By Lauren Johnson
“If I told you my story, you would hear HOPE, that wouldn’t let go…”
Before she was born, I had always prayed for my girl, that people would know Jesus through her.
Our Avery Marie was born on September 2, 2014. The most beautiful 7 lb 5 oz baby girl I had ever laid eyes on. She was here. She was safe. She was ours. Forever.
We had 3 ½ wonderfully normal, exhausting, exciting months until our ‘perfect’ lives were turned upside down. Avery’s little body went into cardiac arrest. She was put on ECMO (life support), had a successful open-heart surgery, and multiple other procedures, all during a hospital stay from December 28, 2014 to March 6, 2015. We remained hopeful and clung to every positive change that would happen. Our girl was a fighter. Avery suffered severe brain damage and was admitted back to the ICU on April 27, 2015 where she would go to be with Jesus on May 3. This is the shortest version of her story I think I’ve ever told. But really her story wasn’t over on May 3.
During this time of sickness and heartache, I had never felt closer to Jesus. Of course, we prayed for miracles to happen and for her body to be healed, but the reality of this life is that we are humans and we live in a fallen world. My prayers changed to prayers of peace, comfort, clarity…all of these things that could only come from Him. Little did we know, miracles were happening, maybe just not how we had first prayed. When I prayed for understanding that only He could provide, I was handing over my worries and fears to Jesus, the one who knows our pains and promises that we have more to look forward to. I believe that our Lord hurts right alongside us. He is collecting our tears, making beauty from the ashes.
I have found great peace in knowing that my true joy and happiness will not be found in this world. I am connected to Heaven in ways I never knew I would be. I am keeping my eyes on Heaven, where I will see my Avery again and meet Jesus, who welcomed her with open arms on May 3. None of us are guaranteed any amount of time on Earth, but the time we do have, whether its 8 months, 8 years, or 80 years, we should be telling about the greatest love to have ever existed, the love that carried us through the most heart wrenching times of our lives and that still carries us today.
I prayed for Avery before she was born. I prayed for her once she was happy and squirmy in our arms. I prayed for her when she was hooked up to monitors and on life support, meds, feeds. The whole time, the thing I prayed for was that people know Jesus through her. I pray still today that I use this time here on this side of Heaven to tell a story of love, hope, and an unchanging faithfulness that can only be found through Jesus. I have no other option. This is where I have decided to put my trust and what brings me joy at just the moment I need joy. Having faith doesn’t take away the hurt. But oh, how it will bring an indescribable peace.
Sure, sunny days aren’t as sunny when you are missing your child. But I’m learning that grief can look like laughs, excitement, and pure happiness just as much as it can (and will) look like tears and heartache that takes your breath away. Could I have written these words a couple of months ago? Probably not. It’s been 9 months since I last held my sweet baby. Do I miss her every minute of every day? Without a doubt. If there’s one thing I’ve learned it’s that grief changes, the pain changes. You realize you can get up and move through another day. Your love never changes.
I feel honored to have been Avery’s mom, and if I had the chance, I’d choose her a million times over. She taught us the truest kind of love, the kind of love our Father has for us. Because of her, we will never be the same again. And that’s okay. I have a new perspective, much clearer than before. It’s because of my greatest gift and biggest heartbreak that I am choosing joy and finding hope when it seems impossible.
I am learning that a huge part of my identity will always include being Avery’s mom, but while mothering a child in Heaven, I am also a teacher, a wife, a daughter, a sister, an aunt, and a friend. There is still so much purpose in my life. I now have the clarity to better see and understand that purpose and that is a beautiful thing. I remember very vividly right after losing my sweet girl that feeling of “Now what? What am I supposed to do?” I couldn’t see past the fog, which I am positive is normal. I am not going to pretend that I don’t feel robbed of being a mother to a child here on Earth, but I know there are still wonderful, bittersweet joys that can come. I see them daily. And I know they are gifts from the Father who loves Avery Marie more than I do.
Before she was born, I had always prayed for my girl, that people would know Jesus through her. Today, my prayers are the same.
We can sit in the darkness and hold each other’s hand, or we can try to stand in the light, the light that wants so badly to shine through each of us, still holding one another’s hand. I’m choosing the latter, for myself, for my husband, and for my daughter, Avery Marie.