Has it really been that long? It seems like it was yesterday, and yet it seems as though that yesterday took place a lifetime ago.
When I answered the phone that morning my heart began to race. In the words of our GI physician we had "pulled the trigger". No going back. If I had known then what I know now I wonder if we would have ever "pulled"?
I remember running through the house packing things as fast as I could. You see at that time we were told not to expect a call. It was so unlikely that a set of organs would come available for our tiny Ashley Kate. She was so ill it was assumed she would pass long before that call could ever be made. So I wasn't prepared. There were no suitcases that had been packed. There were no real preparations made for the trip. I smile remembering that because only the Father in Heaven knew that after a short 20 days on that list the call would actually come in. Only He would know the people who would be set in our path to minister to a frightened, naive, hope filled, set of parents in the halls of that hospital so far away. Only He knew the plan He had for our girl. Our tiny 11lb, 13 month old baby girl.
I am haunted by memories of that time. Horrible images. Hard days. The hardest of days. Days so long and so painful that there are no descriptions to be given. Those days seemed to last and last and last. It was one struggle after another. Yet, in the midst of that time there were blessings that buffered our pain. There were people who prayed. Those who reached out. Several whom we had no idea would play such a profound role in our lives just by ministering to us in what they may have thought was a small way. In times like those the smallest acts of kindness seem to make the longest lasting impact. In my experience anyway. I'm grateful for that lesson. One of many that I have learned in the last 5 years.
This week I've a lot to reflect on. I've a lot to be thankful for.
Had we not "pulled that trigger", as devastating as some of the repercussions have been, she would not be resting a room away from me at this moment.
Again, I ask myself, if I had known then what I know now would we have proceeded?
I think yes. I think back over all this 5 years post transplant has given us. Pain? Sure. Hard times? More than most could ever imagine. Tears? Buckets full. Cried over her hospital bed and in my own bed most nights since. Still though how could we have missed out on all the good days in between and since that call? How empty our lives would be without her in it. The joy we would have never felt. I can't even imagine.
This week I am in a better place then I was a year ago. A year ago I was so injured and so frightened by the loss of that precious organ I was blind to the fact that there was still another organ keeping her alive. I think because that liver was struggling so and she was so ill recovering from explant that I couldn't see past her frail body, her glowing skin, and the loss of her spirit as she lay in her bed. This year its different. I still can't celebrate in the way we had in years past. There will be no release of balloons, no cake, no pictures taken. Its different once you've lost one organ. Its not the way it was. Instead there is an even deeper appreciation that has come to replace the celebrations we once held. There is a remembrance of a great loss, a tiny life, and a mother's empty arms. Those things remain the same, but added to those things is a gratitude for life that runs so deep I have a hard time sharing it. I've watched her smile and laugh and giggle so hard this week that it freezes me. I stare so deeply into those amazing eyes that sparkle and I see life. Her spirit is in there. Her joy is full. Her experiences have not defined her. Her love for life is spilling out onto each of us who are so blessed to live inside these walls with her.
5 years ago a ten year old little boy tried to be the bravest and strongest big brother this world had ever seen. An eight year old little girl held a tiny baby sister on her hip and walked the long hallway of that hospital. Two frightened parents did their very best to hold their world, their family, and their baby girl together. I remember who we all were then and I see who we all are now. My teenagers are amazing. A lifetime of lessons learned in just 5 years. Kind, compassionate, understanding, unselfish, appreciative hearts. Not allowing the current struggles in their day to day lives to overshadow the enormous gift of family they have been given. Knowing how precious each day of life is. Realizing how blessed they are to be strong, healthy, talented, and able. Nothing taken for granted. How could I not be grateful for this journey. For this gift. For this life. Her life.
Again I'll say, 5 years... its seems like it was only yesterday and yet its been a lifetime too.
To the mommy who so unselfishly gave to us during what I can only imagine was the hardest time in her life...I am forever grateful. You are loved by a family of strangers. Never forgotten. Always appreciated. May God comfort your heart this week.