Some 20 weeks ago, one of my daughters had a 19 week pregnancy scan which for the first time indicated that her unborn baby girl was seriously deformed both physically and in terms of her vital organs.
While medical advice was to abort this very young and unique human being, my daughter, being very strongly pro-life, and strongly supported by her husband, choose to remain pregnant.
It was hard in many ways; each scan added more bad news, yet she embraced her pregnancy and her baby they named Ada (originally meaning ‘jewel’ or ornament). The next 19 weeks to the birth were both good and bad, but my daughter was now unquestionably a mother!
Being a mother was a role we had all seen, as her most desired and important role since she was around 8 years of age herself (now 31).
Because of even more complications the birth was brought forward and a Caesarean birth scheduled. We were all at the hospital and the afternoon went well but Ada was taken immediately to the Neonatal Intensive Care Unit (NICU), so the family didn’t get to see Ada that day.
She survived the night and displayed very early that she was a real fighter. The next day we all got to go one at a time, into the NICU with her mum or dad and see her, and touch her, and talk to her. She was beautiful with huge deep and knowing eyes!
The next few days were mercifully prolonged, as many blood tests were performed to try to determine exactly what was wrong with Ada. At the same time we knew that her heart and lungs weren’t working well enough to keep her alive without being on a ventilator.
After all the tests had been conducted it was now six days since her birth. She had nearly left us a few times but she had also spent a few hours off the ventilator.
The amazingly professional and caring approach of the medical staff was always evident. For example it would take 4 nurses 15 minutes to maneuver Ada (with all the many tubes and sensors attached) to be placed on her mum or dad for skin to skin contact.
There were many prayers and we were all regulars at the maternity hospital during that week.
The doctors and medical experts, having determined there was nothing that could be done for Ada had organized for her mum and dad to take her home the next day to pass away in their arms in the comfort of their home. But Ada had other ideas.
Only some 20 minutes after the hospitals Chaplain had visited and shared a blessing with some of the family gathered around Ada in NICU, Ada pulled out her ventilator tube – she clearly disliked having the tube down her throat. To re-insert was not a pleasant procedure for Ada and she was normally sedated for it. Rather than put her through this again, her mum and dad took her up to her mum’s room in the hospital and they shared the last very special hours with her and she slowly and peacefully passed away, to rest, in the early morning hours of the 7th day.
Many, both medical practitioners, and religious people, including Pastors had thought that she should have been aborted 20 weeks earlier (to presumably save someone some pain or suffering).
Instead her parents had let the Giver and Taker of Life determine Ada’s lifespan. As a result, her mother was emphatic that the week since the birth had been the best week of her life!
Yes, it was hard to part with her. It was very hard to see her two parents carry her coffin to the Funeral car to travel to the cemetery. It was hard to witness that very small white coffin (though beautifully decorated with words of love and care from her family), lowered, again by her mum and dad into the grave. I will miss my beautiful grand-daughter for far too long.
But is what also a time of joy, a time to celebrate the life and love we were blessed with through this beautiful and perfectly innocent baby girl. She united a family in our love of her. Her light shone very brightly for the short time she was with us.
She was more than worth fighting for.
Among the many beautiful words, kind thoughts and prayers we received, I particularly liked this poem from Leon in South Africa:
Let me come in where you are weeping, friend
And let me take your hand
I, who have known a sorrow such as yours,
Let me come in, I would be very still
Beside you in your grief
I would not bid you cease your weeping, friend
Tears can bring relief.
Let me come in, I would only breathe a prayer
And hold your hand
For I have known a sorrow such as yours
As long as we live, they too will live, for they are now a part of us, as we remember them. Amen
Here is also just a few scriptures that I found of some comfort:
I bless the Lord who gives me counsel; in the night also my heart instructs me.
I have set the Lord always before me; because he is at my right hand, I shall not be shaken.
You make known to me the path of life; in your presence there is fullness of joy; at your right hand are pleasures forevermore.
My flesh and my heart may fail, but God is the strength of my heart and my portion forever.
He will swallow up death forever. The Sovereign YHVH will wipe away the tears from all faces; he will remove the disgrace of his people from all the earth. YHVH has spoken.
”Do you not know? Have you not heard? YHVH is the everlasting God, the Creator of the ends of the earth. He will not grow tired or weary, and his understanding no one can fathom. He gives strength to the weary and increases the power of the weak. Even youths grow tired and weary, and young men stumble and fall; but those who hope in YHVH will renew their strength. They will soar on wings like eagles; they will run and not grow weary, they will walk and not be faint.”
When some said that God had forsaken them , He answered through the prophet Isaiah:
“Can a mother forget the baby at her breast and have no compassion on the child she has borne? Though she may forget, I will not forget you! See, I have engraved you on the palms of my hands…” – Isaiah 49:14-16
My Prayer for the Funeral Service:
Blessed are you, Yahweh our God, King of the Universe, who fashioned us with justice, nourished and sustained us and knows the sum total of all our lives and will restore and resuscitate us with judgment. Blessed are you Father God who resurrects the dead.
Of Father God, Almighty King and Creator, you spoke through your prophets like Moses and Daniel and through your great Kings like David and Solomon, that when we die we sleep with our ancestors.
But you also said to Daniel that many of those who sleep, the sleep of death, shall awake, some to everlasting life.
So thank you Father, for giving us the certain knowledge and great hope that Ada who now sleeps, will awake on that Great Day and because of her absolute innocence, be resurrected into Life in the World to Come.
She will awake to a life of perfect peace and joy, a life with no suffering or pain, and she will stand proud and tall, beautiful and strong!
Oh Father, you gave a jewel to us, an ornament so pure, in Ada was your grace proclaimed, in her your heart revealed.
We thank you Father for sending her and for all the love she shared. Father God, you gave this unique and precious gift of Ada to <her parents> and all our family. You gave almost 40 weeks of life to this amazing child. You gave us the sound of a cry. You gave us those most beautiful eyes, You gave us the opportunity to meet this child. You gave her mother the best week of her life.
Father God, thank you for her beauty, which shone so brightly though only for a moment.
The passage of years will never fill the void in our hearts, nor can time soften the pain of bereavement. Though Ada is no longer in our midst, her memory shall forever be enshrined in our hearts.
O merciful God, Giver of life, you have recalled what is yours, and we thank you that you now hold her close to you. We ask that you give us all the strength we need as we still grieve in our separation from our adorable baby Ada.
We also ask that you surround <her parents> with your gentle but powerful embrace and carry them through the dark times and also lift them onto the highest mountains of joy and peace as they remember the best times of their lives entwined with Ada’s.
Also Father, I beseech you that you open the hearts and minds of everyone here today. Circumcise our hearts anew Father God, so that we may all know your grace and mercy, Your loving kindness that endures forever. Open our eyes Lord so that we may all return to you, so that we may all be in right standing before you and so in turn, on that Great Day, and in the World to Come we may be united with Ada once again.