Wednesday, July 23, 2014

Daniel Richard & Lillian Judith Joy

Note: I have hesitated writing this story as I never will be able to accurately describe what I saw and experienced on June 10 - profound sorrow and profound grace.  Please excuse my pitiful attempt.  Just know I write this in honor of Bill and Tina.

This past Saturday, I looked through glass into an operating room and saw a newborn baby boy being cleaned up after a c-section with his proud daddy standing nearby.  I had been with his mom and dad for hours trying to bring him into this world.  C-section was the final outcome.  No…a healthy baby boy was the final outcome.  As he cried and as I watched his hands and feet fly through the air, the tears streamed uncontrollably down my face.  Tears of joy.  Tears of remembrance.

Thirty-nine days earlier, I entered another hospital room where a newborn baby girl had just been wrapped in a blanket and handed to her daddy.  Only, there were no baby cries.  When I unwrapped this precious baby hours later to take photographs of her feet and hands, she was still.  Lillian Judith Joy's soul was in heaven.

Tuesday, June 10 - 6:51 a.m.
I received a text from a friend who had been staying at Tina's house: "Mrs. R-- wanted me to let you know she's going in.  Baby's not moving.  She's crying and scared."

Tina was due the day before and I had spoken to her that Monday afternoon.  She said had not felt well during the weekend, but was feeling better.  She never mentioned she wasn't feeling the baby move.

I immediately called the house to see if that meant she was in labor.  Their 15-year old son answered the phone and he asked me where his mom had gone.  "Is she in labor?" he asked me.  I told him that's what I was trying to figure out.  I did not mention the fact the baby wasn't moving.  No need to worry him.

7:10 a.m.
Tina called me before she went up to triage to tell me she hadn't felt strong movement for a few days.  She had felt tightenings, but knew that at the end of pregnancy baby moves get slower and more squirmy as they run out of room.  But, she wasn't feeling the baby move at all.  Her husband was going to meet her at the hospital as he had already left for work.

During the next hour I prayed and texted back and forth with another friend.    Non-stress tests, ultrasounds…all of that takes time, so while we were concerned we were pretty confident all would be well.

8:10 a.m.
"Vicki, my baby's gone.  My baby's in heaven."  Tina began to cry.  I had no idea what to say and just cried.  She told me there was no heartbeat, that they would induce her so she could deliver.  Her husband wanted her to have a c-section so she wouldn't have to go through the agony of delivery, but the midwife knew that the recovery would be easier.  Decisions had to be made.  She asked if I would go to the house to be with the children as our friend needed to get to classes at the local college.  Of course, I would.  "Who should tell the children?" Tina asked.  She knew it should be their dad…in times of shock, things aren't always immediately apparent.  I prayed with my dear friend and I hear myself say in the course of that prayer, "God, this baby was created for You…"

Just imagine how many babies are created solely for God Himself.

Around 9:15 I got to the house.  The kids were smiling and happy.  We sat down and played a few games.  Every once in a while, they would mention the baby and "why don't they call?"  They were just waiting for that phone to ring so they could hear the good news of a new baby brother or sister.  I wondered when their dad would arrive to tell them.

10:30 a.m.
I was outside with the children.  I had made a couple of phone calls and was now conducting a race between the two older brothers when Bill walked out onto the back porch.  The kids were excited to see him.  "Come in…." His voice cracked.  The children followed their dad to the living room as they asked, "Did mom have the baby?!"  I stood in the hallway next to their oldest son, Josh, as a grieving father wept as he told his children that their baby was in heaven.  I watched Josh, a student of mine this past year, as his face turned very sober.  He looked at me and said, "I knew something had happened.  I just knew."  The oldest daughter, Autumn, the one who seemed to look forward to that phone call the most, left the house to find her best friend next door.  Josh soon followed.  Bill held their other daughter, Hannah, on his lap and told her, "I wanted a little girl so you could have a little sister."  He sobbed.  I hugged little ones.

A little later, Autumn came back with her friend.  They had made a card for Tina.  Two peonies had been picked…one for Tina and one for the baby.  Those would go back with Bill to the hospital.

My job was to get Tina's things together - the bag, the nightgowns, the chargers for the electronics, her brush….I wasn't going to need to send the carseat.  I enlisted the help of the girls for it seemed to help them to have something to do.

Josh just couldn't talk to anyone for a while.  Even when our beloved pastor came, he stayed in the neighbor's yard and played with their dog.  A while later, our pastor went to him and they talked. It helped.

After Bill and Pastor left to tell Tina's parents and to head back to the hospital where Tina was laboring, the children played games with their neighbors.  Josh helped get lunch together.  The girls made brownies.  I could see the evidence of the prayers of many in the smiles of the children.

2:50 p.m.
I got a call from one of my friends who was in the delivery room with Tina.  The baby would be coming soon.  The plan was for me to get up to the hospital as soon as possible after the baby was born to take photos so that the family would always have a keepsake of their precious little one.

3:10 p.m.
My friend who had left earlier for college classes returned to take care of the children.  I was filling her in on all of the happenings of the day and how the children were doing when my phone rang.  "It's a girl," said the voice on the other end.

A girl.  Just what Bill wanted.

I soon left the house and was on my way to the hospital.

I arrived at the hospital around 3:45.  The nurse had just handed Lillian Judith Joy to Bill…the father who wasn't sure he ever wanted to hold his baby knowing he would just have to give her up.  But, he held her.  He looked at her.  He loved her.  A few minutes later, Tina was holding her in her arms and she cried. She wailed.

Oh!  That wail!  It haunts me to this day.  The grief that tore through to my soul.  I turned and saw another sweet friend of mine sitting at the end of the room and quietly sobbing.  The tears streamed down her cheeks and her shoulder shook.  But the only noise was the wailing of a mother experiencing the deepest of grief.

Yet, at the same time, the grace and peace of God was in that room.  While Bill and Tina so wanted their baby with them, alive, they knew God loved them still.  They knew He was in control.  They rested in Him.  I don't know if I ever saw God so clearly as I did that day in that room.  I saw God as Tina wailed.  I saw God as Tina and Bill smiled and laughed at different times.  I saw God as friends and family poured into the room.  I saw God as I looked into the perfect and peaceful face of sweet Lillian.   Most of all, I saw God as I watched Josh go from not wanting to enter the room to standing at the end of his mother's bed, then stand next to her and reach over and touch his sister's forehead.  Then I saw God as I saw him hold his precious baby sister in his arms.

God is present in the hurt. 

Later that night, we unwrapped precious Lillian one more time so that I could take pictures of her little feet and hands.  Then, she needed to be swaddled again.  I took her from her mother's arms and laid her on the blankets on the hospital bed.  I had cried little that day and still would not cry much until the following days.  It was the memory of this moment that would break me later.  I knew even then it was God's grace that allowed me to gently wrap that baby girl as I had wrapped my babies so many times.  As I wrapped her, I talked to her.  She was precious.  I just held her after I had her swaddled.  I knew then, that I would never again be the same.  She changed my life.

This past Saturday night, I took a baby boy from his mother's arms, laid him on the blankets on a hospital bed.  I talked to him as I swaddled him.  He looked around with bright eyes.  I held him and he looked at me.  He was alert.  He was alive.  I rejoiced and I remembered.  In the birth of sweet Daniel Richard, I remembered my time with precious Lillian Judith Joy.

To view the slideshow shown at Lilly's memorial service, please click on the following link:

Thursday, July 10, 2014

Before it Disappears

Watching little ones blow and chase bubbles on a sunny, summer day.  It has to be one of the Top 10 Most Precious Sights in the World.

We all say it because, deep down, we believe it.  But, sometimes something happens that makes us remember the truth:

Life goes by so very quickly.

In the last month, I have been face-to-face with that truth.  Today, it snuck up on me as I looked out the window and saw the bubbles and my youngest chasing the floating globes.  My youngest who just turned 7 one week ago.  By the time my oldest was seven, I was chasing 5 little ones.  But, those years came and went just as quickly as those bubbles my son was chasing.  

To look at my children play is like holding still the hands of time.  My kids play like their grandparents did in the 1950s…they ride bikes, catch frogs, swing on the swing set, and, they blow bubbles.  

(Ok, so I don't know if they actually blew bubbles in the '50s…)  

But, to stop and watch them, truly watch them, is also like holding those busy hands of Father Time.  Maybe not stopping them, but slowing them down, just a tad.  I don't do it often enough, but when I choose to leave the dinner half-made and walk out the door to watch my children play, I embed those images in my mind.    I remember when my 16, 15, 13 and 12 year old children blew and chased bubbles.  They don't now.  Soon, my youngest 3 will no longer find such joy in it.  I had to enjoy this moment…THIS moment…not knowing if there will be another like it.

At 7 years old, my son's biggest curiosity is trying to find the squirrel the dog chased up the tree.  He grabs a pair of binoculars and searches, points, and talks to his four-legged friend while I grab a camera to capture the moment so it is not forever lost, like the pesky squirrel.  

At 16, my son is trying desperately to hold on to the fun aspect of childhood while taking on the responsibility of a job and trying to catch a glimpse of what his future holds.  He's trying to make a plan, but the focus changes weekly.  I still want to direct, lead, keep him from falling and being hurt…but maybe it's time to let him fall, if need be.  It is I who am afraid of the fall for it is I who fears the hurt.  He has no fear.  Maybe that's how God meant it for a young man.  Maybe that's why He didn't create binoculars with which to see our future.

Precious lives are being brought into this world all around me.  Most of these tiny lives thrive, while one does not.  But, that's a story for another day.  The ones that do survive, do their mothers know how precious and fleeting the time is?  I knew the principle of that truth several years ago.  Today, I know the reality of it.

Today, I really look at each note, each flower, each bubble.  I try to savor each smile, each kiss, each hug, each "thank you," each misspelled word from my young ones.

Will I feel the same when my younger children are in their teen years?  When they are trying to fit in, testing their wings of independence, trying to spy-out their future?  Will I savor those moments?

Because, you know, I am not savoring them as my first teens are experiencing these moments.

THIS is the lesson I must learn NOW.  To savor these times with my oldest child before I try to hold on to them in my youngest.  The years are just as fleeting.  It's how I savor them that will make the moments sweeter and the regrets fewer.  I have rushed him through his life.  His years have floated away so very quickly.  Just as it is inevitable for that bubble to pop, his years with me will be gone and he will move on.

But sometimes, a bubble lasts longer than the rest.  We could just walk by it, be little interested, or  destroy it with one careless mis-step.   Or we can study it, be amazed by it's intricacies, and be grateful for each extra second we have to behold it.

Maybe, just maybe, I can gently capture these last months or years with my older ones and just cup them in my hands rather than allowing them to float by and disappear.  

Oh, they will surely disappear…but I must study, be amazed and be grateful in the moments before.