“On the 7th day…” For you it might have been the first day, the hundredth day, the 16th year. For David and Bathsheba it was the 7th day that their child died. For Pam and me it was the 58th day that our Danny died. I’d like to share with you Danny’s story.
The story begins on a cold night in February when Danny was conceived in love and desire. Pam and I love children and after three girls, two miscarriages, and one boy, we desired yet another child — and yes, another boy would be perfect. We didn’t know it right away but God had once again performed the incredible miracle of life. In a few short weeks Pam’s body would let go of the secret. We were thrilled. God had granted us one more baby; one more life.
It was an uneventful and quiet pregnancy. Too quiet, we later learned. Pam was at times disturbed by the lack of activity she had known with her previous babies who each transformed her womb into an exercise gym complete with stepper and punching bag. Danny was quiet but since his heart rate was always good, we prayed for and believed the best. Caring for four children and getting the house ready for a fifth left little time for worry anyway.
We put a new coat of paint on an old dresser, and bought another crib that we thought was an answer to prayer. Sometimes God gets credit for too much. Nevertheless, we were busy getting ready, all the while dreaming dreams and building castles of expectations which we never imagined God would let the waves of trouble disturb.
The waves hit on Monday, October 19. At 23 days before the due date, it took us by surprise. I was home, under the weather. Pam came down from a rest and asked if I’d like to have the baby today. “You’re kidding?” I started feeling better. “Whoa! Here we go again!”
After making the necessary arrangements for kids and house, we checked into the hospital and waited. Things weren’t moving too quickly. Maybe Danny knew I wanted to catch the vice presidential debates, so he delayed. After the debates I was fidgety, wishing I could do more than hold Pam’s hand and speak words of encouragement. As we neared the time of delivery, I shut the TV off. The moment now seemed too sacred for such intrusion. We were locked in time, my wife laboring painfully to bring forth our child; Danny feeling the contractions expelling him from his amniotic heaven. A push and the top of his head appeared — red hair! Finally, Pam would have her redhead.
Careful now, the cord’s tangled! Don’t push! Pant! Yes! Cord’s free! Push! Hard! Yes! Out into the world he came (I’m not sure I included all the pushes for you.) A magic moment. A boy! Our Daniel.
But wait. No cry, arms were limp, legs refused to leave the fetal position. Quickly doctor and nurses attend to baby while Pam is abandoned on the delivery table. “Nurse, call the pediatrician — something’s not right.” Oxygen stabilized him, and he was brought up to the special care nursery for close attention. Pam was brought back to her room without her baby.
After an anxious night in the hospital, we agreed on Tuesday with our doctors to transfer Danny to Minneapolis Children’s Medical Center for care and testing. Remarkably, Pam was strong enough to leave also, so on that Tuesday afternoon both mom and baby checked out of Fairview Ridges Hospital. We were in a daze, but knew our son was in big trouble. Word quickly spread and soon there was more prayer to God on our behalf than we had ever before experienced. We were buoyed up, given strength, proving Paul’s words, “You help us by your prayer” (2 Corinthians 1:11).
We believed that God would heal our son. This was like scares we’d had before. In the end all would be fine. Surely, with all these prayers there is more than enough faith knocking at heaven’s door. I especially appreciated the prayers of those unafraid to ask for and believe in complete healing.
Wednesday, October 20, we took our girls to see Danny. They were eager and as concerned for their brother. Their concern only grew when they saw how different he was from other babies. We prayed with them for Danny’s healing. We also knew that we couldn’t forget them and Tom. Despite daily trips to the hospital and hours on end caressing, holding and watching Danny, we tried to keep some normalcy in their lives and are grateful today that we did. We are thankful for grandparents and other family and friends who helped free us up to spend the needed time at the hospital.
After weeks of medical testing, during which we were able to do much of Danny’s care giving, our emotional roller coaster bottomed out with results of a muscle biopsy. Doctors finally had a name for Danny’s enemy — myotubular myopathy, a congenital disease which inhibits muscle maturation. Fewer than 50 cases in the world of this severe form had been noted, since first described in 1966. An X-linked recessive genetic disorder, it afflicts males only. The medical prognosis was bleak. Most of the children died in the first year. A few lived beyond 10 years; all were bed-ridden. Most died from respiratory failure, lacking lung strength to combat a simple cold. Doctors supported our decision to limit his medical procedures to what would be necessary for us to bring him home and care for him there until God either healed him or allowed him to die. There was nothing to be done medically that could bring about a cure. We needed a miracle and kept praying.
For the first time, I felt anger. Before I had felt hurt and sorrow. Now I was angry. But I was not angry toward God, nor have I been except for a passing moment or two, I suppose. I was, and still am, angry at sin which causes such evil in our world. “In sin did my mother conceive me” (Psalms 51:5). This means that original sin weakens every soul coming into the world so that it cannot mature, it cannot grow, it can do nothing of itself, but die. For Danny, his body was as afflicted as his soul. And I’m angry at sin which did this. I’m angry and more devoted than ever to battling this evil in my life and in yours. Sin is the real enemy. True, God created a world in which He allowed for the possibility of sin and He assumes ultimate responsibility, but He is not the enemy. Sin is. And I hate it.
On Wednesday, November 25, we brought Danny home. A dear sister brought over a Thanksgiving meal fit for a king, and we didn’t mind being alone because finally, there were seven of us.
For 21 days we had Danny home with us and I can best describe the experience as “rich.” I wouldn’t trade it for the world. As hard as it was — knowing he would die without a miracle, suctioning out his mouth and throat, feeding him through a tube into his stomach, attending to his other cares — I’d love to relive every day. We held him and carried him about with us. Everyone held him and we took many pictures. Tommy seldom ran by him without stopping to hold his hand or pat his head. We spoiled him with love. I think we finally loved him to death.
There’s no doubt that he caught the stomach flu from us. A little thing with the kids that we used to make into a big thing. We’ve discovered a lot of those little things that we’re always making into big things. For Danny, however, it really was a big thing. It was Thursday evening, December 10, that he got the flu. We were concerned, but not overly so. It was pneumonia we were afraid of. Saturday we saw the doctor with him and were slightly encouraged, but we shouldn’t have been.
Early Sunday a.m., December 13, I readied myself for church. I heard Danny’s familiar, faint cry and ignored it. I had to preach. “Danny would be all right,” I told myself. But he wouldn’t be.
A short time later when Pam attended to Danny, she knew he was beginning to slip away from us. I preached. Pam cried, reluctant to call me. A friend went to her. I called during Sunday School and heard the bad news. We both agreed I should try to preach the second service. By God’s grace I did. That afternoon Pam’s folks came, and we began a vigil of care for Danny and for each other.
What was happening, as it turned out, was that Danny’s small intestines had stopped functioning, and he was slowly dehydrating regardless of how much liquid we tried to pour into his stomach. He would cramp and throw up the fluid back into his tube. Our doctor was wonderful, making a couple of home visits and picking up eyedrops and stronger plain meds. Tommy paid him in Monopoly money.
Late Monday afternoon, December 14, it looked like he was at death’s door. Each of the children said good-bye as Pam held him on our living room sofa. It was another wonderful moment we never could have had in the hospital.
But he revived a bit and stabilized and so we settled in for another long evening. Pam’s folks in the living room, Pam on the family room sofa, and I with Danny in the recliner. By midnight weariness had attacked us all and we were asleep. At 1 a.m. Pam’s mother checked Danny. He seemed the same. Sometime around 2:30 a.m. I awoke to a change of breathing in Danny. More erratic — a little gaspy — but still not apparently struggling. I recall thinking, “This could be it.” I fell back to sleep — I can’t believe myself! At 2:58 a.m. I awoke again and listened. I heard no breathing. I quickly called Pam. We felt, we listened. He was gone. His body and top of his head were still warm; his face and hands, cool. Pam took him and we cried together and knew like never before that “to be absent from the body was to be present with the Lord” (2 Corinthians 5:8) Finally, Danny’s suffering was over. He was with Jesus. We held but a shell in our arms. Danny wasn’t there.
On the 58th day, Danny died. It was the seventh day for David and Bathsheba. When was it for you? You can still see him or her. can’t you? Still feel the pain. It doesn’t need to be a child. Perhaps it was a parent, a brother or sister, a spouse, a close friend. What do you make of it? Where do you direct your hurt and anger? How do you go on?
Let me share some brief reflections with you that may help.
1. What can we make of death, but to affirm the apostles’ words that death is an enemy? (1 Corinthians 15:26). Evil has become more real to me. Our world is full of pain and suffering. It batters and scars each of us as we make our way through life, but Jesus says, “He who endures to the end will be saved.” He who continues to place his faith in the God of love and in His son, Jesus Christ, who came to save us from our sin, he will be saved. The fact is, evil is winning in our world. We’re losing, and rather badly at that. Pain and suffering increase every year and, by all accounts, evil is triumphing despite all efforts to the contrary. Godliness is losing out to sin and selfishness everywhere but in isolated lives. I pray yours and mine are such holdouts.
Our victory will only come when Christ returns, and that’s what the Scriptures teach. The book of Revelation can be summed up as one old-timer did, “Jesus is gonna win.” But it doesn’t look like it now. It didn’t look like it to the disciples on what has come to be known by us as Good Friday. It was anything but good to them. It was a dark day. Jesus was crucified. His mother must have cried her eyes out. But what none of them knew was that Sunday was coming, and with it the resurrection. We now await His return.
2. Direct your anger at sin. It is real and it is evil. We fraternize far too much with it. Eventually, it will be the direct or indirect cause of your death, as well as the death of your loved ones. For reasons we do not understand, but we must accept, God has allowed for a world in which even He does not always get His way. But He is so great that He can turn the devil’s temporary successes into even greater victories for Himself. He assumes ultimate responsibility, yet He is not the enemy — sin is. “Go and sin no more,” Jesus tells each of us (John 8:11). Direct your anger at sin and root it out of your lives.
3. Finally, you can go on. We drove down to the mortuary at 4:30 a.m., Tuesday, December 15, Pam holding Danny’s body between her mother and me. Returning home without his body was tough. It seemed as though we were going on without him now. It was similar leaving the gravesite and also getting back to our normal routines. It felt like we were leaving him behind. That made it difficult to go on. But that’s when David’s words encouraged us. He said of his dead son, “He cannot come to me, but I will go to him.” That’s when the reality of it all dawned for us.
We’re not leaving Danny behind. He’s left us behind. He’s gone on ahead. We follow on behind. And Isaiah the prophet said, “A child shall lead them.” So Danny leads us. He who was weakest among us has become the strongest. He who dependently followed us and went only where we carried him, he has become our leader and the Scripture is fulfilled which says, “The last shall be first.”
Soon we will order the marker for Danny’s grave. It will read:
Daniel Oean Reigstad
October 19, 1992 – December 15, 1992
“A child shall lead them”
May God grant each of us the faith and strength to follow. And that will be the conclusion to Danny’s story.

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