Tuesday, December 20, 2011

Christmas: A time of gladness or sadness?

I know everyone is looking forward to the holidays, if you are not already lying in the sun absorbing the rays (that would be for those of us in the Southern Hemisphere of course) or putting on layers and layers of clothing before heading out to build snowmen (romanticized view of snow countries:).

This year more than most I am reminded of how many families or individuals are not in that space.  The holiday cheer, the joy and the celebrations.  Again I was reminded yesterday of how there are those who are in a vulnerable place needing lots of support.  I was in that place 4 years ago.  I had just lost my daughter.  Many of you know Ruthie, but I had another daughter before her - only for 9 months but she was mine.

At that time I wrote an article in the Christmas of 2007.  A story of loss and comfort.  A story of tears and of hope.  I would like to share this story with you now and trust that if you are going through something that you feel you cannot cope with - there is someone who understands something (not everything) of how you feel during this season.  And our God who will love you through it.

My Precious Daughter
Today is the day of gifts and presents, a day of blessings and surprises. Yet I wonder to myself why I feel the urge to write with my family outside. Children running around, laughing – the smell of food cooking and conversations drifting in through the door. My mind is drawn back to gifts I have received over the years and yet there is one gift that I will never forget, and one which brings both a sadness, joy and longing rushing in. My precious little gift from our Father – my daughter, Savannah.

I was told by the gynecologist that he was concerned that she was small and that she was growing too slowly but I never even suspected that there was a problem. I had three robust, healthy boys. I was expecting my first daughter, which in itself was a wonderful surprise as we had never really expected to have a little girl. As the thought of having a daughter grew, I became aware of other little girls, thinking – she'll be a little like her, and she'll probably have eyes like that little girl, and oh I would love to buy her a little dress just like that one.

When the day of delivery came, I gave birth yet before I had even seen her, a paediatrician came to see me and told me that she had Trisomy 18, a fatal chromosomal disorder. Everything that could be wrong was wrong with her. Her insides were a mess, her heart was weak and had a hole, she had Pneumonia and the doctor said she would probably not live more than 48 hours. I sat in shock and asked him to bring her to me, as they had still not shown me my daughter, before they transferred her to a neighbouring government hospital for intensive care as we had no medical aid.

They brought her in, wrapped up tight in this little blanket from which a tiny face peeked out, with little eyes that looked back at me so trustingly. I couldn't see what was wrong; my mind and heart could not make sense of what had happened nor what was wrong with her. They took her away and I was left at the hospital. My mind surged. I felt close to hysteria.  I wanted to shout to the heavens .....WWWWWHHHHHHHHYYYYYY??????????

Friends of ours arrived and brought a word of encouragement, I heard words like “faith” “fight for her because no one else can” , “don't give up hope” but they were all a blur. I remember looking at them thinking – How can you say that? Do you know? Do you understand? I had visitors, all loving family from the church reassuring me, bringing gifts and I remember thinking - how can they be so calm? My world had fallen apart, and my thoughts were anything but loving and Christian.  This couldn't be a gift from God. You hear all the time that God doesn't make mistakes but how could he have allowed this to happen knowing that she was going to die prematurely?

The next 4 weeks were a blur. Parents came down, friends supported us. I lived at the hospital and lived in a place of never knowing whether I would arrive to another exhausting day or to be told she was gone. The fact that she lived past 48 hours in itself was a miracle. People came from everywhere and prayed for her. Old pastors, friends and family phoned from overseas and everyone was crying with us. In my mind I kept thinking “God what did I do wrong? Why are you punishing me and why are you punishing this little body with tubes? How could a loving Father allow this? How could He watch His little girl Savannah suffer like this as they stuck needle after needle into her little body? Had I been disobedient, had I done something so bad to be punished like this?

After 24 arduous days we took her home when it became clear that hospitalization was pointless, though the staff did not think it was a good idea. The boys had not been allowed to see her and they were overjoyed. They held her lovingly and vied to hold her. Everyone wanted to hold little “vannah”. They saw nothing wrong but loved her fully. They didn't see the physical abnormalities but loved her whole heartedly from her first day home. As she grew they tickled her and even made her laugh, they had long conversations with her as she listened intently, they held her and stroked her hand, they told her all the time how much they loved her and bragged endlessly to their friends about their sister Savannah.

What happened over time in my heart could only have come from God. Initially my heart was torn and broken but slowly my heart started to warm to her and I didn't look at her critically anymore - I remember one momentous occasion during worship at our church. I felt like I needed to thank God for his gift, who, though broken in my sight, she was perfect in his sight – so I took her to the front of the church, took two flags and waved and worshipped above her and thanked God for this wonderful gift he had given me. I remember the tears falling down my face as my heart was exposed before him, broken and sore. As I did this, the Holy Spirit poured down onto me. I wept openly not caring who saw but knowing that this was so important. I had to forgive God, had to forgive myself for all my thoughts and feelings and had to show Savannah that I loved her just as Christ loved me with all my blemishes, imperfections and brokenness.

From that point I started to see her beauty. Its amazing how God opens our eyes to the beauty of others when we love them. Instead of seeing her mis-shapen ears, I saw how she turned her head when she heard my voice. Instead of noticing her squint I heard her giggles as we tickled her. I wanted to hold her, I wanted to take her everywhere I went. I put her in little dresses that I had kept for her, I held her to me and loved her knowing that I had to treasure every precious moment with my little treasure.

I would love to write the words “and they lived happily every after” but that would not be true.

She got sick and though I fought in faith, once again my heart was broken. This time I had to watch helplessly while she slipped away. What I remember at the end was how God was with me and held on to me so tightly, though I didn't understand why this had all happened. Just before she passed away I got a phone call from a close friend who shared that he saw how at prayer meeting that as they were praying for her, it was as if they were there lifting her up into the Father's arms. It was at that very moment that he shared that word with us, she left us. I know that God wanted us to know where she was, who she was with and that she was treasured. When my heart longs for her I am often reminded of that word of encouragement and I see this picture time and time again of her dancing in heaven while our Father looks on in joy. She has a pink little dress that swirls and she turns and turns, laughing and giggling. When she's tired she falls down on His lap and leans against His chest while she holds onto Him with both her arms around His neck.

Is it over? No, otherwise I wouldn't be writing this today. But my feelings are ones of longing mixed with joy. I have realised through this that she has been a blessing in our lives. The whole church adopted her, she became theirs as much as ours. Even now I have friends telling me how often they think of her and miss her and they become tearful and it brings such a sense of wonder that God could use such a little waif of a girl to impact hundreds of people's lives and give us such an awesome privilege to love not just our daughter but his.

His precious little girl, the apple of his eye, the wonder of his heart, the expression of his love. Thank you Lord for those precious moments, thank you for your heart of grace. Thank you for your precious gift to us – Savannah. My precious daughter. 

A friend of ours wrote this beautiful poem for us:

Precious little one

How our hearts ache now you’re gone

There’s a longing inside

And when the last tears have dried

Still we’ll miss you

Little one.

Precious baby girl

Fragile little pearl

Your days here were few

And deep down we knew

God would come for you

Little one.

Precious little rose

As time comes and goes

Your memory will stay

And we’ll meet again one day

Forever in our hearts

Little one.

kindly written by Melissa Knott

  If you would like to read more about our journey, my husband wrote a small blog during this time which can be found  here.


  1. Not gonna lie---I cried! I'm actually expecting my first born in March 2012, and reading this just makes me stop and appreciate every single moment I have with my baby even while in the womb. I've read many stories like this, including hearing about the Duggars miscarrying, etc.

    Thank you so much for your encouraging words. I know it's so easy for a mother to worry, and I needed these words to remind me to continuously trust in the Lord every single day. No matter what - praise him for he deserves all the honor and glory!

  2. Thanks Felicia. I know so many blogs are writing about the fun stuff around Christmas and I don't want to put a damper on anyone's Christmas but I seem to be surrounded by people who are suffering through this season and my heart is aching for them.

    You must be sooooo excited about your little one arriving in March! Pray that God will make the last 3 months especially memorable filled with joy and blessings!

  3. it is always difficult to leave a comment after reading something that moves me, even though i have heard you tell this before, i was again touched, i agree with you this is the time, when we miss people the most, the memories surreal behind the glitz, and festivities, the time i miss my mom and aunt the most..i think this is real..and will help many people...

  4. Thank you for sharing your precious Savannah with us. What a precious girl, I so much wish we could have met her and one day in Heaven we will. Your family is such a light for Christ! Thank you for reflecting Him in all you do. Have a blessed Christmas! Much love Janine

  5. Thanks Janine, it would be impossible not to. I would never have made it through without Him.

  6. Your precious daughter is in heaven with my sister who was born on Christmas Eve 1964 and died on ANZAC day 1965 at the age of 4 months. I never knew my sister, I was born after her death (cot death ), I have three brothers and always wanted a sister and one day Elizabeth and I will meet and finally I will have my very own sister. Even though I never knew her I feel an attachment to her.

  7. Thank you for sharing this. I am having a miscarriage right now! So sad! We never will know why but know God has a purpose in it all!

  8. I am so sorry to hear that Rachel! I can only imagine the heartache and struggle during this time.


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