This last month has been a poignant one for us as we returned to the NICU where Gabriel spent so much time, Swedish First Hill in Seattle. It was for a reunion put on by the hospital, and it took a very short time for Gabriel to grab on to a NICU neighbor of his (literally the next crib over). I tried to get him to pose with one of his NICU nurses and a respiratory technician who was present at his birth and…

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They wouldn’t hold still. This is one of about 12 pics I took while blocking the corridor with my not-small body. 🙂

The neonatologist who is also the director of the NICU was there saying hi to people. I tried to give him a paper copy of my article that I published in The Journal of Pediatrics about how better to approach antenatal counseling, Parent-Physician Partnership at the Edge of Viability, but he said he’d already read it and liked it. (I hope that’s true!)

A few days after the reunion, Gabriel’s great-grandfather died, and we flew to the funeral in Illinois. There, Great-Grandpa Art was buried in a plot that’s about 30 feet away from the grave of another of his eight great-grandchildren, Jace.

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Gabriel and his cousins by Jace’s grave.

Jace was born when Gabriel was about a year and a half old with hypoplastic left-heart syndrome, which required a heart transplant. The transplant looked to be successful at first, but a few weeks later, Jace died. We followed Jace’s story closely while he was in the hospital, and this was the first time we visited his grave.

The what-ifs from our own crisis birth experience with Gabriel have never ceased to follow us. Jace’s parents were given the option of aborting when the heart condition was detected in the womb. They were also given the option of foregoing treatment but decided to go forward. We were given similar choices, and we took a chance on life, knowing that it was no small task we were asking of the doctors — and our child.

By the grace of God, we made it out of the NICU with a child who is now an avid reader and getting ready for kindergarten. We can only stand in silence at the thought of what could have happened if things hadn’t gone so well for us.

Gabriel seemed to understand the significance of the funeral of his great-grandfather and of the visit to his cousin’s grave. During the visitation, he put his hand on Great-Grandpa Art’s hands, and he asked multiple times if he was going to be alive again, but seemed willing to accept that his soul was living with Jesus now, but his body would remain in the grave until Jesus raised it up. He also sang along to “memory eternal” with the choir without being asked.

Later, when looking at Jace’s grave, he said, “This is the baby who lived and then died?”

His Grandfather David told him that death is like a cocoon — we’re like caterpillars now, but when we rest in the grave, that’s like a caterpillar in a cocoon, waiting for the Resurrection, when we’ll be like butterflies. At first he did not approve of this at all, whispering in my ear “I don’t want to be a butterfly.” When I asked him what he wanted to be, he said in a serious whisper, “Boy.”

But now he’s concerned he won’t be able to find his mother and me as a butterfly, and keeps telling us, “I’ll be waiting on a plant for you.”

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