Usually when I write these blogs I try to keep them light and witty, focusing on funny stories and personal observations while trying to relate to you, the reader. Tonight as a sit here writing, and even though I have a number of good blog ideas, I just can't seem to be funny or witty. It has been a long week.
I've mentioned here before that I have a tight knit family. Not only do I value highly my relationships with my wife and children, but my father, mother, three sisters and I are all still very much a functioning unit. Although separated by states and miles, everyone can be counted on to help the others at all times. It is a blessing, but it is also why last Friday was so hard.
We got a call from my mother around five that my littlest sister was about to be taken from antepartum over to labor and delivery to have her first born child. Normally, this would be a joyous occasion, but as I saw the look on my wife's face and heard the anguish in my mother's voice, a knot started forming in my stomach. My wife hung up the phone, and since she is a nurse on that floor, I asked her some tough questions. None of the answers were good. A little baby, no matter how wanted or loved, simply could not survive being delivered at 21 weeks.
We gathered ourselves quickly, dropped the boys off at their grandma's (Thanks Grandma) and got to the hospital. My wife was scheduled to work in a couple of hours and since the situation was a little uncertain, we drove separately. So, as I walked in by myself, knot in my stomach growing, I prepared for what was coming. The first person I saw, standing by himself in the hallway, was my brother-in-law. I swallowed hard and approached the man who almost instantly captured my sister's heart a few short years ago. He's a man I could best describe as a little goofy/fun, with just a dash of childlike innocence. Without saying anything, I gave him a hug and he broke down sobbing in my arms. Instinctively, I grasped him tighter and whispered, "It's alright. I've got you. Everything will be alright." I recognized the words immediately. Every time my little ones, especially my youngest, would be crying uncontrollably I would always say the same thing and it seemed to calm them. I doubt it worked quite the same on my bearded, heartbroken, 6'2", 260 pound brother in law, but I hope it was of the slightest comfort.
He had to get back into the delivery room so I made my way down the hallway preparing for what was next. I saw my father first. He is a man who feels deeply, but almost always holds those feelings to himself. His eyes were red and puffy and he could only point me on to where my mother was waiting. I fought the growing lump in my throat and entered the room where my mother and brother-in-law's mother were together. My mom immediately sprung from her seat, started crying uncontrollably, and gave me a huge hug.
Let me be clear. I hate to cry. It doesn't help me in any way and generally speaking is not a part of my process. I don't feel better when I do it. I just feel worse. It's not a macho thing and it's not that I'm afraid to do it. It's just not constructive for me and only serves the purpose of making me feel like I might throw up. I'd rather beat on the drums, lift some weights, hit the heavy bag, get punched in the face, well, pretty much anything, but when my mom is crying like that and shaking in my arms, I just couldn't stop it.
The next few hours are a bit of a blur. My sister who lives in Indiana was making her way over. My sister in Alabama was staying in contact. Various clergy members of our childhood/parents current church as well as from my sister and brother in law's current church came for support. I mostly sat with my father talking about just about anything to keep his mind, as well as my own, from constantly running. In our own ways we are both problem solvers, but this was a burden neither of us could take and shoulder ourselves. As my youngest sister and brother-in-law went through the delivery and birth of their first child, we all waited and prepared ourselves as best we could. At approximately 9:00 P.M. the doctor came out and told us that Lucy Ruth Olson was born alive and that we would be able to go in and visit in a few minutes.
All of the banter, talk, and plans stopped. Silence dominated our little group and only the sounds of sniffles interrupted. It was awful. Minutes later, me, my wife, little sister, and other brother-in-law were allowed in to see the newborn. Just walking down the hallway was hard, but as we entered the room I saw a slightly different scene than I had anticipated. My baby sister and brother in law held their 12.4 ounce perfect little child, smiles adorning their faces. I remember that feeling of seeing and holding your newborn for the first time. It's indescribable and amazing, like seeing the hand of God himself deliver you the most precious gift you could ever receive. I remember it being hard for me to believe I could possibly love someone so much who I had literally just met. It was clear they were cherishing every moment.
Little Lucy lived for one hour and forty minutes and I feel privileged to have been a part of it. I am so proud of my little sister and brother in law. They have handled this entire situation better than I could have ever imagined and have certainly done it better than I could. This is the same little girl, (and she would probably still do this today) who would run from the green bean patch if a bug got near her, leaving me and our other sister to do all the work, which was more like me doing all the work. She is the same little girl who couldn't touch dry towels and would roam our house in her sleep. Sometimes we would hold full conversations as I convinced her to go back to bed and she told me that I wasn't her boss. This is the same little girl who has always put everyone else's needs above her own and reminds me so much of my mother and grandmother. Even as I easily held her daughter's fragile body in my hand and marveled at how perfectly formed she was, emotion broiled inside of me. I have never felt such sadness, which morphed into helplessness, and finally turned to anger. How could this happen to these two good people, two parents who would have no doubt loved and sacrificed everything for this baby? I mean, no child could ask for a better/more devoted set of parents, meanwhile another heroin addict screams obscenities at those trying to help her while showing no interest in her drug ravaged child. It just didn't seem right and I felt like punching through a wall, but then I would see how they were dealing with everything and feel ashamed at my own weakness. I am humbled that as I had feelings of anger and frustration my little sister and her husband handled the entire process with grace and dignity while leaning on each other and their faith.
I went home that night a fairly defeated man. I hugged my kids a little harder and put them to bed. I went through the normal nightly routine of letting out the dogs, locking the doors, etc. etc. I sat with my wife and discussed a million different subjects. I did all of the things I normally do. Everything felt a little bit different, though. In her short time Lucy Ruth reinforced upon me a valuable lesson. Life is precious and often too short. It is a lesson that first drastically impacted me when my perceived immortality left as I dealt with my own cancer at the age of twenty. Over the years, though, life can get busy and we can take things for granted. I am going to try my hardest, each and every day, to remember this lesson. Thank you Lucy Ruth. Your Uncle Tim loves you very much.
My sister and brother-in-law wrote this for the memorial/celebration. I felt I should include it because its really good.
"A little of our story.....
We were both blessed with Godly parents who love us so well and do more for us than we deserve……it seems like there is no greater love than that.
As most of you know, we have 17 nieces and nephews who light up our lives even in the midst of trying circumstances. We can both remember them being born and loving them with a greater love than we had ever felt.
Then God brought us together, not when we thought the time was right but when He knew we were ready to meet. We love each other with such great a love that at times we can hardly form it into words.
And then there was Lucy, sweet baby Lucy Ruth. We had her name picked out before we even knew we were pregnant. We would talk, read and sing to her often and at times she probably thought her parents were a little crazy, which many of you know we are. We would look at the sonograms in sheer awe while she kicked, punched and moved around on the screen. We began to form this love for Lucy that seemed so great for someone we had never met. Then we met her on her birthday, February 21st, the day God knew she would be born. Our love for her was instantly magnified. She was beautiful! We joked about how her long fingers were definitely not like those of her Daddy’s “sausage fingers.” She did however have Daddy’s ear lobes and her Mama’s lips. Her little features also resembled those of some of her cousins. We had almost 2 hours with Lucy before she went to be with Jesus and they were the shortest yet sweetest 2 hours of our lives. You see we had high hopes for her. She was named after Tricia's grandmother Ruth who was the type of person any parent would want their daughter to model. We just weren't prepared for Lucy to meet her great grandmother so soon.
This past week has been the toughest time in our lives by far. Multiple times we pleaded with God to save our baby, even in the delivery room we prayed for a miracle. We held on to every heartbeat, praying they wouldn’t stop. But that wasn't God’s plan for our daughter and we may never know why. Our hearts are broken but we are reminded of Psalm 34:18 which says “The Lord is near to the broken hearted and saves the crushed in spirit.” One thing we can be certain of is that we are loved by a greater love than any of our earthly relationships and boy have we ever felt God’s love holding us now. God’s plan for our lives is perfect and this is part of it. He has never left us, in fact we have known His faithfulness and presence in our lives every step of the way, especially now.
God has given us family and friends that have gone above and beyond when caring for us. We have received countless messages, encouraging verses, texts, calls, cards, food, gifts, visits, offers to help and the list goes on. We’ve found that the official love language of Christians must be cookies, delicious chocolate, peanut butter, caramel cookies which always vanished as quickly as they came. Several friends and family members gave us scripture to encourage us through our time and we posted them daily on our hospital board. One verse that we clung to was
2 Corinthians 12:9, But He said to me, “My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.” Therefore I will boast all the more gladly about my weaknesses, so that Christ’s power may rest on me.
We want to thank you from the bottom of our hearts for loving us so well and for continued prayers. We so appreciate how you've helped carry us through this and could never repay your thoughtfulness. You have been Christ to us and it has meant more than you know.
We wanted to have this celebration service today because we want you to remember Lucy as a baby who lived. Although she passed away from this earth, she is a new creation in heaven and that is something to celebrate! We will forever treasure the time we spent with Lucy here and look forward to seeing her again in our permanent home!"