May 2, 2021
We were married January 2007 and we found out we were expecting our first child, honeymoon baby, and very excited. At our 20-week ultrasound, they discovered that Alicia's heart was backwards. And that led to multiple defects, which we were told, would likely mean she would not survive, much past birth. So, we just realized that our time with our daughter was likely going to be very short. The day she was born, my one prayer that day was that, even if it was just for a moment, that I would get to hold her, even if it was just for 30 seconds, just to have that moment with her.
The path at that time was basically an open-heart surgery.
We were admitted for the first of many operations. The surgery itself was a success, but there was an additional complication. She started throwing blood clots, and one perforated her bowl. During the first year of marriage, we spent our first Christmas, our first New Year's, and our first anniversary in the cardiac critical care unit.
And they had a minor outpatient procedure - was what it was called - and we were sitting in the waiting room for the simple procedure was going to be in and out. And there was a cardiac call for emergency.
Our daughter's cardiologist was paged. And I looked at Richard and I said, "That's Alicia." And then the next thing we knew we were being ushered into a side room. The surgeon came in looking absolutely gray, just already crying. They believe a blood clot broke loose, went up her artificial shunt, and blocked the blood flow to her brain. So they performed CPR for 30 minutes. They were able to resuscitate her, but to all intents and purposes, she was gone, like she was completely brain dead at that point. It became clear that she was not going to recover, she was on the ventilator, not breathing on her own. The hospital had made the decision to remove her from life support. They gave us 24 hours to get family in and friends to say our goodbyes, and then the doctor came and removed the life support. They assured us that she would be gone within a few seconds, maybe a couple of minutes at most.
So, we sang one hymn, and then another, and then another, and another... She was breathing on her own. Her heart was beating again. We know now it was brainstem activities, but it was miraculous, given what we were thinking was going to happen right away.
The doctor came in and said, "Well, call me when something happens. It'll be within 24 hours. Well, that 24 hours came and went, and she just kept breathing. So, three days in the bereavement room, we were moved up to the cardiac floor. After a week there we were sent home with palliative care. And again, they're all saying, "Oh, it'll be any time now, anytime now." And it was another five weeks at home that we had her. And that's really when things got hard that last week, her body really started to break down. It was very difficult. I think I've never had as low a point in my life as that week. But every morning when I would wake up and she was still with us. I was reminded of this verse from Psalm 73, verse 26, which says, "My flesh and my heart fail. But God is the strength of my life and my portion forever."
In the afternoon, around five o'clock, the doctor came in and we chatted, and 15 minutes after she walked out the door, Alicia took her last breath. The Lord took her home. Even in those final moments when Richard was holding her as she took her last breath, as a comfort to myself as well as for her to hear my voice one last time, this side of heaven, I could say with confidence, "I will see you soon."
With all our ins and outs from the hospital, we also met a lot of other parents who were in similar situations. There were two families in particular who were of a different religion. We really connected within our grieving for the difficulties our children are having. For both these families, we we grieve along with them because they had no hope of ever seen their child again. For them, that was the end. They're saying goodbye to the earthly body and the spiritual aspect was not there. They were in complete grief because they were just at an udder loss. We were able to share that hope we have that, for us, this is this is not the end. This is not the last time. So, even all this time on and even with all the comfort, there is still that sorrow, but it's not without hope. We still grieve, we still sorrow, but ultimately our, our hope is in Jesus Christ.
God cares for our daughter, our child, even more than we do. And it's never been in doubt in our mind. But it was such a comfort to know that where we felt we were unable to care for her many times, we knew that God cared for her much more than we could and that sustained us. Even after that whole concept of putting a body in the ground, and this is your baby and you've done everything you can as a mother as a father to care for this child, now you're walking away and you're abandoning, God doesn't abandon. We sang, somehow, "In Christ Alone" at the funerals. The final verse is "from life's first cry to final breath, Jesus commands my destiny." And just being able to sing that, our voices break, but the truth is real and is strong. The next day, I had just been reading through the Psalms and just thought "let me turn to Psalm nine." It was Psalm nine verse one. It says, "I will praise You, O Lord, with my whole heart." And it was just an amazing moment as God allowed, in that moment, just to say "I am praising you with my whole heart," as the echo of what Alicia was doing with purer lips than our own. Alicia's praising our Savior and her Lord.