David Robert Leestma

And through faith, David still speaks

Our family had just made another long move with the Air Force shortly after having been told by our previous doctor that we would be expecting another healthy baby. However, after the first appointment with our new OBGYN, our lives were turned upside down as we heard the devastating news that our son had significant birth defects and Down syndrome.

Our third child, David Robert, was unexpectedly diagnosed with Trisomy 21, a duodenal atresia, and an atrial ventricular septal defect at 32 weeks. In our broken state, we quickly realized that while this was not our plan or what we envisioned for our family, we would have to fight for our son. It felt like our world was crashing down around us. Slowly we began to feel the presence of God draw near as He reminded us that our lives were not shattering, but falling into place, just as He had always planned for our family. He had uniquely and intentionally created our son.

While every doctor we met expressed astonishment that David’s significant medical issues had all been missed, we knew that God had been protecting us and showed us that His sovereign timing is always better than our own. We began our new routine by seeing all the specialists and preparing for a life of surgeries, therapies, and long-term care.

However, our fight unexpectedly came to an end on September 3, 2020 when we heard those earth-shattering words, “There is no heartbeat.” Our son was already in the arms of the One who created him. We were admitted that afternoon into Labor and Delivery to be induced. I was essentially being asked to do the unthinkable — labor and deliver our dead son; something no one should ever be asked to do. The drive to the hospital, the walk to our L&D room, every step of the way we were getting closer to the inevitable… our last moments with David.

But in those moments of indescribable pain, God showed up. So many people came along side us to give us the strength and encouragement to endure that day. We didn’t know it at the time, but a friend had reached out to Abel Speaks for us. From that moment, Abel Speaks has been a huge part of David’s story. Within hours of David passing, they were on the phone with the hospital, making arrangements we couldn’t have made for ourselves. We listened to the Abel Speaks playlist all day, filling our room with worship music. As we held David for the first time, feeling the warmth he still carried from my body and experiencing the weight of our full-term baby in our arms, we felt the Lord’s peace in a tangible way. In that moment, the words of the song, “God You’re So Good” washed over us.

Abel Speaks has been a beacon of hope that has had a lasting impact on our family. In the days, weeks, and months that have passed, they’ve stepped into our lives when we were most vulnerable. While we were strangers, they took us in as family. Being a parent of loss can be extremely isolating, but they have provided support and a community where there is an unspoken understanding of suffering and grief. A place where we can be truly known and see the fruit of those who have suffered and endured before us.

We cherished every moment we shared with David this side of eternity, and he will always be our son and a little brother to Andrew and Sarah. While we never had the privilege of caring for David outside the womb, we are immensely grateful for the change David’s life has made in our own lives and the impact David has had on those around us. He has enriched and blessed our lives deeply and, while short, his life has taught us what true joy looks like and has provided a new perspective through which to view life.

It has been worth every moment of suffering. So we will continue to cling to God’s promises and His steadfast hope that anchors our souls, knowing that death is not the end. It is an honor to share David’s story and the hope we have in Christ. After losing our son, we echo Job’s sentiments, “The LORD gave and the LORD has taken away; may the name of the LORD be praised.” [Job 1:21]

– Peter & Kimberly Leestma, in memory of David Robert