Over twenty-four years ago on an inauspicious day in September, I began a journey with God and His amazing grace. Fall was upon us and I was anxious to harvest a particular crop, especially after waiting nine long months. Since three was the limit, this would be my final harvest. However, one is never prepared for the alteration of life to death, and at twenty-three years of age, I was completely unprepared for the unanticipated change in circumstances. It would become the pivotal event that would forever alter the landscape of my life.
I remember it was a radiantly sunny day. I had just put my two children down for their naps and was anxious to relax and put my feet up. With only three days left until my due date, I was tiring easily. Suddenly I realized that there had been no movement from my precious burden so I went into my bedroom as quickly as my awkward body would allow and grabbed my stethoscope from the drawer. Hesitantly, fearing what I would not hear, I listened for the sound of the tiny but mighty heartbeat of my unborn child. But there was no sound, just a yawning, empty silence. Gulping with fear and doubting my own ability, I paused and listened again while slowly and carefully moving the stethoscope to every quadrant of my extended belly; again, nothing. As I tried to take this in, to make sense of the silence, without any warning, tears were pouring down my face and I could not catch my breath. Some two hours later, I would see for myself the utter stillness in the ultrasound and the tears in the eyes of the nurse while I could not stop my sobs. Four days later, I was induced and the little girl, who I named Erin Patricia, was delivered. I will never forget the silence in that delivery room; a silence would haunt my days and nights for years to come.
The impact of her unexpected death forced me to consider my own death and what would come after. At a tender age, I was taught a harsh lesson on the brevity of life; that there is no time to hang on to bitterness or to leave things unsaid or undone. The loss of this child taught me lessons that probably would have taken a lifetime to learn; I learned tough lessons through her abbreviated lifetime. A few years later our gracious Lord would call me out of a deep darkness into His marvelous light. For me, this was and is evidence of God’s ability to redeem the unredeemable, to restore what was lost and to show me a love that has never failed. As I reminisce on that time in my life, on this daughter whose smile I never knew, whose laughter I never heard, I have discovered that I am able to celebrate her brief life.
Looking back I can see my experience of God’s grace began before I had even acknowledged His presence in my life. That God could take circumstances so tragic and use it for my good only reinforces the truth of scripture: that God “causes all things to work together for good to those who love God, to those who are called according to His purpose” (Rom. 8:28, NASB). At the time of my loss, I had not even thought about loving God, but He was loving me. It would take many years before that silent delivery room would no longer haunt me. While I can still feel sad, I am free of that memory causing me the same pain today. Furthermore, by God’s grace I have been able to minister to those who have experienced similar losses and frequently tell people, you never get over the loss, but you learn how to live with it, and even flourish. I know this because I am living proof of His amazing grace.