|I Will Carry You: The Sacred Dance of Grief and Joy|
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I Will Carry You is a powerful story of ultimate loss - a parent’s loss of a child - interwoven with the biblical story of Lazarus, helping those walking through the difficult seasons of life to mourn and still have hope.
By Angie Smith
Letter to Audrey Caroline
Sweet Audrey, There are no words I could say in this letter that would be able to express what you are to us, but I feel compelled to write them anyway.
Do you know you changed the world?
From the day we found out we were expecting you, we knew that God had chosen you for our family. When we started feeling you move around, we invented stories about who you would be. We took bets on whether you were a boy or a girl (daddy was wrong!). Abby and Ellie set aside toys that they wanted to give to you. Your daddy let me buy books at the bookstore about being pregnant, even though we already have a million. He knows I love the smell of books, and he just watched with a smile while I gathered them all together. We talked about you all the time. Our house was filled with love for you long before we ever knew who you would be to us. We let Kate help us set up a crib in her room while we told her that she was going to have a baby brother or sister sleeping next to her someday. We introduced her little toddler bed and taught her all about being a big sister. She loved her freedom...we found her in the pantry eating chocolate at 3 a.m. one night! And so for weeks, we planned. We talked about names, about paint, about schools, about everything but the one thing we didn’t know.
God had something much bigger planned for your life than we could ever have imagined.
On January 7th, we heard the beginning of the story. You kicked while I listened to them tell me that I should let you go. You, unable to say a word, spoke volumes as we considered what had been laid before us. Audrey, there really was never a choice. You were ours from the moment God ordained it so. There were moments in the darkness during that time when I worried that maybe we should give you to God. We didn’t want you to suffer, and we knew that as soon as you were with Him, you would be at peace. Were we selfish for trying to keep you here? We knew before we let ourselves travel into those thoughts that they were lies. That decision was not for us to make. We settled into the reality of “our new life,” and the stacks of books on pregnancy gave way to scripture.
Did you know that while you were in my tummy, you went to the beach, to Disney World, to the ballet, to the zoo, to the symphony, to pick out our puppy, to the children’s theatre, to listen to daddy sing, to church, to Poppy’s house...and so many more places. I talked to you about how the laundry machine worked, told you about all our neighbors, and taught you how to choose a ripe pineapple at the grocery store. I never stopped talking to you. You were my daughter, and I loved you like I love your sisters. We prayed for you all the time. Our prayers changed with the days. We never, ever doubted that God could heal you. I know you know that. I know you felt that. But I still feel compelled to tell you that we believed, Audrey. And the fact that you are with Him as I type these words does not change that belief. There is not a single moment that passes when I question His will for your life.
I will never, never forget the day you were born. Nobody who was a part of it will, either. April 7th was one of the best days of my life. You made me brave, Audrey-girl. Your mommy used to be afraid of the hospital, afraid of the noises and the smell of medicine. My whole life, I have been afraid. I wasn’t afraid that day. I was peaceful. I was calm. I was in the presence of the Lord Himself more than any other time in my life. I listened as they told me about what would be happening that day, and I nodded. I surrendered. I stopped worrying about me and I just fell into the arms of the Lord. He carried us all that day, didn’t He?
At 4:31, I heard a nurse say, “She’s out.” Daddy said, “She’s out?” and he peeked around to see them carrying you to a table nearby. I thought I heard you squeaking and I asked if you were alive. Daddy looked at me and he nodded. “She’s alive.” I couldn’t believe it. The doctors looked you over and they listened to your heart. They cleaned you off a little bit and then daddy laid you right beside my head. You had one little eye opened and you were trying to take it all in. I was too. I put my hands on your head and just started crying because you were so beautiful. I fell completely, head-over-heels in love with you the instant I met you. That’s who you are, Audrey.
When we got back to the room, your Uncle Tom was already taking pictures. Do you know that he took about 1600 that day? We rejoiced in telling everyone that you were alive. Your heart was moving slowly, and we knew that it was a matter of time before we would have to release you, but no one would have known that. For the rest of the day, people held you, touched you, talked to you, and prayed for you. And everybody smiled when they saw you. There weren’t many tears, because in a way, we weren’t sad. We were just too busy praising God for you to be sad.
Your daddy gave you a bath while I watched. He got all of your little tootsies clean, and I watched the water run down the back of your neck as he held you up. Her first bath...
One of my favorite moments was when they put you on the scale. You were much bigger than they thought you were ever going to be, and it felt like victory. “3 pounds, 2 ounces!” As soon as the announcement was made, the room broke out into cheers. Did you know that your daddy’s birthday is 3/2? Those are beautiful numbers to us, sweet girl, because they tell us that you were here. You had weight in this life.
Your sisters were a little nervous when they came, but as they looked you over, God showed them who you were. The peace that had filled the room for the entire day rested on them, and they began to laugh and to talk to you as they would any other new baby. They each held you carefully, and kissed your sweet, clean skin. While they were all gathered around me on the bed, your nurse Candace came to listen to your heart. I asked her to be sensitive because of the girls, and after listening for a few minutes, she told me quietly that you were gone. The girls never knew that they had been present for that moment, and I thank God that He took you that way. There was never anything but peace. We sang over you as God welcomed you into heaven.
I cry for you often. I miss the smell of your skin and your perfect little nose. My arms ache from emptiness. I tell your daddy all the time that I just want to hold you again. I cannot see to write these words because my eyes overflow with the tears of a mother who has been asked to give her daughter away. I knew I would love you when I met you. I knew you would become a part of me. What I didn’t know was that instead of feeling like it was a brief encounter, I feel like the world stood still. He somehow gave us an entire lifetime of memories in such a short time. I didn’t feel like I lost a baby, I felt like I said goodbye to someone I had always known, who had been my daughter for years and years. Even now, as I write, it seems impossible that you were only with us for 2 ½ hours. Thank you Lord, for giving us all the time we could have asked for with her. The clock was insignificant... we knew her deeply, a lifetime’s worth.
Audrey, you have no idea how you have impacted those around you. Did you see all of the nurses who cried when they came to see me? Did you hear the nurse manager tell me that since you had been born, the name of the Lord had been spoken repeatedly at their station in a way it never had? That you, my love, had brought them together? Did you know that the people who came to your birth who knew nothing of your story talked about the “amazing peace” that filled the room inexplicably? Do you know that there were radio stations all over the country announcing that your mommy was going into surgery while people drove home to their families? Do you know they asked for prayer as you entered the world; that strangers dropped to their knees on your behalf? Do you know how many people have met Jesus because of you? There is more than I can fit here, Audrey. More than I can fit anywhere. You are the greatest miracle that I have ever been a part of, and I want you to know how incredibly proud I am to have been chosen to be your mommy. I promise you that I will never stop being your voice here on earth. I will tell everyone about the little girl who came in a 3 pound body to change hearts. I will always miss you, Audrey; there will never be a day where you are not a part of us. I want you to know that you changed me, honey. You made mommy so brave because of how much I loved you. I am so proud to have a scar to remember where you once were.
Thank you, my sweet, sweet girl.
Today we are going to sit as a family and we are going to take the band-aids off the bunny that we have carried for months. We are going to tell your sisters about the way that Jesus has healed you...that you don’t need those anymore because you are well. You are perfect. Thank you Lord.
As I have been writing, the rain is pounding on my window. It is what many would call a very dark and ugly day, with no sign of sunshine. Because of you, Audrey, it is not that way to me any more.
It is an answer to prayer.
Jesus, you have brought us the rain and we praise You for it. We lift up the God that made us strong enough to love our little girl the way she deserved to be loved. And we trust that You will continue to use her as a vessel of your goodness, of your faithfulness. Lord, you have shown me that when this life is empty, you will fill. You have walked with us in a way we could never have imagined. What seemed like a cross to bear has now taken the shape of a great blessing which we are honored to have been a part of. Thank you, Lord. You are the light of our lives, now and forever.
Audrey, there is much more to say. I rest in knowing that you already know it before it has left our lips. We love you.
Sweetest baby girl.
Do you know you changed the world?