A Moment Can Change Everything
For a moment all the world was right
How could I have known that you’d ever say goodbye?
And now I’m glad I didn’t know
The way it all would end, the way it all would go
Our lives are better left to chance
I could have missed the pain, but I’d have had to miss the dance
~ The Dance (Garth Brooks)
If we would have only know what that January day was about to usher in what would we have done differently? If I had known, I would have boldly prayed for the day not to come, the very opposite of Joshua’s sun stand still prayer. There is a Reba McEntire song called If I Had Only Known. In that song her emotion strained voice sings out the words that echoed my heart…”I would pray a miracle would stop the dawn.” But I didn’t know. Instead I muddled through that blah morning nursing my severe headache with sleep. I was sleeping away precious moments that I wish I would have savored. Moments where I could have been memorizing every precious detail I lay sleeping instead. How could I have known that in just a few hours the illness coursing through my body and the headache pounding in my brain would be the least of my concerns?
It was about 3:15 in the afternoon. Our household was running right on time even with mommy down for the count. Santino was downstairs doing therapy with his aide, Katie, and Matt was off to pick Sammy up from full day kindergarten. The only thing that was somewhat off was Francesca. It had been three hours and she was still napping. Now, as a mother of three children I know to appreciate when a baby decides to take a long nap. However, I had an overwhelming feeling that I needed to check on her. Three hours was great but it was longer than she had ever napped before. The moment I opened the door I knew something was wrong. The images of those first few moments are ones that I desperately prayed for God to erase from my memory, which in His infinite love He has. All I remember is grabbing her in my arms and screaming for Katie.
Everything from that moment on has become a blur, a flash of memories. A frantic 911 call, Katie performing CPR, me on my knees screaming for a miracle, Matt completely unaware of what was happening as he picked Sammy up from school. My whole world flipped upside down. I was moving in both fast forward and slow motion at the same time. I felt like I was having an out-of-body experience…like I was watching some poor mother as her world came crashing down. The pieces of her world shattered like glass on a marble floor. How could something so broken ever be put back together again. I knew what was happening but I couldn’t wrap my head around the fact that it was happening to me. No!!! This was not supposed to happen. Police, EMT, Firefighters were everywhere. Sirens screaming, lights flashing, every aspect of Law and Order present. In a moment of clarity I screamed to Katie to call Matt. I have never been as thankful for cell phones as I was in that moment. I didn’t want him to be caught off guard and I didn’t want Sammy to be scared…I needed her to warn him. Then I walked outside. A lone police officer stood there, camera in hand, photographing our house. Hysteria set in. Every crime and police show I had ever watched came rushing back to me. I sobbed as he stood there. I yelled at him, “Why are you taking pictures? You are taking pictures because she is dead aren’t you?” That poor officer tried his best to calm and reassure me that this was just routine procedure but I knew better.
My memory of the ride to the hospital is fuzzy at best. A domino effect of moments occurred in the haze of the chaos. Matt pulled up to the house, Katie instantly grabbed both Sammy and Santino and off to my parents they went. I don’t even recall speaking to Matt. These details are lost to me. Why? Where did they go? I cannot remember who left first, the ambulance or Matt. I cannot recollect why I wasn’t in the car with my husband; did he assume I was going with the ambulance? In the frenzy of the moment these become the memories that elude you later. I do have a vivid memory of tail lights; the tail lights of Matt’s silver Jeep Commander as he rushed to the hospital. He actually made it there before the ambulance. I later learned that his frantic drive included him driving into oncoming traffic to get to the hospital faster.
I never did get in the ambulance that day. As I stood on the curb with my world crumbling around me the EMT driver must have sensed my control slipping. In that moment of utter desperation I will never forget his harsh words barking at me as if I had any control over myself. “You better calm down.” Those four words sliced through me sharper than any knife ever could. This man did not want to deal with a hysterical mother; he had made that abundantly clear. In that exchange I allowed this man to rob me of being with my daughter on the final ride of her life. By the grace of God one of my dearest friends ended up at my house that fateful afternoon. Safely tucked in her car, together we drove a path that no parent should ever have to travel. This would signify the beginning of this same dear friend walking Matt and I down the devastatingly broken road that lay ahead of us.
In the corridor of the hospital I was finally held in the comforting arms of my husband. I needed him to cover me physically with his body so that I could still feel the life pulsating within us. Everything around me felt like death but he was my source of life. He was my protector and I needed his body to shield me from the physical and emotional blow that we were about to take. Together we both stood there like lost children, scared and bewildered. Would we get our miracle? Or would our world implode on what had started as a seemingly uneventful day.
In a small side room at Mt. Clemens General Hospital the emergency rooms doctors confirmed what I had already known; our precious girl had been called home to Jesus. SIDS (Sudden Infant Death Syndrome) had become our grim reality. My mind raced…SIDS was something that doctors warned us about but in my mind I falsely believed we were untouchable…it would never happen to us. I even remember having a conversation on the topic of SIDS once where I cavalierly made the statement, “If it’s God will it will happen, I can’t worry about it.” What did that even mean? How could this hell ever be God’s will? My head was spinning and I just wanted to shut it all down. As I sat there, the numbness of shock settling in, I heard this sound that can only be likened to an animal that has been mortally wounded. However, this was no animal…it was husband. He wasn’t home when I found her, he hadn’t seen her so he sat there waiting…full of hope…full expectation that all would be fine. The cries I heard coming out of my husband were the audible sounds of hope dying. That moment broke my husband. All of his hopes and dreams extinguished in the blink of an eye. He was broken in a way that in the days to come I wondered if I would ever see glimpses of who he had once been ever again.
Through all of the chaos of this day the one thing I remember with crystal clarity is how much God’s hand been upon us. He carefully orchestrated the details so that He could carry us through this horrific day. Details like the fact that Sammy had just started full day kindergarten that week ensuring he was not in the house when everything happened. The fact that Katie was there to get both of my boys out of the situation, the fact that Matt just happened to be home that day and not traveling out-of-state, the fact that my good friend was literally 30 seconds from my house and drove me to the hospital after the ambulance driver yelled at me to remain calm…as if such a thing was possible. I am not saying God took Francesca home on this day because of these details I am saying He used these details to reveal that His protective hand had been upon us. His presence was all around. As I walked out of the doorway that lead to the triage room where we would say goodbye to our sweet girl I saw a sea of people. Family, pastors, and friends lined the hallway of the emergency room. It was like nothing I had ever seen before. Face after face represented God saying “I’m here, you will not walk this journey alone.” There must have been close to 50 people at the hospital that day. Looking back I am in awe at how many people God brought around us in a moment’s notice. They were there to pray, to minister to not only us but to our family as well, phone calls were made, protocol was explained, and details were arranged. Matt and I had to do nothing but let them lavish their love on us like salve to an open wound. Right there in the hospital God had begun the healing process, even when healing seemed so far beyond our reach. One of my most vivid memories of that day was leaving the hospital. I had turned around and I caught of glimpse of all of our loved ones who gathered to be with us. There they stood watching us go, with so much love, so much concern, at such loss for what the right thing to do or say was but knowing that God wanted them there to be His hands and feet. I can see that image as if it happened yesterday. In the middle stood our friend Jeff, who was a doctor at the hospital, in his blue surgical scrubs. Because of his attire he stood out among the crowd of many. The blue of those scrubs will forever remind me of the day God used His people to save my family from crumbling to nothingness.
To Be Continued…