Today is a special birthday. It is the birthday of our daughter, Amie.
At the time of our pregnancy back in the ancient days of 1989, we had two precious girls, Jen and Maggie. Their joy waiting for baby? The stuff of happiest memories.
As the months passed, I grew into a very round Momma to be. Kevin took this just days before Amie was born………
…….now……… so many years ago.
Today is Amie’s birthday. Today, Amie is 26. That is, she would be 26.
26 years ago. How can it seem like yesterday?
I remember getting up the morning she was born and Kevin cooked us a scrumptious breakfast, but I wasn’t very hungry. I was in that dreamy state just before birth, when senses are heightened, and the longing of my mother arms filled the air, filled my entire being. As we ate at the kitchen table with Jen and Maggie, a gentle Spring breeze wafted through the open windows. I can still hear the light clicking of the shades over the windows. The enchanting, lifting music of the birds was so much more present, and seemed to surround us. Yes, sweetness filled the air. This was a day unlike other days. It was as if the birds knew what I did not. Today a special little girl would leave the love of her presence, her tiny little feet, upon our hearts. Perhaps it would be only for the briefest of time; just barely a day in fact. She needed to begin her real mission, but not from here. Not in my arms. Her destiny was to be happy. Happy in heaven while leaving her forever footprints of love upon our hearts. What a miracle to know we can experience the reality of such a real love in such a short time. It is the gift to be ~ fully human. To become a mother. To love in joy. To love in sorrow.
At that time, my mother heart could not comprehend the beauty of her mission from God. Her mission would begin here, and from our arms, her mission would continue from heaven. Writing it now, I am not just setting a scene. I can remember all the minutest details with striking clarity. I think such a vivid memory of all that surrounds a baby’s arrival on earth is a gift God gives mothers as they approach the time of birth.
I honestly don’t remember much of labor that started shortly after breakfast time. What I remember is when she was born. We were ecstatic to finally be holding her in our arms, with her beautiful head of hair. Kevin got to hold her first, and talked to her with quiet words of love. She was so gently placed into my mother arms which had thirsted for long, to hold her that very first time. All 11 pounds of her!! Oh, it seemed as if we had waited forever for her to arrive! When a baby is born, it is the physical reality of the parents love. Oh, how thrilled we were when she was here at last!
In the glory of those first moments after her birth, we did not know. The joy of her arrival was not to last. At least not for a good many years.
Shortly after birth, while she was in my arms, Amie suddenly took a turn for the worse. The doctor was right there trying to resuscitate her.
It was not to be.
Despite one hospital sending her to another hospital. Despite all our cries to God to spare her, He had other plans. My empty arms, with sudden violence, became the source of constant torture of emptiness, tears, pain.
We had the chance to say our good byes in private after Amie died. Good byes? Could there ever be a good bye sufficient to fill a parental heart? I think back now, and even the nurse who brought her to us, for that last good bye was crying so hard, right along with Kevin and I. She sobbed as loudly as the pain ran through my heart when she placed Amie into my arms for the very last time. This was the good bye in the quiet of the middle of the night. The sorrow was unending deep. The sorrow, the pain, the grief and tears….. lasted a very long time. Such a very long, long time.
We struggled to become “normal” again. Only with time, and lots of it, can a family grieve for the love now lost. Our visits to the cemetery became a new tradition.
We actually took so many trips there, it became a place where the girls would play. (oh, is that morbid? Ha!) (little children cannot resist climbing I know!) I probably let them climb because I didn’t want it all to be a “sad thing” going there. I wanted there to be happy in our lives again. How desperately I mourned for our baby. How desperately I longed for happiness at the very same time. Talk about a stormy heart. Little did I know that peace would come, with surrender. Peace would also come with hope.
The years have passed. Grief like fire in those early years has aged. It took those first years of going through all the “milestones” ~ the first holiday without her, her month anniversary, 6 months, a year. Time moved so slowly, so painfully as we adjusted to living without the sweet baby we had so loved. My sisters were the biggest support, sending cards all along the way. Sending tokens to remember her by. I think that is the hardest part of losing a child. Feeling like you need to go on in life, and thinking everyone wants you to forget. All the while, all you want to do is remember. You want to remember so you don’t forget. The separation of our hearts was a time of sorrow, but also became a time of great growth.
As the years have become a woven tapestry of God’s Plan of Love for our family, I remember her not in sorrow now, but with joy. For I know she never had to suffer all that the rest of us have to go through in this life. I even have years when I don’t feel compelled to take out her memory book because I am sad for missing her still. Today, I took Amie’s Book down from the dusty shelf. Bernadette and I looked at the photos. The priceless few photos we have of Amie. We talked about how precious Amie was, we talked about life, and death. It is not a topic a mother would bring up because it needs instruction. No, we talked about death and heaven because it is part of the organic tapestry of Life.
Today on Amie’s birthday, we opened the pages of her memory book and flipped through them. Now without the pain of years so long ago. Now there is peace, a peace that surpasses understanding. Truth softly illumines our hearts. The connection of our hearts remains a reality in the Mystical Body of Christ, and one day we shall be together again. It seems like it will take forever. I can smile softly in my heart because I know. It will be the blink of an eye……
Now that grief has burned into coals dimly smoldering, my mother’s heart can embrace a total surrender to God’s Plan. Now, my mother’s heart can rest. Rest in the fact that there is a Divine Plan, there always was a Divine Plan. And God’s Plan is one of Love, meant only for our good. I know now what I did not know then. I can run my hands over the prints of her precious little feet. I can treasure the small lock of hair, a treasured gift a kind and thoughtful nurse took “just in case” we might want it later. It was only a matter of a day before I begged Kevin to take us back to the hospital to claim those few precious photos and her lock of hair ~
Our life went on, much as I mistakenly thought it would not (in all my pain and grief of empty arms). I tried to stop time to no avail. I didn’t want to go on without her, and yet the world around me kept on, the seasons one after another, pulling at my mother’s heart. It took years for my stubborn will to relent, as if it were my choice to rejoin the living. Life went on. The tapestry of our lives, under the happiness tree with many threads yet unlived….
We joined a support group at the hospital for parents who experienced the death of a child. And it helped a lot to be safely in a place where our grief could find expression.
We made it to her first birthday, and lived. I know now ~ we made it because we were so surrounded with friends and family who listened, and showed us so many, many signs of their love.
Her first birthday was a milestone I had dreaded. So much time between our hearts, and our precious baby girl. At the same time, surviving to get to that date was also a victory and an open door to participate more fully in life again. I could look back. I could remember that day as Kevin and I walked to the funeral home an entire year ago, when he said, “Maybe we should start going to church.” I think I punched him on the arm, “God would not take a baby just to get the parents to go back to church.” I have eaten those words so many times over. Because, now I know. Oh yes, he would. Amie was the baby who helped us find our way back to our Faith, back into the arms of God. I know she is eternally happy in heaven. I ask her to pray for us often, not often enough.
We have had so many more joys, and more sorrows in our life. We have learned the lessons in life that every man must. No one escapes the lesson. Death is part of life. No one had ever prepared us for the reality of it. How foolish in our youth to think that we were in control. Not. “Not” can be a brutal lesson in life when one is not prepared. So, we want our children to know death is not the end. We must teach children that every person has a soul. When a person dies, the soul separates from the body. But, death is not the end. Death does not have the final say. There is eternal life for every soul. Earth is temporary, and Heaven is eternal. Heaven is our home. And what joy that gives! We know that one day Amie will be in our arms again, and that is hope. That is a reason for our hope; being one day happy with her in heaven, spending forever with Eternal Love.
All these many years later, now I can see. God has helped me to see. Death is a part of life. And death is so much more. Life does not cease to be beautiful and joy filled because of the death of a child. No, it is more beautiful. More beautiful because she was here. If only for one day. Good Friday is not the end, because the Triumphant Love of Easter Sunday is so close by!
Happy Birthday, our beloved Amie!!! We love you!!!!