Thursday, December 28, 2006

An Angel for Christmas

Last Monday, M and I hopped a flight to New York to get to the hospital to see baby Abigail before it was too late. Nothing could have prepared us for what we would see when we got there. (I tell you only because you need to understand this to understand the blessing God would give us in the midst of all the pain we would experience…) When I walked into the room, I took only a few steps before I ran the other way, out of the PICU and into the waiting area where I fell apart. In that moment, it made sense to me why everyone in my family who I’d spoken to earlier that week shut me down every time I expressed the hope that she could still get better. She no longer looked like a swollen sleeping baby in a coma. She no longer moved her eyes and mouth as though to cry. That adorable wincing face that gave us so much hope was now so still. She was skinny, positioned in an upright position, her head was bandaged and bleeding through, her eyes were partially opened, her skin was so dry. She looked so sick, as though she had given up too.

We stayed there until 3 in the morning, holding her hands, talking to her, saying our goodbyes. My other little sister painted her nails with pink polish. She had promised the baby over and over that she’d give her manicures when she got older and realized that this was her last chance. My sister Michelle was so strong. “She’s tired; she’s ready to go home,” she said.

The next morning M and I arrived at the hospital and sat with Michelle and Abby. After the rest of the family arrived, the doctors asked us to leave the room. Abby’s heart rate had begun to drop. She was telling us she was ready to go. They wrapped Abby in her favorite pink blanket and put on a little pink hat to cover her bandages and Michelle held her. Her husband sat beside them. The family sat out in the waiting room crying while my uncle watched the monitor and let us know what it said until it was turned off. The doctor who’d cared for Abby since the night she was brought in came out and said, “She’s gone.”

One by one we were called into the room, but eventually we were all in there together. Walking back in could not have been more different from the morning before. Our sick little baby had become an angel. Her face no longer looked thin and sad. It seemed to glow. It was as though peace had just come over her little body. I would be lying if I said that I’d ever seen her look more beautiful than she did after she passed. It was God’s gift to us. Rather than remembering how sick she looked, I knew we would always remember how angelic and at rest she looked.

Never in my life have I seen something so small touch so many lives, that even the doctors and nurses were crying after Abby passed. They all took turns with the rest of my family making the sign of the cross over the baby's head with oil and consoling my sister who was still holding her on the bed that Abby had laid on for exactly one month.

The greatest gift for me was when she was placed in my arms one last time. All that time she was sick, I grieved that I’d gotten so little time with her. I never imagined I’d get to hold her again. Holding her in my arms one last time and kissing her little face gave me more comfort than I could ever put into words.

After leaving the hospital to go home and prepare for her funeral and burial, which would take place 5 days before Christmas, I couldn’t understand why I felt this overwhelming sense of peace about everything. I knew it wasn’t coming from myself. I trusted that Abigail was happy in the arms of Jesus.

The next few days were very hard. Saying goodbye is never easy. We mourned not only for our dear niece, but for my sister Michelle. She had changed her life so much because of this baby and I knew our loss could not compare to what she was going through. When a child dies, a parent doesn’t just lose a baby, but all the hopes and dreams they had for that child and for their own life. I do believe that God has a purpose for this loss, but it’s still hard to come to grips with.

M and I made our way back home to be with his daughter for Christmas, even though neither of us had much celebrating in us. How do you explain death to a 6 year old? I just told her that God needed an Angel and couldn’t find a baby more beautiful than Abigail Rose and so He took her home. She just nodded and smiled.

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<3...Abigail Rose...<3
Forever in Our Hearts
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Friday, December 15, 2006

What My Heart Still Doesn't Know, But Head Believes...

Abby is gone. All that’s left of her is an empty shell. That is what the expert from NYU, who went to the hospital to evaluate my precious niece and give my sister a second opinion, told my family earlier. There is nothing left of her. All those moments when it seemed that she could hear our prayers over her, all those times she opened her sweet little mouth and winced her face trying to cry, might just have been involuntary reflexes. All this time we thought she was fighting, she was only sleeping. She might already have gone home to be with God.

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I never wanted to believe that. Even now, my heart will not accept it. How can that be true? How can she be gone when we only got to keep her for such a short time? We never got to hear her laugh or see her take her first steps. We’ll never get to know what kind of child, what kind of girl, what kind of woman she would have been. She’ll never know how wonderful and beautiful and tragic this world can be.

All I have left are a few precious hours engrained in my mind, when I held her in my arms and felt amazed at how much love I could feel for something so small.

Today, my sister got to hold her baby for the first time in four weeks… minutes before they told her that her baby was gone. Instead of planning Abby’s first Christmas, she is planning her funeral.

There are just no words…

Saturday, December 02, 2006

Waiting For God. An Update on Abigail

I remember when I arrived at the hospital the Sunday before last, I opened my Bible trying to make sense of what was going on, hoping to land on a verse that would bring me comfort and understanding. For the next week that I was in New York with my family, I tried my hardest to push that verse aside. The verse was Isaiah 57:1-2: “The righteous pass away; the godly often die before their time. And no one seems to care or wonder why. No one seems to understand that God is protecting them from the evil to come. For the godly who die will rest in peace.”

Clearly, I could not imagine that God would take this precious little one who never had a chance to walk upright, let alone sin, before we had a chance to know her, before she had a chance to grow up and learn about this world or His word… I could not fathom it, though it rested heavy on my heart in the days that followed, and still does.

God has not taken Abigail. She is still with us, though how much alive she is, and what is left of her is still a matter of so much speculation.

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Yesterday, my dad called with new that Abby was showing signs of some improvement, though she was still so deep in her coma. Today, there is new news, news of such a different character. The bleeding in Abby’s brain has worsened. One of her doctors has told my sister that Abby is paralyzed. Another said it’s not conclusive but there is little evidence that it’s not true.

There, Abby waits in her coma. What comfort does she have? We do not know if she can hear her mother’s voice or if she heard our prayers over her, our pleas for her to get better. All this time it was a comfort to me to know that even if she could not hear, God could. I struggle with why He does not answer. I know He is sovereign. I try to hold my head up high and wait patiently for God. But this is so defeating and we are crushed by the weight of this.

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Why does God choose not to heal? I'm sure that any member of my family would bear any suffering if it could bring this little one back and restore her. Isn’t that how much God loves us? That He died to save us? How I wish that He’d have mercy on this shattered family, on this broken child. How I wish He'd heal her. I trust in God’s power… I just wish His will was the same as mine. There is no way for me to tell. My hope is all that sustains me and it seems to fade so fast. I know God is faithful and I put my trust in Him, even if His will should be to "spare" Abigail in a way different from what we hope and pray for.

Still, we hope and pray.