Monday, March 15, 2010

3 years ago...

It was three years ago tomorrow that we turned off ECMO, or Gracie's "machine" heart and lungs, ready to hold her for the very last time, ready to rock our sweet baby girl into her eternal home. Three years ago that our family gathered around her hospital bed, kissed her good-bye, felt raw emotion...a sadness that completely washed over us, thinking of a world without our Gracie. It is as it was yesterday.

It was three years ago that we witnessed a miracle! Life, determined by man's intelligence, man's experience, was to be over. Yet God!! He, and He alone, determines our days...Gracie's day to enter His kingdom was not three years ago on March 16, 2007!! We praise Him for three years that we didn't believe we would have. Isn't this how we should live our lives? Three years ago, my heart longed for another heartbeat, another hour, another day with our daughter. We didn't dare dream of three years with her...yet that is what we were given--how great is our God!!

I cannot tell you the comfort that brings our family as we approach yet another surgery next week. We know, WITHOUT A DOUBT IN OUR MINDS, that it is God who will determine Gracie's days. He gives and He takes away--blessed be the name of the Lord! We pray, with such expectancy, that He is going to do mighty things next week in sweet Gracie's body. Perhaps this little battle with pneumonia was a reminder that His hand is on our daughter...we need not fear, yet trust His heart.

I will say, however, that amidst the peace, we are somewhat weary. I think we can have both...and it's OK. We know in our hearts that Gracie is going to be just fine. Yet, how we dread to watch her helpless and afraid. It is so difficult to face the unknowns--this surgery is not one that is an obvious choice for Gracie. We have been given two options--to operate and give her the best chance at a longer life, or to not operate and give her several years, allowing her ventricle to just wear out in it's own time. At first it was obvious, we want Gracie to have a long life. Don't we all want that for our kids? None of us decide to parent, hoping for just a couple of good years, do we? As we get closer to the surgery, we do realize the risks involved, we do know her heart is not a perfect fit for the procedure that will be done for her.

For us to go back three years and remember the circumstances, to remember the heartache, to remember being constantly on the edge of difficult as it is, it is what will carry us these next weeks. When the news was so bad, we literally couldn't breathe or hold down our food...the peace of God was more real to us than ever before. Peace amidst the storm. He carried us, He breathed for us, He moved our feet one step in front of the other.

Back then, I didn't feel comfortable sharing completely what was going on...mainly to protect our children. They were reading the journal...for me to publish that Gracie only had 30% chance of surviving the surgery, then 5% chance of surving the surgery, then a miracle would be her only way of surviving ECMO being shut would have crushed them. We continued to tell them we serve a God of miracles--that is what they prayed for, that is what they KNEW would happen, and that is what we witnessed. We are not facing those odds with this surgery--Gracie is much stronger, the doctors and surgeon know her heart much better, and she has survived the unsurvivable.

We have 10 days before the chaos begins!! That means we have lots to do! We get to enjoy getting Gracie out of bed in the morning--it's almost a fight to get to her when all of the kids are up and home. She is so happy and snuggly in the morning. We also get to read at least 30 stories to her--1 for her nap and 2 for her bedtime. We will likely watch Toy Story and Toy Story 2 ten times each. Gracie usually can watch about 15 minutes, then the rest of the kids are glued and she is off doing something else. Usually, Curtis and I will walk in and it's our senior who is watching the kid movie and no kids around!! Gracie will go through possibly 15 identities--she takes on the role of whoever she is "into" at the time. After the cruise, she wouldn't respond to Gracie, but only Donald Duck. We had to call her Donald for at least 10 days!! Now she is Baby Woody from Toy Story. Not only Gracie gets a new identity, but our entire family does!! Last week, she was yelling "Hot Girl" from her crib in the morning. She had been calling me "girl" because I am now Bo Peep from Toy Story and she didn't know her name. So she's yelling, "hot girl" and I'm making sure everyone knows it. I had Curtis listening to the monitor, was all too excited to tell the kids, then she corrected me, "hat girl"...not hot girl. Bummer. It was a serious blow to my ego! She's hilarious.

We are also going to spend a few days at the Wisconsin Dells this week as the kids are on spring break. It will be fun to just be together with no distractions.

Today, I'm especially excited because I get to see Derek run in his first track meet of the season. Woohooo!!

Life is is precious and to be cherished...every minute of every day, we should make the most of it!


Jean said...

We have been praying for Gracie everyday in our homeschool.

Thank you for sharing some of her story- God bless you and especially your precious little girl!

Have fun at the dells!

Holly said...

Precious story. What a great God, and I am so happy that He is sustaining you with peace through this scary time. We will be praying every day too!

Grandma Shelley said...

Oh my goodness...this post means I have been "lurking here" and praying for Gracie and the rest of your family for 3 years. Guess it is time I "come out", huh? She is such a precious gift from God. You have been blessed!

PS...she's a cutie, too!

Karen said...

Praying for peace during this difficult time. I can't wait to see what miracle God will work this time!

Donna said...

Our prayers are with Gracie and the entire Opp family. Thank you for reminding me it's been three long years since one of the biggest God miracles that I have watched unfold. I still have the image of Gracie running in a field with pigtails. I am hopeful that it is an image from God and just not my vivid imagination. I can still remember where I was when I talked to you before they removed her from the ECHO. Her life has been such a witness of God's almighty power. I love you guys even if I don't see you!