A little sister was born six years ago today. At twenty-four weeks gestation, the doctors wondered if she would live. For 90 days my little sister lived in the hospital, in the NICU.
Six years ago today my siblings and I watched from our front porch as the ambulance sped out of our sight, as my grandparents took off after it, as the sirens faded away and we were left with friends’, trying so hard not to cry. And wondering if we would ever see our mommy alive again.
I would say that it is something no fifteen year old should ever have to face — that of realizing that you could be without a mother.
Except that day I realized just how very much my Lord cares about me.I never questioned why, I understood it was the Lord’s will, but I didn’t see anything good in it as the ambulance sped out of sight. I wondered where the Lord was in all of the mess, and what good would come out of all the bad that I was seeing and feeling and crying over.
And my whole family was given the gift of seeing Him. Through the days of recovery, through the tears and the exhaustion and the mental gymnastics and the confusion, I tasted the Lord’s goodness. I felt His love. I saw His kindnesses, His grace, and His mercy.
The many strangers stopping that day in our yard when they saw the ambulance, waiting until it left, praying with us. Many were on the way to work; we knew no one. Yet they offered comfort and support and encouragement. I wouldn’t remember if I ever saw them again, but I remember the words spoken and the hugs given.
The many bags of things hanging on our fence. The notes and phone numbers to call and the fun things for the children to do, to occupy their time and keep them busy.
The men who left their jobs when they saw the first email. The men who were waiting outside for the ambulance to get there, who were waiting in the waiting room for dad. Who hit their knees and prayed with fervor, who kept coming until the waiting room was full and the nurse opened another room for “that group” so they would have room. The men who offered encouragement and comfort and support and advice to a father who was concerned about a wife and child who may not live to see the sun set that day. The men who would not leave until they knew that both the baby and the mother had pulled through and had a fighting chance to live.
The women who brought food to Dad in the hospital so he never had to leave Mom’s side.The family who took one look at the bare door of the hospital room in the surgical recovery section and left, only to return shortly with a baby girl bow that we never thought about because of the surgery. The preciousness of these friends celebrating the life of a little girl who might shortly pass away from this earth, and the joy of the hospital staff realizing that they had a recovering mother to care for. The many exclamations of delight over the fact that they had never had a baby bow on their floor, and the many inquiries about how the baby was doing.
The friends who shared their hearts and their home with us. Who offered shoulders to cry on, a place to sleep, and hugs from the heart. Who took in eight children and parented them for a week along with their own eight children, who drove us to the hospital and watched the little ones so we older ones could spend time with Dad and Mom and the baby.
The woman in the gift shop who was working the register when Dad went in search of a scarf or headband of some sort to cover the fact that half of Mom’s hair was gone. That woman asked about his purchase, and gave it to him freely, adding that she would be praying for the both of them.
The sweet friend who told my mother to never be ashamed of how she looked — for others looking at her appearance would be able to see the testimony of God’s work in her life and give Him the glory.
All the many families who shared their food with us — we didn’t have to spend the mental energy in thinking up what to prepare because we had meals coming to us until well after the baby was home in February.
The neighbors next to the family who took us in; the neighbors who we didn’t know and who didn’t know us, yet managed my sisters diabetes and insulin and snacks and everything like a pro — because she was one. She was a nurse and her own soon had diabetes and she willingly gave her time to help us, to teach me, to keep my sister alive and safe.
The two siblings who drove an hour to come and get us and drove another hour back to the hospital, only to drive us an hour back and then drive an hour to their home…..after only meeting us one time. The talks, the laughter, and the tears that accompanied those long drives.
The woman who chased us down in Walmart after a particularly hard day, because she claimed she saw Christ’s love in our family and she wanted to talk to us and get to know us. All we saw in the mirror were our tears. Tired faces that didn’t even attempt to smile and appear cheerful, and she put a smile on them and made us laugh.
The NICU nurse who requested my baby sister for a week, only to help my mother with bonding techniques and allow her to hold and cuddle and snuggle with her all day long, which every other nurse seemed opposed to.
The many times of falling into bed so weary and tired and discouraged and scared and falling asleep, only to wake up and find that His mercies are new every morning and great is His faithfulness.
The father at our church who drove our van over to the home where we were staying so we could all go to church together, and realizing that we long overdue for new tires. Mentioning it to some other fathers at our church, and one of them mentioning it to a man at a car shop, who put them on and gave them to us without any charge — merely to help a family who was in full blown disaster mode.
The nurse in the NICU who broke the rules and allowed Mom to hold her little daughter the day of her second brain surgery, knowing it might be the last and only time the daughter was held by the mother, and willing to risk her job to bring happiness to my mama.
The church family who helped financially with almost everything we needed, without them actually knowing that we needed it.
The lady who manned the gate in the parking deck of the hospital. Her rejoicing the day she found out we would most likely never see her again, and the teasing and bantering she was always engaging in with us, giving us something to smile about and laugh about.
The lady who spent time to prepare natural, soothing, herbal teas and poultices and salves for Mom, and showed us how to use them and offered support and encouragement and advice so many times.
The nurses in the hospital from all different departments who sought out my mother after others had spread abroad the news of those people who had so many people praying for them and waiting with them, simply to hug her neck, to pray with her, and to encourage her. The one nurse that we saw all over the hospital, who was constantly popping into the NICU to check on the baby, who always had a smile and a kind word, and who is still a sweet friend today.
The day we finally brought Little Bit home from the NICU, and the friends “sneaking” over to our house while we were gone to hang up signs and banners and balloons welcoming us home. Telling Mom in the car that I was so glad there would be nothing to cry over anymore, pulling into our driveway, and promptly crying from sheer happiness.
See, none of us tangibly heard God speaking to us, or felt Him wrap our arms around us, but we knew He was carrying us through this. That He never would leave us or forsake us, that He was in the midst of this with us. We saw Him in every smile offered to us, in every encouraging word and note and email. We saw Him in every person who willingly gave of their time, who went out of their way to pray with us, to hug us, to cry with us. In every meal fixed, in every tire changed, in every gift from a stranger, we saw Him demonstrating His love and His mercy and His kindness.
I pray that one day, I can be as much to someone else. That I can show another burdened soul the love of God. That others will see the Lord’s kindness through my actions and words. That I can embrace stepping outside of my comfort zone and inquire into peoples lives, pray with them, hug them, and cry with them, and that they will see the face of my Saviour through my imperfectness.
So today we wish Little Bit a happy birthday, and we remember. Because in remembering, we can face the future, knowing He is there with us always.