Waiting for Heaven by Heather Gillis.
Holidays can be a difficult time for families who have recently lost loved ones. In Waiting for Heaven, an Ahwatukee resident, Heather Gillis, reaches out to parents everywhere who have lost a child and are struggling to find peace within the midst of their pain. As the book jacket says, “Life can sometimes lead us to unexpected places, only to leave us broken, desperate and hurting.” Ms. Gillis tells of her personal struggle when their baby son, Bowen, died thirteen days after birth of a fatal kidney disease, autosommal recessive polycystic kidney disease(ARPKD).
Although Heather and her husband, Mac, had no history of kidney disease, they discovered, after Bowen’s birth, that they had the mutation on their chromosomes, making them both carriers of the disease. One in 20,000 babies is diagnosed with ARPKD and they had a four-in-one chance of having a child with it. Fortunately, their first two children, Brooklyn and Blake, were not affected. Unfortunately, they were totally unprepared for Bowen’s diagnosis, with healthy ultra-sounds throughout the pregnancy. Her story would be an inspiration to other parents who search for a way to explain the death of a sibling, including a list of books to read to toddlers.
In addition to Heather’s encouraging personal story of faith, hope and renewal, there are many resources listed—books, blogs and websites. She created www.bowenshope.com to help spread hope to other families with ADPKD. Adult onset of this kidney disease is termed PKD and affects 1in 500 adults, typically diagnosed in a person’s early forties. Her book can be purchased through her website at $1.99 or Amazon (price varies) and proceeds go toward helping children on dialysis.
Although a sensitive issue, Waiting for Heaven could be a beautiful gift to those struggling to find answers to their loss. Heather shares honestly the painful grieving process she and Mac went through, yet there are nuggets of wisdom. For example, “Through this experience I have learned where the answers will never be found. The answer will never be found in anger and any desperate search for an answer will leave one only weak, empty-handed, and more angry.” Heather finds beauty in the midst of pain through her faith.
The book covers the time period from the day of Bowen’s birth (4-7-11) through the spring of 2013 when Heather, as part of her healing process, began training for the Boston Marathon. Shortly after she crossed the finish line and was looking for her family, she heard a loud sound that she thought was thunder, but in fact was the bomb. What she experienced that day, as well as meeting many of the Sandy Hook families who lost children, gave Heather a higher awareness of the price of freedom in our country, as well as a greater appreciation for the gift of life, regardless of what we have had to endure. Like ripples in a pond, Heather takes her personal loss and expands it into a universal message of hope and renewal for all.