Monday, July 12, 2010

An Angel Story

A couple of weeks ago, the boys and I went to see my friend, Candice, and her daughter, Susan.  We met in the CICU at Egleston last August.  Susan has hypoplastic left heart syndrome (HLHS) and has had numerous surgeries in her two and half years of life.  When our paths first crossed, Susan was having the final surgery (called the Fontan) in a series of three heart surgeries.  Susan's bed was next to Samuel's for several days, and I think we first spoke to Candice and Mike in the hallway outside the showers late one night.  Though we'd already been at the hospital for 3 weeks, we were newbies, and Candice and Mike were veterans.  We became friends over the week our time at Egleston overlapped.  Susan did quite well -- despite a few scares -- while Samuel was in the hospital, and a few days after we met, she moved out of the CICU and into Step-Down, where patients in less critical condition stay.  Because parents can sleep in Step-Down rooms with their child, we didn't see Mike and Candice for a few days.

The night before Samuel died, a nurse came to our CICU dock and said that Susan was back in the CICU, and her parents wanted us to know.  I immediately walked down to their dock, gave hugs, and talked for a little while.  By the next morning, Susan was back in Step-Down, and I didn't see her or her parents again until February.

When I went to Candice's house a couple of weeks ago, she showed me a book that Susan loves to read.  It's about guardian angels who surround and protect a baby throughout the day.  In the book, the angels are babies too.  After I read the story, Candice told me that she's had something to share with me since August, but she didn't want to do it over the phone.
Before Susan's Fontan procedure, she had worked hard to gain a lot of abilities like walking, sucking, and talking.  Her parents didn't know how long it would take to regain those after surgery.  One morning in Step-Down, Susan woke up, looked over her shoulder, and said, "Hi Baby!" -- her first words since before surgery.  Candice looked where Susan's eyes were focused and didn't see anything, but she was grateful that Susan had spoken.  A few days later, Candice learned that Samuel had died the very morning Susan woke up and said, "Hi Baby." 

When Candice told me the story, I started crying immediately.  I've only told the story once, and that was to Bryan.  I could barely get the story out, I was crying so much.  I don't know how angels work or what exactly happens upon death, but the thought of Susan seeing Samuel and greeting him with a smile is precious to me.  At the moment I can barely see the computer screen through my tears.  Far be it for me to say Susan didn't see Samuel on his way to Heaven.  And Susan's picture of Samuel, of a baby who would elicit smiles and warrant a greeting, is so far better than the picture I will always carry of Samuel at 9:30 on Monday morning, August 31.  The Samuel I held was bloated, distorted, decaying, and so clearly not the real Samuel.  My attachment to his body ceased almost the moment he died.  He was no longer my Samuel.  It was utterly clear to me that he, the soul of my son, was no longer there.  I was holding an empty shell.  I love the thought that the real Samuel, the beautiful soul of my baby, was visible to another baby in the hospital, and that he was already looking whole and restored and redeemed.

When Candice showed me Susan's guardian angel book, she pointed out the baby angel that Susan always points to and says, "Baby."  It's a little boy with light brown hair and brown eyes.  I looked at him and thought, "Samuel could look like that.  I wonder if that's what he would look like now, at 11 months old."  Even that little illustrated picture of a guardian angel baby was a gift -- a little picture of what my Samuel would maybe look like.  I am grateful for the little gifts along this journey of grief -- for the moments of hope, the glimpses of clarity, the breaths of joy, and the pictures of what might be.   And I'm glad that there is so much we don't know and can't explain, for the mysteries of God that make us pause in wonder and adoration.  I am thankful for Susan's, "Hi Baby."


  1. I am crying tears of bittersweet joy at this post. What a blessing this picture of Samuel will always be to you. I am forever amazed at what comfort and kindness our God gives.

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  3. We love you all! I am sitting here crying now too...I am so happy that I was finally able to share this story and the book with you! I feel so blessed to have met Samuel and to be your friend. I am overjoyed that I could give you such a positive memory.

    The name of the book is Baby Angels by Jane Cowen-Fletcher by the way...Susan loves it and the message is just wonderful!

    I will always think of Samuel as Susan's Little Guardian Angel!


  4. Oh Kathryn- what a precious, precious story...and such a gift. I'm speechless.

    When Carsyn runs into Riley's room every morning she says, "baby!" and is always so excited....Riley is always excited too....usually up on her hands with an ear to ear grin as she sees her sister. I imagine that while Samuel was sad to leave his beloved mommy and daddy, there was likely an ear to ear smile on his face that morning for eternal reasons that we can't understand or fathom on this side of heaven. Thankful for sweet thoughts of Samuel that you can cling to on these hard days. Love you. Hugs.


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  6. How absolutely beautiful and what a gift! Thank you for sharing.

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