Sunday, 19 February 2012

For Ellie

 I was sure my sister was having a baby boy.

For the last couple months of her pregnancy, she endured more painful swelling and discomfort than she ever had during her previous two pregnancies. Those both ended up being girls, so baby number three just HAD to be a boy! I was sure of it! He's tormenting his poor mother already, I would think to myself, hating the fact that my sister wasn't feeling well, but somehow smiling just the same as I pictured a highly energetic little guy rolling around in her belly, wreaking havoc on her poor legs. So typical of boys...

But what I mistook for a spry, mischievous little boy was actually a sweet and very sick little girl.

Baby Ellie was born eight weeks early, and even though the doctors and nurses did everything in their power to keep her alive—even though my family, friends, and people I had never even met prayed ceaselessly through the night and all the following day—Ellie was unable to overcome her illness, and passed away less than forty-eight hours after she was born.

There is really no way to describe—or in words to do justice toward—the feelings associated with the death of a child. I've lost other family members in the past, but they were my grandparents. When they passed away, I grieved, but I also took great comfort in knowing they left us with hundreds of wonderful stories to tell—stories that continue to keep them alive in our hearts, and several of which still make me laugh out loud to this day.

But what about Ellie? She passed away without any stories to tell. And that, for me, is the most tragic aspect to her death. It's something that claws at my chest and presses against my heart. It's what makes me suddenly burst into tears, usually at the strangest and most inopportune times (like while watching Dagny give high fives to an Indian couple seated next to us on the train).

I try not to ever ask, Why did this happen? Beyond the medical diagnosis (it turned out Ellie had Fifths Disease), I think this is a dangerous question to contemplate. The reason is as simple as the answer: We don't know why. The death of an innocent child never makes any sense. To ponder the question beyond that means risking a terrible fall into depression—the kind where a person can view God or even life in general with a sense of hostility. So even though I am devastated over the loss of my niece, I also make sure to take daily comfort in knowing that my sister is okay. Her health, as it turns out, was also in jeopardy during the time of Ellie's birth. And as strange as it may sound, I am so incredibly thankful that Ellie passed the way she did—surrounded by family, comfortable in my sister's arms, and lovingly adored by hundreds.

A lot has happened in the past six weeks... a trip to Thailand, a visit from my parents, Chinese New Year... but I'm not ready to write about any of it. Not yet. A few times I've tried, but my fingers always seem to fall limp on my keyboard before I even type one sentence. When I plug in my camera to download my photos, I immediately unplug it again. I honestly don't know when I'll be ready to post another blog entry. Maybe when it doesn't hurt so much to breathe. Maybe when my world doesn't feel quite so consumed by Ellie's absence from it. Maybe then... but not right now.

Right now is for Ellie, a tiny rose bud in her mother's arms, unable to bloom, but still breathtakingly beautiful in all our eyes. We will love you always, sweet Ellie.

Now I lay me down to sleep,
I pray the Lord my soul to keep;
May angels carry me through the night,
And wake me up in Heaven's light.