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Previous Challenge Entry (Level 1 – Beginner)
Topic: Empty and Full (06/04/09)

TITLE: Promise in the Desert
By Margaret Villanueva


Is it possible that a month has passed since the miracle? Can it be that my son has been dead for a month already? Life has definitely gone on. My husband is back at work, my other children spend their days trying to find some normalcy, and I spend my time in pain. My arms ache—a physical reminder of the fact that my son is not there to be held. My husband found me a baby doll to cuddle, and I grasp it day and night, trying to keep the grief from overwhelming me. I think back on Tommy’s short life and the miracle in his death, and I wonder where that peace went.

Thomas Gaylen was born at 24 weeks. He was 11 inches long—the size of a Barbie doll-- and didn’t quite weigh one pound. He fought so hard! But time went by, the struggle took its toll, and finally the time came when all hope was gone. It finally was clear that our baby was going to go home to be with the Lord. I knew that was best—but the pain! How can you sit with your baby and wait for him to stop trying, to come to the place where he can go home to be with God?

The last day came. When it was clear that Tommy’s tiny heart was at the point of stopping, the NICU became a whirlwind of activity. Tommy was removed from all tubes, and my son was left with only the heart monitor and pulse meter so that the staff would know when he died. Curtains were placed around the tiny bassinet, a rocking chair was brought in, and I finally was able to hold my child.

As I held and cuddled my dying child, my husband at my side sharing the experience with me, my eyes were constantly drawn to the heart monitor. The red line demonstrating that the little heart was still beating transfixed me. And then it happened. As Tommy’s heart stopped, I watched the red line flatten. And then, somehow, I saw the line go diagonally up, away from the heart monitor. I saw arms robed in white reaching down. And then I saw my son’s soul travel up the line, past my husband and myself, and I saw him settle safely into the arms of my Lord. The miracle of Tommy’s passing—8pm that night—stayed with me through the first horrible days of grief that followed. The hope that I would see him again flowed through me like streams in the desert.

But life goes on. The desert of my grief stretches before me with no end in sight. My baby is gone. God’s love seems very far away. I cry in my desert for some sign, some hope, but nothing comes. A Tommy-shaped hole in my soul has opened, deeper and deeper, and the emptiness seems to suffocate me. I can’t shake it, don’t want to shake it, not even to be there for my husband or family. And then we come to visit our friend Elizabeth.

Elizabeth tells me that she has something to share with me, something that she has waited to share until now. She has also suffered loss and knows the process—has experienced that same black emptiness that I feel now. She tells me of a vision that came to her at 8pm on the night of my son’s death. “I wasn’t aware that your son was dying. I wasn’t even praying for you, but all of a sudden, I saw you in a chair, holding your baby. And as you held him, I saw the heart monitor. I saw his little heart stop, the red line go flat. And then I saw that line go diagonally up, taking your son into the waiting arms of our Savior...”

The empty desert gives way to streams full of nourishment and grace. He knows me so well! He understands my nature—I have already begun to doubt what I have seen. And so he gives me the blessing of a witness. I know somehow that my desert emptiness has come to an end. I can begin to walk again—not without pain, but never again without the hope that all will once again be well. He has reminded me that even in this empty desert time I walk in the fullness of his love.

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Member Comments
Member Date
Phee Paradise 06/16/09
This was very touching. Your descriptions of the experience and the pain brought me back to a time when I almost lost my son. If this is a true story I know how difficult it was to write. Good job.
Mona Purvis06/20/09
Margaret, I appreciate this piece so very much. It is very well written about a devastatingly painful subject. You told it so well. Bless you!
Keep writing.