This wasn’t the news expectant parents want to hear.
A few months into a much wanted pregnancy, the tests validated their fears. They listened as terms like “congenital abnormalities” and “severe impairments” were used to describe the condition of their precious unborn girl. But the words that broke their hearts were – “incompatible with life.” Joyous anticipation quickly turned into sorrow and grief. There would be no cheerful birth announcements. No anticipation of first smiles or first steps or a first birthday. They prayed that they would have the opportunity to hold her.
In spite of their grief, they decided to do everything they could for their child. They named her Emma Grace and made arrangements for her to be delivered in a hospital 80 miles from home that would give her the best chance for survival. They told a few friends the details of their situation but they requested that there be no baby shower. They asked instead for prayers of blessing on Emma Grace and their family.
Emma Grace was born with the ability to breathe on her own, but the specialists that attended to her were saddened to see her condition was worse than anticipated. Emma Grace surprised everyone by hanging on to life. Her parents brought her home. There was nothing they could do to heal her, nothing that they could do to nurture her, but they longed to love their child in any way they could. So they committed to hold her for as long as she was with them.
From the moment she was carried into her home, she was never laid into a bed to sleep, never placed in a baby seat. For sixteen days she was cradled in the loving arms of parents and grandparents. For sixteen days lullabyes were gently sung in her ears, she was prayed over and constantly cuddled. For the sixteen days of her short life, she was showered with constant attention and unconditional love. Emma Grace, whether sleeping or awake, night and day was held in their arms and in their love.
“O love that will not let me go.”
It’s an unusual kind of love to find in a world that promotes a me-first philosophy of life. The kind of love that expects nothing in return. It’s not a love you can “fall” into or out of. It’s a decision to put someone else’s needs in front of your own – even if it’s at your expense. The kind of love that you arrange your life around instead of seeing if there’s room for it to fit. It’s the lay-down-your-life kind of love that has no compare.
It’s sacrificial love. The kind of love that changes the world.
It compels us to its presence and and is impossible to ignore.
It is the love that is born of God. The image and author of Love. And He offers it to us, calls us to His love again and again.
I have loved you with an everlasting love.
See, I have engraved you on the palms of my hands.
You are precious and honored in my sight, and… I love you.
Even to the point of saving our life with His.
Greater love has no one than this: to lay down one’s life for one’s friends.
The parents of Emma Grace knew that opening their hearts to loving her would also mean their hearts would be exposed to more pain at good-bye. But a heart that knows Love cannot withhold it. It flows from the Source.
There is no doubt that Emma Grace knew she was loved. No doubt that her parents would not have traded one moment of the joy of loving her.
And in their outpouring of love we see Him and are reminded of how deeply He loves us.
O Love that will not let me go,
I rest my weary soul in thee;
I give thee back the life I owe,
That in thine ocean depths its flow
May richer, fuller be.
Hymn by George Matheson
Scripture References: Jeremiah 31:3, Isaiah 49:16, Isaiah 43:4, John 15:13