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.
Forever in Our Hearts