It has been so good to be grounded in reality about Avery's passing by people who love us. Friends and mentors have showered us with text straight out of the Bible that speaks to our situation, and we are so grateful. In the last 24 hours, Jessica has shared a couple times that she does not like the way it feels "easy" having four of us at home again. She doesn't want our family simply to able to go back to the way it was. The underlying fear is how this would (in our hearts) threaten Avery's significance. We really do still want her here...for our sake. Accepting that we will eventually go to her but that she will not return to us, we at very least want to remember her forever and hold her in our family in our hearts and minds.
That is so easy to do right now. We woke up thinking about her and haven't stopped. Our activities today included meeting with Steve Walters and Sandy Carroll at church to plan out the service, going over music with Margie Alford and Micah Yost, driving all over creation to find an outfit for Avery's body for the funeral (it turns out the market for 5 lb baby funeral outfits either doesn't exist or is incredibly elusive), taking the outfit to the funeral home before driving by the cemetary plots we purchased for Allie, Avery, and us (yep, you heard me right), then coming home and working on getting things ready for the funeral after we put the girls to bed. In between we talked about her constantly, cried frequently, laughed occasionally, held hands and hugged each other.
But what about next week? What about six months from now?
Sentimentality says to us, "She lives on forever as long as she lives in your heart." Unfortunately, the converse of that assertion is that the moment we stop thinking about her, she ceases to exist. As we wept over the fear I mentioned above that results from the influence of this sentamentality, tonight I had to stop us and again thank God for the truth and for the people who keep sharing it with us.
Reality says: it doesn't matter where Avery is in our minds or hearts. Avery's existence never depended on our thoughts or feelings. While we will love her forever and miss her forever, we at some point may no longer be able to remember the feel of my cheek against hers, the sweet voice that cooed so often, her little hands and feet that were special and unique to her, those eyes that would seem to stare right at us...before spontaneously going crossed. Someday I may not recall exactly how little of my hand her beatiful head occupied as I held her in the moments before she passed. Even Jessica, who held her and talked to her and spent more time with her than anyone, will probably at some point cease to remember some of the interaction she had with Avery Joy. It pains me to say that--especially because of my increased susceptibility to amnesia and eventually dementia that results from a history of recurrent blunt force head trauma. And it makes us again wish we had more than six and a half days with her outside the womb.
But the reality is, she will be in heaven waiting for us whether we think of her every moment of every day (such as today) or whether she remains an essential part of our family but comes to our mind only every so often (as we have been fearing may eventually happen). Thank you to wise friends who have reminded us that the only true measure of the value of her life is in knowing reality and the price it cost. And that is reason to celebrate.
I have been unable to avoid thinking about abortion through this process. I am going to share some thoughts but will put it at the bottom for any who wish to avoid reading it.
Jessica and I are pouring our hearts into Friday and are approaching it with four parts dread, one part excitement. We want to thank God, honor Avery, and have an opportunity for us and those who know and love us to come and grieve, laugh, cry, celebrate, ask questions, and at the end of it, eat barbeque sandwiches. Thank you so much to those continuing to reach out to us and to those who are working diligently on Friday. Special thanks to those for whom our family has been a full-time (our parents, Melissa Cheatham) or part-time (our journey group, Connections team, Thrive, MOPS, Steve and Terry Walters) job.
With due respect to my many friends whom I love that are adamantly in favor of the rights of a woman trumping the rights of a fetus, I would say this:
Though I have long been unequivacobly pro-life, I have never wanted to participate in the vitriolic war of words that seems to result from two sides differing on one fundamental belief on when in fact a human becomes a human. It has never struck me as complicated, and I have had very pleasant and civil discussions with several friends who believe the weight of the evidence does not convincingly support life beginning at conception. These friends who fall into the category of "Pro-choice" are virtually never anti-life as they are sometimes made out to be. My friends value the life of the mother over what they believe to be either a non-life or a life whose value is less than that of the mother.
Recent events have strengthened my belief in the Bible. I believe the value of every single fetus will one day be shown and that we will all answer for what we did for those lives. So I am inclined to think I feel inside the very same urgency of those "Pro-life" advocates whose tone may be more biting on the outside. I hope it isn't lost on my dear friends who see this issue differently that the urgency comes from different beliefs not only about when life begins but about the importance of getting it right. Those of us who see the issue the way we do believe that the one who imagined these children is the same one to whom we will answer. And just because we may forget or never have known about an aborted fetus doesn't make the life any less real or any less important.
In mixed company this is not appropriate conversation to initiate, is it? But I want you to know if you have read this far that Avery's life cries out to me and says, "Speak. Do not be silent." Her life matters. Six days on earth, it matters. What Avery taught Jessica, me, Emily, Olivia, and what she brought to our family baffles my mind and brings tears to my eyes. Thank you so much to all who have written and called and texted and facebooked and whatever-elsed social media may allow to tell us of the impact of Avery's life. We cherish every single one one of those messages.
But in the end for those who believe in the God of the Bible, if Avery had died in utero, her life matters no less. Our friends with recent loss in utero--we are so sorry for your loss. And your child matters no less!
Specific testing for Trisomy 18 exists. We are thankful it does because it allowed us to starting preparing for Avery's arrival. But many times getting the diagnosis becomes the basis for elective termination of a pregnancy. To my wonderful friends who believe in neither God nor heaven, I would just ask you to look closely at the life of our baby girl. Even if you measure the value of her life in its impact (rather than believing it has inherent value), you will never convince me or my family that her life was in any way expendable.
And this is why this huge tangent is in here. I am not staying up late to sway people's politics. I am writing to help get over the heartbreak of losing my youngest daughter to a disease that diminished the duration but not the importance of her life.