I feel as though I should start this post by saying that I believe I’ve experienced an abnormal amount of death for someone in her mid 30s. I have walked alongside a close friend who lost her five year old son in a tragic accident, and then alongside one of my best friend’s whose husband was killed-in-action and left behind two young children. Earlier this year, a good friend from high school lost her 17 month old girl in an accident. If you haven’t experienced this closeness to death before, it’s the kind of pain that builds character. By that I mean, it’s gut-wrenchingly heartbreaking. It’s the pain that brings you to your knees in an instant because you can’t manage to bear the weight of sadness you feel for your friend. It’s the pain that makes you cry out to God in anger. And, it’s the kind of pain that challenges your will to wake up in the morning. Because, how can you go about your typical day when what you are feeling is not even the littlest bit comparable to the much heavier weight your friend is living with? This pain builds character. It drives you to call out to God, to grasp onto the hope in your salvation, and to wish for Christ’s immediate return so you don’t have to feel this brokenness. May 10th was another time in my life where I experienced this pain, but the only time I experienced fear, joy, sadness, community, and God’s presence, all at once. On May 10th, I watched the miracle of birth and the darkness of death happen right before my eyes. By God’s strength and through the love for my friends, I was able to photograph this experience through this young girl’s all too short life; sweet Adaline Grace. In doing so, I captured all the Godly love that surrounded her. Today is her six-month heavenly birthday and so I wanted to write this post for her momma and daddy. And also, for you. If you are reading this, and not a believer in Jesus Christ, I challenge you to search into the depths of your heart and ask why. While this story is one that holds great sadness, it is truly a story of hope.
Adaline’s story didn’t start on May 10th. It began many months before when God gave her to Matt and Liz. Gosh, they loved that baby girl so much, even from the beginning. And her life was filled with so much love the moment they found out she was theirs. Unfortunately, at their 20-week anatomy scan, Liz and Matt were given the unpredictable and heartbreaking news that their baby girl’s bones had stopped growing at around 13 weeks. Because of the severity of the situation, they were told to expect the worst and some even suggested termination. Even though these two had every reason to mourn or give up, they chose to hold on, cling to hope, and love their baby girl as they were called to love her.
On May 10th Liz’s water broke and she was rushed to the hospital. Liz texted me to let me know she was heading that way as I was wrapping up a shoot 30 minutes away. When I arrived at the hospital a small group of Liz and Matt’s friends had already gathered in the waiting room to begin praying. Then soon after I arrived, our Pastor, his wife, and our Assistant Pastor and his wife showed up too. As Liz was being prepped for her C-section we all joined together to pray with her. It was incredibly moving and somber all at the same time. I remember feeling not nervous in that instant, but hopeful for Liz to have a smooth C-section. And then moments later something happened. She began losing a ton of blood and lost consciousness. The next few minutes all happened so fast. Matt and I were getting geared up for the OR and Matt was waiting outside with his head in his hands. I was sweating and so incredibly scared for my friend. I didn’t know what to do and I felt like I was on holy territory; God was with us. So I turned to Matt and prayed over him. I’m not very good at praying out loud, but everything in my soul said to just start praying out loud. And so I did, and when I opened my eyes there were about five doctors and scrub nurses watching us and waiting to tell us that we could enter the OR. The next few hours I will never forget. I watched as two friends fought hard to deliver their baby. I don’t think it was a typical C-section. Liz still felt a lot of pain and it was taking a long time, longer than what I remembered mine taking. I watched as a woman I loved and admired bear the burden of a traumatic and painful birth as well as lose her baby. And I watched, as her godly husband remained strong for her and his baby girl. When Adaline was born, she took a few short breaths and went to be with our Heavenly Father. Life and death in a matter of minutes. I kept it together the whole night until I got into the car to go home. Once I started driving the 45 minute ride home was full of snotty ugly tears and a raging headache. My heart was broken, and I was there in that character building painful moment. I knew that tomorrow once all the trauma subsided, Liz would be feeling incredible amounts of physical pain all for nothing. She and Matt would be walking out of the hospital with empty arms and empty hearts. She would have to deal with the pain of recovering, the pain of getting her milk with no baby to nurse, and the pain of a broken heart. As a momma, I can’t stand the thought. I am crying ugly tears as I write this. And as her friend, I have watched her grieve, rise above, grieve, sink below, and then rise above again. Her world is different. Their world is different.
Over the past six months friends and family have walked in the trenches with Liz and Matt. I have seen more prayer than ever before, and I have experienced a new kind of community. I’ve seen a large group of friends grieving together, praising God together, and proclaiming their faith more than ever. You see, all of us Christians don’t just stop at the suffering. We don’t understand it, we even get mad about it, but when most people expect us to turn away from God, instead we cling to Him. We hold firm to the gospel message that Jesus died on the cross, rose from the grave, defeated sin and death, and now sits at the right hand of God the Father. We hold firm to the fact that he did all of this to save those who will come to faith in Him. We live a life in the hope that one day we will be standing in the glory of God and that we will be holding our loved ones again. So, you see, this story of Adaline’s birth and her death is one of hope. Adaline’s short life brought us to our knees in more ways than one. Sometimes the grief has been too heavy to bear. We grieve because we miss her, we miss her for Matt, Liz, and their son Grayson. But that very suffering has drawn us to trust in Christ more than ever, not the opposite. Adaline was His perfect creation and He has done a great work in her ever since she was given to Matt and Liz about a year ago. I long for the day Christ will return and Liz and Matt will be joined with their baby girl. I wish to the depths of my soul that this wasn’t their reality, but on this six month anniversary of Adaline’s birth and death, I want to let them know that because of their sweet baby girl, I am one step closer to Jesus and I have more hope than ever before. Adaline Grace was born on May 10, 2017. And, while her birth and death came quickly, her life I will never forget. We love you, Adaline Grace.
Peace with God Through Faith (Romans 5:1-5)
Therefore, since we have been justified by faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ. Through him we have also obtained access by faith into this grace in which we stand, and we rejoice in hope of the glory of God. Not only that, but we rejoice in our sufferings, knowing that suffering produces endurance, and endurance produces character, and character produces hope, 5 and hope does not put us to shame, because God’s love has been poured into our hearts through the Holy Spirit who has been given to us.
*warning, this post contains some graphic images, some may find disturbing*