One afternoon as I talked with a new friend over coffee, she told of her children and grandchildren. Her eyes lit as she described their personalities and their activities. “And you?”
I described my daughter with a million dollar voice and her loving, smart, talented husband. Then I took a breath. “I have three amazing, fantastic grandchildren. We lost one between the third and fourth.” I hated those words. I talked about the other three. Two acquired straight blonde hair and one inherited my brown hair curled in tight ringlets. I told my friend of their differences, talents and how I never thought of “Mimi” as my name.
After she left, memories inundated me with a blur of unconnected events. In February, a number of years ago, my daughter called to announce a baby to be born in October. Four, three, and newborn constituted the perfect family. My days filled with preparing for ordination in ministry, losing forty pounds, teaching high school classes, and fulfilling my duties as pastor of children and women, yet, I looked forward to fall.
In the spring, my daughter called, in tears, to inform us a sonogram showed serious complications. Fluid in the brain and irregularities in the heart prompted the doctor to tell her no one would blame her if she decided to let the baby go. Trusting God for strength and wisdom, she adamantly refused. My husband and I cried, but we, too, trusted Him.
In the Texas heat, the two kids came to stay for Vacation Bible School. We played, made cookies, and painted between visits to relatives and friends. In a blink, teacher in-service began. During the third day of meetings, my phone buzzed and I stepped out to answer. The distressed baby needed immediate early delivery. My husband sped home, grabbed a few personal items and drove much faster than the speed limit to be with our only child. I called my closest friends to pray and I cried out to El Shaddai, The Almighty. I rode later in the evening with my son-in-law’s parents on a six-hour trip which usually took two and a half due to highway construction.
The fall constituted the most difficult of my life. I stayed with the kids until my daughter came home from the hospital. The beautiful baby boy stayed in the NICU for one hundred and eight days. As a supreme sacrifice of love, my teacher friends had cleaned and decorated my room before I returned to an especially difficult combination of students without enough seats and new administrative demands. I tried to go often to help my daughter, but leaving my classes made the situation worse. My leadership class of excellent kids ran amuck without guidance and devotion necessary for high schoolers. Children’s church preparation lacked, and women’s ministry events suffered. I used all the days I had saved for twenty years.
In early December, a call before 5:00 a.m. summoned me there immediately. The baby previously experienced numerous procedures, transferred to a hospital specifically for severely ill children and though growth occurred, he failed to thrive. Something in my daughter’s voice cut my mother heart. I picked up one child in pajamas from a friend’s house and one from preschool before preparing dinner. The older child and I worked on phonics, then we sang and prayed and I put them to bed early. My daughter and son-in-law arrived late and left early. As I cleaned the house the next morning, my son-in-law called and asked me to bring the kids to the hospital. Slow traffic cut into precious moments with the baby brother. In the NICU, when the kids exceeded their attention span, I went in with baby alone, walked the floor and prayed to The Healer.
The kids and I passed the time with silly songs as we returned home in the afternoon traffic. The sun dipped low when my cell phone played its cute ring tone. Could I turn around and come back? Could I take the kids to the friend’s house? I called my family and closest friends to cry out to God again. Gridlocked traffic impeded my progress. The friend met me at the curb and I returned to the same highway just traveled. The traffic opened as I made the third trip of the day in a fraction of the previous time, parked in minister parking and ran through the emergency room entrance. I entered the room as the doctor gently declared the end of life. Friends and pastors appeared within minutes. My husband arrived two hours later, again exceeding the speed limit the entire trip. He held me as tears restrained four months, hidden from everyone else, streamed.
I do not remember the sun the two weeks before Christmas, but I remember love, meals, and errands from friends and our small group at church. I felt love from My Heavenly Father through gentle words, assistance, and genuine concern. The memorial service focused on strength God gives. The pastor presented the message of salvation to friends who did not profess to be Christians. Some responded and accepted Christ into their lives.
Hurt, misunderstanding, and grief carried into the spring. I did what I knew to do. I prayed the psalms, sang in the dark, and read my Bible. I kept performing things required of me and stood through the testing. Some days, I asked, “Why?” Then, I determined not to allow this experience to define my life. I testify of God’s grace and mercy and look forward to understanding things fully in His presence. Paul assures Timothy that the One in whom we believed keeps that which we have committed to Him until the Day of His glorious return. (II Timothy 1:12)
Two years later, the fourth child entered the world with great flair. Many refer to this child as a “rainbow” baby. She brings immense delight, sings, laughs, and makes it impossible to be sad. The God I know personally restores life. The psalmist David, eloquently said, “… his favor is for life; weeping may endure for a night, but joy comes in the morning.”