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Sunday, May 07, 2006

Angel in Heaven

Today is an anniversary that I haven't been exactly looking forward to. A year ago today, our sweet Ava became an angel.

From the day she was born, she had already been an angel. There wouldn't be any other reason to be able to explain how she was able to endure the life that she had on this earth otherwise. More than likely, her condition was constant discomfort and pain for her. Multiple procedures and operations drained her. As her parents, Eric and I only elected to have the necessary steps taken for her in order for her to progress. We had no interest in only maintaining a poor situation and certainly nothing that would compromise her life. Only the best for our baby.

Even a year later, I couldn't even begin to explain the type of horrible roller coaster ride we went through in our days with her in the NICU. Absolute heartbreak. Some days, we had some encouraging news, but by the end of the day, we could always count on a test result or a back-to-reality doctor to shatter our hope into a million pieces. Not only was it a roller coaster of emotions, but a roller coaster testing our faith. Upon Ava's diagnosis as I was 6 months pregnant, I prayed that whatever happened, it would be for the best for my baby. Not me. My baby. If she was going to have special needs throughout her life, I prayed to God that she would at least have a good quality life. A handicap of any type would certainly never be anything that any parent would be content with for their own child - but if it meant that we had a child - so be it. She is the baby that God has made for us and this is the baby that we are going to love with all of our heart.

All but 2 days of Ava's life was spent in the NICU. Mostly at Akron Children's Hospital. There, she was surrounded by her mom and dad and plenty of nurses who fell in love with our sweet baby. Toward the end of her 3rd month, the doctors had exhausted all of their medical resources to aid in her prognosis. At this point, we both had to face the nerve-wracking reality that our lives were going to change in a way that we could never prepare for. I have never had any interest in being a nurse, yet it seemed as though I was getting a crash course in order to handle the specialized care for my own child. My mind was racing. What do I do when something goes wrong ? Will I be able to handle all of this ? How in the world would I ever be a person again ? How would Eric and I ever be a couple again ? Ava had received around the clock care at the hospital by a full staff of professionals - and now it was just Eric and me. Actually, only me - Eric would be going back to work. My only solace was that, if God was bringing me to it, God would bring me through it. It was all in his hands from the beginning.

I barely remember having Ava home. I'll spare the details that would just make my mind spin and tell you my favorite memory. I will never forget the feeling of having my sweet, precious baby cuddled up next to me in bed. At the hospital, we held her almost every minute that we were with her. There was never a time to lay back in peace and quiet and curl up with our baby to actually rest comforatably. In Ava's bedroom at home, we had moved a twin sized bed in next to her crib. We pretty much set up a fully functioning hospital room in her bedroom to accomodate the both of us. Spooning with my baby, my arm hugged around her little body and her next to my heart. That is how I want to remember my Ava.

Her time at home was only brief. We ended up back at the NICU in Akron. On a sunny, crisp, Saturday afternoon, our angel was fading. With my parents at our side and floods of tears and breaking hearts, our angel went to heaven. Our heartache only meant peace at last for our baby. No more pain. No more tests. No more staring wishfully at the monitors. Only peace. Just what we had prayed for her all along. She would never have the peace and quality of life that she deserved here on earth. She was in God's hands the whole time.

We've lost two our two girls. I would often think that if I were to hear about a couple who had lost their two daughters, I would cry even if I didn't know them. It turns out - the story is ours. I've always believed that no matter how bad your day is - there is always someone having a worse day than you. Today, we were on the top of the list - no one's life could have been more shattered than ours on this day. If you were to ask me one year ago if I would ever be happy again, the answer would be a firm "NO !" Absolutely, no. I couldn't help my feelings, but I never thought beyond my baby. I truly felt that nothing would ever make me smile again. I love Eric, but what did we have to be happy about ? Even with my family, whom I love, I doubted that I would ever be able to enjoy anything ever again. That was my true feeling down to my bones.

Like George Bailey in "It's A Wonderful Life, " I wished that I had never been born. I wondered how I could literally drop off the face of the earth. And, where had God been ? Why wasn't he listening to my prayers ? My hope and my faith was nearly non-existent.

In the days following, I begged Eric to just let us move. We went to Kauai, Hawaii on our honeymoon and loved it. Let's move there. I've been to Oklahoma and liked it. Let's move there. New York is a busy place, we wouldn't even have to talk to anyone. Let's move there. I wanted to be somewhere else that no one would know us and we wouldn't know anyone. I wouldn't have to be around anyone who knew our story and I thought it would be the only way to escape our reality. My reality is that my husband wasn't going for any of my ideas. Neither of us knew how or where to begin to pick up the pieces - but we couldn't run and hide.

It's amazing what a difference a year can make. It's amazing to see how and when God will reveal himself. In the end, God chose to give us a miracle !

Reflecting upon this past year, I have never known such happiness. The glow of my healthy baby's smile and the sparkle in my husband's eyes when he is with his daughter. Even for me, it's hard to hold back tears of happiness and joy when I think how blessed we are with our sweet angel. One that was custom made just for us. This has always been my every prayer and heart's desire. In one year's time, I am thinking how God has spoiled us with the most beautiful angel on earth with two special guardian angels covering her at all times. God has let us walk through the fire and not get burned. I know that I have alot to look forward to when I get to heaven. Until then, my angels, Ella and Ava are every bit in my heart. I pray each day that through Elaina they are able to feel the tenderness in each kiss, my warmth in every hug and feel my happiness in my laughter. With each smile that crosses my face and every tear that comes to my eyes, I am thanking God for taking care of all of us and blessing us with angels !

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