Six years ago today, at this very moment, I was lying in a hospital bed, holding our stillborn daughter, Mary Clare. She had been born at home a few hours earlier. She is our tenth child, we had hoped she’d be our sixth born to us alive and well at term (okay, past term.) But God had another plan. Again.
Mary Clare died of complications of my contracting Fifth Disease (slapped cheek disease, Human ParvoVirus B19) when I was 15 weeks pregnant. It was such a difficult and devastating time. We actually thought we were in the clear because in all of the medical literature, of those babies who died in utero from this, most died within a few weeks and only one baby was known to have lived for 12 weeks after exposure. She was born at 30 weeks. We thought maybe we had beaten the odds. We had not.
Of all the things we went through, 6 years later there are a few things that still stand out very strongly from that time. The first is that I don’t think my own family has really grasped the enormity of the 9-11 terrorist attacks because were in shock when it happened. Each year I find myself grieving more and more over this tragedy.
The second thing that stands out so strongly was the absolute tangibility of the reality of the Body of Christ. We were absolutely surrounded by fellow Christians, particularly our friends (we are so very blessed) and saturated in love and prayer. I know these kind souls prayed us through the grief.
The last thing that stands out was a more personal experience I had with the Lord. When we lost our Mary Clare, I promised that I was NOT going to ask “WHY?!” As awful as it was, I was going to trust God. And I did. I really did. But eventually, I broke down and asked a slightly different version of “why?” I didn’t really ask why she died, but I did ask something just a wee bit different.
Between our boys and our girls, we had 2 miscarriages. After our 3d daughter came, but before Mary Clare, we had 2 more. And then this. I started feeling a bit of anger well up in me and I demanded of the Lord, “WHY? Why would you even bother to give her to us if you were just going to take her away?!”
In the blink of an eye, an answer came into my mind, strong and “loud.” It was forceful, yet gentle and very, very pointed. The Lord simply said to me,
Would you rather that she never existed?
Instantly, my attitude had changed. I realized what I had just asked. And the answer was simple. Of course not! I was reminded that there is a greater reality: life does go on. Eternity is for real. The Lord of heaven and earth, of time and eternity has a perfect plan. Part of that plan includes our daughter, Mary Clare, who (I firmly believe) is in the fullness of his presence ~ in perfect peace, love, joy and happiness. I would never, ever want her to not exist because I was in pain. Not ever. She remains my daughter to this day. I’d rather have a daughter in heaven than not have this daughter at all.
Of course I still miss her and the “what-might-have-beens.” (she looked so much like our 2d daughter, 4th living child!) But as a Christian mother, what more could I really and truly want but to know that my child has entered the kingdom of heaven to be happy with God forever? Isn’t this the real goal of Christian motherhood?
Happy 6th Birthday, my little saint Mary Clare. I love you and I miss you. Please pray for me, and for all of your family here, that we may join you one day in heaven.