Editor’s Note: Many of our readers have been following the stories about the infant daughter of MTW Missionaries to England Sam and Elizabeth Goodwin who recently died after battling leukemia for many months. This is the final posting from the Caring Bridge website.
A little over a week ago, we laid little Simi’s body to rest in the cemetary behind the Dutch Fork Baptist Church building in Ballentine, SC, just outside of Columbia, SC.
It was a quiet, private ceremony where we as a family and some invited friends had the opportunity to mourn the death of our dear daughter, to share in committing her body momentarily to the earth, and rejoice in the promise and hope of seeing her and our Savior in the future.
A wonderful memorial service followed that evening where all who attended had the opportunity to cry together, sing together, and share a bit of Simi’s life together. One of the elements of the service, apart from a slide show, music, and preaching, was the reading of Simi’s life story. I have copied and pasted the text below.
A Changed Life?
Also, if you have the opportunity, we would love to hear from any of you whose life has been changed on a day to day basis. A number of people have expressed that they have been affected, altered, or transformed because of Simi’s life, sickness, and death. These are stories we would deeply appreciate having.
A website has been set up that allows tributes, stories, and pictures to be added in honor of little Simi. (http://www.tributes.com/simigoodwin) Life Stories is a tab on the main page, and we would love to have you not only add memories of Simi, but also add entries sharing how your life has been changed/affected by her living, going through this process, and dying.
Many of you know that we have a newsletter that we send out to friends, family, and suppporters so that they are able to keep up with us as we pursue full-time ministry overseas. If any of you would like to receive our letter, please write to us at GoodwinsInEngland@gmail.com to let us know.
Here is the text of Simi’s Life read at the memorial service. (It is a bit lengthy and our post ends with it.):
From almost the earliest days of her life, our daughter made herself known.
Unfortunately for Elizabeth, this manifested itself in rather extreme heartburn and indigestion that started about 5 weeks into the pregnancy and would persist for the next 6 months. This was one little person who was not going to be ignored…
When we found out that our expected baby was a girl, we sat Katie and Sophie down to tell them about their new sister. “We are going to have a baby girl,” we announced happily, “And her name is going to be Georgia Elizabeth.”
“No,” said Katie, not-quite-four-years-old. “Georgia is a boring name. I shall call her ‘Similar.’”
“Similar??” we asked, understandably confused.
“Yes,” said Katie. “Similar.”
From then on she doggedly insisted on our unborn baby being called Similar. If anyone had the temerity to refer to baby as “Georgia”, Katie interrupted that person firmly and definitely. “No, no. Not ‘Georgia’. Similar.”
After a few months of this we shortened Similar down to Simi. But it was all simply to placate Katie. After all, she would interrupt even when we were praying: “Dear Lord, thank you for our baby Georgia and please protect…” // “NOT GEORGIA! SIMI!”
You get the idea.
Eventually we got most of the heartburn and indigestion under control. But about that time Elizabeth developed gestational diabetes – the day before we flew, 30 weeks pregnant, to England for a field visit. Two days after our return Georgia (Sorry. SIMI.) tried to exit into the outside world a bit early.
Elizabeth was hospitalized for several days as the doctors tried to convince Simi to stay IN, then was released home to full bed-rest. Looking back now we see it as a sort of foreshadowing: Mommy and baby together in a room, on a bed, for medical reasons.
40 weeks of pregnancy may suit many people just fine, but in our family we have always cooked them faster. And so it was that Georgia (Sorry. SIMI.) could wait no longer than 35 weeks, and on June 25th, although she was a bit early, she was 6 lbs, 1 oz, pink, healthy, and ready to meet life head-on. When they handed our brand new baby girl to Elizabeth she looked down at her and said, “Welcome, little Geo… um. Simi.”
Simi stuck. Right then and there we knew. She just looked like a Simi.
Because we can’t help but see and enjoy the ridiculous in life, we always let Katie answer people who asked about our baby.
“Is that your new baby sister?” they would ask. Katie would proudly nod.
“What is her name?”
“Similar. But we call her Simi.”
We never corrected or amended this speech. We like to see people’s reactions to a human child being called Similar.
The first month of Simi’s life was much the same as many infant’s – sleeping, eating, crying, filling diapers, being loved and adored by her sisters and parents. She fit easily into our little family circle, widening it as our hearts expanded and made room for one more to love.
But by the time she was a month old, we were ready to hit the road. Since pregnancy issues had set us back a bit regarding support-raising in our goal to do church planting in England, we decided it was time to start driving all over the East Coast (and into Canada) to visit churches and individuals personally. It’s not always easy to get on a church’s schedule. But when you show up at the door with Dad, Mom, and three girls (one of them not yet two months old), you generally get an audience, at the very least!
For the next three months we were mostly on the road. We took a brief vacation in Canada in the middle there somewhere, and managed to get home for about a week once, too. But for the most part, for August, September, and October we were on the road. We were in different homes or motel rooms nearly every night. We traveled through SC, NC, VA, WV, MD, PA, NY, and Ontario, Canada.
For many this may sound like a bit of a nightmare. For us, it just worked. We loved it. Sure, we were crammed into nearly every available inch of minivan interior, sure Simi and her car-seat were packed so tightly into the third row that she could only be extracted through the trunk hatch, sure we had to make potty-stops a LOT… but we were all together – all five of us – as a family. To us, even then, it was a gift.
In those three months we managed to raise about another 25% of our necessary monthly support, added several churches and many individuals to our prayer list, and saw many things. We went to NY City, Niagara Falls, the Canfield Fair, and Soergel Farm Pumpkin Patch. In Canada the girls went fishing, learned how to clean and fry their catch, built a fort with Daddy, played indoors on rainy days. They learned to look for the church nursery as soon as we entered each new church – sometimes as many as 3 or 4 in one day. By the end of three months, we had Simi sleeping through the night and Sophie potty-trained – a job well done!
November and December were our “normal” months. We lived at home and only traveled for weekend speaking engagements. Christmas was a wonderful one with family and friends in our home. But already we were planning and packing for Belgium.
Because our support level was sufficiently high (above 90%), we were ready to attend Mission to the World’s Cross-Cultural Ministry Internship – or pre-field training – in Brussels, Belgium. This was 4 weeks of training through most of January and into February. We discovered that flying with three, 4 and under, is not quite as easy as driving with them, but we managed to get all five of us (with cousin Rebekah as nanny!) to Belgium.
In Belgium our family shared a room. We had had a lot of training on how to do that on our three month road-trip. (Although it must be said that Belgian hostel-style bunk-beds are not exactly the same as motel-style king beds.)
About halfway through our time in Belgium, little Simi began to get sick. She started running a fever and had a cough. Diagnosed with a variety of ailments, she never complained, allowing us to cart her around from our room, to nursery care, and to afternoon ministry assignments around Brussels. We went to Gent one week, Germany another, and then finally, in order to activate our visas for living in the UK, we made a trip to England.
But throughout these next days and weeks, Simi continued to be sick. We took her to a number of pediatricians who prescribed a whole series of medications. On Saturday, February 5, she stopped nursing and refused any solid food. Deeply concerned, we skyped with Sam’s sister Catherine, a nurse, who took one look at Simi on the computer screen and advised us to get home immediately. Something was seriously wrong. We began looking for flights and booked for the next day (Sunday).
Later that afternoon when we were in a meeting, Simi threw up, and the ladies changing her noticed that she had bruising up her spine on each vertebra. They called us. And immediately as we looked at it we had a terrible, sick feeling. Even without any medical training, we have been around cancer enough, read enough books, and seen enough movies to know that one major sign of leukemia is extensive bruising.
We rushed Simi to a local hospital’s ER where we were triaged in record time. The nurse took one look at her and guided us into the main ER where 6 doctors and nurses were soon pouring over her, drawing blood, listening to her heart, her belly, scanning her body for bruises. Oh, and it was all done in French.
The main attending doctor leaned over to us after only about 10 minutes, and in heavily accented English she said, “It is a blood disease. Probably leukemia, but we don’t know yet. We have to give her many transfusions.”
Over the next hours Simi received blood, platelets, and fluids. The doctor later told us her counts were so low that she would probably not have lived through the night if we hadn’t brought her in.
The next 36 hours are kind of a blur. The doctors generally knew enough English to communicate – bluntly – what was going on. But the nurses, techs, and all other staff only spoke French. Not one word of English. We had both studied French in high school and some in college. But we quickly learned that those courses generally don’t teach you hematological or oncological terminology. It’s not particularly helpful to say, “How do I get to the train station?” When you want to know, “How are you going to address my daughter’s leukemia?”
From the start we wanted to get back to the States for treatment. Over the next 36 hours the doctors in Saint Luke’s in Brussels worked to stabilize Simi so we could make the 20 hour trip back to Columbia. They would only keep her 48 hours without starting her on chemotherapy. If unable to stabilize her for travel by then, we would be stuck in Brussels for at least 6 more weeks.
We were very stressed.
Tom and Jan Courtney, dear friends and co-workers of ours, came and spent time with us in the Pediatric Intensive Care Unit of Saint Luke’s. They cried with us and prayed with us. They loved on Simi. Jan spoon-fed her water. Simi pulled her glasses off. They sat with her and prayed over her and let us leave and find something to eat. For the first of many, many times to follow, we sat across a table from each other and faced the reality of our daughter’s leukemia.
It was a miracle that we were able to leave Belgium. The doctors gave us 48 hours before they would treat Simi’s leukemia with chemo. But we wanted to get back to the States to do this. It seemed like Sam was on the phone, or emailing, or skyping with everyone, trying to rebook flights, consult with our pediatrician, family, etc. On Monday morning at 10 a.m. the doctors said we had a 24 hour travel window where Simi would receive no medical treatment. We left the hospital at 10:15 a.m. Our flight was scheduled for 11.
We missed that flight. But thanks to helpful airline staff, understanding security personnel, and a lot of running, our family of five, still with Rebekah helping us, caught the 12 noon flight – the last one out of Brussels to the US.
It took 20 hours to get to Columbia. We had an 8 hour layover in DC where the girls finally fell asleep sitting up, and we had to load Katie and Sophie onto a wheelchair with our carry-ons to get them to our flight. Simi was in her stroller. Through 20 hours of airplanes, airports, and cars, Simi slept. She woke only to nurse, but slept, mercifully, until we arrived at Children’s Hospital in Columbia at just before midnight on February 7.
That is when her journey really began. Over the next five months she would endure four rounds of chemo, a bone marrow transplant, countless blood and platelet transfusions, medications, pokings and proddings, surgical procedures, and I can’t say what-all.
Through all of this, she developed from a little lump of baby in the third row of the minivan to a happy, chubby, people-loving, people-gathering little girl.
Most of you followed the last five and a half months of her life through her Caring Bridge journal entries, so we are not going to go into a lot of detail of that time. What we do want to point out is beyond her day-to-day life to the wider impact she had on our world. About the time we were told that the bone marrow transplant had failed, something shifted. In that time our baby’s story went from “ours” to “everyone’s”.
Especially in the last month it seemed like our Caring Bridge posts were going viral. We would get guestbook entries and emails from people all over the globe.
“I’m writing from Rochester, Minnesota. I just heard about your daughter from our pastor who got an email from his seminary… I’m praying for your Simi.”
“I’m writing from Australia. My friend in Rochester, Minnesota, just told me your story, as told to her by her pastor… I’m praying for Simi.”
“I kept waking up in the middle of the night last night so I figured God wanted me to pray for you. So I stayed up most of the night praying for Simi.”
“Simi has taught me to face each day with a positive attitude and treat each day as a gift.”
“I’ve learned how to pray by praying faithfully for Simi.”
The majority of the messages we got in the past month were from people whom we had never met. Oftentimes they had heard it from a friend of a friend. They would tell us they wept over Georgia’s condition. We have been prayed for by people in over 30 countries and nearly every time zone. We have been bathed in prayer.
But in the end it was apparently not God’s will to heal our Simi this side of the grave. On Wednesday, July 13th at 8:55 in the morning, she passed gently from this world to the next. For the better part of her last week and a half, little Simi had decided that only Daddy would do. If Daddy entered the room and Simi heard his voice she would not rest until she was in his arms. When she was in pain and crying, Daddy would walk in, pick her up, and, after she had pat-patted him on his shoulder, she would rest her head on his chest and go to sleep. It was there, while resting in her Daddy’s arms that she breathed her last breath here on earth and went into the arms of her Heavenly Father in whose arms she has been all along.
Simi was a “people gatherer”. Everywhere we took her people were sure to collect. She never objected to the nurses and doctors who wanted to poke at her. Welcoming them into the room, she would charm them into staying for far longer than they had intended. We even heard rumors that some of the doctors would alter their rounds so that they could end with Simi. They wanted to end their rounds on a “high note”. She even started a “conflict” among some of the staff over who would get a smile or a pat. Hospital workers whom we had never met, who worked on floors where we had never been, knew of Simi and would come to our floor just to meet her. For reasons we do not understand, God had given us a most unusual baby… a most unusual baby who would only be with us for a short time.
But we have realized that there are many things about this which we do not understand:
– What it means to live in a world where she is not present.
– Why the Lord saw it fit to give us this dear child for only a year and 19 days.
– Why God, in Christ, would use our daughter, our Simi, to capture the heart of so many thousands.
– Why God would have moved so many to pray and yet not heal her.
However, we do know more about the family of God than ever before. We have seen His church stand unified before the Throne of Grace and beseech the heavens on our behalf. People from diverse denominations whose members often have little to do with others outside of their group came together to pray for a little girl whom many had never actually met. We are humbled and amazed at such an outpouring. We cannot understand it.
We echo David’s words in 2 Samuel 7:18, “Who am I, Sovereign Lord, and what is my family, that you have brought me this far?” Who are we? Who is Simi?
But it is the Lord who moves His people to pray. Although many began to pray only for Simi’s healing, once they were laying this burden before the Lord He brought many other things to their mind. People’s prayer life changed. Simi never learned to speak more than half a dozen words. But her life spoke to so many. Her short life affected more than many people can affect in a long life. How many adults do you know who mobilized God’s people to pray faithfully day after day after week after month? This small child’s life was large.
We miss Simi. Although we are only now learning what life is like without her, we already know it’s hard. We miss her dimpled smiles, her pat-pats, her silly-face. We miss holding her, rocking her, singing to her, watching her play and sleep. There are so many things she could have done in her life if she had had more time with us. It is hard to be happy that our child is in the eternal, when we are left behind in the earthly.
Toward the end of Simi’s life we began thinking of what we’d like to do with her before she left us. We called it our “Baby Bucket List”. Virtually nothing on the list was completed, but that matters little in the grand scheme of things. Simi’s Aunt Susan wrote up a short poem about Simi’s Baby Bucket List. It goes like this:
Baby Bucket List
Play in the bathtub
Sit in the grass and watch a beetle
Eat ice cream.
Dance with my sisters
Play with mom’s makeup
Braid my cousins’ hair.
Make a castle with Baby Einstein’s turtle
Swim with dolphins
Be a mermaid in the sand.
Throw out the first pitch at a Braves’ game
Fly an F-14 Tomcat
Visit outer space.
Sleep on daddy’s chest
Hear mommy’s breath in my ear
Hello, Jesus. Pat-pat.
And that is the important part. Simi is in heaven. We don’t grieve as those who have no hope of the resurrection. We know we will see her again someday when the Lord calls us home. We know that as much as she loved her life here, her friends, her sisters, her Mommy, her Daddy. She knows a joy beyond comprehension now, for she sees her Savior face to face.