by Beverly Jeanne Raffaele
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Olivia Grace was taken to Heaven at three months old. She was born to my nephew and his wife.
When Olivia gave up her fight, she gave Justin a gaze and then she sighed her last. Lasanthi was rocking her and holding her when Justin got on his knees and kissed her little forehead. He said to her, “Thank you for letting me be your Daddy.” She was surrounded by love, the perish Priest was present as were the two nurses who had pumped her heart with their hand until the doctor and family could arrive. She died in her mother's arms.
Her mother was pumping milk every three hours to nourish her baby. She was being fed through a stomach tube. She carried her inside and then clung to hope after she was born. Hope yes, but not unrealistically. They knew the challenges and the possibilities that she wouldn’t be able to thrive. Now, her grief is deeper than anyone else could understand unless they too had experienced it.
“Olivia had fought” Justin told me. “In the three short months she lived, Aunt Bev, she had six surgeries and each time she came out with her little fists raised and determined to get through surgery four, five and six. The doctor asked me how much more? And I told them until Olivia says it is enough. She will let us know, and she did.”
Justin also told me that he got to see her happy once too… happy and giggling. They put a little musical mobile above her crib and as it turned, she giggled and kicked her little legs.
“Lasanthi and I, when we look at each other, Aunt Bev, she sees Olivia in me, and I see Olivia, in Lasanthi’s eyes. That is God’s grace”
"Olivia is our little Angel."
"Lasanthi said her timing was from God. They just happened to arrive right when she was failing so that they could be with her. Her own doctor just happened to be there and the two nurses that had taken her to their hearts. "She knew that we would have felt guilty if she would have passed away at home." They had been told that they could take her home that day.
Lasanthi had her mother with her, who is a very loving woman and an RN. My brother Tommy was hurting so much for his son and daughter-in-law. He and his wife, along with Justin's mother and her husband were at the hospital. Justin's one sister Adrianne was in New York at the time, his other sister Alaine was there with them. Lasanthi's sisters along with other family members were there as well. My son went to be with his cousin too: two big men with great love for each other. Me, I stayed home and prayed and my brother, who is so much a part of my soul, kept me informed by phone. He was hurting so bad. My heart was rendered in two. There is no way that I can express my love for them other than to say it because it is too deep to express. Those words have felt inadequate before and this time they are quintessentially so.
Olivia was removed from the kidney transplant list and the baby, in her short three months, had rallied and then fell ill over and over. Three times, she was supposed to go home and all three times she would say no. She would get sick and have to stay. Justin and Lasanthi marveled at her and rode a roller coaster of emotions from the day she was born.
Olivia is in Heaven now and God has blessed her Mommy and Daddy with amazing strength.
My husband once wrote: "The true test of ones character is found in life's darkest moments." Justin and Lasanthi are showing a strength of character that they implanted in their baby girl and that is God's loving grace.
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