This Little Light of Mine

Wednesday, September 5, 2012

Part 1: It is time...the story of the day our angel flew home...

    So, as today is the 1 year anniversary of our precious daughter leaving us to go to her true "forever home" I sit her with hopes of telling the story of those last days.  Jack and I sit at home tonight eating Rum Raisin ice cream which was her favorite and try to wrestle with all of the emotions that continue to rattle around in the holes in our hearts from the loss of a child.

    Last year during the Labor Day weekend I found myself alone at home with Jack and the kids traveling for a visit to Montgomery to see family.  We had been continuing the push of adoption stuff and feeling more hopeful that there would be some progress.   Saturday morning I received an email message that was being exchanged regarding Melissa.  Shortly after my cell phone rang.  The number was from Haiti.  It was Michelle letting me know that Melissa hadn't started having trouble with her breathing and her oxygen levels had dropped into the 30's.  They were now at Medishare hospital and trying to find somewhere for her to get oxygen. 

    As I held my breath trying with desperation to be calm, I could feel the wave of fear and panic wash over me.  I felt small and alone. 

So very alone.

It felt much like the very day I learned of the severity of her heart issues.  A sense of disbelief in the weight of the reality in front of me.

My brain's first means for coping were to downplay the situation and go into "doctor mode".  Emails and calls went out and I found myself advocating for Melissa as a physician by the afternoon searching with desperation for help.  At some point Saturday night I was in the midst of an e-mail debate between 2 heart surgeons who were going to be in the D.R. the next week doing heart repairs on children.  It was at this point as they debated Melissa's survival I had to throw my hands up in surrender. 

NO!  I can't do this!  I can't be her objective doctor and advocate for her medical needs AND be her Mommy.  This is going to drive me off the crazy cliff.  Please...PLEASE someone take the role of physician for her.  It was too much. 

I ached in a real physical way to be there to hold her.  Comfort her like a Mom would do.  She wasn't without that touch and I was grateful for those holding her but it should be ME.  Selfishly in every way, I wanted to be the one to hold her.

I prayed...begged...yelled...begged some more...and cried to God.  WHY?  You brought me here (at times dragged me here) and I opened my heart to letting this tiny soul and now it is being ripped from my chest.  What was the point of it all?

We were blessed to not only have Michelle and Wilna (her Mommy in our absence-see previous posts) doing everything in their power to get her to possible places of help but there was also a nurse working with our group.  Chelsey Beckham along with Sara Sealine (another missionary with Chadasha) stayed with our sweet baby at all times.  She was never, not for one second, without the warm touch and love that I would have wished for her.  Chelsey, Sara, Wilna and Michelle communicated tirelessly throughout the night and day.  By Sunday night, Melissa seemed to have stabilize.  She was admitted to King's Hospital as she received evaluation and oxygen awaiting for treatment recommendations from the heart doctors.  Jack was still out of town with the kids and checking in for updates.

Monday morning as I was trying to figure out about traveling down and how to accomplish this the reports on our sweet baby seemed to show promise for improvment.  Her oxygen needs were decreasing and oxygen levels were up.  My heart sighed with a small whisper of relief.

I had been getting fairly frequent updates from Chelsey and the girls and then it seemed that 1 hour turned to 2 then turned to 3.  Not wanting to be alarmed I distracted myself with cleaning.  If you know me and how much I hate housework this was not helping my anxiety levels.  Then, the phone rang.  It wasn't a Haitian number but was Greg Roberts (Chadasha missionary and Director of Haitian Operations) number of my caller ID. 

Somewhere in the dark recesses of my mind I knew. 
Before he even spoke I knew. 

After working with Greg for almost 2 years it didn't take long from the sound of his voice to know something was wrong.  Bad wrong.  He paused as I have seen Greg do on other occasions as he searched for the words that no ear wanted to hear. 

She was gone....our baby was gone...


To recount the actual events for those who also loved her and wanted to know, I am going to share the words of Chelsey describing her last moments.  Pardon the roughness as this was typed hurriedly on a blackberry and I am just copying and pasting.

"when i last messaged you at 2 and she was sleeping i told you her sats were in the high 70s. i checked them every 20 minutes or so and they stayed around 77 HR in the 120s. she wasn't working hard to breathe, she was sleeping like she always sleeps. probably around 2:30 or 3 i guess i noticed her sats had dropped to about 68, which still isn't terrible for her. she was on 1 L at the time. so, i had wilna pick her up and try to reposition her and kinda rouse her a bit so she would take some deep breaths.

She was really lethargic, but you know how lazy she can be when she's sleeping... she doesn't like to be bothered haha. her sats were still around 70, HR around 127. she threw her arms around a bit and made a few noises, angry because we were messing with her. and then, she stopped breathing. i had wilna put her down on the bed so i could check her out, and we called the nurse in th ehallway in.

It was literally that fast. she went from sats of 70 HR 120 to 0 in a matter of seconds. Her heart really just stopped. There was no distress, no working to breathe, no lack of oxygen. her lips never turned blue, her hands and feet were warm. She went from fine to gone in minutes.  I could not believe it.  But honestly, Jenny, there was absolutely not a more peaceful way for her to enter Heaven. 

When they brought her back in the room, she looked exactly like she did when she was sleeping. Beautiful and peaceful. It was astonishing to me that she was so much better today and then gone in minutes, but I'm convinced that was God giving us a little more time to love who she really was, your daughter.

I know there are no words, and there won't be. But know that it was obvious that angels came and took her calmly by the hand, and she was ready to go. And now, Jesus is holding her! With a brand new heart that works perfectly, brand new lungs and legs and everything that work perfectly. and she's waiting to see you when you get there. :)smile"


Part 2 coming soon- The Aftermath

Wednesday, May 30, 2012

40 yr old found as stowaway in 1st Class

I have on a few special occasions considered indulging just once in a "first class" airline seat.  The crazy expense of such exclusive tickets never once superceded by intense frugality. 

Chipolte Chicken or Tortellini with Red Sauce
This trip all the rules were tossed out the window.  I bought an "economy" ticket to go to Santiago which is the class of ticket I always purchase.  Somehow though, 2 of the 3 legs placed me in 1st class.  I felt like a little kid trying to sit at the grown up table at Thanksgiving.  Totally out of my element.  But admittedly, the last leg pushed me over the top.  As we took off and the slow beverage service of the rest of plane proceeded, we were handed warm cloths to clean our hands.  Warmed mixed nuts (the good kind with pistachios, cashews, etc. No peanuts in this one!).  Then we were served a wonderful meal complete with available wine and cheesecake.  WHAT?!?!

 No lie, it was nice to be doted on.  However, I seriously question if this lifestyle would be for me in a broader sense as I was privy to the musings of the 2 gentlemen in front me discussing the finer points of how life should be lived in the moment for ourselves.

Uh, NAH...

"You, my brothers, were called to be free. But do not use your freedom to indulge the sinful nature; rather, serve one another in love."        Galatians 5:13


For those faithful few followers, you will notice a glaring omission in the timeline in this blog.  I do intend to blog on Melissa's death but I'm not there yet.  So, somewhere in the twisted psyche of my mind I think I'm holding a spot for that special blog until I'm really ready to say goodbye.

Fast forward from last September to today.......

I have been struggling with my "place" in the Haiti missions since we lost our sweet 'Lissa.  It felt most days like I was walking around to an off note tune.  Recognizable song but off key.  There was an attempt to coordinate with a team from our North Alabama Presbytery and I went that path for several months but never quite felt like I was to be on that team.  Love the people going just wasn't feeling that Heavenly shove push.  A couple months ago, Greg Roberts who is our main man in Haiti called and we began talking about the heart program with Chadasha.  When I hung up the phone with, I knew.


So, plans went underway for me to travel with the next group of kiddos in May to come to Santiago, Dominican Republic to have surgery with International Children's Heart Foundation.  Time then went into super overdrive with work challenges, end of school mayhem, etc.  I found excuse after excuse to postpone the purchase of my airline ticket.  The original plan was to leave on May 26th.  The Memorial Day weekend came and I began to seriously feed the doubts of the mind on going. 

Was the use of resources like money and time out of work being used wisely by my going to Santiago?

Was the strain on my family leaving for several days right?

and on, and on, and on...

Monday I then recalled how a friend had once advised me in another big decision in my life:

Next week will come regardless of the decision.  Do I want to be at the end of the week with the same old routine or be at the end of the week having "jumped"?

So, I jumped...less than 24hrs before leaving a one ticket was purchased to Santiago...
God I trust you are there to catch me...

Wednesday, September 14, 2011

A little more from our visit in July/August

As I sat on the plane staring at the blinking cursor, I found it hard to know how to start this blog entry. Most of you who have followed Melissa’s story know what has happened in the last several days. Let me go back just a little to our last visit to catch up though.

We had a good visit punctuated by the ever present and ever changing medical crisis. This trip it was a 10 day old infant from the Jimani area Bateys who was having frequent seizure activity. Jack, as a result, got lots of quality time with Melissa which I am very grateful for. We spent every possible moment with her enjoying the mundane activities of childcare. (Boy that girl can do a Code Brown!) We enjoyed feeding her in her new pink highchair we’d brought, reading to her, practicing sitting her up and bathing. Well… that one she didn’t enjoy much.

We did get to meet with one of the lawyers and Wilna who is our adoption advocate (and Melissa’s day-to-day mom).

It felt good to hand over the dossier in its completion and have that done. The lawyer seemed pleased with its appearance and was going to submit it to the IBESR which is the Haitian equivalent of social services.

We were blessed to get to finally meet face-to-face the Bonacquisti family who have been spending their summer in Haiti as a family with their beautiful adoptive daughter Isemelda. They coordinate a malnutrition clinic in a village and have done remarkable changes in the lives of the children there. Truly a life saving mission. Check them out at  The visit was brief but filled with the love and connections that only God can weave together. Jeremy gifted us with some beautiful pictures of Jack, Melissa and myself. I never dreamed how special these photos would become as I really wasn’t in the mood to do pics at the time. Judge for yourself.

I thought you would agree!

The next morning would be a crazily orchestrated symphony of travel to the courthouse for Jack to sign “the book” declaring our intent to adopt Melissa. A wonderful Chadasha driver/translator/go-to-guy was to drive us to Wilna’s house to pick her up to go to the courthouse. We needed to be at the airport no later than 10:30 to catch our plane home. Hoastie arrived to take us at 8:30am. We inched, literally inched our way in traffic toward Wilna’s house only to get lost. By the time we finally met up with Wilna it was already 9:30a and I’ll admit I doubted we were going to make it. Wilna decides to drive to save time and after 15min of driving worthy of the Dukes of Hazzard when were parked across the street from the courthouse. Jack got his Port-au-Prince tour in 15 minutes. Though I’m not sure how much he saw while praying for God to spare his life. And Melissa, sound asleep!

Jack and Wilna went in and did the business at hand and then we comfortably made the airport in time. Parting Melissa was rough on Jack as it has always been for me. We kissed her with promises of seeing her again soon to bring her home and never leave her again.

We just didn’t know what those words would mean…

“These things I have spoken to you, so that in Me you may have peace. In the world you have tribulation, but take courage; I have overcome the world.” John 16:33

Thursday, August 11, 2011

She had him at "goo"...

After a tumultous trip down to Port-au-Prince, we arrived with much less luggage.  We were late getting out of baggage claim.  I was waiting to file a lost baggage claim and had left Jack sitting by the conveyor belt with the pieces of luggage that had arrived.  As the room emptied, Jack was greeted by Wilbur who was sent in to help us.  Jack was quite surprised to be sitting in the PaP baggage claim and have someone come up to him and ask if he was "Jack".  He said his initial response was, "Why?  Does it show?"

We rolled through an empty customs area and met "the gang" at the truck.  And within a second of reaching the car, Jack had fallen for another woman. ;)  Forgive the choppiness at the end as I was trying to record, tip the gentlemen helping and greeting everyone.  It was a crazy couple minutes compounded with the start of a rain shower.

We weaved through the streets of PaP with Melissa snuggled in Jack's arms.  Even Jack noticed that he must be distracted to not be worrying about the lack of seatbelt restraint or car seat.

We arrived at the guesthouse and tried to unpack 2 of the bags that had made it.  It was a special and surreal moment that Jack and I both felt overwhelmed by our emotions of it all.

I will admit at this point that with each visit I struggle with the "getting to know you" period with Melissa.  I understand she has no reason to remember me given the 2-3 month gaps between visits.  She has a book with my voice, pictures and such but I'm still a stranger.  As time passes, she recognizes me but I long for the day when her little face lights up with dimples a-glow when she sees me.  Someday little one...someday...

Friday, July 29, 2011

The Eve of the "Big Visit"

Once again I sit her and blog when my butt should be in bed.  As I prepared to try to sleep in the cozy bed here at the Holiday Inn I realized I needed to update things.

We FINALLY, after another round of unsuccessful attempts with the Miami Consulate, learned why they couldn't help us.  Jack's birth certificate is from New Jersey.
Why is that important?
Well for 2 weeks I had no idea.  As it turns out because it was a NJ document, it had to go to the Consulate of Haiti in New York. 

ARGH! *sigh*

So, we send it off to NY and our last piece to Miami.  I then get a call from the NY consulate that they couldn't legalize it either because they needed this stamp and that stamp on it.  WHAT?

This would've been a week ago Thursday and I'll admit I was bawling uncontrollably.  Of course, this call comes as I am to start seeing my patients for the morning.  A long trip to the bathroom and God sized prayers on my knees in the bathroom and I began pleading the consulates for help.
(And for those wondering, YES I did wash my hands! ;) )

Well, God was gracious and merciful on my weary heart.  A sweet assistant of the main consule listened and took time to understand my confusion.  She called back and the letter was sent.

Now, in the mean time, we had sent our last document to the Miami consulate with an easy week to spare.  They had sent back our 17 documents in 5 days so I really wasn't worried. 

To make this short, we are headed down in a few hours without that document.  No idea where it is, but it will have to be sent down after we get back.

The last 8 months of my life for this stack of stamped and re-stamped documents
Along with THREE copies makes for some heavy carryon luggage even for me.

We did finally complete our I-600A form which is the application to the US immigration department where they will say we are approved to adopt in the US's eyes.  (I know this story sounds unreal).  That whole process was wrought with delays unclear, claims of unpaid fees though I had receipts from them in hand, and general hassling.  We received our appointment for fingerprinting (again) and I chuckled.

It was the day before we were looking to fly down and take our dossier to Haiti and it was in Birmingham.  Ah...perfect timing. 

Immigration office in Birmingham
(No phones, cameras, etc will allowed in.)

So, today Jack and I without our kiddos trekked down to Birmingham.  Fingerprints were done painlessly.  We spent the afternoon in a low key manner walking the mall and eating.  We are both in a weird place mentally.  This is Jack's first trip to Hait and he'll be the first to admit that going has been full of uncertainty.  For me, I too am full again of anxiety and uncertainty. 

I'll admit now to you all that there are days that I have wondered where I lost my focus in all of this. 

The focus should actually not be Melissa.

It's true.

I love this little girl with all of my heart, but my focus has been being obedient to what I felt  feel is His call for us and Melissa.  But, the struggles and emotional roller coaster of it all has worn me down.  I am weary of the fight tonight as I lie my head on my pillow.  What if this isn't the plan HE wanted for us after all?
What if...
what if...
what if...

For those willing to help us, pray! Pray for strength and discernment.  Pray for peace of heart and mind.  Pray that we will be still and hear His plan for both Jack and I. 
My hope tonight is that if it is the Lord's will He will gift Jack with either a passion for this country as I have or at least an understanding of my heart.

But they that wait upon the Lord shall renew their strength; they shall mount up with wings as eagles; they shall run, and not be weary; and they shall walk, and not faint.
Isaiah 40:31 KJV

Friday, July 8, 2011


YAY!!!   Packet of documents back from the Consulate of Haiti in Miami!

Ahhhhh....They refused to "legalize" (yet another stamp in a long list of stamps we need for each piece of paper proving we are okay to adopt Melissa) Jack's birth certificate.  The only explanation we got was a yellow post it note stuck to it:

Um.  Okay.  I double checked the birth certificate and it matched  everything, seal present, watermark present. 

So, I guess I'll resend it with the other document redo due to notary expiration being in September.

With all due respect....

ARE YOU KIDDING ME??  I keep waiting for Ashton Kutcher to come in and say "You've been punked!" 

They can stamp a post it but not a watermarked embossed birth certificate.  Grrrr.....

So, we will lose another 1-2 weeks getting this "fixed".  Prayerfully though that will be quickly followed with a trip down to take the documents. 

Now is where I will make a confession.

If I was Catholic I'm sure some rosary beads and "Hail Mary"s would be involved...
there are recurring moments that I become convinced this ain't never going to happen.  What happened to faith in God to move mountains?  It wavers and cowers in the darkness of the despair of uncertainty.  I hate that I feel this but trust in the grace of God's mercies. 

Now, I'm not a total least I'd like to think I'm not.  Those who know me know I've traveled a challenging road or two including changing from a career with NASA in Aerospace Engineering to becoming a doctor at a more "mature" age compared to my collegues as I followed God's call for my life.  I've juggled breastfeeding an infant child while an intern.  Generally speaking I don't shy away from a challenge.

This walk of faith in the adoption of Melissa has been more emotionally and spiritually challenging to me than ANYTHING I have EVER done.  I'm thankful for the person it is changing me into but to borrow something a patient shared about her own struggles, "each inch of my spiritual growth is covered in bruises".  Every day without her I struggle as I know that these days are potentially her most healthiest times as her heart will continue to weaken as she grows.  I must have FAITH...Faith...


You can relax now...

~End of pity party #321~

Hear my cry, O God; listen to my prayer. From the ends of the earth I call to you, I call as my heart grows faint; lead me to the rock that is higher than I. For you have been my refuge, a strong tower against the foe. I long to dwell in your tent forever and take refuge in the shelter of your wings. (Psalm 61:1-4)