there are those particularly sweet times in this little business of mine when i’m invited into the most intimate moments of a family’s life. a wedding, a birth…or in the case of the kelley family, a years-long journey that is so deeply personal that i continually sit in awe that they’ve trusted me with the story. i want to jump to the end of the book and tell you what’s written on the final page but if i did that, you’d miss a beautiful story of joy, loss, miracles, and faith. so take a few minutes and share a peek into one of the most precious stories i’ve ever known. it starts with a post i wrote more than two years ago…
may 29, 2011. i feel wholly unworthy to compose any words beautiful enough for kathryn’s story, so please join me as her mother, mary michael, shares from her journal:
Thursday, April 14 – There’s a certain significance in dates.
When I was younger, I thought how awful it must have been for my mom when her dad, my granddaddy, died on her birthday.
We got some bad news yesterday about baby Kathryn. Turns out she has non-immune fetal hydrops. There is fluid on her lungs and heart and swelling. I can’t begin to describe to you the agony in learning this late, at 32 weeks, that there is something wrong. I wouldn’t wish it on anyone.
So please pray for us as we deal with this in our own private way. Today we will celebrate our 4th anniversary, a date and a symbol of our commitment to “For better or for worse, in sickness and in health, until death do we part.”
Tuesday, May 3 – I’ve officially read all I can about non immune hydrops and polyhydramnios. I think I’m cried out for the time being. Praying the next tears I have are tears of joy.
Wednesday, May 11 – We are officially hospital residents. At my appointment with the doctor this afternoon, we were totally prepared with all these questions as well as my final “I can’t take this anymore” plea. Turns out it wasn’t needed. He walked in, looked at me, and told me it was time. It’s a relief, even though I already miss my Thomas terribly.
Friday, May 13 – Our beautiful daughter, Kathryn Lyn Kelley, was born at 2:52pm weighing 9 lbs 4 oz. She came out, took a teeny cry, a couple of breaths, and is doing better than expected! She is now intubated and they’ve drained her chest. We are so blessed and grateful and are waiting for the next steps.
Tuesday, May 17 – Just stepped outside for the first time in six days. A few hours away from the hospital to be with Thomas will do my heart good.
Saturday, May 21 – Kathryn opened her eyes tonight. I hadn’t seen her do that since last weekend, and it was a magical moment.
Last weekend, she sort of semi-opened her right eye. Tonight, she fully opened her right eye, just for me and her daddy.
I broke down in tears.
The thing about all of this is that it’s just really, really hard. It helps me to write it out some, and I sort of wish that my writing could write the end of the story.
Tuesday, May 24 – Rough afternoon over here. If you wake during the night, think on and pray for our girl.
Wednesday, May 25 – Dear friends: our daughter Kathryn’s journey on earth ended last night around 1AM and her journey with our God above began at twelve days old. BT and I held our daughter for the first and last time and she took her last breaths in our arms. Our hearts are utterly and completely broken as we are now members of a club that every parent on earth dreads joining. The tears continue to come, off and on. They come more often than not right now, and we both know that in time that will get better, even though it will never go away.
She sure was the most beautiful thing I’ve ever seen, and like I said earlier, I got to lock eyes with her. That is a memory in my head that can never be stolen by death.
God says all of our days are numbered, and we know now that Kathryn’s days were numbered at 12. We take comfort in the fact that we got 12 days more than many said we would ever have. That’s how strong she was. But on the flip side, with each continued day sprung more and more hope. That hope is hard to part with.
We have chosen to have a very private gathering with just our family and only my and BT’s very closest friends. We hope you understand that because of the unbelievable grief that accompanies this, we only want to be surrounded by those very closest to us as we say goodbye to our baby.
I want others to be a part of this through writing notes to Kathryn about how she touched your life and what she taught you. We’ll attach those messages to a balloon and have Thomas release all those balloons on Saturday morning over Birmingham.
Saturday, May 28 – “As he went along, he saw a man blind from birth. His disciples asked him, ‘Rabbi, who sinned, this man or his parents, that he was born blind?’ ‘Neither this man not his parents sinned,’ said Jesus, ‘but this happened so that the works of God might be displayed in him’.” John 9:1-3
it might have seemed that the story stopped there, that the final chapter had already been written, but nothing could have been farther from the truth. another blessing would soon be born. i walked quietly into his NICU room just hours after his emergency c-section arrival that thanksgiving night in 2012 and saw two parents who were, indeed, overwhelmed with thankfulness but who were wrestling with the what-might-be’s of hearing those same words – knowing that same diagnosis – about their precious newborn son.
the days ticked by…some with good news, others with rougher news…but all with the realization that their son, their baby micah, was very, very sick. it never really got talked about out loud but i think we all knew it – day twelve was coming. the day that his big sister had passed away.
for micah, that day came and went as a growing throng of friends and complete strangers learned of his story, rejoiced in his life, and committed him and his family to prayer. but what i never shared publicly is what the fifteenth day held…
the sun had long set beneath the horizon when my phone rang. i was up working on the previous week’s wedding photos and my heart began to race when i looked down to see who was calling that night. i couldn’t quite make out the specifics of what she said, but her brokenhearted tears told me all i needed to know. i got in the car and drove straight to the hospital. their pastor and i arrived at the same time and the nurses looked at us with a look i long to forget while asking us to wait outside until they called us back. after what seemed like an eternity, i quietly walked into micah’s room just in time to hear his doctor say, pastor, we’re so glad you’re here. prayer is the only thing that we have at this point. with the three of them hand-in-hand, side-by-side before me, all i knew to do was to capture the overwhelming emotion of those moments as we all joined in prayer over micah. the tears fell hard as their pastor laid his hand on micah’s enclosed bed and quietly sang jesus loves me.
but contrary to medical logic, the lord had a very different plan for micah that night. everything that was shutting down gradually rallied back and in response to my family’s anxious questions that morning, i praised god with the answer, micah’s alive!!! before we knew it, fifteen days had turned into his first full month of life and the indescribable blessing of a mommy holding her baby for the very first time.
one month turned into two and we all celebrated his continued miraculous progress on what should have been his due date…
the months have continued on and mighty micah has captured the hearts of countless people as they’ve eagerly awaited the day when he wouldn’t live in the sterile crib of a hospital room but rather the warm cradle of his family’s home.
well, my friends, i’m thrilled to finally share the best part of this story to date…
MICAH IS HOME!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!
i pray that out of his glorious riches he may strengthen you with power through his Spirit in your inner being, so that christ may dwell in your hearts through faith. and i pray that you, being rooted and established in love, may have power, together with all the lord’s holy people, to grasp how wide and long and high and deep is the love of christ, and to know this love that surpasses knowledge—that you may be filled to the measure of all the fullness of god. now to him who is able to do immeasurably more than all we ask or imagine, according to his power that is at work within us, to him be glory in the church and in christ jesus throughout all generations, for ever and ever! amen.