Thursday morning early, Jennifer was in the grand lobby of the children’s hospital, in front of the television camera, talking about Grace.
Her 17-month-old daughter, the pony-tailed blonde who was born without a diaphragm.
Or without much of a diaphragm.
The rugged layer of tissue that separates your abdomen from your chest, that keeps your stomach, liver and intestines on one side, and your heart and lungs on the other. The essential layer of tissue that helps you breathe and live.
Jennifer was in front of the television camera, hosting the telethon, raising money for the children’s hospital, imploring people to call, telling about the doctors and the need and the people waiting on the phone bank.
A day later, on Friday morning, before the surgery, Grace would be in her father’s arms, seeming uncertain in the Facebook picture, back in the bowels of the hospital, above and behind the grand lobby where the phone banks were still taking calls.
Late that night, after seven hours of touch-and-go surgery, mom and dad and the two lead surgeons would smile for another posting, and a world of friends watching online breathed a collective sigh of relief.
That was about 11 p.m.
Three hours later, in a crisis in the night, amazing Grace passed away.
As her father wrote in a note for the television station, “Grace’s heart gave out.
“Our miracle girl is now in heaven.”
And a region wept.
For almost two years, the blonde reporter lady told about her baby, before she was born and after, and about the birth defect that endangered her life. There were stories and videos and updates, and the little girl became something of a cause, her brand was “Amazing Grace” and her message was “Believe in miracles.”
And Saturday morning dawned with a wave of shock and sorrow, as word spread through e-mail and social media, Grace was gone, the miracle was denied.
At least that was the temptation.
To see darkness through the tears, instead of light.
To see failure instead of success.
But neither logic nor faith justify those conclusions.
Rather, both shout that every minute of Grace’s short life was a miracle, a gift from a loving God and the medical professionals through whom he so often works.
The point is not that she died, but that she lived. Formed in the womb with a challenge that made normalcy impossible and survival unlikely, her first breath was not her last, and she lingered and flourished and for 17 months did what she was sent here to do.
She taught, she inspired, she led others to growth. From the mother and father and sister who held her dear, to the strangers who fell in love with her on the evening news. She was sent for a purpose, and she did her duty, and she was called home when her work was finished.
Some are too pure for this earth, too good for its evils and ills. They are here but a short time, a moment or a month, a year or a decade, and the Father in heaven who sent them gathers them back to himself. They have grasped life, they have laid claim on resurrection, and they go where an all-knowing and all-loving God feels it is best for them to be.
For them, for us, for reasons we mortals can’t grasp.
But we cling to the faith that one day, from the perspective of eternity, we will look back with tears of gratitude on those days in mortality when we shed tears of sorrow.
We can’t know why it is God’s will, but through faith we can know that it is God’s will.
That things happen for a reason, though the reason may be unfathomable to our earth-bound minds.
A husband and a wife became a mother and a father, and they were called to this, to pass through these two years of trial and uncertainty, and now this sorrowful leave taking. We can’t know why they were called, but the Lord usually sends the strong to do the heavy lifting, and perhaps a mother who wanted to report was instead assigned to teach.
Maybe God chose this mother and father because he knew that in their home this little girl would be blessed with certain and unwavering love every moment of her life.
Maybe Grace accepted this short assignment and its loss of fleeting earthly joys as an act of service and sacrifice for us, to call us to greater faith and compassion. Perhaps we are meant to be drawn closer to the youngsters in the care of the children’s hospital, perhaps we are meant to be drawn closer to the God whose perfect love watches over those children in a way we cannot imagine.
Perhaps we are just to be reminded of the humanity of strangers, the universality of us, the poignancy of ever human heart.
But there was a purpose to it.
That much, faith teaches us, is certain.
And so is this.
Death is not the end of life, it is the beginning of eternity, and this little family, passing through this vale of tears, is not broken apart and will not forever be separated. There is reunion. Our love survives the grave because our associations survive the grave. Mom is mom, dad is dad, Grace is Grace, and family is forever.
And she shall be in their arms again.
Which does not temper the pain of today, but it does give hope for the joys of tomorrow.
Maybe that’s what Grace was sent to remind us of.
She has done her duty, and we must do ours.