Sunday, December 4, 2016

Stories of Hope - Eileen

The following post is from excerpts from a blog post I wrote about my friend Eileen a number of years ago.  She wasn’t able to put together her own post for this project but gave me some ideas of what she’d like to share.  Hopefully it all makes sense. 

I 'met' Eileen in the winter of 2011 when her unborn twins were diagnosed with TTTS. She hoped she would be a candidate for surgery though she was very scared of what that meant. She did have the surgery and like us, learned the next day that one of her sweet babes had gone to be with Jesus. She never referred to her as an angel though she did often say that she knew she was watching over her sister. Like me, she believed that her heavenly baby had lived just long enough to ensure that her sister survived.

Fast forward the story about 8-10 weeks when Eileen’s water broke and she was hospitalized and began the regiment that all who have a premature rupture of their membranes go through…steroid shots for the lungs and antibiotics to prevent infection. All seemed well and it seemed that her little survivor would remain in utero, like Cameron, for many weeks to come. But then about 5 days or so after her water broke her little survivor arrived…at 28 weeks gestation. She seemed to be doing well initially but then began to struggle so she was transferred to another larger hospital. She continued to struggle to clear the carbon dioxide from her body but everything else with her seemed to be going well.
I watched everyday on facebook and her blog for updates on Brigid. I marveled at Eileen's amazing faith...

I’d find myself making little deals in my head with God in the car. “Okay,” I’d think. “If I see a rainbow, that means Brigid’s going to be fine.” And then I’d crane my neck all over looking for one, all the while reasoning with myself that even if I don’t see a rainbow, she could still be fine and realizing that I could see one and she could die tomorrow. I’m testing God, I’d think, and then I’d feel ashamed of my silliness. He doesn’t owe me a sign. He’s told me enough about himself for me to have faith in this situation, whether or not I see a rainbow.
It’s not faith that Brigid will be okay that I’m called to have. If that were the case, and she died, my faith would be shattered.
Rather, it’s faith in God’s goodness. It’s faith in the fact that His ways are not our ways. That all things work together for the good of those who love Him. It’s faith that God is sovereign and knows us and loves us and sees our situation. Faith that we’re still in the palm of His hand. It’s faith that if it’s His will for her to heal and grow, she will. And if it’s not, we’ll still be okay. It’s faith that He knows more than we do. Faith that He is trustworthy and that He loves our baby girl even more than we do.
This is the faith that we are called to have. This is the faith that I have to exercise each day, as surely as an athlete exercises his heart and muscles for an endurance trial. God is so good to give us our daily bread – the strength to get through each day, even when we don’t know what is at the end of the road.
I’ll still crane my neck to look for the rainbows.
But not because they have anything to do with Brigid.

After a few procedures and surgeries on both Brigid’s heart and trachea, it seemed that this little survivor’s battles were behind her.  And then suddenly our TTTS Survivors with Guardian Angels community got a message from her mom that she was very sick with an infection and they had been called in to the hospital to be with her…. I assumed, just to give her comfort. I was shocked to learn the next day that Eileen's sweet little survivor’s journey was over. Brigid had gone to be with Jesus. I admit…I sobbed so hard I had to sit for a long time to get it all together. And I still feel that way at times. Their story was so similar to ours…and could so easily have been our outcome if Cameron had been born when my water broke at 26 weeks. Even today as I write this... years after Brigid passed away I have goosebumps. I wrote a blog entry about it myself but I will post Eileen's from that fateful day first...

It’s not the homecoming we’d anticipated.
We had hoped that sometime in the next few weeks, we’d be bringing our baby girl home to live in our house and play with her big brothers.
We’d hoped for some pink things and baby dolls and maybe even a few frilly dresses.
After she had a hard time yesterday, the doctors decided to test Brigid for an infection and found that she was critically ill from a bacteria that she likely developed from being on the ventilator. Her blood cultures showed that she was septic – the infection had taken over her bloodstream – and her little body fought it as well as it could. The doctors, recognizing the severity of the situation, called Patrick and me and told us to come to the hospital right away. She was having such a hard time, but we got to be with her and kiss her and sing to her. The bacteria was vicious and fast-moving, and it only took about 12 hours from the time she started acting lethargic until her body could fight no longer. At about 11:30 last night, Brigid went to be with Jesus.

We thought our homecoming would be a wonderful ending to a long and difficult road, but it would just have been continuing the race that is life on this earth for our girl. Instead, she’s already won the race and received the prize. Brigid’s homecoming was the final homecoming – the one where she gets to live in the mansions and walk on streets of gold and worship at the throne of God and see him face to face.
We are so honored to have been your parents, sweet baby Brigid. I’d been under the impression that I was holding your hand to help you through this difficult time, but now I realize that you were actually helping me by holding mine. Thank you so much. You are the strongest person I know, and I can’t wait to spend eternity with you and Fiona.

The temptation during a time like this is to ask why? Why did this happen? Why did God do this? Why me? The fact is, this is life on this imperfect earth. Many people before us have gone through similar tragedies and worse, and many people after us will go through them. The better question is why not me?

This is where the rubber of our faith meets the road of life. Sure, it is unbelievably painful. We feel weak. We are beside ourselves. We are undone. How could she have pulled through heart surgery only to be taken by a fluke infection? There are many questions. But these things did not surprise our God. He is, and always has been, in control of this situation. He is good, he loves us, and he has not abandoned us. If we are to have free will, we have to live with sin and death and suffering on this earth - but only for a while. A day will come when "He will wipe every tear from their eyes. There will be no more death or mourning or crying or pain. “We are anxious for that day to come soon.

This time I cried with tears of joy and inspiration. I wrote to her and told her that I was inspired by her to strengthen my relationship with Christ so that I, too, could feel so at peace about the trials of life and of death itself.  I shared this on my own blog…

‘I don’t know if I’ll ever be at this level of peace and confidence…I can only hope. I know that I can’t wait to go to Heaven to see Cole…and all the others who have been so blessed to go before me. I know that I will always have sad moments when it comes to the loss of loved ones but my friend has truly planted a seed in me.

Sweet Baby Brigid…thank you so much for blessing your family for your 6 short weeks here with your Mommy and Daddy and brothers and for the joyful (and I know stressful too) 28 weeks inside your mommy's womb with your dear sweet sister, Baby Fiona. Thank you for bringing such strength and hope to many. Thank you for teaching me some valuable lessons. I am so glad you were able to hold your mommy’s hand as you left this world…not to get comfort and strength from her but rather to give comfort and strength to her. Much love little one, say hello to Cole for me…I’m sure he met you at the gates with open arms and will show you all the coolest places that he has found.

When Eileen and I discussed her being a guest blogger she mentioned Brigid's eulogy and I realized that I had never even read it...somehow it just got missed in midst of the busy times that end of June and early July are for me in education I guess. I so wish I had read it then but then again maybe it had much more meaning now, after my own faith has taken such a drastic leap forward, since I have learned so much more about Jesus, about being a Christian, about the things that Christ did for us and what God has promised to us. Regardless of the timing, the message is the same and I am so very warmed to my heart and soul by her amazing insights...

As I knelt in prayer at church this past Sunday, I pondered Brigid’s death, as I have done every second of each day since it happened.  Specifically, I thought about God as our Father and the giver of every good and perfect gift, who tells us that if we as parents know how to give good gifts to our children, how much more will he give good gifts to us if we ask him.

And I wondered: What about this? How is this a good gift? I’ve told our boys that just because Brigid died, it does not mean that God didn’t hear our daily prayers for her to grow big and strong and come home to live with us. “Sometimes,” I told them, “God tells us no just like sometimes Mommy tells you no when you ask for things. ”They accepted that explanation…but I wasn’t so sure I did.

We all tell our children no when there are things that they want that are not good for them, but as a mother, I tried to imagine the circumstances under which I could possibly tell my children no for something that would break their hearts as much as Brigid’s death has broken ours. Why would I tell them no for something that would make them happy? What would have been the harm in allowing us to bring our healthy daughter home to live with our family? Especially after we’d already lost her sister.
I racked my brain for an example.

It came. It involved chocolate. And I realized that it all has to do with perspective. I imagined myself baking in my kitchen. I love to make special things for my family, and I imagined I was making an extra special dessert treat for the birthday party of one of my boys. Only he didn’t know I was doing it for him.
He comes into the kitchen where I am standing and asks if he can have a few of the chocolate chips that are on the counter. Because I need to use them for the dessert, I tell him no.

Being the young child he is, he is devastated. “Please, please, please?” he pleads. “Trust me,” I say. “No.”
He falls to the floor crying and kicking and screaming. But I do not change my answer. Instead, I lovingly pick him up, give him a hug, and tell him to go and let me work. He doesn’t know it, but within a short time, I’ll have used the chocolate chips to create something extra special for his party, and I know that he will love it. This is why I can be a loving parent and yet be unmoved by his pleas.

And then I thought about this example in terms of my perspective on our situation.
To a young child, my denying him the treat that he wanted was devastating. But as his mother, I knew I had a plan for it that was far better. I knew his tears would be short-lived, but that he’d appreciate the final product much more than the chips by themselves. To him, the few hours until the party seemed like an eternity. But to me, it was just a brief wait that was worthwhile for the celebration that was to come.
The small chocolate chips would have been a treat for him and they would have made him happy, but the special dessert would serve many more people and benefit him as well as others.I have to think that our Father, with his infinite knowledge, sees our situation in much the same way that I, as a mother, see things in relation to our boys.

Our wait to see Brigid and Fiona again is nothing more to him than a little boy’s wait for his birthday celebration. But oh, the celebrating will be so much greater. The pain of being denied our request feels profound and deep; our tears will flow for months instead of minutes. But to our Father, this is but a short-lived trial. Our girls would have enriched and blessed our family had we been able to bring them home to live with us, but incorporated into his plan, they have been used to affect so many others.

Many of you might never have known about our twin girls were this not the plan. And I’m pretty certain that none of us will ever be the same again. We prayed and we rejoiced and we prayed and we cried. Our prayers brought us to our knees in the middle of the night. They drew us in close to the God who was in control of this situation from the very start. They came from Australia and China and Hungary and Canada and Scotland. They came from people who were prayer warriors and from people who had never prayed before. They brought glory to God because they made us acknowledge the frailty and wonder of life and realize that there is a power greater than us at work. To know that our girls may have been used as part of God’s plan for someone else is humbling. Our faith has not been shaken by their death. Rather, it has been toned and stretched and strengthened. We have been brought to the end of ourselves and found that He still gave us the strength to go on. Our prayers for Fiona and for Brigid were really for our benefit too. The act of praying for them tested us and helped us to grow stronger. And though God chose to answer our prayers with “no,” our prayers were not in vain.

She has reminded me in her writings that life does go on...especially when we have other kids to look after... but that Christ will give us the strength to do just about anything.

But this is where the Lord has me right now. He knew that I’d have three little ones to take care of when our twins died. He knew that there would be another baby in our family, too. This is my vocation, caring for these little ones. I can’t begrudge them their neediness – they’re little. They’re just being kids. It is hard work, even without the grieving factor added in. But He can give me the strength and wisdom to do it. I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me. And they are some of the most amazingly wonderful kids in the world.

I am so glad that God brought Eileen into my life . She truly is the best example of remaining faithful a midst trials and she inspires me, daily, with her positive attitude and her love for the Lord. 

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