If she had lived, yesterday my daughter Sydney would have been 14 years old. How has so much time gone by? I think back to just before she was born. Her due date was approaching, but as it crept closer each day, I became more and more nervous. I knew with her particular heart defect that she was safer inside of me than outside in the world. Shortly after she was born, she would have needed a series of 3 open heart surgeries to “re-route her plumbing” so to speak, in order to allow her heart to function like a normal heart. So as much as I wanted to meet her, I did not really want to let go of her (in more ways than one I would later discover). Due to an apnea episode just hours after her birth, she lost all of her basic reflexes like swallowing, sucking and coughing and was never able to have those life-saving surgeries. After 23 days and countless desperate prayers, we made the agonizing decision to bring her home to die. It is a decision I would not wish on anyone, but when the time came that we were called upon to make that decision, with God’s help we were able to.
Not knowing what to expect and how we would do it, we recognized at the time that we were being swept up by a force that was much more powerful than any of us. We simply went where our hearts and intuition led. We arrived home to the support of many family members and close friends who were ready to camp out with us, no matter how much longer our baby girl would live. It turned out that our sweet Sydney survived for only about 16 hours after we arrived home. As it got later into the night and I grew more and more tired, I wondered how I would possibly stay awake because as Steve Tyler of Aerosmith sang :
I could stay awake just to hear you breathing
Watch you smile while you are sleeping
While you’re far away and dreaming
I could spend my life in this sweet surrender
I could stay lost in this moment forever
Every moment spent with you
Is a moment I treasure
Don’t wanna close my eyes
I don’t wanna fall asleep
‘Cause I’d miss you baby
And I don’t wanna miss a thing
‘Cause even when I dream of you
The sweetest dream will never do
I’d still miss you baby
And I don’t wanna miss a thing
Thankfully, a dear friend went out at 2:00 am and bought us caffeinated coffee. What a simple but powerful gesture on her part. Then, an hour and a half later, Sydney’s breathing became more labored and we knew it would not be much longer. As I held her in my arms, my own mother holding Sydney’s hand, she told her it was ok, that she was free to go and fly with the angels and with that, she took her last breath, and left. I had my hand on her tummy and I could literally feel her soul travel under my hand as it moved from her tummy, past her broken little heart and up towards her head and out of her body. And with that, she was gone.
Some people might wonder how I could possibly believe in God after such an experience, but I say how could I not believe in God? As gut-wrenching as the grief was that we went through after Sydney died, at the moment she left her earthly body, I felt bathed in a pure, peaceful and loving energy that had no fear or pain or sadness. I literally felt the hand of God as he lifted my daughter’s sweet soul from her body.
All these years later, as a “mere” human, I miss my baby girl tremendously. I wonder what she would look like, what kind of person she would be, and who she would be becoming. I cherish the mature conversations I have with my 12 year old and I am certain I would have similar talks with her. But that was not the plan for her life or ours. We were subsequently blessed with three other healthy, strong kids and I know that I am more blessed than I could possibly explain. What an indescribable privilege it is to get to raise these three amazing young people and how much they have and will continue to teach me as I too, grow right alongside of them.
So 14 years later, I am older, wiser and more thankful than ever that Sydney came into my life. Even though she was only here for 24 days, she changed me in ways I could never have dreamed of and I am a better person because of her. What I know now is that life is to be savored and appreciated, no matter how long it might be. And it is our duty and responsibility to grow into the highest expression of ourselves that we can and to leave the world better than we found it. Happy birthday, my sweet girl:)
Dear Erin, the depth of your love and faith, the way you surrendered to God’s plan, moved deeply the fibers of my heart and soul. I admire your strength and courage, and your capacity to love. The love for your dear Sydney lives in the mother you became in those 24 days, blessing not only your beautiful family, but all the parents you coach – you transformed grief in to a life force that is heard and felt by all who have the privilege to meet you and to be showered by your wisdom and your beautiful Light. Thank you for sharing your love with us.