Tuesday, June 28, 2011

Eighty Minutes of Parenting

My grandmother found this precious story in a book called "No Small Miracles," by Norris Burkes, a Pediatric Chaplain. She shared it with me and now I want to share it with you. May we all be reminded of the value of each and every life and how precious each moment is...

Despite popular belief, Disney does not have a corner on the title The Happiest Place on Earth. That distinction usually belongs to the labor and delivery department at your local hospital.
Usually.
But on the morning I met Sue Reed and her husband, Mike, I already knew it was not going to be a usual day.
Sue and Mike married in their early forties. Blessed with one healthy child, Samantha, they were inspired to try for another. After a few difficult starts, Sue turned up pregnant in May 2003, two months shy of her forty-fourth birthday. They named their expected baby Gabriella Grace-GiGi for short.
Because babies born to older mothers tend to carry a greater risk of genetic deformities, Sue's doctors scheduled her for immediate genetic testing. A week after the test, Sue awoke with a feeling that something's not OK. Later that afternoon, a doctor's call confirmed her suspicion. The doctor told Sue that GiGi had trisomy 18, which meant she had an extra eighteenth chromosome.
Sue said, recalling the phone call, "I struggled to hear more, even as I began shutting down."
The "more" she was hearing was the doctor telling her that most women opt to terminate these pregnancies. While Mike and Sue spent the weekend "asking the hard question of what God was doing here," Sue couldn't help but recall a previous abortion she had had in her youth, a procedure "that punctured my heart forever," she said.
"I knew I couldn't do it again. I knew in my heart of hearts that God made GiGi exactly the way she was supposed to be made. I know that Scripture says, 'Before I formed you in the womb I knew you, before you were born I set you apart' (Jeremiah 1:5).
"God was asking me to honor this life," she said. "She was our daughter with a bad diagnosis, but that was secondary. Nevertheless, that diagnosis was like an end to my pregnancy. At each doctor's visit, I was sure this time GiGi wouldn't have a heartbeat."
But GiGi's heart continued to beat, and the doctors began anticipating her live birth. They asked Sue how she wanted to care for GiGi after she was born. Sue remembers the doctor asking, with tears in her eyes, "How do you want this to play out?"
Sue and Mike instructed the doctor not to resuscitate but instead to offer all comfort care possible. "We just want to meet her and love her, to hold her and be with her. We want to know and love our daughter as long as she's with us," Sue said.
The night before her birth, Sue wrote a letter to GiGi in which she explained that "some people only dream of angels, but I get to actually give birth to one and then hold her in my arms. I am so very blessed. See you tomorrow, sweet girl."
On February 5, 2004, at 10:00 a.m., I entered the labor and delivery department to meet a couple who looked like any other expectant parents. They carried a video camera. They knew, however, that their camera would record the two most sacred moments of life-birth and death-all on one tape. Twenty minutes after Mike and I dressed in surgical scrubs, GiGi emerged, looking perfect.
"I expected a deformed baby," Sue admitted, "but she was beautiful. She was like a visitor from heaven. It was like God showing us that what we did was right, to honor this little life all the way to the end in spite of her impending fatality. Every life is precious, no matter how short. It should be God's decision when to call us home, not mine, or a doctor's, or even society's. God's timing is always perfect. I remember my heart exploding with joy that I had truly experienced God's perfect, divine will being done, that I had been obedient to it, and that GiGi never suffered but was just held and kissed by Michael and me until she died in Michael's arms. We knew that she knew we loved her, wanted her, and were there for her until she returned home."
GiGi lived just a little longer than an hour.
"It struck home with me that God hears, sees, and answers prayers," Sue said. "Even though I'd wished for a better outcome, I'm grateful God chose us. I never thought I could walk through something like this. It's made me realize how every moment in life is important-even if it's just eighty minutes. I packed a lot of parenthood into those eighty minutes."
Later Sue added, "Ever since this happened, I think about 'the moment.' GiGi's life was that moment. Sometimes love is for a moment. Sometimes it's for a lifetime. And sometimes a lifetime is a moment."

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