The Angel That Brought Amazing Grace

The Angel That Brought Amazing Grace

After suffering an unimaginable loss, one picture came back to her again and again.

One of the first things I bought when I found out I was pregnant was a five-by-seven-inch picture mounted on a piece of blond wood. The plaque showed a guardian angel guiding two children across a rickety old bridge.

My husband and I hung it on the wall in the freshly painted nursery. I often sat in that room daydreaming about motherhood. This was something we’d wanted for so long, and I could hardly believe that after three years of hoping and praying, our wish was finally coming true.

Our joy was doubled, literally, after learning I was carrying twins. I rushed home to the nursery. The picture seemed even more poignant to me now.

I stared at the beautiful robed angel and imagined her leading my two little ones safely across life’s bridges. Both were boys, we were told, and I’d have my hands full. Sitting in the quiet of the nursery, the reality of what was happening set in.

Two babies at once , I thought. Can we handle it? Again I focused on the image on the wall, and my worries eased. Of course we could handle it. After all, Jay and I weren’t going to be looking after the boys alone. God would always be there, watching over them.

Then my doctor discovered something disturbing during a routine checkup at six and a half months. The ultrasound showed a blood clot had formed in the placenta shared by both babies. “I don’t like what I’m seeing,” he said gravely. “I’m admitting you to the hospital.”

Jay ran behind us while the doctor himself pushed me in a wheelchair to the medical center about two hundred yards away. Lord, protect my babies , I prayed all the way there. We raced into the emergency room, where I heard shouts for a “crash C-section.”

Someone slipped a mask over my mouth and instructed me to breathe deeply. Being lifted onto the cold surgical table was the last thing I remember before I went under.

When I awoke I learned that one of my boys had been stillborn; the other, weighing only two pounds two ounces, was fighting overwhelming odds for survival. “I want to see him,” I told Jay.

On the way to the ICU he tried to prepare me. “The baby’s real weak,” he kept saying. My son’s tiny body was half-hidden by a tangle of tubes. Still, I could tell he was fighting hard. “See,” Jay said, “he’s kicking. He has the will to live.”

We named him Brian, his brother, Kyle–beautiful names I’d imagined calling out at dinnertime, or on the ball field. Back in my room, I felt helpless and alone. My mind was too confused even to form a prayer. Why, God? I demanded. Why aren’t You here with me now?

When I felt a glimmer of hope for Brian, the devastating loss of Kyle came crashing down on me. I had thought of them together, as a team. “The twins,” we’d always said. How could I separate them now, praying for Brian when God had not heard my prayers for Kyle?

I had expected to bring two children home to the nursery. Two children were walking across that rickety old bridge on the plaque hanging there. The angel watched over both of them. Why didn’t that happen, God?

Jay’s parents stayed close by during my hospital stay; my parents drove up from their home in a remote area. There wasn’t much any of us could do.

For three days Brian struggled in the ICU while I recovered down the hall. I was allowed to touch his tiny fingers and toes, his perfectly round head. But I couldn’t hold him in my arms. He was too fragile.

The day I was released from the hospital I went to say good-bye to Brian. I tried to make some sense of our tragedy. Is this God’s plan? I wondered as my hand made its way around machinery to stroke Brian’s wispy blond hair. “I’ll be back for you,” I whispered.

Jay and I, and our parents, spent most of our time at the hospital that week. Brian began having seizures. I paced in the waiting room, praying for my son to pull through. Lord, we need a miracle. But Brian was clearly losing the battle.

One day an old high school friend dropped by during the few minutes Jay and I had snatched at home. “This isn’t like me,” she said, handing me a wrapped box, “but I went back to get it after Brian got so ill.” I opened the gift . Inside was a gold-framed picture.

“I couldn’t get the image out of my mind,” my friend said. Here it was again–the guardian angel shepherding the children over the bridge, exactly like the plaque hanging in the nursery.

My friend left, and Jay and I returned to the hospital. The doctors took us aside. “There is nothing more we can do,” they said.

Brian died after only nine days on this earth. Part of me felt a sense of relief; I couldn’t have watched my baby boy suffer one minute more. But if this was God’s plan, would I ever understand it?

Jay and I walked around in a daze, planning the boys’ funeral. Our parents tried to be strong for us.  After having been out alone for quite a while one afternoon, my father came in and handed me a small gold medal.

“I picked it up at a store,” he said, laying the medal in the palm of my hand. I ran my thumb over the scene embossed on it. “Dad, have you seen the plaque in the boys’ room?” I asked.

He hadn’t, and yet he’d given me the exact image that hung there, the one my high school friend had given me, the very image that had held such hope for me once but now seemed a cruel betrayal.

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