My niece, Celina Joy was born July 20, 2007. She died on August 25th, after a scant thirty-five days on this planet. It hardly seems fair. She spent her entire brief life in the NICU, hooked up to machines that fed her and breathed for her. She kept rallying but in the end she succumbed, her body too frail to keep fighting.
“She’s gone to a better place” is the platitude I keep thinking of. And she has. She’s no longer suffering. But we’re selfish. We don’t want to give her up, not yet. It’s human nature after all to want to hang on, and we imperfect humans can be selfish creatures.
My sister Lori and her husband Glen spent many months trying to get pregnant. Lori is forty and has no children, and the ticking of her biological clock was growing louder by the minute. She knew the risks. After all, my sons are both autistic, and our brother’s son has Downs Syndrome. Despite that she wanted a child of her own more than anything in the world.
None of us, however, were expecting anything like this. We grieve not only for today, but for all those things Celina won’t be here to experience. The birthdays, the Christmases, her first steps, first words. Her laughter, her tears. The three AM feedings, skinned knees, the fevers, the temper tantrums.
I keep thinking of the story of Abraham and Isaac. If you remember the Old Testament story, Abraham and Sarah had been waiting many years for Isaac, patiently waiting for God to fulfill His promise that their descendants would be as numerous as the stars. And then Isaac was born, the promise fulfilled. But when God commanded Abraham to sacrifice his son, he didn’t hesitate. We can, perhaps now, understand better how he felt as he walked up that mountain with his boy – the fear, sadness, confusion about what God wanted of him, the worry he’d lose his son. In the end Isaac was spared, and Abraham rejoiced.
We didn’t get to experience that joy. Celina is gone. But we did have the joy of seeing her, touching her. We have our memories, the good and the bad. And we had the blessing of experiencing her presence, a presence still with us. A presence that will always be with us. In the weeks to come, we’ll cry again as we remember. Eventually our tears will dry. But we will remember.
Celina Joy was all her name meant and more. She was the hope and dream, the beauty that we wished. And only thirty-five days later, she’s no longer with us. Her life, so short, touched so many I can only conclude God placed her among us to bring us closer to Him and to each other. We’ll thank God she was in our lives, no matter how short her time with us was. And we believe one day we’ll see her again.