We hit 100 comments, and $100 in donations at 8pm tonight. Only 400 more to go! Please help us reach our goal of giving $500 to this much-needed ministry!
I've shown you bits and pieces of our little Gracie.
Today, I am grateful that my sister herself has agreed to share her sweet girl with you.
Hers is the story of a little miracle and a mother who fought to give her a chance.
The silly side you see to my sister, the pictures of goofy faces and cake frosting fights... are the moments that give you a snapshot of her childhood personality.
The other side is one that will never truly "get over" the fact that she is a mother to a child in Heaven.
A bit to know about my sister, Ju.
She is a severe juvenile diabetic. She lives with an insulin pump - and doctors have watched her blood sugars go from record lows, to record highs.
These extremes come with a price.
After a healthy delivery with a strawberry-blonde Little Jo; two years later, we were celebrating news of another pregnancy.
In one devastating day, an ultrasound changed our world.
The yet-to-be-named baby had several severe problems, but the worst concerned her heart. The words fell like rocks.
Incompatible with life.
As my father broke the news to me, I had never seen a more brokenhearted man.
Our family wept, we hugged, we asked questions, we prayed, we begged.
With each doctor visit, my sister would be strongly urged to "terminate" her pregnancy. There was no hope for this baby. If she were born, she would be deformed, deaf, blind, unable to walk.
And we watched God perform miracle after miracle... with each ultrasound.
Bones that were missing, suddenly would grow into place. Organs that couldn't be found, would suddenly appear on the monitor the next week.
The day my sister named her little girl - was a day I joyfully prayed over our little Gracie. She was a person, a creation that God took delight in. Not a mistake or a regret. But somehow... a little life kicking with gusto inside of a mother who desperately wanted her.
My sister didn't "terminate". She didn't abort. She had a choice. And she chose life for however long her Creator would lend Gracie to us.
We celebrated, we gathered to pray. Gracie's baby shower - a day before her birth, is something I will never forget. Her mother, 8 months pregnant, and a room full of family and friends praying blessings for this little girl. Even Little Jo prayed for her little sister.
Little Miss Gracie was born around 4 in the afternoon the next day. Her eyes were open and she was breathing on her own.
And my gosh, she was a beauty.
A button nose and sweetheart lips. A head of soft dark hair. I was in love.
We took turns in the Neonatal Intensive Care Unit, whispering around her bassinet, slipping our fingers into her tiny hands, caressing her cheeks.
She laid flat under a light in only a little diaper, hooked up to a machine that forced tiny breaths into her lungs.
The hours passed and her body began to struggle. Her heart and lungs had no way to exchange oxygen. There were no earthly miracles left.
The staff began to allow more visitors. As parents of other sick babies looked at us in sadness, I realized that they knew.
A sweet sound filled the small sterile room. My mother harmonizing with her sister as we sang acapella.
How sweet the sound
That saved a wretch like me
I once was lost
But now am found
Was blind but now I see
We had 25 hours with this precious girl.
Our hearts broke as she spent her last few breaths in her parents' arms for the first time.
I share this with you, because our family is incomplete without mentioning Gracie. She is present in our thoughts at each birthday party, each Christmas, each Mother's Day, every day.
I share the pictures because I want to put a face and a name to these children and the families who grieve them. And to give my sister a chance to share her heart for her baby girl.
As we walked through the hospital doors to the world outside, carrying a box instead of a baby - it felt like everything was moving except us. In looking back, I wonder how many grieving parents I meet without even knowing it.
Please read, in my sister's own words - her goodbye letter. Written in an empty hospital room while newborns cried down the hall. Her strength amazes me.
Friends, thank you for reading this. I know it is not easy or comfortable... but I hope you'll help us make a difference.
I've been in touch with Sufficient Grace Ministries - a group of women who have experienced this kind of loss and are reaching out to grieving families. They offer memory baskets, books, bears, burial gowns, and bereavement resources.
I can tell you firsthand... it was more sweet than bitter - to go through Gracie's memory box today and see her footprints and gown. These small things can be so meaningful when they are the only things a mother will take home with her from the hospital.
Like MckMama, I want to encourage you to leave a comment on this post. For each comment, we will give $1 to Sufficient Grace Ministries. I know there are usually more hits than comments on this site - could you please come out of hiding to help a worthy cause?
Can I challenge you to tell your friends and help us hit 500 comments? We've never had even 50, so I know this is a tall order... but God can do it. The post will stay open for a week or until 500 comments.
Please help make a difference with your comments and your prayers.
In loving memory of our sweet Baby Gracie.