‘bye for now, buddy!

(Last week, I wrote a post in honor of Judah, our beautiful neighbor-boy who went home to Jesus. His mama texted me, thanked me, and asked if I could write a modified version to be read at his memorial service. OF COURSE. I asked her what she meant by modified. She said, “More Judah, less us.” I prayed & prayed and wrote & edited, and here it is. If you want to let Josh & Laura know you’re thinking of them and praying for them, just leave a comment.)

***

God has always had a habit of using the smallest ones to do his biggest kingdom work.

Little David. Young Gideon. Naaman’s servant girl. The boy with the loaves and fishes. Mary, mother of Jesus.

Our buddy, Judah.

Judah had just over two years of life experience on this earth, a vocabulary of less than 100 words, and could barely reach the countertop.

Yet he touched more lives for God’s kingdom than we will ever know.

Our family met Josh, Laura, and Judah for the first time on the evening of September 3, 2013, at a cookout where we knew exactly no one. The purpose of the gathering was to introduce like-minded folks who shared a love for the refugee community in Columbus.

That night changed our lives.

That tiny two-month-old baby boy would quickly become the adorable, squishy brother our three girls never had. Three months later, we moved in next door to him and his mom and dad at a really special place called Abbey Lane.

You all know the heartbreaking next chapter of his story. A routine check-up, something not right with his heart, an MRI, a tumor, open-heart surgery, chemo, a port in his little chest, days and days in the hospital, so much poking & pricking & needles & tubes.

If you had the honor and privilege of hanging out with Judah during any of those months, he no doubt blew your socks off by the way he handled every last bit of it like a pro. He charmed nurses and doctors and fellow cancer patients with his ornery grin. He charmed every neighbor at Abbey Lane with his adorable waddle and giggles. He charmed little girls like Lucy Ronyak who wanted to marry him when she grew up.

He pretty much lit up our lives, lit up everybody’s lives. Our girls couldn’t get enough of him. Racing cars on his track table. Holding his cup while he sipped his yummy green smoothies. Sneaking him popsicles when his daddy wasn’t looking (we only did that once, Josh! Okay, twice.). Playing toys in his living room filled with neighbor kids.

Chasing him up and down the balcony. Pushing him on his little blue squirrel. Dressing him up and making him pose for photos. Enjoying those rare moments when he was tired enough to cuddle. Pushing his stroller to the library. Dancing with him to praise music. Letting him vacuum our living room. Waving at him through the window on our way to the laundromat, his face squished up against the glass.

And my very, very favorite. Head bumps. All we had to do was say, “Judah! Head bump!” and he’d bump his forehead against ours and grin so big.

All of that, just Judah being Judah, was kingdom work in and of itself. Spreading joy wherever he’d go, shining light in dark places, bringing people together in prayer.

Judah’s spunky, happy, funny, giggly, ornery, adorable, brave, precious life spoke louder than a million words about Jesus and his kingdom. He had Jesus written all over him.

His life said Jesus is real. Jesus is good. His life said we don’t understand why things happen sometimes, but we all desperately need Jesus. Judah’s life said death is not the end. It means seeing Jesus and spending all of forever with him in heaven. It’s not about doing good things or checking off a list and hoping it’s enough. It’s not about us at all. It’s about Jesus taking all our sin on himself. So we can spend eternity with God.

But there’s more. Because when you add in a mommy and daddy like Judah’s, you’ve got a testimony that’s impossible to ignore.

They don’t have the kind of faith you can just nod your head at and say, “oh, that’s nice, but not for me, thanks.” You kind of have to deal with it, wrestle with it. You have to think things like, “Who is this Jesus? What is this faith? What is this crazy peace that makes Josh & Laura rest in God and keep loving & helping others while their only child is fighting a terrible disease? Who is this God they’re worshipping and praising right smack dab in the middle of so much unfairness?”

We may never understand why Judah only got two years here on earth. We’re going to love and miss that little guy forever and ever. There’s this great big hole in our hearts now, and it really, really hurts.

But the impact his life is going to have for years and years and years to come will be huger than any of us know.

Because of Judah, people are going to love and be neighbors to folks who are different from them. Because of Judah, people are going to hug their kiddos instead of yelling at them. Because of Judah, people are going to stop wasting their one life and do something that will matter for eternity.

Because of Judah, people are going to be strong when things are hard. Because of Judah, people are going to praise and worship God even when it feels like life isn’t fair. Because of Judah, people are going to laugh and dance and sing and bump heads just for fun and not take life so awfully seriously all the time.

Judah would want us to keep celebrating life, even a life without him in it.

Because of Judah, people are going to spend their lives on behalf of the hungry and pour themselves out for those on the margins.

Because of Judah, people are going to meet Jesus.

And their lives will never be the same.

We love you so, so, so much, Judah Caden Fitzpatrick. We miss you like crazy, but we’re so glad you’re home safe and healed with Jesus. We’ll take care of Mommy and Daddy for you—we promise. We’re asking God for goodness and mercy to follow them the rest of their lives here on earth, okay?

We’ll see you again soon in that place God is preparing for all of us who put our trust in him. We’ll see you again, our little roaring lion, our worshipping warrior, our hero.

We can’t wait.

And Judah? Sweet, handsome, oh-so-brave, one-of-a-kind Judah?

When we get to heaven?

Get ready for lots and lots of head bumps!

15 thoughts on “‘bye for now, buddy!

  1. Jan Whetstone

    What a beautiful testimony. We never met Judah, and only met Josh and Laura at the calling hours, but we know Great-grandma Susan, as she is a part of our Bible study. She kept us posted on Judah’s battle,with cancer, and she has had .the most wonderful attitude and witness durinm,the whole time. Just trusting God one day at a time. She loved it when Judah would make a fist and say “Boo,” to her. God bless the whole family..

  2. Amy Chapman

    Tomorrow night (Sept 11) at Lee University is a special soccer game raising funds and awareness for kids with cancer. I have purchased my t-shirt and will wear it proudly in honor of Judah Caden’s life. I never had a chance to meet the little guy, but my life was touched by his precious parents while we were in college together. Much love to the Cates and Fitzpatrick families during this time.

  3. Anna Torres McAlister

    God made Judah on purpose for a purpose. There is no doubt that he is THE APPLE of His eye and THE DELIGHT of His heart. I never had the privilege to meet Judah, but I’ve met his mom and dad. Every time I think of them, I thank the Lord!
    Love, Anna

  4. Shannon Smith

    What a beautiful story of precious Judah. To his parents I am praying that God will continue to hold you close and give you peace. I am so sorry

  5. Victoria

    Oh my goodness–what a blessing! Amazingly, heartily, deeply captured. Josh and Laura, through the life you’re living and in sharing Judah, you make me want to be a better neighbor–a brighter light. That takes time and patience, not always rushing to the next task, but I have you modeling it. I thank God for you and, even without “knowing” you well yet, love you for that.

  6. Alisha Shewmaker McFarland

    I knew Laura from high school youth group. She was an amazing mature Christian woman then and it seems not a lot has changed in that sense. However, the gift of mommyhood is something God granted her with having such a beautiful boy that sounds like he touched so many. Just like my first born Stetson. Laura and I now have something I prayed and hoped wouldn’t happen. (I heard Judah was sick the day after we burried my 3 year old) We know the feeling and pain that God felt when He gave His one and only son. My heart breaks for y’all. God is Sovereign though and somehow He will carry you through this. And even though our boys never met, I sure hope they are getting to play together and serve The Lord together. Prayers for your family. And when you are ready please find a Compassionate Friends support group near you. *hugs*

  7. oline

    To Judah’s mom and dad, may you continue to have peace, rest in Him, keep worshipping and praising Him, even through the pain. I can only imagine. Your Judah sounds like such a beautiful boy, wish I knew him!

  8. Ralph and Georgene Bussey

    This is so beautiful. Thanks for sharing. Our hearts break for Josh and Laura. We continue to pray God Will give them strength.

  9. Cindy Schmidt

    What a precious story of that sweet little Judah. Josh & Laura, all I could offer was a giant vat of green beans for your dinner last night, an awkward gift that in reality contained gallons & gallons of love and peace and comfort and support and giant hugs as life goes on without your little buddy. Much love ❤️

  10. Sarah Farish

    Beautiful, friend. And to Josh and Laura…many prayers coming your way. Laura, the few times I spent with you, you radiated your Creator. Your presence leaves no doubt that Jesus exists and you serve him. Grace and peace.

  11. Sharon

    Beautiful. Just beautiful. So glad you shared this with us, Marla. I’m sure everyone who heard it (and who reads it) will be blessed.

    Josh and Laura: We’ve been praying for your family ever since Marla first told us about Judah. We will continue to pray for you all.

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