Irene Rose Zimmerman
February 12, 2010 – September 20, 2010 of Santa Maria, Philippines
Not many lives have been touched in so short a time as those touched by the life of little Irene. From before her birth, it was impressed on the hearts of her parents that there was something extra special about this baby. The thought that maybe the baby would be born with some special needs that the family would need an extra measure of God’s grace to get them through was not an uncommon thought to them. Many times the baby was committed to God for whatever purpose He may want to fulfill in the lives of those who loved her.
Irene Rose was born on February 12, a perfect, vivacious, beautiful baby. She seldom cried without good reason, and many an hour she spent happily entertaining her six siblings and her Ate Rosely. She was a smiling joy to anyone who met her. She loved life to the full and would happily sit and watch her brothers in the garden, ride in the goat cart, rub the pig’s nose with her feet, watch her mom and Ate Rosely do laundry with one of her chubby hands in the soup suds, or supervise her dad in the mechanic shop.
One point of great frustration to her was when she could not get her walker to go forward. She turned this frustration into great accomplishment when she learned to turn her back to what she intended to reach.
When Irene was 3 months old, the family visited the beautiful Angat dam area which had been their home for 7 years previous. Many of the tribal children at the time of this visit were suffering from a dreadful cough that had claimed the lives of several babies before they were able to get medical help. Shortly following their return to their home after this visit, older sister Helena developed a similar cough and was followed a few weeks later by Lynelle. Helena began to recover after about 6 weeks, and then Irene, 5 months began to cough. Richard and Jolene at this time realized this to be serious and took all 3 girls to a local hospital for diagnosis and treatment. The diagnosis was not done, but treatment was initiated through an antibiotic that was later discovered to be highly intolerable for an infant. The medication caused burning to her stomach and severe dehydration. The 10 days that Irene was hospitalized to reverse the damage done to her tiny body were days of intense leaning on the Lord and learning how better to trust Him. Her little world was upside down, and she couldn’t understand why she couldn’t go home to her siblings. And why did her mom and dad hold her arm tight when nurses inflicted pain while drawing blood, administering IV’s and using suction and oxygen. It was all such a big, fearful world of monitors and machines, and yet she would look into her parents faces and know that they loved her, and she would yield to that trust and smile big and bright through her tears. Her discharge from the hospital was the day before her big brother Wayne’s birthday on August 10. Things seemed to be normal again and she took up where she left off, smiling, cheering, and entertaining. Her liver had been slightly enlarged during her hospital stay, but the reason for that was certainly because of all the medications and the infection… or was there another reason? The enlargement continued to become more and more obvious, and after 1 week it had filled 1/4 of her abdominal cavity. Another trip to the doctor and an ultrasound confirmed nodulation in the liver. Back to the hospital for another cat scan the 27th of August showed her liver extending into her pelvic cavity, a large tumour on the left adrenal gland, and blood tests to indicate that the cancer may have started in the bone. As the dreadful truth began to dawn on the minds and in the hearts of Irene’s mommy and daddy, Irene lay on the hospital bed, smiling and kicking her chubby legs and screeching with joy.
Family and friends rallied to pray and to offer emotional and spiritual support as God worked one amazing miracle after the other, all the way from providing a doctor who was a believer to pray with Richard and Jolene and then to arranging flights to Canada on an already full plane. Irene was given a significant amount of blood by transfusion the day before the family was to fly home, and on September 2 they were enroute. The baby was a joy to everyone she met the entire trip home, smiling and cheering all the way. Her last weeks were very difficult for her family as new tumours became evident, and her tiny body began to show signs of weakening from the disease that was inching her life away. But through all of this, as long as Irene was able, she would look the direction of anyone who called her name and flash a priceless smile. As long as she was able, she would cheer when one of her brothers or sisters came into the room. Her last few days she didn’t want her mom and dad out of her sight, and then the last day she just slept peacefully, being passed from sibling to sibling all day as they grappled with the thought of holding her for the last time. She slipped away silently in her mother’s arms in the presence of her family on the evening of September 20, just a short 25 days from diagnosis. Today, Irene has lelf us a legacy of courage, trust and cheer, an exampe of facing the unknown with a smile, and we know that she now rests safely in the arms of Jesus. Sadly missed by Parents: Richard & Jolene; Brothers: Cody & Wayne; Sisters: Linnea, Rebecca, Heleena and Lynelle; Special Aunt: Rosely Traje; Grandparents: Ron & Diane Menge, Rimbey; Wayne & Joyce Zimmerman, McBride, BC; All her Uncles, Aunts & Cousins; Great Grandmothers: Helen Menge, Red Deer, & Alice Cummings, Rimbey.