“I Will exult and triumph in my troubles and rejoice in my sufferings, knowing that pressure and affliction and hardship produce patient and unswerving endurance. And endurance develops maturity of character. And character produces joyful and confident hope of eternal salvation.” Romans 5:3-4
I had been wide awake since 3:30 in the morning. I lay, unblinking, in bed and watched the ceiling fan go around and around thinking about what this day would bring. It had been nearly two months since we had been reunited with Chris. Now it was Dani’s turn. Dad had already flown back to Missouri to meet her and my nephew, Nick, but the rest of us had to wait patiently. It felt like I had been waiting forever. Good things come to those who wait. This was becoming a theme in my life and I was finally catching on to the fact that if I didn’t learn how to be patient, then this was going to be a recurring life lesson.
I was a ball of emotions; excited to finally see her face to face, hear her voice in person and learn what her laugh sounded like. What made her laugh? I wanted to know what kind of mother she was, what my nephew’s personality was like and what his interests were. What’s her most precious memory of becoming a mom? I was curious about silly things like what brand deodorant she used and what her favorite pair of shoes were. Was she like me and hated to wear shoes all together? I wondered if she regularly pulled her hair up out of her face or if she preferred it down? Did she have bangs? I wanted to know what her favorite scented lotion was, mine is pear. Did she even like scented lotion? Was she a morning person or a night owl? Did she need an alarm clock to get out of bed? What about holidays; I LOVE Christmas and start celebrating in October. Did she love Christmas? These are just some of the intricate details about my sister’s life I longed to know.
I glanced over at the clock again. My alarm was set to go off in 45 minutes. I could hear Sophia making her sweet cooing noises through the baby monitor and knew it would be a matter of minutes before she demanded my attention. I decided to get up and get her bottle ready to beat the dramatic battle cry for milk. I was too excited to sleep anyway.
The balloons were ready and the limo turned the corner to pick us all up from my parents’ house. The second I saw the limo my heart rate increased and my nervousness became apparent in my trembling hands. I’m not really sure why I was so nervous. The only reason that I can only think of is that I had been waiting for this moment for so long, it had been building in me for years, literally, and I wanted it to be perfect.
My sister, Kim and her family piled in first, then me and my little family and of course my mom and dad. Dani’s plane was set to arrive in one hour and fifteen minutes and the butterflies in my stomach felt like they were doing the conga. I bet Dani was feeling the same thing. I wondered what went through her head when the pilot announced that they were getting ready to land and she knew she had a bunch of family waiting for her.
It couldn’t have been more perfect. Dani and Nick were coming down the escalator and we saw them before they saw us. The tiny hairs on the back of my neck stood up straighter than an American soldier. The moment I saw her I felt an instant unconditional love and concern for her. It’s hard to describe the connection other than two kindred spirits finally coming together in the same room. We both had a story to share and I couldn’t wait to hear hers.
There is no better feeling in the world than watching a love story unfold right before your eyes. Ours isn’t the traditional love story where mermaid Arial gets her legs and finds her happily ever. Ours is more of King Triton’s story, one of a father loving his children. My dad would be given his wish of having five more minutes with the children he grieved for during the last 25 years. Only God is greater than that. Five minutes wouldn’t be enough. My dad would be getting the rest of his natural life with his kids, prayers answered, untold stories revealed.
I knew then that I had to lose my daughter to fully understand the meaning of sorrow and joy. Even though I always felt like I understood family, how much I loved them and how irreplaceable they were, I never fully understood until I had to let one of the greatest loves of my life go. Because of that, I pray that I’ll never take my family for granted and always honor those we have lost. Without Machaela’s loss, I could never have understood what my dad, Chris and Dani had gone through. I feel like her life, no matter how long or short, was the fuel that lit my fire to work so hard on bringing my siblings home. God did this. In the midst of my sorrow and grief he brought me a project to turn loss into something beautiful. Five years after I said good-bye to my sweet baby girl, my faith was almost fully restored.