This photo is my hand with Natalee's
It is almost 3am and I am still awake because I have just finished reading a blog - from beginning to end.
I found it through Abby's mom's blog and like a good, heartbreaking book... I just couldn't "put it down" once I started reading.
The mother who writes the blog is named Angie Smith and she lost her baby girl this past April due to an undiagnosed medical situation that was discovered during her 20th week of pregnancy. Audrey was born by c-section a few months later and lived for about two hours. There are a lot of thoughts running around in my brain right now and I don't know how to get them all out, so I'm just going to try to focus in on the ones I think are most pressing right now.
God is good. And even when I don't devote myself to him the way I should, He reaches out to find me and give me a gentle reminder that He is still here, very present in my life.
In one of her entries, Angie writes about the peace she felt as Audrey was born, and how blessed she has felt by the *entire* experience - that where most would be able to see only tragedy, she sees a miracle.
I don't know if I can fully explain how much those words spoke to me. The night Natalee died, I talked to my husband as I drove back home. I had been awake for more than 24 hours to help my best friend labor and then - stunningly - grieve. I don't remember any of my conversation with my husband as I drove, but he later told me, "I could just tell from your voice that you were changed forever."
And I told him he was right, and that I wished he had experienced it as well because I wished he could understand how beautiful that change really was. How powerful. How wonderful. The doctors couldn't make Natalee live, but I witnessed a true miracle that night.
Often, I find myself wanting to talk about Natalee. Sometimes it comes up naturally in conversations, other times it's kind of forced but I bring her up anyway. And I'll go ahead and admit this here - sometimes I push the issue even when I know it will make others uncomfortable. Some people probably think it's my way of working through the grief, or trying to get attention.
It's my way of trying to minister. I just don't think I really realized it until now.
The night Natalee died was the closest I have ever felt to God. Amidst all the pain and grief and pure shock was a beautiful peace. As the doctors worked to revive her and the air in the room grew thick and tense, I turned to prayer. In my heart, I knew I couldn't ask God to let her live. I wanted to, but I knew I couldn't. I didn't know what words to pray, so I turned to the Lord's Prayer and repeated it silently in my head with my eyes closed and my head bowed while I stood next to my friend, who still lay in the bed where she had labored so many hours.
I didn't want to be out of the room when they stopped trying to save Natalee, but I felt a strong pull to ask others to pray too. When I felt it was ok to do so, I stepped into the hallway and broke down. A nurse led me to a private room and told me I had to be strong for my friend, that she was going to really need me. I called my husband and my dad. I asked my dad to pray, but confessed to him that I was struggling because I didn't know what to pray for. He encouraged me to pray for whatever God intended - NOT the suggestion I wanted at that time. In fact, I was purposefully avoiding the Serenity Prayer for that very reason. I was pretty sure God intended to take Natalee and I was kind of ticked at Him for that right then, so I certainly didn't want to encourage him. But in my heart, I knew it was his plan. I prayed that he would help me to be strong and to know how to help my friend.
The medical staff were leaving the room as I stepped back in, and someone was handing Natalee to Tammy. There was such sorrow, and such love in the room. In the hours that followed, I found strength to do things I could never have imagined. As I try to describe those things to other people, I know it sounds horrific to them. Stepping outside of myself and those moments, I can see why. But it wasn't. It was the only time I had with Natalee, they are my memories of her. It was a blessing. It was a gift. It was a miracle.
Tammy's pastor came to the hospital and baptized Natalee. Tammy held her in the bed, and those of us present formed a circle around them to share in the ceremony and to pray. A baptism is usually about asking for God's presence and guidance in a child's life as they grow. This child was already returning to be in God's presence as we stood there, hand in hand, and prayed.
I wish noone would ever have to endure the pain of losing a child. I wish noone would ever have to struggle for the right words or actions to ease the burden for a loved one who is enduring it. But I do wish everyone could know the love and the power I witnessed that night. Death does not win. Love does. God does.
We are approaching the two-year anniversary of Natalee's death, and she is on my mind and heart a lot these days. As Tammy says, it feels like entering "dead baby land" again. The draw to read blogs like Angie's is very strong. Those "moments" are happening more often. It's been a long time since I broke down crying, but I am tonight.
The need to feel the pain is intense.
Because I know what's on the other side of that pain.
It's love. Pure, joyful, inexplainable love.
And it's beautiful.