Life Lessons Id Rather Just Read About

Tuesday, October 9, 2012
Our hands were all clasped around the breakfast table and each child prayed in turn.
When we finished, I opened my eyes to see huge crocodile tears streaming down Evie’s face and my already-breaking heart shattered!

Although we never met them in person, little Mia and her family have won their way into our hearts and been a subject of conversation and prayer over the past few years since she received her transplant heart.  Our circle of heart-friends is a tight-knit group and the loss of sweet Mia has left a huge wake of grief among the heart-mom community and blog world.

We’ve been warring on our knees while there was still a fighting chance….and asking God for comfort for her family when it was clear she was not long for this world.

While we have witnessed the early passing of far-too-many heart babies and heart kids in the 4 years that we’ve been in this “club” that we’d never have wished to join, this is the first time Evie has had the maturity to really ‘get it’.
And it has tremendously impacted her.
Her questions and comments since that breakfast table prayer time have been more than I can bear some days….

“What will happen after Mia dies?”
“Does Mia have a blanket?”
“Is Mia’s broken heart like mine?”
“I think Mia’s heart will be all better when she gets to heaven.”
“Is she going to get to say goodbye to her family?”
“Why did her heart stop working?”

There are some heart-parents that choose to not disclose to their child anything about their special heart until they are old enough to ‘understand’.  We have always been concerned that that would create more of an identity crisis and be traumatic to discover something like that later on in life….kinda like a grown child who never knew they were adopted.  So we’ve opted to include Evie on an elementary level.  We believe God has spared her life for a purpose and that this is part of her grace-story.  Gods work in her life.

I remember it from the day we moved to the step-down-unit post Evies surgery.
That look
That wise-beyond-her-years look that resembled an old-man in a baby’s body.
These heart-babies in a sense, loose their innocence when they go through the trauma of all that is required to sustain their lives.
Her life today is full…and happy….and most days that thoughts of her heart fade to the background…
….but her life has never been care-free.

Everyone who knows her says Evie is very mature for her age.
But Ive been plagued with the question for days now, “have I let her know too much?
She’s been absolutely distraught.
Two nights in a row she cried herself to sleep agonizing that “I never even got to meet Mia”.

I think the fact that this happened on Mia’s Wish Trip (which is something Evie has been looking forward to for almost a year now) makes this hit too close to home.

“Will she never, ever get to go on her Wish Trip now?” Evie sobbed with her blanket pulled over her face.
Holding her and brushing a mass of frizzy curls from her eyes, her silver scar glared at me from her button down cotton night gown.
And even my tears couldnt blur it from sight.

A 4-year-old’s greatest fear is supposed to be the imaginary monster under the bed….not the loosing of a friend.
They are supposed to learn compassion for stray kittens…..not for a child on life-support.

I have had my moments in an attitude of rebellion toward God this week.
Its not fair.  Its just not.

And then I have thought of Hannah.
Her years of begging God for a child.
Her lament to the Lord and the vow  “Oh Lord Almighty, if you will only look upon your servants misery and remember me, and not forget your servant but give her a son, then I will give him to the Lord for all the days of his life”  

I remember God leading me to those very verses as I poured over my bible sitting crib-side listening to the irregular monitor of Evies heart beeping shortly before her surgery and beseeching God.
Begging Him with every fiber of my being to spare her life and vowing to dedicate her to Him.

1 Samuel 1:24 says, “After he was weaned, she took the boy with her, young as he was…..and brought him to the house of the Lord at Shiloh….they brought the boy to Eli, and she said to him, “As surely as you live my Lord, I am the woman who stood here beside you praying to the Lord.  I prayed for this child and the Lord has granted me what I asked of him.  So now I give him to the Lord.  For his whole life he will be given over to the Lord.  And he worshiped the Lord there.””

Samuel was likely 2 or 3 years old and newly weaned when Hannah gave him to the work of the Lord. He wasnt ‘of age’.
Her work with him wasnt done.
She didnt feel he was prepared to face the world.
Hannah’s actions were not out of a confidence that she had done her job and completed it and now she could confidently hand him over as ‘ready’.
But she gave him to the Lord…..relinquishing her rights as a mother, to fulfill her promise to the Lord.

And I am convicted of the ways I try to tell God where I do and dont want Him to engage or interfere with my parenting style.

We all want character for our children.  But are we really willing to put them in character-building opportunities that might mean disappointment?
We want our kids to develop compassion and empathy.  But not if it means facing realities that are not ‘appropriate’ for their sensitive natures.
Our desire is to develop in our kids integrity, but situations that require them to exercise that integrity are uncomfortable to us parents.

So we protect, shelter and shield.  And then wonder why they are ill-equipped for the life situations that send them spiraling in later years.

I woke Evie to ride to take the big kids to school with me yesterday.  She opened her eyes in a sleepy whisper I could barely hear, she uttered, “I bet Mia will miss her mommy when she is in heaven, but…(yawn)
…..but Izzy tell me there be no tears in heaven”.

And I smiled with a lump in my throat.
She gets it.
You cant just instill these concepts through irrelevant conversation or through reading a book.  As much as Id like it to be that simple.
This is real life.
Raw.  Unedited.  Real.

Im reminded that nothing is lost.  These life-lessons that I would so love to pack-away until I think Evie is old enough to ‘handle it’, are not really mine to box up for later.  The tender-heartedness that God is growing in her is something intentional (not accidental) that He is going to build on.
Maybe she will one day be a Pediatric Cardiologist
Perhaps this compassion developed early in life will set her on a trajectory to minister people with disabilities.
Or counsel people in grief.
Or parent a child with a handicap.

We are invited as mothers to come alongside God in the persons He is creating our children to be and assist as developers in His orchestrated plan.
To guide.
To pick-up and dust-off at times.
To help filter and sift and unpack things for them.
But always as a “supporting role”.  Its not ours to direct.

The tears and questions are less frequent today.  And her smile is contagious as she babbles about her big plans for Maggie’s visit (her kindred-heart-sister who is coming all the way from MO for the weekend).
And I can see a little more clearly that we are rich in relationship and opportunity because of (not in spite of) the broken road that has led us to this place and I am learning to give thanks and practice the hard eucharisteo.

And Im leaning heavily into the promise that He uses all things for good.
His ways are not our ways and this world is not our home.
But the divine calling as a mother is a role I am so grateful to play as an ‘understudy” to the One who knows the part so much better than I.

I prayed for this child and the Lord has granted me what I asked of him.  So now I give (her) to the Lord.  For (her) whole life (she) will be given over to the Lord.

  • cici says:

    Awww Sweet Evie. You would have been a beautiful friend for Mia.
    I know this new little Angel in Heaven will watch over and protect her.

  • Jessica says:

    I had an older sister who I never met. Stacie was born with a slew of cardiac defects on 10/7/1981. She lived for 17 short days. Because of her, my cousin and I are both NICU nurses. I work in the very unit where my sister spent her short life. I work with some of the very nurses who took care of her. Because of her, I save babies every day.

  • Kim says:

    Oh Mandy, I don’t know you but feel I do from the few blogs I’ve read & from Faith sharing your friendship stories with me. Your perspective on motherhood is what we all feel. God’s richest blessings on you & your family!

  • Karen says:

    yes dear friend. thanks for this lovely post…as I wipe away my tears…asking the why questions too…but choosing to rest in the fact that He will always know better than I.

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