Sunday, August 12, 2007

My God Story

At our church recently, we have been asked to share what God is doing in our lives in the form of a "God Story." Our pastor asked me to share my story about the boys, and it was read this morning. I thought I would post it for you to read.

My God Story: A Work In Progress
By Amy Rennie

When I was a child, I had a button with a caterpillar on it that read, “Be patient! God isn’t finished with me yet!” I wish I could say that I was a butterfly now, but unfortunately, I cannot; in fact, I believe that this is a lifelong process. Where I am at on my road right now is probably the most difficult path I’ve traveled. I didn’t intend to take this turn, but it was taken for me, against my own will, and for what purpose we shall someday see.

My first son, Brian, was born and then slipped away from us on July 11, 2006. Victor Hugo once said, “To love another person is to see the face of God,” and I, for one, believe it. I looked at my son’s beautiful, perfect face, and I saw a miracle, pure and true. I counted his fingers and toes, I stared at his ears, his eyes, his mouth, and I knew that God had given me, for however brief a time, a miracle.

3 months later, we were pregnant again, and this time, we had complete faith that things were going to work out just fine. We prayed every day. Our family prayed, our friends prayed, people we didn’t even know prayed. The gates of Heaven were rattling for this little boy who was on the way. I had the surgery to prevent losing him, and everything went well. Then, 23 weeks into the pregnancy, I was put in the hospital on bed rest, knowing that every hour, every day, was another day closer to my son’s potential survival.

Sawyer was born one day short of 24 weeks. He was a gorgeous little boy who stole the hearts of the doctors and nurses who struggled to save his life. He fought with every ounce of strength he had. Even when it seemed there was no chance left, he found, deep in the reserves of his tiny body, more strength to fight.

On the last day of his life, Jim and I decided to stay overnight with him at the NICU. I knew he was a very sick little boy, fighting an infection, a perforated bowel, bleeding on the left side of his brain, hyper inflated lungs, a squeezed heart, and loss of kidney function; however, he had pulled through so many tough times before, I never really thought he wouldn’t do it again. In the end, as we sat at his side, we could see that he no longer had the energy to battle it all. He was a little baby, so fragile and so small, and we knew that he had had enough. The doctors told us it was time to let go. There was nothing more they could do, and tests indicated his systems were failing on every level.

From that moment on, I was at ground zero. If my faith was unshaken the first time, it would not be an exaggeration to say that it was nearly shattered the second. I was angry at God. I was furious. I could not, and still cannot comprehend the purpose of taking another child from his family. I don’t understand why so many people who had been praying so hard were all hurt and bitterly disappointed. I was left, once again, with an empty nursery, a closet full of baby clothes my mom and I had picked out, and a broken heart.

So how did I not lose my faith? Why did I decide not to blame God, but instead try to seek peace of mind and heart? It was not an easy process.

In the end, during moments when I laid it all down at His feet, there were several reasons why my faith held on, strained and thinning though the rope might be.

First, I saw God through my family. My husband, who is a constant support to me, and who loved our two boys with his whole heart and soul. His love has never faltered, not for one second, and he has been an example to me of strength and true, deep love. He worked many, many long hard hours to provide for us, and took such good care of me while I was on bed rest, and then in the hospital. My mom and dad took me to doctor’s appointments, sat by my side in the hospital, took care of me when Jim was at work, and spent hour upon hour with Sawyer once he was born. They believed, hoped, and trusted in God through it all, even in the end, and they gave everything they had for this baby. They were so proud of him, so happy about his life, and so hopeful for his future. They held him and rocked him as he passed from this earth, and said goodbye to their second grandson. Pastor Dave and Alice had spent hours with us in the NICU, praying over Sawyer, asking God to spare us another loss. My brothers, my sisters-in-law, my aunts and uncles, my cousins, my grandmother, our church family, and the extended family of my friends were all so loving and supportive that I cannot doubt the love of God.

Secondly, just as I had felt with Brian: when I saw Sawyer, I witnessed my second miracle. How can anyone doubt the goodness and awesome power of God when holding a perfect, tiny baby in their arms? I don’t know why God allowed this to happen to us, but I do know how lucky we were, even if for a very short time, to have had our beautiful baby boys.

Thirdly, if you ever have doubts about God, visit a Neonatal Intensive Care Unit. You will see miracles on a daily basis. I saw the love of God every minute of every day we were there. I saw it in the kindness and compassion the nurses showed my son, in the gentleness of their touch, the sweetness of their voices when they spoke to him. Several of his nurses called or came in on their days off to make sure Sawyer was doing okay. They spent countless hours talking to Jim and I, answering every question that came into our heads, never once making us feel as if we were in the way. The doctors showed incredible ingenuity and determination with every new treatment, every new strategy they could come up with to save our son. They did everything within their God-given power to help him. The day before he died, Sawyer had to have yet another complicated surgical procedure, one which he was not really strong enough to withstand. The nurse-practitioner who was to perform the procedure asked us to pray, because she had never done it on a baby so tiny and fragile, and she was afraid he wouldn’t make it through. He did well, and after it was over, she told us we must have a direct line to the man upstairs, because she didn’t know how she or Sawyer had done it.

I cannot doubt God because I saw my son fight for his life in a way I never would have imagined possible. Time after time after time, he proved the doctors wrong and made it through another day. As soon as I first went to see him, my initial joy at the fact that he was alive turned to fear and sorrow, as they told me he was by far the sickest baby in the NICU, and while they would do everything they could, he probably wouldn’t make it. They talked to Jim and I about a Do Not Resuscitate order, what this entailed, and whether or not we wanted to sign one for Sawyer. It was terrifying. However, for 12 days, Sawyer went against all probability, constantly surprised them, and presented them with problems they hadn’t dealt with before. I know, after all is said and done, that Sawyer taught them things that might very well save another baby’s life. He fought until the very end, until I whispered in his ear that it was okay for him to let go. I told him that we were so proud of him, but he didn’t have to suffer anymore. He opened his eyes and looked at his dad and I one last time before he relaxed, and I knew that he had received eternal healing.

Finally, I cannot doubt God, because through all of this, He has shown us the importance of appreciating every single moment. In the half hour we had Brian, and the 12 days we had Sawyer, we truly lived every second. We had never lived like this before, but have realized since that it is truly the best way to live. Never let a day go by where you don’t show at least one person in your life how much you care about them. We only had a brief time with our children, but they knew every second how much they were loved.

I’m not sure what all of this means today. Pastor Dave had wanted me to share my story, and this is where I’m at. I still haven’t figured out why I had to lose my two sons. I don’t know why God chose us to allow this to happen to. I don’t know why He didn’t save Sawyer, when so many were praying so hard. It still isn’t fair, and it still hurts. Am I still angry at God sometimes? Certainly. But I ask him to forgive me, and I know He does. I know how much he loved His own son, who died on the cross, and I know he understands my sorrow, my anger, my frustration.

I will have to continue down this unexpected path, following this turn in my life I didn’t intend to take, and every step I take, I know my boys are with me. I see them everywhere, in every part of God’s creation. I see them in butterflies, in flowers, in birds, in the sun, the sky, the trees, the stars at night. They are a part of every second of every day for me. Not a moment passes that I am not thinking of them. I praise God for the miracles they were and are, and I thank Him for blessing me with the most amazing, special boys. In my clearer, more tranquil moments, I know that they are the lucky ones—they have received their eternal reward. We are the broken ones, left here to miss them, our arms aching to hold them. Perhaps God chose to spare them the agonies of this life and allowed them to go straight to Heaven. Someday I may find out the answers I am seeking, but by then, it won’t really matter, for I will be able to hold them in my arms at last.

My mother-in-law, Jane, sent me a necklace that symbolized our boys, which I wear often. It has two stones on it, in the colors of pregnancy loss awareness of pink and blue. It also has their birthstones—a ruby for Brian, and an aquamarine for Sawyer. Finally, there is a small silver butterfly. As I mentioned at the start, we are all as caterpillars, waiting for the time when we will metaphorically grow our wings and learn to fly. My sons have already gone through this spiritual transformation. One day, my dad came and got Jim and I to come and look outside in the yard. There were probably 40 or more butterflies flitting around in the sunshine. He told us it made him think of Brian and Sawyer and all their buddies, playing together. Jim and I like to go hiking, and we often have seen butterflies that will fly alongside of us, reminding us of our boys. When the St. Francis NICU staff held a memorial service for all the babies lost there, we released monarch butterflies at the end of the ceremony. Each one of us was given a card with a poem on it. I will end with this, as it perfectly represents the story God is working in my life right now. Remember Brian and Sawyer’s legacy of love and compassion, and pay it forward to someone today.

A butterfly lights beside us like a sunbeam.
And for a brief moment, its glory and beauty
belong to our world.
But then it flies on again,
and though we wish it could have stayed,
we feel so lucky to have seen it.

Often in life
what appears to
be an ending
is really a glorious new beginning.


Aunt Colleen said...

That was really good. I hope it lets people relize what a stong person you really are. Just stand on your faith and you can get thru just about anything.

Anonymous said...

Amy, that was beautiful! You guys have to be the strongest 2 people there are! I am so proud of you! Someday you will find out the reason you lost your boys and you will understand it all! Thanks for sharing that!


Amy Naasz said...

Amy, not only are you a beautiful writer, you are a beautiful person. Thank you for sharing this story, I enjoyed it so much, it made me cry- a good cry though.

April said...

This is just beautiful, friend. Thank you for posting it.