|Rebecca May Ward posing with her Rebecca|
Reuben doll on her 5th birthday.
Yes, the outfits match!
Thursday, May 2, 2013
Rebecca May is five today!!
What shall we do with life’s surprises
Like a swingset in a graveyard.
Or a bloom in the desert sand.
Look at my tremblin' hands.
Then it hits me like lightning.
That love has got to keep fighting.
And somehow, every time…
Love is gonna’ break through.
—Chris Rice, Love is Gonna Break Through
Life is full of surprises.
I waited a long time to find the love of my life. I wondered if I would. But then in God’s time… keystrokes led to a connection, and within a year, a wedding… Surprise!
When we decided to have children, we had to pursue IVF. Our first pregnancy went surprisingly smoothly for us. Ours seemed like a textbook example of how fertility treatments could work. We worried two embryos wouldn’t be enough. Nevertheless, we offered what we had to God. Surprise! Nine months later, our son Brady was born.
We decided Brady needed a sibling. We pursued IVF and got pregnant again. We found out on Mother’s Day. All seemed well. Imagine our surprise when only a few weeks later Laurie had a miscarriage.
A trip to Spain, followed by another round of fertility treatments during the summer led to a surplus of embryos and another pregnancy. Then came that first ultrasound—a day I won’t forget. Surprise! Two heartbeats…. Twins!...
We weren’t expecting this “bumper crop” of blessing, but we did our best to embrace it. We tried to do all the right things to prepare. We got all the right care, and all seemed well. We went to the hospital that morning prepared to welcome twins. We had no idea what would unfold in the next 48 hours. Rebecca would be fine, but Hope was very sick. Surprise doesn’t do this one justice—more like complete shock.
How would we respond? What would we pray?
A chorus from a song called Trust came to my mind. A friend had written it a few years earlier and shared it with the world when he lost his daughter in a car accident. We had sung it more than once during our marriage, but we needed the words to be true now—more than ever before…
Yes, Lord, we trust you.
No matter how hard it might be.
Yes, Lord, we trust you.
Even though we’re blind and can’t see
For you are our God
And you know the way
No matter what happens, with you we will stay—and trust.
Two days later, we gathered in the NICU at Johns Hopkins Hospital to baptize our daughter Hope Marie, and let her slip from life support to life eternal. Surprises even then. God’s grace surrounded us and helped us do what needed to be done—even though it was the hardest thing ever. (The NICU staff later told us they were surprised at how peaceful the whole scene was.) That was not us… that was God.
God was there in the days that followed, as we said goodbye to Hope Marie, as my wife, the Pastor, became the grieving mother, and as I carried Hope’s tiny casket and laid it on God’s altar—making the ultimate sacrifice any parent can make. God took on human flesh that day in the form of friends and family that came together to weep with us.
God was also there on a day later that summer, when we had a joyous celebration and baptized Rebecca May. The same pastor (Laurie’s friend and mentor) baptized Rebecca that had baptized Hope. Some of the same people who wept with us in May, now rejoiced with us in August. The Apostle Paul would be proud. J
God has been there on many bittersweet days since then as our family has gone on living, trying to reconcile the fact that as Rebecca passes life’s milestones, only a gravestone remains to mark Hope’s brief earthly life.
And yet her life left an indelible mark on us. I venture to say we are all different because Hope lived. I know her death altered the plot of my life. I am different as a husband, father, and human being, because of her. Each day, I become a little more the person God created me to be. I continue to be surprised by Hope.
And I am certain that more surprises lie ahead for us. They seem to be woven into the fabric of life. As much as we might wish otherwise, surprises are unavoidable. The question then becomes: What will we do with them?
Our family chooses to believe that God will continue to guide us safely through all of life’s surprises. We trust that God will help us navigate the unexpected twists and turns of daily life and lead us safely home.
Firm in that hope, today, we celebrate the life of Rebecca May Ward! Over the past five years, we have watched her grow from an infant into a little girl with who carries the “spirit of two” inside her. We also honor her sister, Hope Marie, whose memory lives on in us and who is reflected daily in the face of her twin sister Rebecca.
In the face of Rebecca we always see Hope.