Heartbreaking, heartwarming: Joshua Heisey, 12, mourned and celebrated with profound faith

LEBANON, Pa. — Christmas is a time for giving, for sharing, and most of all for spiritual renewal as we celebrate the true gift of life everlasting through the Son of God born to us, a child, laid in a manger.

For Joel and Karen Heisey and their children, the journey last week has been one of loss, as well as of giving. It has been a time of heartbreak and mourning as well as a time of purpose and of miracles as 12-year-old Joshua Heisey passed away December 17, five days after an accident at home on the dairy farm. He never regained consciousness.

With God’s grace and peace, Joshua and his family anointed others. “Joshua will continue to touch and change lives… We believe that God wants to use Joshua to bring physical and spiritual salvation to others,” wrote his mother Karen in a facebook post that evening (Dec. 17).

The very next day, Friday, Dec. 18, was the Lebanon-Berks Christmas Type and Production Sale, dispersing 40 dairy cattle from the Heisey family’s Hy-Hill Holstein herd near Lebanon, Pennsylvania. 

The sale had been set for weeks. The preparations had been in place, and the auction and farming community were eager to support the family — to see the sale through.

“Our hearts go out to the family. May God sustain you during this time of grief and loss. Your testimony of faith is truly remarkable,” wrote the crew at Triple Hil Sires in a facebook post Friday morning as the sale got underway. The Heiseys bred and own 525HO125 Wonderboy, a service sire at Triple Hil.

In the hours before the sale, many reached out wanting to honor Joshua’s memory and to give back to the family in a tangible expression of love and support as they had been praying for Joshua and following his journey.

As part of the sale crew, Daniel Brandt had been receiving many inquiries and offers to donate fundraising lots to auction that day. The sale staff decided to choose one donation and raise funds to purchase the package to give both the package and all funds raised to the family.

Jarrod Burleigh offered two embryos from his top-production leading Red and White Holstein, with Rusty Herr offering to implant them free of charge. Funds were then raised from over 60 additional families and individuals to purchase the package during the auction so that the sale crew could give the funds plus the embryo package to the Heisey family.

“In all, $9000 was raised for this purpose,” Brandt reported in an email Monday.

“I personally have been inspired by the Heisey family’s tremendous faith and strength through this tragedy,” Brandt added, echoing what so many have said this week. He and his wife Rebekah will deliver the check and a card with all the names to the family this week.

The sale Friday was attended by the Heisey family as they watched 40 of their selected Hy-Hill cows be sold. Joel, himself an auctioneer, did auction the last lot of the day, with an expression of gratitude to the community surrounding them.

Earlier at the start of the sale, Brandt made an announcement, but most everyone in attendance already knew of the tragedy in their midst.

“The community was very supportive, with people coming from everywhere to bid and to buy one of their animals. Many of the cattle stayed local,” said Amy Bickham, aAa analyzer and cow-breeder. In addition to the pedigrees and worth of the cows, was the feeling of appreciation for and connection with the Heisey family, and to remember their son.

“Joshua was interested in a lot of things, and he did have a strong interest in animals — and insects — and studying so many of these things,” said his father Joel by phone this week.

“Joshua had a cow he had decided not to sell, and so we still have her,” Joel added.

While the family was planning the service for their son, so many thoughts ran through their minds of what happened, how to make sense of it, how to open hearts and minds to God’s peace that passes all understanding, which they say is sustaining them.

In the words written by his mother: “Joshua was pronounced deceased at 3:45 p.m. on Thursday December 17th after a final verification of brain death. He remains at Penn State Hershey Medical Center where he will undergo recovery surgery for organ donation. We left the building this evening with broken hearts, but filled with peace and hope, and the confidence that this is what God wanted for Joshua. May God be glorified as Joshua continues to touch and change lives. Your fervent prayers are being answered, you have blessed our family through your unconditional support, and we are forever grateful.”

Later, it was learned that the miracle so many prayed for would be as his mother described it, “more than one.” Through organ recovery, Joshua will bring miracles to as many as 100 people. Some will be children, others adults.

But to his family and those close to Joshua, there will be a time of remembrance and of grief. A time to share stories and to lift each other up. A time to celebrate a child’s life on earth even as he has been called so young to his heavenly home.

For those acquaintances casually intersecting with the life of 12-year-old Joshua Heisey or his family — or simply reading this article not having known the family at all — it is the Word of God his family brought forward in their journey last week that holds real power to lift others and change lives:

“Have I not commanded you? Be strong and courageous. Do not be afraid. Do not be discouraged, for the Lord your God is with you wherever you go.” – Joshua 1:9

— By Sherry Bunting, republished from Farmshine, Dec. 25, 2020

PHOTO CAPTION: Last summer, five months before his passing, Joshua Heisey is pictured here with 2-year-old Hy-Hill Wonderboy Maxie when Triple Hil had come out to the farm to photograph Wonderboy daughters. Photo courtesy Triple Hil Sires

Joshua’s obituary and service information at this link Joshua Heisey Obituary (2020) – Lebanon Daily News (legacy.com)

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