Seems like that number can only rightly belong to one person. I seem to notice it everywhere - it sticks out at me almost daily in one form or another. I see it on the clock, on facebook posts, on lockers at the fitness center, in the amount due at the register.... I see it on so many things that have to do with Rachel and I feel like she owns that number.
I'm going to admit that, while I initially determined to make the number a positive thing, it's not big enough for my liking. I was so devoted to making sure that when someone heard that she lived for 43 minutes that they smiled and not frowned (including myself) that I did stuff like added "beautiful and unforgettable" after it and smiled as I talked of her life in minutes - as apposed to the years, days or even hours that I had hoped for.
I'm going to admit something I haven't said to many people - those 43 minutes were the hardest minutes of my life. Beautiful? Yes. She was alive and God was more present than I have ever experienced before, or since, in my life. Unforgettable? Yes. I remember every second like it was an eternity. The way the OR smells and the bright lights. The sounds of machines beeping, the music playing in the background, the soft chatter of the doctors and nurses as they stitched me up - What was supposed to be a 'quick' trip to the table to get suctioned and a hat on had gone on way longer than it should have - and then the words....
"She's not making an attempt to breathe on her own. Do you want us to keep trying or bring her to you?"
And I had to decide something no mother should ever have to decide... Keep her alive over there...or let her die in my arms. Sometimes I feel selfish as I remember the words I said, "Bring her to me." And yet I know that the real reason behind it was not because I wanted her, but because of what I wanted for her. I didn't want her to die with them....people who didn't know her, who didn't love her. My next sentence was, "I don't want her to die over there."
By the time I held her, she was still. Her heart still beating strong (I told you she had a strong heart, didn't I?) but she was not taking in breath and she wasn't moving. Her heart beat for an amazing amount of time without any breath.
While I was covered with unsurpassable peace that can only come from a true relationship with Jesus, I was still waiting out her last heartbeat, knowing it would only be minutes longer. I kept her close, looked at all the details that were so perfectly created in my womb...her chubby hands and cute little toes... and kissed her. As she turned more and more blue, I told her I was sorry and how hard I tried and how much Jesus loved her. And that was all I could say. I had waited so long to tell her all I wanted her to know - and I was at a loss for words.
The lyrics on the radio echo in my mind.... "To be still and know, that You're in this place, please let me stay and rest, in Your holiness, Word of God speak...."
But when those 43 minutes were up, she knew it all better than I could say it. Her life and death went nothing like I had hoped. I would be lying if I said I wasn't disappointed and let down. I almost immediately questioned if I should have bothered having a c-section. But I know I gave her my all and I have no regrets. I know she felt my love. I know that at 10:27am on December 3, 2010, she was welcomed into this world where she was loved dearly and unconditionally - and that at 11:10 am that same day, she was welcomed into paradise and into the arms of the King of Kings where she is safe and eternally in the presence of our loving Father.
Do I think of her and sigh or cry every time I see the number 43? Yup. I can hardly believe she didn't even make it an hour. Do I think of her and smile every time I see the number 43? Yup. Because I know her place in heaven was prepared by my Lord for that moment and I know it's better than here.
I'm still smiling for her and crying for me. And as I count down the next 43 days until I meet my new baby boy, with the expectation of bringing him home from the hospital, (I'm finally starting to believe it will happen!) she is still ever so present in my mind and heart and I wouldn't have it any other way. I never want to miss a moment to remember her amazing life and her short 43 minutes here. It was worth every ounce of pain and every single tear.
If God is collecting my tears in a bottle, when I get to heaven I'm going to ask Him to let them rain down on me as I dance in them with my sweet baby girl and listen to her giggle. I want to tell her that I would cry every single one of them again for her and for our God. I want to finally feel only the joy that has come from them and I know God is going to provide that in eternity for me and turn my mourning into dancing.