To follow this story, read the previous post.
At the hospital I was still not in my right mind. The admissions lady wanted to know Bethany's birth date. I told her it was 2003, no 2004, wait 2006. The lady smiled and said she would figure it out. They escorted me to a private room off of the main waiting area. I know the reason for that now. I told them not to tell me anything until my husband got there. I knew I could not hear any bad news by myself. They asked if I had any friends or family I could call. I couldn't remember phone numbers, and I thought my mom would be at work because I forgot it was Saturday.
My husband and daughter finally came. The doctor came in and said they had tried everything they could and had given her their strongest medications, but he was sorry to tell us, our daughter had passed away. My husband was stunned. He had not had the previous drama to prepare him for this. I was in shock. My husband made a few calls, and several of our friends arrived. He gave some numbers to the chaplain to call our family and tell them the news. Hospital chaplains are my heroes, too. He spoke such soothing words to us. He read a verse right then about how Bethany had been formed in my womb for a purpose. Her life had been for a reason, and so had her death. He said that God knew what it meant to lose a child. At first, I thought that was a really dumb thing to say because God knew all along that his son would be re-united with him in a few short days. Then, I realized that I knew I would be re-united with Bethany someday, too.
They asked us if we wanted to go see her. At first, we were repulsed by the thought. We didn't want to see her with all the tubes in her. They said they had to leave them for the coroner to determine cause of death. Eventually, we decided we wanted to see her and say goodbye. We wrestled with whether or not our other daughter should come. We asked the hospital staff what the effects would be on a 3-year-old. No one really knew. We decided that this was part of her life, and as difficult as it would be, she would have to grapple with all of this. It was reality for her.
The three of us made our way down the hall. Nurses were laughing and talking about their weekend plans as we passed their station. People with cuts and illnesses were waiting behind curtains to see the doctor. Then, we saw her. She was laying in her little diaper on a cold, hard table. She had a tube taped to her mouth and bandages on her body where they had started I.Vs. Apart from that, she looked like she was sleeping. She was so perfect and beautiful; I couldn't believe she was dead. I stroked her hair and kissed her temples like I always did. Allika and Van touched her and kissed her and told her goodbye. The chaplain said a prayer, and the nurses wiped tears from their eyes.
We returned to the lobby, and many of our church friends were there. I was so thankful for them. Several of them had taken off of work to come be with us. That meant so much. They loved us and prayed with us and hugged us and took care of details regarding the rest of the weekend.
My husband and I were questioned separately regarding Bethany's death. We were both so scared that we would be blamed for it. I had heard the horror stories of kids dying and parents going to jail for child abuse. I had laid her on her stomach. I had used a fluffy quilt to cushion her. I had left her for hours without checking on her. I had botched up the CPR. I had been by myself with no witnesses to my account. I couldn't stand the thought that I might go to jail and my daughter would lose her mother at this crucial time in her life. I know it might sound silly now, but I was scared half to death.
When the questioning was done, they said we could leave. I said, "That's it? We just walk out of here and leave my daughter lying on that table?" They looked at each other and seemed a little at a loss. Then, they said they would move her to another room and we could have all the time we needed to say goodbye.
We sat in that room taking turns holding her and saying goodbye. Suddenly, a nurse flew through the door. "Has she been seen yet?" she asked. I was a little confused. She continued, "Has anyone treated your daughter yet?" I told her she was dead. She got a horrified look on her face and apologized profusely. I told her we understood and it was okay.
It was time to leave. We could not hold her forever. It was so weird walking out of the hospital as if life was just as normal as it ever was. People were coming and going. Nurses were taking smoke breaks and laughing. The sun was shining. And my heart was still in the hospital with a little baby lying on a cold, hard bed.
As we all got in our cars to go to our friend's house for supper, this is the song that was playing on the local Christian radio station at that very moment:
To be continued