Early on that Thursday morning we headed to the hospital. My womb had become a grave and we were surely headed to the funeral. Once I’d been admitted I was given pitocin to begin my labor. The doctor told me it shouldn’t take that long for the baby to be delivered.
By mid afternoon the only effect that the medicine seemed to have on me was nauseousness. Labor was moving along very slowly. However, in the rooms surrounding me I could hear other mothers in labor, followed then by the sweet sound of a baby’s cry. My heart ached as I was again faced with the fact that my labor would not produce that joyful end. But oh, the nearness of my Savior to me during those hours. I slept some through the day and I can so clearly remember passages of Scripture that I’d memorized going through my mind over and over, bringing peace and comfort from the heart of God to me. Friends and family stopped by the waiting room to see my husband and send word to me that they were praying for me. That, too, was a solace.
It was nighttime now – around 10 pm. I had been in pain for hours and was so weary and felt at the end of my abilities to endure this labor. My doctor came to check on my progress. “We’re getting somewhere now; you’re dilated to three.” My heart dropped. When he left the room I told my husband that I didn’t know how much more I could stand. At that moment I had a strong contraction and felt that the baby was moving rapidly. The nurse on duty said, “Don’t push, it’s not time!” However it was time. The doctor returned quickly and within minutes Ashley Marie was delivered. The moment of her delivery I remember saying, “The Lord is so good.” To those in the room that may have seemed a strange thing to say when your child has just been stillborn, but I have never in my life felt the grace of God like I did on that difficult day. I had been carried along; lifted up on eagle’s wings.
Ashley was wrapped in a blanket and brought to us. Our parents joined Dale and me in my room as we held her, observing her tiny features. Her lips were deep red and shaped like a little rosebud. She had dark hair with a hint of curl. We held her and wept, knowing that this was just her body and that her soul was in heaven with the Lord. She was alive and safe in the arms of Jesus.
The day of her funeral was a beautiful summer day, yet there was a darkness in my heart that I’d never fully experienced before. It was the shadow of grief. I found myself running to the Scriptures for comfort. As I was getting dressed and ready for the funeral I had my Bible open and I read Psalm 73. Oh, the preciousness of verses 25, 26, and 28. “Whom have I in heaven but thee? and there is none upon earth that I desire beside thee. My flesh and my heart faileth; but God is the strength of my heart and my portion forever. But it is good for me to draw near to God; I have put my trust in the Lord God, that I may declare all thy works.” My flesh had failed. The termination of the Ashley’s life was due to tissue that built up around the base of the umbilical cord, eventually cutting off sustenance and life. My flesh was failing now; I was so needy, but here was my anchor…but God is the strength of my heart and my portion forever. He would be my strength today when I had none and he would be all that I needed. His portion was perfect for my weakness.
Oh, how I desired and prayed that the Lord will allow us to do as verse 28 states and declare all His works. We wanted God to be glorified in our lives through this trial. Did we cry? Oh yes. Was it difficult? It’s probably the hardest thing I’ve experienced thus far. But He never let me down when I needed Him (every moment).
This psalm became my psalm on July 7, 1987, the day Ashley was buried. So now you can understand why it was so special to me when I read it for our Sunday school class this week. It will always have a precious place in my heart.
Let me end this story by saying that the Lord has given Dale and myself so many opportunities to use Ashley’s death as a means of witnessing to others. Shortly after her funeral I was able to go to the hospital and witness to an unsaved girl that was in the very room I had delivered Ashley in. She was there for the same reason I had been there. Because I had experienced a stillbirth she opened her heart to me and allowed me to share the only reason to have hope at a time like this. We began a care group at the hospital for grieving parents several years later. A police officer that had been attending our church was saved at her funeral. And even now, sharing my story with you is not to gain your pity, but to glorify my God for His grace, His comfort and His Word and to tell you that whatever trial you’re experiencing, God loves you. He’s not out to get you or hurt you. He’s right here, right now waiting to be your Portion.
One day we will see Ashley again and will rejoice with her before the Throne of God. What a day that will be!