(9/7/2019 - 12/3/2019)
Nikolai Coltrane Grindheim is a beautiful soul whose time on this earth was painfully short. He is loved.
Nikolai’s story did not begin with a twinkle in the eye. He was a surprise. He defied modern birth control to force his way into a family that loved him fiercely. This sweet baby, with a ferocious appetite and raspy cry, made a deep impact on this world. He is loved.
We’ve given each of our kids a middle name that carries attributes we wish for them. We wished for wisdom for Kai, so we gave him the middle name Solomon. We wished for generosity and kindness for our second child, so he became Ezra Bailey, Bailey being the surname of Jana’s grandmother, who demonstrates these attributes unfailingly. For Nikolai, we wished to imbue his life with creativity, artistry and boldness. We searched for months, choosing “Coltrane” on September 6th, after jazz musicians John and Alice Coltrane. This must have pleased Nikolai, because the next day he decided it was our time to meet him.
When Jana’s water broke she knew what was coming, so she did what anyone would do: go for a six-mile run. With her last pre-birth run behind her, we went to birth center to welcome our new family member. Thinking this would be a long process, we snuck out of the birth center and walked a half mile to the nearest restaurant to order dinner.
As we ordered our food, Nikolai decided it was time. We started to walk back, but only got a few hundred feet down the road before realizing this boy meant business. Jana stayed behind as Landon ran to get the car. He looked over his shoulder and saw Jana getting into a stranger’s car. Seconds later, this kind stranger was pulling over to pick up Landon. Our fate was sealed. We were hitchhiking to go give birth. Classy.
Less than an hour later we held Nikolai in our arms, his raspy cries filling the air. His face was bruised and his eyes red from how quickly he entered the world. This kid did nothing half way. He was instantly loved.
The twelve weeks we got with Nikolai were spent well. Much of his time was spent in a chair with his mama, nursing and being kissed all over his round little head. We cherished our time with this sweet baby, staring at his beautiful face and telling him how much we loved him. We knew this was our last child. Each day was precious. He is sooo loved.
Having already had two kids, we didn’t resent the inevitable sleep deprivation. We just enjoyed our time holding and loving sweet Nikolai. He was so often in our arms or strapped to our bodies as his older brothers, Kai and Ezra, showed him a future we hoped and expected he would inhabit: running around, playing with friends, creating. Those brothers loved him well.
Kai would wake up early to make sure he got a chance to hold and cuddle with Nikolai before school. He taught us that you could get Nikolai to “smile” by touching his cheek in just the right spot. Ezra would rub the top of his little brother’s head, repeating what would become everyone’s pet name: “Nikolai Nikolai.”
We never expected Nikolai’s life to be so short. It was a full life, though. His grandma Darci visited in his first few weeks. He flew to Idaho to meet his grandma Jan, his grandpa Ron, uncle Aaron, aunt Fallon and cousins Luke and Allison. His grandpa Vance came to meet Nikolai on Thanksgiving day.
Nikolai also spent his life loved by his community. So many families rallied to provide our family with essentials so we could care for him well in his earliest days. Nikolai’s story is incomplete without them. Even kids were invested in this sweet baby. Abbi Vaughn would carry him for hours when we couldn’t calm him down. Iris and Jasper Pardue would beam with pride when we let them hold sweet Nikolai. We thought these events were small at the time, but their placement in a twelve week life shows how meaningful these moments really are.
We couldn’t tell you the story of Nikolai without mentioning his smile. All gums and beautiful blue eyes. It was something we only started to get to know as he hit the milestone a few days before his twelfth week. It was so full of life. Last Sunday, Nikolai woke up in the middle of the night to nurse. As Landon turned on the light to change Nikolai’s diaper, Nikolai looked up at his papa and smiled. Then smiled again. It was as if he could finally communicate back the love that he had been receiving.
We didn’t know that smile-filled diaper change would be the last time we would see our baby fully present. Nikolai was found unresponsive the next morning. It was the beginning of a three day nightmare that we haven’t been able to wake up from.
Nikolai’s death is a senseless tragedy, but in it we have seen so much good. From the public servants who poured their hearts into resuscitating him, to the PICU staff who did everything they could to save him, to the knitter whose donation draped our baby’s body in place of hospital sheets, to our pastor and friends who stayed with us all day and all night, to the dozens and dozens of people who have prayed for us and cried with us and supported us, to the grandparents who dropped everything to stay with Kai and Ezra. There is so much good in this world. He is love.
When we were told that Nikolai would not recover, we were given a mercy. We could once again hold our son. We could know that he would no longer suffer. We could say goodbye to our baby, which we had not had the chance to do days earlier. We are forever grateful. He spent the last hours of his life surrounded by those who love him.
Nikolai Coltrane Grindheim passed in the arms of his mama and papa this Tuesday at 11:32pm, leaving behind a wake of love, memories, sorrow and joy. He is loved.