the day your heart stopped and mine kept beating
You were born on a Tuesday.
I'd had 39 weeks and 2 days to hold you safe, perfect, and protected in my womb. You'd been all mine, but I couldn't wait to share the sweet soul that I already knew you had with your daddy and brother.
Your birth was as perfect as any mother could ask for, and you came out as healthy as any doctor could have guessed. I'd prayed for your safe delivery, knowing too many mothers who had seen their baby die long before what we'd believed was their time. And my prayers were graciously answered. I held you, you knew me, and I rejoiced in God's perfect grace. I could see every ounce of His grace and love in your tiny little face. I had no idea at the time but I was catching a glimpse of heaven itself.
We'd had three days filled with your perfect love, snuggles, and sweet angel kisses. Your brother surprised us with how naturally he slipped into his new role as your big brother. He quietly crawled in daddy's lap at night because he knew you needed me more. Maybe he already knew your time was short, and that maybe I needed those snuggles with you while I could get them.
I knew you were sick on that fourth day that you were with us.
The day you died.
You were just four days old.
I had no idea how sick, but I knew you were sick. Everything happened so fast. Everyone in our path that day was placed there by God, I know it now. The second doctor's son shares your name. And when I found that out I saw God wink at me. He worked on you like you were his own baby, and I will forever be grateful for the care he showed us and you. He cried for us, for you, and in hindsight I know that he knew you were much sicker than we understood. Then the flight crew came. They let me love on you as much as I possibly could, but eventually had to take you away. You flew in a helicopter to better doctors, doctors that I just knew could heal you. I prayed for your safe arrival nearly every minute of the four hour drive to the bigger, better hospital.
God graciously answered those prayers as well. We were still one and half hours away when you arrived at the hospital, but the doctors kept us constantly informed. When we built our house, I wrote bible verses on every header. I didn't know yet what child would live in your bedroom, and I remember having a difficult time choosing the verses for that room. I distinctly remember choosing Psalm 91:4 because its beautiful words had always brought me peace. So I prayed over that verse. No matter what would happen, I knew God would cover us with his feathers. I still know that.
When we arrived, you were alive and I had yet another answered prayer. We prayed silent prayers for your healing constantly over the next three hours, and the doctors worked tirelessly to save you. They never tried to give us false hope. They told us it was critical. They told us you were a very, very sick baby. They told us we couldn't yet talk about long term care for you until we made through the next few hours. They told us the truth.
But we knew God could heal you, and we kept our faith.
And God did heal you. Just not in the way our mortal hearts had hoped.
The doctors tried so hard to save you, but your little heart stopped beating.
I'll never forget the moment they stopped working on you. We had been standing in the room watching every doctor, nurse, and support personnel in the PICU work to keep you alive. In the moments leading up to your death, we were in full panic mode. But the moment they gave up I was at peace. Now I can't help but think of my favorite movie. In Steel Magnolias, M'Lynn says "I just sat there. I just held Shelby's hand. There was no noise, no tremble, just peace. Oh God. I realize as a woman how lucky I am. I was there when that wonderful creature drifted into my life and I was there when she drifted out. It was the most precious moment of my life." Before this all happened my naive mind had always wondered how a moment like that could be deemed as "precious," I always thought it would be better described as "heart-wrenching" or something more painful. I remember when a distant cousin of mine lost her little girl to cancer, she mentioned this quote from Steel Magnolias. I remember it because it was so hard to wrap my mind around at the time. But now I understand because it was so very precious. I didn't cry. I didn't scream. I was acutely aware of my own heart beating, and when your daddy held me to his chest I heard his heart beat louder than any sound in the room. Maybe because I knew I'd never hear the sound of your little heart beating again.
I longed to hold your little body in my arms one more time. I knew you weren't really there, but I needed to hold the shell of the sweet soul that God had blessed us with for four short days. And the doctors gave me all the time I needed. I held your tiny body for over an hour in the PICU, and I was able hold you all the way back to the funeral home in our hometown. I kissed your little head, even though I knew you weren't really there. I held your little hand, even though I knew you were in the loving arms of Jesus. I stroked your little feet, even though I knew you were walking the streets of gold.
We arrived at the funeral home very early Christmas morning. A man named Donny lovingly took you from my arms with tears in his eyes. He was placed there by God just for us. He promised to take very good care of your sweet body, and I knew he meant every word he spoke.
The next two days were unbearable as my body reminded me constantly that I'd birthed a baby while my empty arms reminded me that you'd left us too soon for our earthly hearts to understand. We made the arrangements. We received family, friends, and food. I cried in our bed. I smelled the clothes you had worn. I looked at picture after picture of your sweet face. And I questioned God, not in anger or in fear, just because I needed answers for what good would come from such pain. I needed to feel God's presence because I had never in my life felt so separated from Him.
And then you were buried on a Tuesday.
Your uncle officiated the service. The same man who married your daddy and I, baptized me, and helped us dedicate your sweet big brother to the Lord. It made perfect sense. It was evident that you'd touched a lot of hearts in the four short days you lived on earth, you could see it clearly by the number of people who helped us lay you to rest.
As we received family and friends after your service, a sweet student and her mother came by to show their love and give me a gift. She'd bought it a couple of weeks before in anticipation of your birth, even though she knew it wasn't really a baby gift. It was a simple gold bar necklace with a single feather and the packaging had the verse Psalm 91:4 on it. The very same verse I'd prayed over when you were so very sick. And God winked at me again. The tears stopped for a moment because I felt the Holy Spirit as evident and as real as the breath in my lungs or the sun in the sky. God put that sweet student in my life four years ago in preparation for that one moment in the cemetery. He spoke through her, and I will be forever grateful for her obedience to Him the day she bought that necklace. He used her to remind me that we are covered with his feathers, and that no matter how difficult this part of our story may be that He is forever faithful.
When we came home, your daddy and I sat together on the front porch swing and watched the sunset. I told him that I wanted to plant a magnolia tree in your memory. I knew it didn't make much sense to plant a magnolia since they flower in the summer but you were born and died in December. Magnolias have just always made me happy, as you did. When I was pregnant with you and waiting to know your gender, I even toyed with the idea of naming you Magnolia had you been a girl. Magnolias are evergreen with very long lifespans, and I felt like that was an appropriate nod to the everlasting life that I know you slipped into so peacefully.
Three days later we came home to a magnolia tree on our porch, mailed four days earlier, ready to be planted in your memory. Your third cousin, a mommy to her very own angel baby whom I'm sure you've already met in heaven, had sent it to me knowing the pain of losing a child. She had no idea what I'd wanted to do for you, and somehow she'd chosen a Magnolia tree to send to me. And God winked at me again. It took my breath away to feel His presence so sharply. Tears came, but these tears weren't of sadness. I cried in amazement of His Grace and Faithfulness.
Four days is all we had with you in our arms, but you will forever be in our hearts. We learned so much about ourselves, our faith, and your big brother through those four short days. I saw prayer after prayer answered. And maybe the most precious answered prayer is that your daddy asked Jesus into his heart and now wants to be baptized. You had a purpose, sweet Luke, you just fulfilled it so quickly. Your physical presence brushed our life as delicately as a feather, but you made an impression on us that will last for the rest of our lives.
I'm so grateful that God trusted me to be your mommy on this earth.
And that in itself brings me peace.
He will cover you with his feathers, and under his wings you will find refuge; his faithfulness will be your shield and rampart.