This Little Life

Intermission: Between the Cancer Death of One Child and the Birth of a New Baby

If you were to ask me, “Who is the most inspiring person in your life?”, chances are I would name Rebecca Fogarty.  She is a dear friend, one who has navigated extreme hardship with Godly wisdom, dignity and courage.  I want to be like her!  She’s also extremely eloquent, so I won’t rabbit on. These are her words, another This Little Life story that demonstrates the inherent value of life.

(Rebecca first shared this story at the 2014 Flourish women’s event in Launceston)

“Intermission. The break in the middle of the show that allows you to get something to eat, go to the loo or talk to the person next to you. Intermission is also the name we have given the last nine weeks. It has been a time without children…between children. While excruciatingly painful it has also been a valuable chance to rest, to talk and to think.

What I am about to share is sad but it turns out okay so please trust me and come with me on this. My son Leo was diagnosed with cancer when he was still a baby. Here is a photo after he lost his hair.


He had treatment and got better but then the cancer came back. Second time around, the treatment didn’t work and we were told to take Leo home to die. They said to expect weeks, maybe a little longer. Instead, Leo got better again! This was totally unexpected and so wonderful. We had Winter, Spring and Summer. Then he got sick again and died on one of the last days of Autumn. He was nearly four.

Intermission has allowed me to ask all the obvious questions. Why? Why did Leo die? Why do bad things happen? If he loves me, why didn’t God give me what I wanted?

My parents have a magnet on their fridge that makes me laugh. It says, “For every difficult and complicated question there is always an answer that is simple, easily understood and wrong!”

During intermission I’ve been confronted with the following easy logic:
– What happened was horrible so God mustn’t exist, or;
– If God does exist he mustn’t have the power to intervene, or;
– If he does and still allowed Leo to suffer and die, he mustn’t care. He can’t be loving and isn’t worth knowing.

Simple answers…but I knew in my heart they were wrong.

Then God showed me something that helped me to understand. All that I learnt last year about God’s provision and the joy he gives, even in the middle of tragedy, that is all still true. Nothing has changed. And this is how I came to understand it.

God showed me that his relationship with me is just like the relationship I had with Leo.

Leo and I had a really good relationship. Despite this, Leo would have never understood why I insisted that he do chemo and radiation, why I made him take terrible tasting medicine several times a day and worse still, why I held him down so the nurses could hurt him with needles and tubes.

Amazingly, Leo never withdrew from me. He still came to me for love and comfort. He still trusted me.

If Leo had decided I didn’t love him I would have been absolutely heart broken. I would have made the same decisions though. You see, while I could stop the treatment at any point, and occasionally did, I was limited by my priorities. All good parents are limited by their priorities. A chance at long term health was more important to me than Leo’s short term comfort. The big things that Leo couldn’t see were just too critical to give up on. And I always made sure I was with Leo. Nothing happened without my permission.


Then God showed me that my relationship with him was just the same. He was right there with me through all the suffering. He met all my needs and comforted me again and again. While Leo still died, it wasn’t because God didn’t care. If God was limited, he was limited only by his priorities and promises. He is looking much further ahead and wider out than I can see.

I have also come to see that when God comforted me he wasn’t promising there would be no pain. He was asking me to cooperate and trust him anyway. When I held Leo down in hospital and told him to be still, I wasn’t promising that the procedures wouldn’t hurt. I was asking him to cooperate anyway. Not to make things worse by thrashing and panicking.

I don’t know what the whole point of the last three years is. I don’t understand God and his decisions. I have made a conscious and almost pigheaded decision to love and trust God anyway. I won’t budge no matter how sad I feel. I understand enough about our relationship to know God does care and would be heartbroken if I concluded simply that he doesn’t love me.

There are lots of examples in the Bible where God uses the people who love and trust him to achieve something important, even if those people didn’t understand what has going on. You see, the big question is not ‘can I trust God?’ It is ‘can God trust us to see things through to the end?’  He can’t always share his plans with us because like Leo, we just don’t understand. Too many people give up and settle for simple answers before God can finish what he is doing.  He needs to be able to trust us to keep trusting him.

The Bible says, “Rejoice with those who rejoice and mourn with those who mourn.” Intermission has taught me that I can actually experience sadness and joy at the same time. And if I can’t do joy in my own strength, provided I am sticking close to God like a child to it’s mother, God will put joy inside me.

Intermission is over now and our second son has arrived. Our sadness is punctuated by incredible joy. This baby is not an angel, he is not Leo and he won’t make everything alright. That is an impossibly big job for a very, very small person.

photo 2-1

His name is Jesse Barnabas Fogarty, an old name and one we have chosen very carefully. Jesse means ‘gift’ and Barnabas means ‘son of encouragement’.

He is a gift of encouragement and joy and we are so glad he is here.”

photo 1


Do you have a story like Rebecca’s? A journey that highlights the inherent value of life?  I’d love to hear from you.
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  1. This was such an inspiring thing to read. I love that she said she didn’t understand, but she was going to trust God anyway. That’s such an incredibly mature way to live.
    Thank you for sharing.

  2. MIchelle Luck says

    Bec, what beautiful words. Thankyou for your bravery and honesty and willingness to share. Bless you and your family xxxx

  3. It still brings tears to my eyes, the very sad loss of Leo and the incredible courage his parents have shown throughout it all. Perhaps the point is that he has touched so many lives, inspired people who have never met him, and through the gracious, God-filled wisdom of his parents, helped us to understand God a little better. Our pastor was holding back tears as he lead the congregation through a prayer that God make him well again, and if that wasn’t his plan, to take him quickly so he wouldn’t suffer too long. Little Leo has taught us that amidst our pain and suffering, God is still good.

    Whatever the point is, it must be important. When I heard of that the Lord had taken him home, I’m sure my heart stopped beating – for this boy I’d never met. He is special, and God had a purpose in mind when he made little Leo Fogarty.

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