Marie and I met in 8th grade and she quickly became one of my closest friends. We were two peas in a pod. We graduated together and life took us to opposite sides of the country. We both got married and started our families. Babies and more babies. Marie is married to a wonderful man named John, who is honorably serving our country in the Navy. Together, they have five children. In 2011, John and Marie had a loss so great that it left anyone who knew them stunned and speechless. I watched as they, along with their children, moved through the valley of death to come out on the other side. I asked Marie if she would share her mother's heart with us and she graciously entrusted me with this gift. And it is truly a gift. I pray your heart will be encouraged.
I have stared at my computer for days now. Began typing and then deleted everything, doubting my words. I've walked in circles giving myself a pep talk. I've read my journal, looking for inspiration. All with no real thoughts or words coming to mind. Then I sat down on my bed and did what I know best. I began talking to my Father. I prayed asking Christ for the words I need. I laid back and just listened, then, no shame, fell asleep. Now that I'm awake, I pray that what you're about to read is both glorifying and encouraging.
May 27, 2011 was a day no different in my life of mothering four beautiful children. My oldest and only son was 4 and my three daughters were 3, 1 and just 10 weeks old. I had errands to run and a stop at the doctors for lab work for my youngest, Abigail. All before going home to have dinner as a family for our Friday night routine. We all were exhausted by the time we got home from the doctor's office. I made dinner as I listened to my older three play happily with their dad as Abigail laid in her Boppy watching. I remember smiling and praising the Lord for blessing me with such an amazing family. Abigail laughing several times while watching them, always happy. When I called everyone to the table for dinner, she just cooed as happy as can be.
That evening after everyone was bathed and in bed, it was just my husband and I sitting together feeding Abigail before she too went to bed. We were exhausted from a day of errands for me and him for finishing schooling for the Navy. Abigail was slowly falling asleep on my chest. A moment of being a mom I will always cherish and love. Once she was completely asleep, we did something we had never done before. Together, John and I put Abigail to bed. We placed her in her crib so gently and together we watched her sleep, arm in arm, just content. Never knowing how our life was about to change. May 28, 2011 began like any other, but quickly became a day I will never forget.
The sound of my husband's voice as he screamed my name will resonate forever in my mind. Our entire world seemed to end in that one cry. The next several hours are a blur. I remember screaming into my phone at the 911 operator that my baby wasn't breathing. I remember begging God to bring her back. I remember knowing immediately that she was gone. Abigail was called home and I didn't know why. My husband cradling her and crying, attempting CPR in hopes of bringing her back. I see my children all looking at me in fear and confusion. The sirens blaring from across base. It was like time stood still as the reality sunk in. Abigail, my precious child had died while we all slept.
When the paramedic arrived, it only took them moments to declare she was gone and so was our life as we knew it. The next hours were droves of people coming to our house. A place that just hours before was my home. I remember calling our friends to come pick up the older three as I knew they weren't understanding and very afraid. I kept holding them and crying, trying to explain to my children their sister had died. Something no parent should ever have to explain. I tried to call my parents to tell them and just couldn't get the words out. I then let the paramedics call John's family. We were quickly informed that there was going to be an investigation into her death, as it was unexplained and unexpected. They allowed us supervised time with her before they took her away. We just cried as the fog began creeping in.
In what felt like moments later, we were begin escorted by NCIS to give our statements and learn what was to come. Then, being told our clothing was needed for evidence and that they will take us back to gather them after we changed. Until the autopsy comes back, they must treat everything as a crime scene and us as possible suspects.
When we began walking to the car, holding each other as the tears kept coming we saw a blue car. It had two men from our church we barely knew inside. Immediately, we both knew what was coming. Church members trying to comfort us with 'church comfort.' We all know it, the stereotypical comments, prayers and awkward hugs. It was the last thing we wanted. But we couldn't argue, let alone speak. Before ever getting out of their vehicle, they followed us and NCIS to our house. They waited for NCIS to take our clothes and leave, before they ever said one word. Then the unexpected happened. These two introduced themselves and said my Dad had called them.
" We are here to do what you want, What do you want to do? What do you need? Let us serve you."
The remainder of the evening was filled with the love of Christ being poured into us. Never through verses, never through awkward hugs or quotes we have all heard too many times. But through true love from the family of Christ. They were encouraging and loving through truth and honesty. They never tried to even remotely relate or say they knew the answer to the burning questions in our minds. WHY?
The following morning was "Children's Church Appreciation Sunday" at our church. A service we didn't want to attend but knew we needed to go to church so we wouldn't fall apart any more than we had. We stumbled into church, eyes red and swollen from crying, faces so blank and hurt we couldn't be missed and yet we remember no one. We found a seat and just cried softly to each other as our Pastor took the stage. I'll never forget what came next.
"Good morning Summit family. Due to some unforeseen events, we are postponing our planned service for today." He then began to speak on why we have suffering in our lives and how God is always present and so on. I honestly don't remember his sermon. I do remember that at the end of his sermon, when the band came to the stage for closing prayer, and the "If anyone needs prayer please come forward" alter call was given. I don't remember who walked me down, all I remember is crying out to God, begging for why He took my daughter. I crumpled onto the floor and just wept. I felt the presence of others around me quickly growing but all I heard were my cries to God, demanding why. When I could no longer find words in my mind, I heard silence. A deafening silence, shortly followed by:
"My child, I love you. Don't cry for why. It's not about why. I am with you and your child is with me. You are loved. Trust in me."
I felt God's arms around me and lifting me from the floor as a wave of peace came over me. I stood and began praising the Father I was just questioning. Praising Him for loving me so much that He gave me salvation. Salvation through the death of HIS CHILD, His Son, so I could be reunited with my child. I lifted my eyes to Him with tears of joy and peace instead of hurting and unrest. Then my eyes became clear and I realized my entire church family was surrounding me and my husband praying. Praying for healing and comfort, praying for His comfort for us. Not a one knowing why we were hurting, no one knowing of our pain, only knowing we needed their love and support. That's when I knew, that if even one life was brought to Christ, my daughter's death was not in vain. I began praying from that moment that my loss be used for His will.
From that moment on, I felt peace. I no longer wanted to know why or even questioned. I knew that the pain I was feeling was something I would never wish on ANYONE, not even my worst enemy or the most evil person in the world. If I wouldn't be willing to pass this onto someone else, who am I to question, 'why me?' I'm not saying each day wasn't a struggle, because it was. But each day, I grew stronger and more prepared for the waves of grief. I knew that when they came I could cling to my Father and He would comfort me. I learned that eternal hope is birthed from tremendous hurt. With hope, I knew there was better to come if I can just weather the storm. I learned that to weather this storm I just needed to rely on Christ to carry me.
The next 18 months were filled with tremendous hurt. When my daughters autopsy came back with no signs of cause of death, I was informed by the lead investigator that she KNEW I KILLED ABIGAIL. She just didn't know how yet. She was determined to prove I killed my child. Then came multiple polygraphs and interrogations, forms signed saying I was under investigation for murder. Along with friends and family questioned and doctors called who had given an UNKNOWN cause of death. My husband's future with the Navy changed completely. He went from being stationed on a carrier to being deployed to the Middle East when the case was finally closed. My children needed to understand their baby sister wasn't coming home. I was trying to make sense of what my new life was going to be. All while learning that its my job to not make my grief awkward on others.
Each day, feeling Christ's presence around me. Hearing His calming and loving voice comforting me. I learned to take each day moment by moment. I am not going to say it was easy. It wasn't. But Christ was there with me every step of the way. I knew He heard my deepest thoughts. For I truly believe the tears we cry are the words from our heart only God can hear. That tears are beneficial, healing and comforting. I never hid my tears but I kept them for Him.
People have asked me how I am not angry with God. How a God I claim is a God of love, could let someone's baby die. My answer is always the same and will never change. Death is because of sin. Without sin, there would be no death. We created our sin problem, a problem that we have no answer to. God gave us power through His Son. By God sending His perfect and holy Son, Jesus, to live as we do and to die, in place of us, not because He Himself had sinned but because He hadn't. Only a pure, holy and blameless person is worthy of heaven. The Lord clearly states that the wages of sin is DEATH. In His death, Jesus paid that debt. But in His resurrection, He concurred death and proved Himself to be Lord. Giving is the gift of eternal life. A gift I only had to accept! Which I have, so yes, my daughter is dead here on earth but she is alive with Him. When my earthly body dies, I WILL be reunited with her. That truth gives me hope and peace nothing else can replace. My God, my Heavenly Father loved me so much He allowed His son to die in my place.
Also, my daughter's life in itself was a miracle. She was born without a Parathyroid. A factor learned early on but dismissed as lab error. When the hospital couldn't explain it or believe it, we looked to others for an explanation. After months of waiting, I received an email from a renowned endocrinologist. He explained that Hypo-parathyroid issues can sometimes be treated, but tends to create a very painful life and often very short. Though, because she never seemed to produce a parathyroid at all; it's a miracle she was even born alive and lived for a very happy, otherwise healthy, 75 days.
So yes, Abigail's life was too short; it was longer than she was ever meant to have. My God blessed us with a miracle child who we loved and enjoyed from the moment she was born, until the moment she died. We never lived in fear of the unknown. We never wondered if this was the day she would die. We never feared her siblings loving and holding her. We had family bliss. We didn't have to experience her living in pain as her bones shattered as she grew. She lived a life very few have. She lived a life where she only knew love. She was born into a family of love and joy. My daughter went from our loving arms to Christ's loving arms. Never experiencing the evils and pains of this world. Abigail didn't live a life of vain. She taught my family what it means to truly love. She gave my children a true understanding of both life and death and the need for salvation.
Joy is a choice as is misery. I find its easier to choose joy when the other was just leads to more misery. My life is hard; life is hard. I've put my faith and trust in the Lord to take care of my life. So my life may not be full of happiness, but it always has joy. Joy in the Lord. There truly is good in every situation. You must have your eyes and heart open to see it. No matter how insignificant it may seem. As I sit and write this I can see some of the good that came from this loss. I'm not saying I'm thankful for the loss. I am thankful for the time I had with her. I'm thankful for a husband who loves me so much that we didn't just survive this together but also came out stronger and closer than before. My family is stronger, my faith is stronger and I've been able to use my experience to encourage other moms who have faced similar loss. My understanding of grief has changed so much. No two people grieve the same, so don't set expectations on someone's grief.
In closing, I have two things I want to end on. The first being, my family was blessed by a very unexpected addition in 2013. Rilynn Kayleigh was born perfectly healthy and free of any parathyroid issues. She has helped my husband and I heal in ways unexplainable. She knows her sister though she doesn't quite understand yet.
Second, many people allow tragedy to define them: to allow an event in their life to be the resoning or excuse for an addition or behavior. They allow themselves to lose their identity and become the circumstance. I am Marie; not a mom who lost her baby. Our lives are a story and no matter how long or short they may be, it continues, with or without our approval. How we chose to react to every situation defines the next chapter. Every chapter can only continue to what is next when we choose to quit repeating and replaying the current. Choosing to let go of one; allows the next to happen. I want my story to be worth telling and the time and effort it took to happen; worth taking. I want God to know my life was worth its publishing cost. I want to know in the future, long after I am gone, my children want to share it.
I hope their story has found a place in your heart like it has in mine. I know it is hard to trust when we can't see how it all fits together. When life hurts it is easy to put up walls around your heart. It is easier to seek out answers of 'why' instead of seeking for His peace. I am learning when those moments come to say, "I will trust you here." Before I see. Before I understand. While it hurts. When my heart is full of fear. He is always faithful and kind. He is not one to mislead my heart. I felt impressed upon to close this out with a song. I hope it will seal upon your heart and become your souls cry. He is not finished yet. Until Next Time - Allison Cody