Mikail’s Celebration of Life

Being a cancer survivor, I must admit that I have thought about my own funeral and in those early cancer days, 16 years ago, even planned it out.  I have, however, never thought about the funeral of my children. That thought has never crossed my mind. Children are supposed to outlive their parents. Unfortunately, that’s just not how it always works.

Planning Mikail’s funeral was a joint effort by many people. It had to be considering the circumstances. Because we have friends and family all over the world, I thought I would share about the celebration of Mikail’s life. There is always a background story behind every story and the days following Mikail’s death were filled with much more than we could have imagined ~ to plan and attend your son’s funeral, while your daughter is also very sick, makes a difficult time that much more difficult.
When we drove to the Parr farm the morning Mikail died, we noticed that Olivia was having many of the same symptoms that Mikail had shown. Basically common cold and cough symptoms. Normally these would not have concerned us and we would have thought that they would pass within a week. Because of the experience we just had with Mikail, we took Olivia to the E.R. in Sarnia where the pediatrician was called from home and Olivia was admitted into the pediatric unit for monitoring. At the time we did not know the cause of Mikail’s death and Dr. Bhandal wanted to be extra cautious. I stayed the night with her and she was released in the morning with a simple RSV diagnosis.
Saturday to Sunday night was difficult. Olivia had difficulty sleeping because the coughing was keeping her awake and when she coughed she would often throw up as well. At around 5 a.m. we decided to take her in to the E.R. again. Chest x-rays were done again and the radiologist said that the start of pneumonia was there. Dr. Bhandal gave us a new course of medication and we were allowed to go home if we saw her in the clinic Monday morning and called her on her cell phone if there were any changes.
Monday morning she offered to have Olivia admitted and we said we would see how she did in the afternoon. We thought she would be coming to the Visitation and the Funeral. That afternoon the Health Unit called and informed us that IGAS (invasive group a strep) was found during Mikail’s autopsy ~ a major factor in causing the acute bacterial pneumonia that took his life. I remember sitting on the bedroom floor, looking at Mom and Dad through my tears, whispering ‘God won’t take both of my babies home, will He?” A question in all of our minds, I am sure. We rushed back to the hospital to admit Olivia. She needed to be monitored, tested and have antibiotics changed. As a pre-caution, we were put on antibiotics as well.
Monday was also the evening of Mikail’s Visitation. Because we had just admitted Olivia into the hospital and wanted to make sure she was okay, we were late to the Visitation. We were so thankful that Mom and Dad (Oma and Opa) could stay with Olivia while we were at the Visitation. When we arrived at the funeral home, Jason and I walked in, and lining the room there were bunches and bunches of red balloons. Mikail’s favourite. Jason had ordered 56 red balloons to celebrate the 56 months God blessed us with our son. Mikail loved balloons and red was his favourite colour. They were the perfect addition to all of the flowers that friends and family had sent. Even in such deep mourning, my dear husband was so thoughtful. Violette (my sister) spearheaded the decorating and with the help of other family members, put together a slideshow of Mikail’s life.  She (and others I’m sure) placed Mikail’s favourite items around the room perfectly, in remembrance of him. The number of people who came to support us and bring their condolences was astounding.

The two pink balloons were to be held by Olivia during the funeral and the white one represented Mikail in heaven.


Following the Visitiation, Jason and I returned to the hospital and after a while Oma and Opa and Jason left for the night. They had brought a reclining chair in for me to sleep on, but I had a deep need to be close to Olivia, so I snuggled in with her on her bed, waking up periodically to make sure she was still breathing. The thought of losing our precious Olivia to heaven would not leave my mind.

Tuesday morning came early. I was exhausted and somehow had to find the energy to attend my son’s funeral while my daughter lay in the hospital with RSV, Pneumonia and possibly Group A Strep.  A week earlier we were busy going about our daily routines with just the hint of a cold on the horizon. Who would have thought a week later we would be here? That life’s journey would include this chapter?
 Jason and Verena (my precious cousin who volunteered to stay with Olivia while we went to the funeral) arrived around 9 a.m. and I quickly got ready to go to the funeral. When we arrived in at Steadmans Funeral Home in Brigden,  we (Jason and I, Nana and Papa, and Oma and Opa) stood in line to greet the guests who came by to express their condolences.
Shortly before 11:00 a.m. all the guests had taken their places and the service started – with The Love of God (Mercy Me) being played and Pastor Alan Jones, from our Grande Prairie Church of Christ family, officiating the service. What a blessing to have Pastor Alan here. He was there praying over Mikail when he was born. He was there at his baby dedication. He was there through it all. Pastor Brent Powell, who has been with us through the transition of life into a new community, from our new church family (Emmanuel Baptist Church) read the eulogy.
The song Praise You In the Storm (Casting Crowns) played while the lyrics were shown on the screen.

A few family members chose to share a tribute:
Isbrand Hiebert (My Dad and Mikail’s Opa) shared a letter he wrote to Mikail:
Dear Mikail,
This is Opa, and I would like to send you a letter or email – don’t know how you receive messages there. I wish we could skype like we did when we lived in Bolivia.
I am very sorry that you have left us already, but I know that the good Lord thought you would be better off to be with Jesus, whom you loved so dearly already – thanks to your Mommy and Daddy who taught you about Him. I am so happy that we had quite a few chances to spend time together and had hoped that we could have many more good times together.
I remember the time when you were only about two years old and you I went to the playground near your house in Grande Prairie and you showed me the different play structures and what you could all do on them already. Once in the park you ran ahead of me and before I even was up to the structure you already had climbed up the steps and waited for me to catch you at the bottom of the slide.
And when I thought we were finished there and suggested we go back to the house you said, no Opa, I want to show you some more, and you ran off to a different part of the park where you showed me different play structures and how you could climb up and walk around there.
When you were getting thirsty we started to walk back to your home, and when you ran up to the curb where we needed to cross the street, you abruptly stopped, looked to the left and then to the right and then you said: “we can go, there are no cars coming”. I was so impressed how your parents had trained you so well already.
I remember another event with you, where on a Sunday afternoon everyone was getting a little bored inside and somebody suggested we should have a tricycle race. So outside we went, and your Daddy had several Tricycles on his truck which he wanted to get ready for a staff party. He gave us each a tricycle and we went to the sidewalk at the street and we started to race along the sidewalk. I don’t know who had to work harder, you or your Daddy who was way too big for a tricycle that was made for little children. I don’t who won, but we had fun.
I remember many other events with you, especially from much later when you already had your own bicycle – although still with training wheels. When your Mommy, your sister, Oma and I walked along the sidewalk in Exeter, you were riding your bike. Suddenly you slammed on your brakes, got off the bike and you looked at the rear wheel. “Is something wrong?” I asked. “Yes, something is wrong.” But we couldn’t find anything and so you got onto the bike again and peddled along. But soon you stopped again and checked the rear wheel again. We then realized the nut of the rear axle was loose, and so the training wheels also were loose and rattled. I tightened the nut with my fingers as much as I could and suggested that your Daddy would fix it later. Because you said: “Daddy has lots of tools at home, and when he comes home from work he will tighten the nut real good”. And that’s what he did.
Another event that I would like to mention is from our second last day at your place not too long ago. I knew that you liked riding your bike very much, and so I suggested we go on one more date to the park where we had been before. Because the weather wasn’t nice enough to ride along the trails I suggested that you ride under the picnic shelter. You had done that before when we had a picnic there with your family. We arranged the picnic tables so that there was lots of room for you to bike between them in different directions. When you were tired and we both were hungry and thirsty we went to Tim Horton’s where you ordered a chocolate covered chocolate donut and of course some Timbits. We just sat there, having our snack and enjoying just being together.
One last thing! On our last visit to your place you came to our room the second last night we were there and you said to me: “Opa, you messed up today. You said you would give me another mint after supper but you never did.” When I apologized and offered to give you two mints the next day you were fine with that. You got a tiny container and we put them on the table for the morning. – What a reminder to always keep our promises!
In my mind I had more plans to spend time together, but now you are gone to a better place where you will be even better off than you were in your family. But now I have to say good-bye, until we meet again, who knows when.
Love, Opa 
Oma told about one incident too. She shared about how the night before at the hospital when Iris and J got there after the visitation, Jason picked up the blue stuffed bear that Olivia had received in hospital and said: “I know someone who would just love to have this bear.” Olivia perked up off Iris’s shoulder and asked “Who?” J said that Mikail would. Olivia gave him a really cute look and said, “No, he wouldn’t, it’s not red!” as though to say that J should have known better than to think that!
Uncle Brent (Jason’s brother and Mikail’s Uncle) shared a beautiful tribute. We will be planting crocuses on our yard in the future:
When most people talk of faith they use terms like “blind faith”, which suggests it a belief not based in reality. The bible talks about faith in different terms. In Hebrews 11:1 we read now faith is the substance of things hoped for, the evidence of things not seen. 
This perspective of faith suggests there are events in our life that point to something more. That there are aspects of life that are the substance of something else to come. 
For me, Mikail’s life is an example of this. When he was born the start was a little rough. At birth he experienced a stroke and prognosis wasn’t good. However, through much prayer and to the amazement of doctors, Mikail’s situation changed and he recovered rapidly. This perspective, that faith is based on a real and meaningful connection with God, can be thought of as a crocus flower.
When my wife and I bought our house I planted a few crocuses in my front yard. I love to see them come up in the spring. It’s a signal that the cold winter is coming to an end and that summer is coming. At this time year, some people start wearing sandals and shorts, when it’s still far to cold. They’re living by faith in the belief that summer is coming. 
Mikail’s life was like this. He seemed to bring joy to lives of everyone he was around. When moving to Ontario, Mikail’s speech and language assistant, from Grand Prairie, gave him a card.
Dear Mikail, Every once in a while in, our career, we meet a special kid that puts a smile on our face and makes our day better every time we see them. Your are one of them. You are a kind, smart, funny boy and I will miss you very much. Enjoy your new life in Ontario. Continue to be curious, inquisitive, and explore life with your beautiful smile and positive attitude. From Miss Jay 
For Miss Jay, Mikail was like a crocus flower. A touch of spring.
However, if you look for images of crocus flowers online, you will often see them covered in snow. Summer is coming, but the harsh reality of winter isn’t ready to let go. 
In life, there are often times where the cold harsh reality of pain and suffering comes crashing in. I can say that the call I had with Jason on the morning of Mikail’s passing was the most painful of my life.
 The reality of today has been exploding in mind over and over for the last few days. But the life of faith does not leave us in this place of pain. We can look with confidence to the substance of our faith. The past experiences we have had with a good God that loves us dearly and walks with us in these times of pain. We look to the crocus flowers of faith and know that summer is coming. We can look to a time when every tear will be wiped away and joy is returned to us. We can look toward a time when we will see his smiling face again and share in Mikail’s joy.
Uncle Ken and Aunt Ren (Jason’s sister and brother in law and Mikail’s Uncle and Aunt) shared from the heart:
Uncle Ken and Aunt Ren shared their memories, including the joy they felt when we moved to Ontario. Lauren mentioned how, before Christmas, they had kept Mikail and Olivia for two days while Jason and I went to Detroit for his birthday. In keeping with our tradition of unwrapping a Christmas book as a daily advent calendar activity, we had brought them to open at Ken and Lauren’s house. While she was reading each page, Mikail would find the words he knew on each page. He always found JESUS easily. Not only did he recognize the word – he knew Jesus! And Mikail would want each one of the people in his life to know Jesus too, not just know about Him, but to have a personal relationship with Him.
Following the tributes, Pastor Alan shared a beautiful meditation. One illustration that still stands out for me went something like this: He told of a man who had lost a loved one and his colleague at work was looking for him to be angry and turn his back on God for letting it happen.  Finally after weeks of waiting he asked the grieving man about it. He answered with this illustration. – Imagine that you have a dear friend who decides to put on a big party for your birthday. He does all the work, invites all your friends and hosts an enjoyable evening. Everyone has a wonderful time. Then at midnight he announces that the party is now over and everyone needs to leave. You and the other guests object; you are still having such a good time; you want to celebrate till the morning. But your friend insists and people begin to leave. When you leave, will you thank him for all that he has done for you, or will you tell him that you are angry with him for ending the party when he did? Will you be thankful for the love and caring that you received at your celebration?  
The song The Glorious Unfolding (Steven Curtis Chapman) was played, touching us all deeply.

Following closing prayer we walked down the street to the United Church for a luncheon and visiting. Mom and Dad Hiebert went to the hospital after some time to relieve Verena and then after some time Jason and I returned to the hospital as well. Mom and Dad Hiebert returned to Sombra and Mom and Dad Parr came to visit at the hospital. Olivia had been asking for them, so we picked up pizza and enjoyed being together. I went back to the Parr farm with Mom and Dad Parr and Jason stayed the night so that I could get some much needed sleep.
The next morning I was planning on going to the hospital again, but Olivia was being released with the stipulation that we would see Dr. Bhandal at her clinic Thursday morning. Several people had suggested that we go away for a week where we don’t have to answer phones or door bells. Where meals would be made for us. Where we could begin making new memories and start to learn what this new reality of life after Mikail would be like. We asked Dr. Bhandal whether a trip like this would even be smart considering Olivia’s health. She thought it was a great idea. The warm humid air would be very good for Olivia’s lungs. The time away would be good for our healing to begin.
So, Jason found us tickets and off we went to Cuba for a week of sunshine kisses and the only thing to do was to just be together. It was a great decision. Olivia seemed to heal as soon as she breathed in that warm humid air. 
And there it is: the story behind and the story of Mikail’s Celebration of Life. With everything that was happening behind the scenes with Olivia, everyone pulled together and we had the most beautiful celebration of our son’s life.

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5 thoughts on “Mikail’s Celebration of Life

  1. Monica

    Oh Iris … I'm weeping. You are such a beautiful mom and you have such a beautiful family. And that little Mikail was something very, very, very special. I saw it when you were here for that short visit. I told my girls and Dale what an amazing little boy he was. All my love to all of you as you figure out this new 'normal'.


  2. Anonymous

    Iris, I have know the Parr's for many years as I grew up in Brigden. I know how much they love their family and all I can really say is ((((HUGS)))) and may God bless and sustain each of you every day. – Deanna Core


  3. Anonymous

    Hello. You don't know me but I have been following Mikail's story since I first heard this heartbreaking news from my cousin who has children who go to his school. As a mom of 3 young kids, ages 6, 3 and 22 months, my heart absolutely breaks for you. Your story hit so close to home as we have battled the type of cold symptoms you mentioned throughout this entire winter. Never once did I consider anything but that it would pass with time.You are such an amazing example of everything a parent should be and your faith and ability to celebrate your son's life despite the all encompassing shock and grief you are dealing with is one of the greatest, inspirational examples I have known. I pray for new peace and strength for your family in the coming days.-Nancy Simpson


  4. Karen Williams

    Iris, I was shocked when I received Carolyn's recent email, to hear of your loss but Makail's Eternal Gain. God certainly can make a fountain in the desert. Family friends in Grande Prairie, Alberta. Karen



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