I sat on the cold stone bench, running my fingers over the pages of a tiny book. A picture of a beaming baby christened the front of it, but inside there were only pages of pressed flowers, no words, no pictures, only dried flowers. A pink carnation, a setting of wildflowers, a bright daisy, a cluster of yellow petals, a single pink rose. With a tear slipping down my cheek, I closed my eyes, remembering.
Thwumpa, thwumpa. The sound of our baby's heartbeat filled the room and I thought I would overflow with happiness. But the nurse turned abruptly from the ultrasound. “I’ll be right back.”
Concerned, I studied the image of our baby up on the screen, searching for any sign of a problem. When the nurse returned with the doctor, Aaron touched my arm, and I realized I was squeezing his hand hard. I tried to relax, but the doctor turned and looked solemnly at us and I clutched even more tightly.
"It's a girl!" A bit of a smile glimmered in the doctor’s eyes before he sobered. “The left side of your daughter’s heart is abnormally small. She will need to have open heart surgery shortly after she is born.”
I buried my head in Aaron’s shoulder and wept. That day was long. Aaron returned to work, and I paced the house. Just me and the baby. My baby who’s heart would fail her.
When Aaron finally arrived home, he held a bouquet of pink carnations. Lifting my chin, he kissed me. “We’ll get through this together, Bethany. God will see us through.”
I touched the frail petals, and I voiced words that had pounded through my head all day. “Why would He let such a little one have such pain?” Then the worse question. “Has He given her to us only to take her away?”
Aaron was quiet for a time. “It could be,” he chose his words carefully, “that this baby needs a special family to love her for the short time she’s on earth.” But then his eyes brightened and he laid a hand on my belly. “Or perhaps God will heal her. Perhaps He already has!” Hope filled our empty despair and we smiled into each other’s eyes. We did not understand. But we had faith in The One Who Did.
Five months later….
I stared at the wildflowers on the hospital windowsill. Labor had gone on for hours and my tired eyes could only find a mad swirl of colors. A baby’s cry jerked me back to reality and I craned, desperate to see beyond the screen hanging above my waist.
“She’s doing fine!” The doctor’s voice brought a flood of relief.
The nurse was beaming as she held our baby for us to see. Aaron touched her cheek, this child, our Baby Faith. We watched with hearts so mixed with joy and sorrow, love and pain, as they took her away to monitor the heart struggling to pump.
And still we prayed, prayed for healing.
Two weeks later…
Faith’s surgery had not been a success. Her heart was too damaged, they said, too damaged to fix. The only thing now, was to wait for a transplant.
We held her tightly, whispering to her and singing. Watching her body fight the drugs. Everyday we prayed that this would be the day that brought a new heart. Each day God said, “Hold her close and love this daughter of Mine. Today is your day with her.”
I kissed her beside the daisy that peeked from her headband. Faith cooed, brushing my cheek with her velvet-soft hand.
One-and-a-half months later…
The room rang with silence, the doctors and nurses standing with shoulders drooped, the machines quiet. Time stopped as we held her one last time, releasing her gently into arms more loving even than our own.
Then we held each other, Aaron and I. And though pain was strong, we rejoiced in those days we had spent with Faith, touching her, seeing her smile. Faith had been healed more fully than any surgery could do.
Our families waited in the hall. We sat around a plastic table, a bouquet of yellow roses at its center, and wept together. Prayed together.
I stirred on the bench. Slowly I set a pink rose into the vase on the headstone in front of me. Touching a petal, I smiled. Two months we had been given. Two precious months.
This fictional story was inspired by the life of Faith Harris (Aug 8--Oct 6, 2005)
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