Another Noah and another 40 days
I started this site during vacation to share one writer's journey and my plans for a second book and my first novel. But vacation ended with my daughter asking me to write the hardest and most honorable assignment -- the eulogy for her 40-day-old son and the grandson of my wife and me.
Eulogy for Noah Joseph Brown
July 21-Aug. 31, 2016
By Roger Snell
Frankfort, Kentucky Ward
The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints
Saturday, Sept. 3, 2016
We are here to celebrate the earthly life of Noah Joseph Brown who fulfilled his mortal mission to obtain a body. This life is one of testing and probation to see if we will be obedient to the will of Heavenly Father and of his son Jesus Christ.
Some, like Noah, are so valiant that they are called back home immediately. This innocent age assures entry into the highest level of Heaven, the presence of Heavenly Father and our Savior Jesus Christ.
We also believe that the departure of any such child is because they were so mighty, noble and significant that Heavenly Father needed them back home, and His plan was for the child not to endure temptations, trials or sometimes lengthy afflictions that test the natural and mortal man.
Noah is the beloved and eternal son of Rachel and Joshua Brown, and his sister, Isabel, sealed together in the temple for time and all eternity.
He is survived by paternal grandparents Morris and Naomi Brown and maternal grandparents Linda Snell (my wife) and me. He is survived by aunts and uncles Hannah Snell, Jason Brown, Mindy Jones, Nathon Brown, and Vanessa Webb.
He is survived by maternal great-grandparents Rosella and Donald Snell who are here today and by great aunts and uncles Donna Gaier, Craig Starner and Pam Segelhorst, and so many other family members.
Within hours of Noah’s return home, his great-grandfather Russell Brown — father of Morris, grandfather of Joshua — also passed on the same day.
Family members have said that Great-Grandpa Brown may have needed Noah’s escort as much as Noah needed him as they passed through the same gate.
Everything about this mortal life is about living in a way that we are worthy to come home to the presence of our Heavenly Father and the Savior.
“Coming Home” by Skylar Grey is the music video Rachel and Joshua have chosen to share at the end of this service.
“Tell the world I’m coming home, I’m coming home. Let the rain wash away all the pain of yesterday. I know my kingdom awaits. Tell the world I’m coming home.”
I want to start with the happy moments of Rachel and Josh’s excitement of having a brother for Isabel.
They had so many plans for him. They had just moved into their first home, a country home with a wraparound porch, with a road following the Salt River in Anderson County, a place where Izzy and Noah were going to fish, and float, and hike and play.
They made an earthly home for Noah.
My grandson was also going to be the first-round draft pick of the Cincinnati Reds or the Chicago Cubs — whichever team was better 18 years from now.
Rachel had a smooth pregnancy. Everything went well. She and Noah were strong and healthy all the way.
The doctors laughed in the final weeks before his birth when Rachel said he had to be more than 9 pounds because of how huge she felt.
She was right and they were wrong. He was a whopping 9 pounds and 9 ounces, which the assisting nurse said was the biggest baby for the littlest momma in her career.
The night before Noah left us to go to his heavenly home, Rachel had such a bonding moment with Noah and even told everyone how he looked her right in the eyes, obviously and intensely, and starting jabbering like he was talking directly to his momma.
“I was so happy,” Rachel said. “Are you talking to me?” she asked Noah in this private and quiet time with mother and child.
“I was so proud of him. I knew what joy was,” Rachel said.
Josh is so proud of that son, too.
A daughter and a son. Everything was perfect.
The greatest thing to happen to Rachel is Josh and Rachel is the greatest thing to happen to Josh.
They say that and show that all the time.
Can you believe that they first met in a college class on marriage. I sure hope they got an A — but we all know they passed.
Josh is trying so hard to carry so much load — to uplift Rachel when he is near breaking himself.
Can you imagine anything harder than a father digging his own son’s grave, as Josh did yesterday? They chose a humble and beautiful farm setting, just three miles from our home, in the family cemetery of our great church friends, the Sudduths.
I make this loving mention of Josh because all of the rest of this is about mothers and unconditional love.
Any mother in this congregation can understand who has lost a little one to miscarriage, disease, accident, or sudden infant death syndrome. A mother’s guilt, questions, burdens — all which can only be lifted, carried, healed by the unconditional love of the Savior.
Only Heavenly Father knows why a healthy, happy baby boy takes a routine nap and does not wake up. Only He knows why sudden infant death syndrome strikes so many, so suddenly, so quietly.
Rachel had just finished a prayer that Heavenly Father would help Noah rest. Days before, a similar prayer was answered with a curious prompting: “Love him. Just love him.”
Rachel felt all of that: Noah’s attempt to talk to his Mom; Rachel’s feeling of joy; a prayer as Rachel’s final act that Noah might be able to find rest.
Rachel — home alone as Josh worked so hard on those 24-hour shifts as firefighter and 12-hour shifts at the hospital —peeked in, surprised that Noah was sleeping so quietly, learning with horror that something was not right.
She held him, hugged him, tearfully performed CPR as the 9-1-1 operator coached her, kept her on the phone and waited for help to arrive.
As EMTs busily worked on Noah in their living room, frozen on the TV screen was the face of the Savior, with the words “Finding Faith in Christ.”
It was a DVD that Izzy had been playing before Noah and she went for their naps. The movie was one of Izzy’s favorites. She likes anything with Jesus, especially with his picture.
Their neighbor, John, is a paramedic and was called by Anderson County about an ambulance run to what they thought was his home.
He raced home to find paramedics next door, Rachel alone on the front porch, crushed, crying, praying for a miracle.
John got Rachel and Izzy to the hospital as the ambulance left with Noah.
John brought his 11-year-old son — also named Noah.
As we waited in the hospital waiting room for news, Noah said, “Wow. Deja vu. I just had a feeling that I’ve been here before.”
“How did it end?” I asked Noah.
“Happy. People celebrating.”
Something similar happened in that waiting room with Izzy. She kept looking at the ceiling, pointing, telling Hannah: “Baby, baby, baby.”
We didn’t understand until later. Noah, the 11-year-old, did see people celebrating in that deja vu experience. He somehow got a glimpse through the veil.
And Izzy saw the spirit of her brother, Noah, in the same room and same fashion.
Rachel’s cries could be heard a hallway away.
She was hurting so much, blaming herself so much that she could not face her mother because Rachel felt so wrongly and sadly that she was no longer worthy to be called a mother.
Bishop Fugal gave Rachel a blessing. And then he told Rachel about how he and his wife, Annette, a young couple 20 years ago, had lost their perfectly healthy, 20-day-old boy. He was down for a morning nap and just didn’t wake up. He was buried on Christmas Eve.
Bishop Fugal’s blessing and my reminder to Rachel about the unconditional love of mothers for their children began the healing. Linda and Rachel were finally united.
In just 24 hours, Rachel and Josh were healing — showered by love — the love you all have in this room right now.
I testify and know in my heart: Rachel was exactly where she was supposed to be, when she was supposed to be.
Noah was in his earthly mother’s arms when he got to say goodbye and go home.
Your love, the hundreds of emails, Facebook postings, tender mercies lifted them when they didn’t feel like standing, pointed the way when they couldn’t move forward.
This is how we will stand in the presence of the Savior, perhaps wavering, feeling weak, maybe blaming ourselves when we should not feel guilt. We will feel this same unconditional love, as children of God.
Rachel and Josh want you to know of so many tender mercies:
— Heavenly Father provided the Fugals and their similar loss for Josh and Rachel’s comfort and for another blessing and reminder to Sister Fugal of His love for mothers.
— Rachel simply mentioning privately and only to family that she wished she had a nice dress to wear for Noah’s funeral. Without any possible way of knowing, Rachel Sherratt called just 30 minutes later saying that she was taking her shopping and buying her a dress, directly inspired by Relief Society President Joan Martin.
— Rachel and Josh at the funeral home yesterday to watch Hannah and Linda dress Noah in the same outfit he wore for his blessing in front of the congregation just days ago at this very spot where his body rests now.
— Izzy at the funeral home, pointing at the ceiling again, multiple times, excited, looking for confirmation if we saw what she saw. Noah’s spirit was there again and only Izzy could see her brother.
— Izzy climbing on a chair and repeatedly giving her brother a kiss on the cheek at the funeral home yesterday; then blowing him a kiss when we were leaving that room.
— Messages and hurried, long-distance trips of best friends and family to be here now.
Rachel and Josh feel your love. They need you. We all need the peace and understanding of the Savior and of Heavenly Father’s plan for each of us.
Noah was born on July 21. He went home on Aug. 31. He was here for exactly 40 days and 40 nights. Just a few hours later would have been the start of the 41st day. He went home with his great-grandfather.
Heavenly Father’s plan was exactly 40 days for Noah.
Another Noah saw the earth baptized and cleansed by a flood that lasted 40 days and 40 nights.
The Savior fasted during his greatest need for 40 days and 40 nights.
The number 40 is so significant in scripture, Annette Fugal told Rachel.
It symbolizes “enough.” The maximum. Long enough.
Noah was here 40 days. Long enough for him and Heavenly Father.
Not nearly long enough for us. But we understand and we celebrate Heavenly Father’s plan.
I say this in the name of Jesus Christ. Amen.
Roger Snell was a reporter for nearly two decades. His memoir recounts life in the newsroom, as bishop, and near death's door. Extraordinary, faithful and inspirational people are subjects of what he was dying to tell his granddaughter. Publication of "Love, Grandpa" is tentatively set for November 2017. His first book was about the 1929 Chicago Cubs.