures the beauty of following God’s will no matter what. Susan vulnerably shares her heart and journey with the reader as she tells her story from the point of finding out she was expecting John Michael, their seventh child, to the child’s fatal diagnosis of Trisomy 18, to the birth and two days of his precious short life. This story comes from a very raw and rare perspective of what it is like to experience a child diagnosed with a fatal diagnosis, yet putting it completely in the Lord’s hands and allowing His will to be done through it all. Because of her “yes” to God, Susan learned and was able to share beautiful intimate truths about our life here on earth.
An Honest Heart
When I first opened the book, I immediately knew I loved the author. Her humor quickly drew me in when she found out she was expecting John Michael because she began reminiscing about past pregnancies and her reactions to those pregnancies. When she found out she was expecting number six, she was real and honest, and I was so thankful she shared her actual reaction because it made me realize I wasn’t alone, as I responded to my fifth pregnancy in a similar way:
I’d like to say that I was so devoted to doing God’s will that I imitated the Mother of our Lord’s response, “Be it done unto me according to Thy will.” But I’ll just keep it real and say that I clung to the kitchen sink as huge tears streamed down my face and I dramatically declared that “I … am … [snuffle]… a … [snort … gasp]baby making … [sniff, sniff] … machine!” (2)
A New Compassion from the Diagnosis
Her pregnancy with John Michael was soon accepted with joy by her, her husband, and their other six children. They were cheerfully anticipating the arrival of another family member at the dinner table. But hers and her husband’s world came crashing down when their son’s first trimester screening came back with possible abnormalities. Once the diagnosis was confirmed: Trisomy 18, even though she knew she wouldn’t abort despite the child’s test results, she began to have a new compassion for the women who were in the kind of situations that often lead them to choose abortion.
I gained an understanding that perhaps can be granted only to someone actually experiencing the phone calls and explanations that bring her face to face with the reality of a pregnancy guaranteed to bring heartache. I felt fear even though I trusted God. I pictured life with a disabled child. It became personal. I was given a difficult gift of being able to feel the feeling that I had nonchalantly judged in others as selfishness. (11)
Accepting God’s Will
The immense pain and heartache her and her husband experienced when they received confirmed results that she was carrying a little boy with full Trisomy 18 was not hidden. My heart ached with her as I read her words; I felt like I entered into hers and her husband’s suffering. It was the worst news they could’ve received, and tears were shed by both.
I had to cling to something that would help me make sense of what felt so horribly awful. How could this be? Of course, I was trying to make sense of this as I wondered, “Why, Lord?” I had often read the words, “For my thoughts are not your thoughts, nor are your ways my ways …” (Isaiah 55:8) and I can’t say they took the pain away in that moment. Yet, these words gave me enough to hold on. Although I was scared and hurting, I trusted there was a reason for such heartache. (19)
One beautiful realization she pointed out through the pregnancy was “Though [John Michael] had Trisomy 18, I had received him exactly as God intended. Somehow God would use his condition to bring about a greater good.” (Page 26, emphasis added) “I understood God had created this baby in my womb exactly as he was and therefore, we were living His perfect will. It would be hard, but I needed to stop crying over what ‘should have been’ because that was never intended to be.” (Page 27, emphasis added)
Operating as One Body
Facing John Michael’s condition led Susan and her husband to realize they weren’t alone in their suffering when, during a hospital visit, they met a nurse taking care of Susan who had recently lost a daughter. John Michael’s purpose was becoming more and more clear.
For this understanding and ability to love more deeply and genuinely, I can only be more grateful to God. He has allowed me into this mystery of His suffering. He has brought me into fuller participation within the mystical Body of Christ, where we are truly one Body. In this Body we feel each other’s pain and bring each other solace. We are operating as one. (38)
A Precious Life
The birth of sweet little John Michael was incredibly raw with emotions. The joy Susan talked about after his birth was bursting from the pages. John Michael was a beautiful little baby and doing very well and all the family members who had been anticipating his arrival were overflowing with joy as they each got their turns to hold him. Susan said she couldn’t believe his diagnosis was still looming because he looked perfect and seemed to be thriving.
The sorrow that followed, though, from his gentle and quiet passing two days later brought tears to my own eyes – I had never cried reading a book before until this one. Her words made my heart ache so terribly for her and her family; I couldn’t fathom such a sorrow. Yet, in her sadness, Susan reached out for the Lord and found comfort in Him. After her little boy went to be with the Lord and she had returned home with only enough strength to crawl under the covers crushed by her grief, she knew He was holding John Michael in one arm and her in the other; He was holding them together.
John Michael’s life and death changed many hearts on the dignity of life-mission accomplished! (84)
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Copyright 2019 Elaine Sinnott