Today was a great day! I spent the afternoon with one of my best friends. We chatted-it-up over some yummy Mexican food, a diet coke for me, a coke for her.
Mary Beth and I have been friends for about six years. We were in the same small group at our old church in Lilburn, GA. Our friendship has continued to grow closer, even though she has moved to Orlando and now Indiana in the last two years. I miss her being close but we manage to keep in touch. Email is the best thing ever (in my opinion!)
Her friendship reminds me of a quote I saw on a picture frame at Cracker Barrel the other night. At the top it said "Friends". At the bottom it said, "Friends are just like stars. They're always there even though you don't always see them".
And a funny thing that we revealed to each other at lunch today...when we started in that small group neither of us thought that we could ever be close friends. That cracks me up because she's one of my very best-est, closest friends!
On Grady's first birthday she sent me an email. The title of it was "If I had a blog...". Once I opened it, it said "...this is what I would write about today. You may want to read this by yourself." My curiosity got the best of me. I wasn't completely alone as Jessica was finishing homework at the kitchen table. But I wanted, and needed, to read what she had written. I could hardly read through the tears. It was one of the most touching gifts anyone could have given me.
As we talked about it today, she said she had asked several people who had similar losses what she could do for me on Grady's first birthday. They told her, "Just remember". And remember she did. I asked her today if she would mind if I shared some of what she wrote... (this symbol [...] denotes where I've deleted some of her letter)
November 12, 2009
A year ago...
It was a hot, balmy afternoon in Orlando. It was Wednesday and I was getting ready to take dinner to the church. Wednesday nights were choir nights. They boys loved it! Dinner with their friends, hand bells, puppets and singing. The parents rotated preparing dinner each time. This was my time.
Let’s see, it was probably before 2 because I don’t think Austin was home from school yet, but I don’t quite remember the exact hour. The phone rang. I looked at the caller id. A smile crept onto my face as I realized who was calling. “HEY THERE”, I said in a chipper voice. But the voice on the other end was different. A solemn “hey” came back. Immediately I knew something was wrong. “What’s wrong….Tonya, what is it…. Is everything alright with Grady?” As she tried to talk over the tears, in a small, painful voice...her response was, “It’s the worst possible thing that could happen.” In one second, my mind went in a million directions. Was he sick; did he have a disease of some sort; did he come early and was in the NICU?
“THERE’S NO HEARTBEAT.”
“WHAT” was the first word out of my mouth.
Disbelief was the first thought in my mind. “Are you sure? Couldn’t the doctors be mistaken? Couldn’t they just have not seen the heart beat? Technology isn’t always right... Maybe there was still a chance.
Pain was my next feeling.
You see, this wasn’t just any friend of mine. This was one of my closest friends.
This was Tonya.
Tonya...who God had brought into my life about 5 years prior through a small group at church.
Tonya...who sat on my bed and helped me pump my breast milk after I gave birth to Jack...was at the hospital when I gave birth to Holly...dropped everything and came speeding to my house when I had to call 911 b/c Austin fell off the changing table.
Tonya...who I could spend hours with, just talking…. Just being me.
Tonya...who I could trust to have my very best intentions at heart, who I could vent to and make mistakes around, but who would forever love me through it all.
Tonya, was a TRUE friend of mine and when she hurt, I felt it.
I remember hanging up the phone in devastation. Falling to my knees, I began to cry... And to do the only thing I knew how to. PRAY. Not only did I pray, but I begged the Lord to not let this be true. I begged him for a miracle. I prayed that the ultrasound was wrong, that Grady was still alive, and that in a few hours, Tonya would have a C-section and all the doctors would be amazed and shocked that Grady was perfectly fine. I begged... I pleaded... I cried until I couldn’t cry anymore. I know I didn’t feel half of what Tonya was feeling at that point, but I hurt. My heart broke right there in my living room and I had a painful feeling for my friend that I had never, ever felt before.
[...] I asked Nick if we could go to Atlanta ASAP so I could be with Tonya. “Of course, we will leave first thing in the morning,” he said.
I’m not sure how many buckets my tears could have filled. But for the rest of the night I thought of my dear friend and the pain she was going through. I could not imagine. And I started questioning God. I don’t believe God makes bad things happen to us. I don’t necessarily believe there is a reason to everything either. I do believe that sin entered our world through Adam and Eve and that things happen directly or indirectly as a result of sin. God, in his infinite Glory, will allow bad things to happen but will ultimately work good through all of it. But WHY? Why Tonya. Hadn’t she already experienced so much ‘bad’ in her life. [...] Why couldn’t God have saved Grady? Why did this have to happen to Tonya, of all people. Didn’t she deserve a break?
And I found myself asking, “Why not me?” I gave birth to a perfectly healthy baby almost exactly 3 months prior. Why did I have a healthy baby? I hadn’t been through a fourth of what Tonya had been through. Why not me?
I had hope that the phone would ring and the miracle would have come true. Tonya or Gib would be calling to tell me that everything was fine. Ultrasound was wrong. Grady was here, alive and well. But as the hours ticked on, the phone never rang and I knew the worse had indeed happened.
The next morning Nick, the kids and I piled in the car and headed for Atlanta. [...] I arrived at the hospital and went to her room. There was a cloud with some rain on her door. I later learned that they put those stickers on the doors of the rooms where parents had lost their babies. The nurse stopped me before I knocked. “Are you Mary Beth?” “Yes,” I said. Well, do you mind waiting in the waiting room for a little bit. The doctor is in with her right now. [...]
I sat in the waiting room by myself for a while. [...] Finally the nurse came in and took me to her room. [...] I sat with Tonya until really late that night. We cried, we laughed (a little), she asked “Why” and I said, “I don’t know”. I don’t remember many of the details of that night, but just remember being there. I remember Tonya holding Grady and wanting me to see all his perfectly made parts. His little feet, his tiny hands, his ears. I remember he looked like Emma Grace to me. I was honored that Tonya allowed and desired for me to see her precious little angel.
I remember the nurse came in and gave her a pill to help her sleep. After she took it, I left. I talked with God the entire way home. Still asking why, but praying for my friend. Praying that she would have comfort and peace. Praying that God would be very real to her in this time. Praying that he would reveal himself to her in ways she has never known. And as I went inside my mom and dad’s house, I went straight into my room and crawled in bed with my husband. He was already somewhat asleep, but I remember him putting his arm around me as I cried myself to sleep.
I’m writing this because I want you to know I will never forget that time. I will never forget Grady. I will never forget where I was when I heard the news. I will never forget the pain I felt for you. I didn’t have any answers or words to make the pain go away then, and I don’t have any now. But I do know that our God is bigger than all of this. And I will not let you forget that. Our questions may never be answered here on earth, but we have hope that one day we will be reunited with our loved ones... and most importantly... we will meet our Heavenly Father face to face.
May God be real to you today. May He wrap His arms around you and hold you. May He restore joy to your heart. May He give you strength to go on each day. May He continue to work through this horrible tragedy and shine light in those dark places. May He give you wisdom to plan your next step in life. May He give you a peaceful heart. May He take away your fears. And may He continue to give us all HOPE.
I love you friend.
Dear Mary Beth,
Thank you so much for sharing your heart with me on Grady's first birthday. It is a true gift. One that I cherish and don't take for granted. We've shared our hearts with each other before, but these words touched me to the core. Thank you for not listening to my request for 'no visitors'. Thank you for packing up your family and coming anyway. I needed you there. Thank you for taking the time out of your super busy day with your four little ones to write this to me. Thank you for walking with me this last year and always. Thank you for your prayers, support and listening ears. Your friendship is a gift and blessing beyond words in my life. I wish we lived closer, but I love the fact that we pick up right where we left off. It was wonderful to finally get to meet Trey today and see all of your beautiful family again. I love, love, love you sweet friend!!!