I have a best friend. I'll call her Maria (not her real name). Maria and I have known each other since birth. Literally. Our moms were best friends, and we were born two weeks apart. We grew up doing absolutely everything together. School, doctors appointments, playdates, everything. We were raised as sisters and occasionally fought like sisters. We both loved our Easy Bake Ovens and our record players (realllly dating myself with that one!). We were obsessed with the movie "Grease" and would play the soundtrack over & over in her basement singing along at the tops of our voices. Most of my childhood memories have her in them, and I wouldn't have it any other way.
I remember when I told her I was pregnant as a teenager. She did not take it well. There were several people whose support meant a great deal to to me, and most of them, unfortunately, were the ones who took the news the hardest. Not to say she ever suggested I not have the baby. For what it's worth, we were both raised in traditional Catholic homes and the "a" word was never discussed. I do have a distinct memory of her punching the brick wall outside my house when I told her. So yeah, you could say she was...well...disappointed. She was always a bit of a mother hen to me, and I know she disagreed with alot of my choices. Still, she was always and remains the person closest to me and never stopped loving me.
When B was born, there was no-one else in this world I even considered asking to be her godmother~Maria was it. She was truly touched and honored, and has been an amazing influence in the lives of all of my children and I love her with all of my heart.
In many ways, Maria ended up living a bit of a fairy tale. She married her high school sweetheart. They bought a beautiful home and several years later, found out they were expecting. I'll never as long as I live forget the phone call I got late one night. "Michelle, are you alone?" "No..." "Well go in another room by yourself!" After doing as she'd asked, I said "Ok...what's going on?? What's wrong?? Are you ok??" Her response? "I just took a pregancy test and it was positive! What do you think that means??" I could only laugh.
Although she lived hundreds of miles away at the time, I'm thrilled to say I was there within hours of her son's birth nine months later. Shortly after he was born, they moved back home, and several years later, she gave birth to a beautiful baby girl. She was an amazing mother, not that I ever doubted she would be. She is kind and loving and patient and amazing. Then, almost five years ago, the unthinkable happened. She found out she was expecting again, and we were all thrilled. However, following one of her routine tests, the doctors discovered an abnormality. The baby suffered from something called Hypoplastic Left Heart Syndrome. They told her two things for certain: A) He would almost certainly be born prematurely and B) He would be a very sick little boy in need of much medical attention. To say this news was devestating would be a tremendous understatement. She tried to stay as positive as possible, and began seeing specialist after specialist. I accompanied her to one appointment and was truly amazed by her strength and courage.
On June 24, 2006, her son was born at approximately 26 weeks gestation. I will never forget her call to me that day. She was so incredibly calm. She told me he was here and asked if I would please come see him as soon as I could. I couldn't get to the hospital fast enough. She was still resting, but said her husband would take me down to the NICU to visit with the baby. My son having been in the NICU 4 years prior, I was thankfully prepared to a degree. But the moment I laid eyes on him my heart sank. He was gorgeous. Looked just like his big brother. But he was so incredibly tiny, and hooked up to so very many machines. I asked the nurse if I could please touch him and she assured me it was fine. I reached down, brushed his tiny little hand with my finger, and then the most amazing thing happened. He grabbed my finger and squeezed. In my heart, I knew beyond the shadow of a doubt that this was his way of telling me to stay strong, and to please look after his mom. It was one of the most beautiful moments of my life. Two short days later I received another call. The baby had passed. He was just too tiny and his heart was too badly damaged. I was at a complete loss. I was angry. I was devestated. I couldn't for the life of me comprehend how something like this could happen. And at the same time, I was spellbound. By Maria, and her strength. She had just lost a child, yet she was a pillar of courage. She made two requests of me. One, she asked that I phone a number of people we knew to pass along the news. Second, she asked me to speak at the service being planned for the baby several days later.
The first seemed simple enough. Although an unbelievably difficult thing to communicate, these were some of our dearest friends who were sure to be incredibly supportive and loving. But asking me to speak at his service? I didn't know how~or if~I could possibly find it within myself. I called another dear friend of mine to explain my dilemma. And her words were exactly what I needed "You WILL do this. You will do this for HER. You will do this for HIM. You CAN do this." Somehow, mostly inspired by Maria's strength I believe, I was able to give a beautiful memorial that I think honored his memory perfectly. Since his passing, we have participated annually in the Heart Walk in that precious little miracle's memory.
About six months after his passing, having been reassured that this was a random tragedy, she conceived again and miscarried at approximately 14 weeks. The pain was still so raw from her prior loss, yet she once again perservered. I am thrilled to say that she gave birth to a beautiful, healthy baby boy last spring (who was also a bit premature, but thriving ever since) and is currently expecting another (surprise!) girl at the end of January. She is currently 25 weeks, and did inform me she was having some contractions over this past weekend. I worry about her and pray for her but trust that God will take care of this precious baby girl.
Maria has, in many ways, been my one true soul mate. I have seen her at her best, her worst, and loved and admired her every step of the way. I believe that just sharing in her journey has helped me have a much greater understanding and appreciation for all that is good and important and beautiful.
Please join me in praying for the safe arrival of her sweet baby girl this winter.