Seeing my only daughter hold her first born son for the first time should have been one of the happiest days of my life. Having two granddaughters by my son, I knew the elation this moment should bring. The room was full of people, my pastor, her pastor, nurses, and friends. We were all weeping inconsolably because this two-day-old child had just lost his battle for life, and this was the first time his mother and father had held him.
I lost my parents almost thirty years ago and my husband lost his as well. Grandparents, aunts, and uncles had all passed on, but the grief we felt on this day was almost unbearable. Words cannot describe the brokenness of our hearts. Seeing this mother cradle her lifeless baby in her arms, kissing his face and hands, telling him how much she loves him is burned into my mind for eternity. I have nursed her through surgery, scraped knees, hurt feelings, lost loves, and bad life choices. I have laughed with her, cried with her, screamed at her, and experienced joy and happiness with her. She has depended on me to fix so much in her life, but this day, I was helpless, desperate for a way to dry her tears knowing full well, there was no cure. The next week we all felt as if we were suspended in time, no knowing the day or hour. We did the necessary duties of planning the graveside service, ate and slept, cried, and talked.
Gabriel was born at thirty-one weeks. We knew what that meant. Melody had P.I.H. (pregnancy induced hypertension a.k.a. Toxemia) and at thirty weeks was put on total bed rest to hopefully carry the baby four extra weeks for a better survival rate. But her health declined very rapidly and one week from the day she was diagnosed, her doctor feared she was too sick to continue. Ironically, little Gabriel was healthy. His ultrasounds were perfectly normal and his vitals could not have been better. So with confidence she was scheduled for a C-section at 5 p.m. on January 29, 2009. I was invited to accompany her husband, Brian with my video camera and we excitedly suited up in our scrub outfits. Being an avid medical fan, many a birth had been watched on TLC network, including sections. Just a small cut, lift out the baby and that is that. Real life never is as it appears on television. The doctor had great difficulty getting the baby out of the small incision even after cutting a larger one, but finally little Gabriel was out. He was a little blue, but wiggled to let us know he was well. The NICU (neonatal intensive care unit) nurses worked on him and he quickly became rosy red and began squeaking his little cry. All seemed well and they even brought him to Melody and Brian for a kiss before taking him back for observation.
Later that night we went to see him in NICU and he was under the normal treatment for his little premature lungs, nothing alarming, all expected. The Neonatal doctor gave us the stats of 95 percent success rate for him. He did add that he could not guarantee we would not be in the 5 percent so for a couple of days, we would have to wait, hope, and pray for all to go well.
It didn’t. Gabriel continued to struggle and got worse by the hour. Finally on January 31, the doctor said he had done all he could and said we would rush him to another hospital in the area better equipped for this situation. Caution was taken but a warning given, he may not make it. Melody and Brian kissed their little Gabriel and hoped for the best.
Brian with my husband, Dan, and our son, Blair, went to the other hospital behind the Critical Care Team in the ambulance.
Because of Melody’s surgery, she was not due to be dismissed from the hospital for two more days. Under the circumstances, the doctor graciously discharged her with strict warnings to take care of herself.
The ride over to the other hospital was long and as soon as we got there, a wheelchair and a doctor met us. He delivered the news that our baby did not make it. I cannot describe to you the feeling of watching your child suffer that kind of grief. There are simply no words in our language that are adequate. It was as if numbing medication had been injected into my body. Somehow we found our way to the little room where the people were gathered around Brian holding his son. All I remember Melody saying over and over was “my baby, my baby, my baby.”
Always in our greatest times of trial and testing, we who know Jesus Christ as our Savior experience His grace in an overwhelming manner. Immediately after Gabriel died, the Body of Christ in our lives began to work. Prayers were being said not only in our town, but in towns that we will never know about. Churches put us on prayer lists, people called Christian TV, schools, businesses, and neighbors were grieving with us. If we believe that all things work together for good to them that love the Lord (Romans 8:28) we trust that in our darkest tragedy, lives will be touched for the Kingdom of God. Already, many people have shared with us how their lives will never be the same after this. Families have drawn closer, estranged friends have shown love and sympathy, wayward souls have been touched by God’s grace and mercy. One of the most amazing things happening has been financial. People have literally asked, “How much money do you need for expenses?” It appears that Melody and Brian will have every funeral expense and hospital bill paid in full by the generosity of their friends and church family.
Has this been the darkest time of our lives, absolutely. Has this been a time when we have felt great love and care, absolutely. Will we ever be the same again, absolutely not.
May the God of hope fill you with all joy and peace as you trust in him, so that you may overflow with hope by the power of the Holy Spirit. – Romans 15:13