Peace Restored

Peace Restored

In the early hours of Thursday morning the 16th January 2014, I left Leah’s room in ICU and walked back through the winding hospital corridors, to my room in the Cancer Centre, for one last time.

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I knew exactly what lay ahead for us as a family that day.

My entire body felt like lead. Walking along those corridors felt like trying to propel my limbs through deep water.

Leah had been on a ventilator for two weeks and she had been unconscious for the past four days.

I was already missing her terribly. When she was awake on the ventilator, she had found creative ways to communicate.

All of the tests had confirmed that Leah’s body was now “broken beyond repair”.

Leah’s CT scan images had been scrutinised by the top experts in both Belfast City Hospital and Bristol Children’s Hospital.

Two of the consultants in Belfast had sat surfing the internet until midnight, searching for any potential remedy that hadn’t already been tried.

Hundreds of churches and thousands of people, all over the world, had been praying.

Nevertheless, it was now abundantly clear, that Leah’s story was only going to have one ending.

At 8.30am that morning, an emergency ambulance was booked to transfer Leah and myself, along with three ICU staff, to the N.I. Children’s Hospice, where all of our loved ones would be waiting.

There Leah’s life support would be withdrawn and we would say our final goodbyes.

I packed my bags and sat on my bed.

I felt numb, empty, desolate.

I lifted my iPad and clicked on Facebook.

There I discovered that Leah’s friend Matthew had put together a beautiful YouTube video, of various photos of  Leah taken over the past year, interspersed with inspirational messages and backed with the song “It is well” by Hillsong.

I could scarcely breathe as I watched and listened:

“But Lord it’s for Thee
For Thy coming we wait
The sky not the grave is our goal
Oh trump of the angel!
Oh voice of the Lord!
Blessed hope
Blessed rest of my soul!

It is well with my soul
It is well
It is well with my soul

You are the Rock
On which I stand
By Your grace it is well
My hope is sure
In Christ my savior
It is well with my soul”

A peace flooded through me.

I knew without a shadow of a doubt, that it was well with my daughter’s soul.

I slept for a few hours then.

In the morning I left that room for the last time.

Normally the staff on that ward in the Cancer Centre were friendly and welcoming to me, but they must have been very busy, for as I slipped in and out that morning, nobody spoke to me or seemed to notice me.

I felt alone and invisible.

At 7.20am as I stepped into an empty lift to head down to ICU, feeling very alone and vulnerable, I heard a text coming in on my phone.

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It was a work colleague from a previous job – her act of kindness in texting me at that exact moment was precisely what I needed.

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The remainder of that day is described in my blog post How Could We Ever Have Let Her Die In An Unplanned Kind Of A Way

This is the YouTube video that I watched that night:

 

The Storm of Grief

The Storm of Grief

“When deep in the storm of grief, your faith is just like breathing, its the only thing that keeps you going.”

This morning I received a private message from a dear friend containing these words – I gasped and burst into tears because of how true these words are and because of how much I needed to hear those beautiful words at that precise moment.
Living with Leah’s illness was like being on a roller coaster that ducked and dived unpredictably and at high speed.
Living with grief is like being at sea in a sailing ship. There are times when that ship docks in pleasant places and for a few hours I can smile and laugh and enjoy the company of others. Then the ship sets sail on the high seas once more.
I can never tell when a storm of grief will arise or from what direction, but suddenly and at times with little warning, my ship is engulfed. In those times it’s tempting to ask “Will I ever see the shore again?” or “How many storms can a ship withstand?” 
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Sometimes I get by with the help of a useful phrase from another dear friend “Right foot, left foot, breathe.” – I find it a useful one for when I am physically in a place that I find emotionally difficult, such as walking down long corridors on hospital visits or when I’m in Tesco’s and Leah’s favourite snack is being promoted on special offer. It enables me to get back to my car or to some other private place – like the disabled toilets – before I have to give full vent to my emotions.
I discovered the song “It Is Well” by Bethel Music from their “You Make Me Brave” album last week. It has remained on “repeat song” mode on my phone ever since as it’s words just speak to me so very deeply:

Through it all, through it all
My eyes are on You
Through it all, through it all
It is well
So let go my soul and trust in Him
The waves and wind still know His name”