OWENSBORO, Ky. (KT) – Deacon James Rowe was the third son of Mark and Samantha Rowe and he brought them utter joy during his two days on this earth.
On the anniversary of what would have been his first birthday, he’s still bringing joy not only to them but others.
The parents established a Facebook fundraiser for Sunrise Children’s Services in Deacon’s honor. It doubled its modest goal of $400 in a short time.
“It was very tough what to even do for Deacon’s birthday,” Samantha said. “I knew it was going to be hard no matter what we did. I wanted to do something that could help kids that would be around his age and we know about Sunrise and what they do for children.”
Sunrise is a Christian foster care and adoption agency that is endorsed through the Kentucky Baptist Convention.
She said the gesture shouldn’t be mistaken for a stage of grief but more doing what a Christian is called to do – reach out and help others. “As Christians, we are called to share the love of Christ. To me, it’s not just a stage of grief.”
Deacon was born with a rare AVM malformation that causes blood vessels to knot together and tangle and it prevented his brain from being full developed and caused his heart to be enlarged. Nobody knew the problems were there until after he was born. It was going to be a faith journey for the Rowes.
“We really weren’t aware of any complications,” she said. “We were pretty blindsided by everything."
What followed was one heart-wrenching decision after another for the Rowes, a strong Christian couple who are members of Life Community Church in Owensboro. Mark is a deacon at the church.
“They told us we could try and do brain surgery, but it sounded like it wasn’t going to give him any kind of life,” Samantha said. “We opted not to do the surgery.”
She said the decision came after hours of prayer by the couple who cried out to God for wisdom and comfort. He led them both in the same direction, through the same book in the Bible.
“That’s one heck of a choice you have to make for somebody else,” Samantha said. “We both felt like the Lord was talking to us through the book of Job, that he (God) gives and takes away. My husband shared that God was telling him a verse in Job of ‘How can you accept only good from God and not bad?’ We felt like that was confirming.”
They came about the decision with assurance from God and they leaned on faith for more difficult choices that were to come.
Doctors told them that Deacon wasn’t going to live long. The parents decided they wanted to donate his organs with the hope that he could help other children. “At first, we were told we couldn’t donate organs and that was upsetting,” she said. “We were desperate for something good to happen. Then they came back and told us that they could. That was a miracle itself.”
But that miracle came with a catch, too. It meant even less time they would have with Deacon. Every second was precious to the parents.
However, it wasn’t the last miracle they witnessed. His two older brothers, who are 3 and 6, came in to see him. “They got to come into the hospital and see Deacon,” Samantha said. “He was in bad shape. The first day he seemed like a typical baby. He was crying and moving. The second day it was a huge change. He was having seizures. But when his brothers walked into the hospital room, he tried to open his eyes because he heard them.”
Samantha said he only lived for two days but it seemed much longer. The parents never slept during that time and the mother held her baby as much as possible, even into death.
The faith of these strong Kentucky Baptists never wavered even for a minute. God was in control and they knew it.
“Our faith absolutely got us through. It’s undeniable. I got to hold Deacon as he was passing away. That whole time, I was praying to the Lord and I was reminded of that verse, ‘I lift my eyes to the mountains – where does my help come from? My help comes from the Lord.’ I was looking to the corner of the hospital room because we didn’t have a window. The Lord really got us through that time and some tough decisions.”
Now, one year later, the strength that God has given these parents through grace remains a powerful witness to friends and family who have watched them walk this path
They are still waiting to hear how his organs may be used and prayerfully hoping that it makes a difference in a child’s life.
Samantha said the occasion of his first birthday is a sad time.
“I think about all the presents nobody is going to buy for him,” she said. “Maybe they could put that money toward a good use.”
Donations to the fundraiser will go directly to Sunrise. Click here to give.
“My husband and I both grew up in Baptist churches and heard about all the good work being done at Sunrise," Samantha said. "I’ve always been interested in possibly being a foster parent or adopting. Hopefully, the Lord has something pretty awesome planned for that.”
As for the name Deacon, Samantha said it was “divine intervention. Now, looking back, it was the Lord putting that name on my heart. We have been able to share Christ because of Deacon. The Lord stayed true to that name.”