She was one pound and ¾ of an ounce; that’s how much she weighed. Those precious numbers meant she had left measurable weight in my life. The moment I had to learn to say goodbye permanently to my baby girl, all the faith I had ever known disappeared. All the years of church seemed like a waste of time and I realized that I had always got by on my parent’s coat-tails of faith.
My earliest memories of God are of my Grandma Margaret taking me to church when I stayed with her for a week one summer. That’s where I awkwardly accepted communion for the first time. Not being sure of how all that really worked…I wondered if I should I stick my tongue out or my hand? My eight-year -old mind decided to go with my tongue and the priest graciously placed the wafer on it. My cheeks blushed 3 shades of red as I watched the rest of the congregation accept it in the palm of their hand. My grandma just smiled. Her church was very different from the little white Baptist Church my parents took me to, but it was very clear to me how important her faith was. I made the public declaration to accept Jesus Christ as my Lord and Savior at age 10 and was baptized.
June 10, 1998 our daughter, Machaela died and that changed everything I thought I knew about faith. At her funeral, I overheard my dad tell the pastor, “For the first time ever, as a parent, I can’t just put a band-aid on her wound and make it go away.” It was the first time I had seen him cry. It was also the first time I realized the grief and loss he had suffered when his two oldest children from a previous marriage went missing. It had been 20 years since he’d last seen them. I knew I wouldn’t get my daughter back until I took my last breath on earth, but what if, perhaps, he could get his kids back? I started to ask God for a reunion.
A year after Machaela’s death our new marriage was stressed. Grief consumed me, anger filled me and I took most of it out on my husband. I had occupied my mind with failed efforts to find my brother and sister. My own super-hero strengths were proof that I wasn’t strong enough to go at it alone. Then my reality was rocked again when my husband, Jim, was a passenger in an off road accident. The dune buggy launched off of a cliff, he was thrown out and fell forty feet into rocks and sand. He ended up with head trauma and a pretty much severed arm. That meant instant medical debt, job loss, several surgeries, lots of rehab and a lifetime disability.
The physical therapy clinic that Jim was rehabbing at had hired me just months after I finished school. Four years after that, the owner encouraged me to go back to school, gain more licensing so that I could become an independent contractor. I did it. Weeks after I graduated I gave birth to a healthy baby girl named Sophia. Once my maternity leave ended I returned to work as an independent contractor and officially had my own patient load.
My very first patient was a man named Bill. His last name was familiar to me. I began asking questions. Long story short, Bill was my missing brother and sister’s maternal Uncle and he had no idea that he had just revealed everything I had been searching for the last five years. The siblings I had paid money, time and tears for had freely walked through the same clinics doors that my husband first passed through with a near severed arm and I with a new career.
I knew then, without a shadow of doubt, that God had my back, proving that He had been there all along. My brother and sister were finally reunited with our dad and wounds could finally be healed.
I had two more babies after that, another girl named Amaya and a son, Josiah. Sophia had a healthy life and I felt confident that the rest of my children would too. I was taken by surprise when my two youngest began having medical symptoms that stumped the most brilliant of doctors. My biggest fear was that I’d be burying another child.
On April 12, 2012, I found Josiah unresponsive in his crib 3 days after being discharged from the hospital. Terror gripped my heart as the girls and I watched the paramedics take life saving measures on my living room floor. I’ll never forget the medics asking me to sign forms asking for permission to perform a procedure that is only used when the signs of life were gone. It was risky and I understood what that meant. I had no choice. Images of my first baby girl flashed in my head and I screamed at God. They broke my son’s leg, inserted a metal prong into the bone and injected meds directly into the bone marrow. It’s called the intra-osseous procedure. This was his only chance at survival. They strapped my 22 month old son onto a gurney and wheeled him out of my house. I was terrified knowing he was being taken back to the same Dr.’s that couldn’t diagnose him the first place.
My son was the first and youngest of any person in So CA to have this procedure done outside of an emergency room setting. The fire department that performed it was from a neighboring city, and technically wouldn’t have responded unless our city was busy. Thank God they were. The rig that would typically would be dispatched had left on a call just 3 minutes prior to mine. Even more amazing, the department that arrived at my home just had the training a week before and are the only station trained to do it in all of California. More proof that God had been there all of the time. .
One hundred and seventy five days were spent in the intensive care unit, fourth floor of the children’s ward, subspecialty clinics, geneticists and labs between both Amaya and Josiah. That meant there were also 175 days of separation from Sophia and that broke my heart.
Every night that I’d watch the sun set from the hospital room, I felt trapped in a prison that I had created for myself. I pretended I was good when I’d secretly cry in the public parent’s shower on the fourth floor. I was safer there, I was all by myself, nobody would know how scared I really was and certainly not know how weak. But God knew. I felt ashamed for not calling upon God and not trusting Him. That’s what ticked me off the most. Every shower I took was a reminder that I was battling the enemy, a force trying to steal my heart, wanting nothing than more for me to give up and give in.
Just when I thought it couldn’t get any worse, my husband lost his job and our health insurance. The first day without coverage, Sophia split her mouth and cheek open and required emergency room help. The ground felt like it opened up and swallowed me alive. I actually wished it had. As my kids were tethered to IV poles and confined to sterile play centers, fear filled me up and the knot in my throat grabbed and choked me, forcing me to reconcile my relationship with God, whom I made just a distant friend. My parents gently reminded me where my faith came from and carried a huge part of the burden. They prayed incessantly for us when I had stopped.
Five days after Josiah was discharged from the hospital we returned for a follow up visit. Amaya came too. On the way home she asked, “Mommy, does it hurt to die?” It took everything in my power to not drive off the freeway. I tried to explain to her that as far as the doctors knew she wouldn’t be dying anytime soon. Then she said, “You know my sister is dead. I saw Joe joe dead. So why not me?” She looked at me straight in the face and said, “Mommy, I know that kids die. I just wanna know if it hurts.”
Something definitely had to change.
The following Sunday we walked onto the Seabreeze Church campus. We listened to Pastor Bevan’s message, tears filled my eyes as I realized that his message paralleled my life. For the first time in a long time, I knew everything would be okay.
The service was over and Amaya ran to me, holding a great big cross decorated in gauze and band aids. The title said, “Jesus heals the little children!” Her bright brown eyes were huge and excitement billowed from her like a volcano. She exclaimed, “Mommy!! Did you hear the good news? Jesus heals the sick little children. I WILL be okay. I won’t be sick forever! Isn’t that great news?”
It was as easy as that. Faith like a child…and it instantly took me back to my grandma.
Scripture says “And they were bringing children to him that he might touch them, and the disciples rebuked them. But when Jesus saw it, he was indignant and said to them, “ Let the children come to me; do not hinder them, for such belongs to the kingdom of God. Truly, I say to you, whoever does not receive the kingdom of God like a child shall not enter it.” And He took them onto his arms and blessed them. Laying his hands on them.”
Learning to separate what I feel, my earthly human feelings, from the truths of the one I serve, my Almighty, supernatural God, showed me the distinction between death on earth and the beauty of life in Heaven. I can never tell a person why our loved ones die, when their sorrow will end or how their faithful, healing dance will begin…I peacefully grieve to this day. I’m thankful for every sorrowful dance that has taught me to become 100% dependent on God.
The ultimate lesson of my faith is to see peace, love and mercy where I was filled with pain; I see new life where there was death. My prayer for everyone is to experience the same, continue to grow and keep a firm grip in your faith, knowing that your suffering won’t last forever. you will be restored, you will be made stronger, firmer and steadfast, no matter what your life story is. Remember, Our God is good, all the time, forever and ever, Amen.