After the joy God gave us, laughing together surrounding Molly, it was time to give her back to her parents. The moment of delight was replaced by the awful weight of what we knew was next; Rebecca and Jake were going to give permission for their newborn to be taken off life support. As we walked out of Molly’s NICU room it was like moving against our will into a dark tunnel through deep quicksand. Such heavy dread.
Back in the waiting room we collapsed into chairs and cried again anticipating the agony that awaited. After some minutes, Dennis and I opened our laptops and began to update our five kids all having returned to their homes. Though they were at work, in class, tending to children’s needs, their hearts were with us and their sister. Samuel’s grad class lit a candle and some fellow students wore black, knowing this was Molly’s last day of life. Others cried as they went through the motions of duty. Anxiously they asked, “Is she gone yet? How are Rebecca and Jake? Is Molly in pain?”
Finally, at 6pm the tubes were removed. Soon after, her spirit, her life quietly slipped away.
Leaving the hospital empty handed was painful for everyone. And then these new parents had to plan a funeral when only a week earlier they were finishing the nursery.
Two days after Molly’s death over 100 people gathered to celebrate Mighty Molly’s life. Prayers were offered, more tears were shed, and love was shared for these two bereaved parents, too young to be facing such grief. At the conclusion of the ceremony everyone gathered in a circle outside, and together we each released a pink helium filled balloon. It made us smile knowing Molly would have loved the sight. Maybe she was watching us honor her!
One of the greatest gifts of our seven days with Molly was the nearness of Heaven we all felt and touched. One writer describes what separates this life from the next as a gossamer veil. We knew that to be true.
We also knew we were not alone. “The angel of the Lord encamps around those who fear him and delivers them,” (Psalm 34:7). In those days we prayed, worshipped, read God’s word, and loved one another deeply and passionately. God saw it all and was pleased. And perhaps His angels, messengers and watchers, were among us. I wouldn’t be surprised at all.
Molly was not alone either. Jesus told his disciples that all the little children have an angel “always beholding the face of my Father,” (Matthew 18:10). Her angel escort carried Mighty Molly as she left our presence and this world and passed through the gossamer veil into the next.
Through the centuries many believers have written about the presence and reality of angels. God gives occasional glimpses so we know they are real. Like my friend’s daughter who was born with a heart defect and told her mom one day that she saw soldiers when she was in surgery. Soldiers with wings! We know angels are individuals, described as males, and in the story of Daniel they are often in battles with the enemies of God using swords. Soldiers is a pretty good description of angels!
A poem written by Calvin Miller about death contains these lines that have been a great comfort to Rebecca and Jake, “…dying is but getting dressed for God, our graves are merely doorways cut in sod.” Every year on Molly’s birthday they go to Molly’s doorway and have cake or release balloons or just play on the grass.
In those early months after Molly’s Home-going, Rebecca wrote often as a way to process her grief. “Not a day goes by that we don’t thank God for those seven glorious days that He allowed us with our sweet pea but not a day goes by that our hearts don’t ache for the thousands of days we didn’t get to have with her.”
Remembering this holy week God gave us with Molly has been so good for me her Mimi. Going back to the hospital mentally, touching again the palpable transcendence of God with us, is like remembering the Resurrection. It is good to train my mind to focus on the reality of His more-real-than-this-earth presence with me in this moment…today. That I too might in fact have an angel who is watching over me as I type this is both a little unnerving but also comforting.
It is far too easy for me to become rooted to this ground as if this life is all that matters.
As I flipped through the book Rebecca and I wrote I found these statements of truth I wrote for myself and for my family as a way for us all to cling to what we knew to be true even when our emotions threatened to overwhelm us.
- By faith we accepted Molly’s life as a good and perfect gift. We believe her days were numbered by God and ordered by God for great good.
- By faith we believe God’s word is true, every word of it.
- By faith we believe that the God who called our children (Rebecca and Jake) to this journey will give them the strength and courage to walk it.
- By faith we believe Heaven is real, that Molly has been called there and is more alive now than ever.
I also found the story Dennis read to us all at her memorial service.
“I’m standing on a seashore. A ship at my side spreads her white sails to the morning breeze and starts for the blue ocean. She is an object of beauty and strength and I stand and watch her until, at length, she hangs like a speck of white cloud just where the sea and the sky come down to mingle with one another. And then I hear someone at my side saying, ‘There, she’s gone!’
hull and spar as she was when she left my side, and just as able to bear her load of living freight to the place of destination. Her diminished size is in me, not in her.
And just at the moment when someone at my side says, ‘There she is gone,’ there are other eyes watching her coming, and there are other voices ready to take up the glad shout, ‘Here she comes!’ And, that is dying.
The other eyes watching Molly’s arrival in Heaven were so great as to be without number; multitudes of angels, other children like our dear friends Andy and Niki’s daughter who went to Heaven at 16 years old, just two months before Molly, millions of believers who have gone before us to the city four-square, and of course God Himself smiled at her arrival. Escorted by a soldier or several, welcomed happily, enthusiastically and with endless love, Molly was in a much better place than here.
The Symphony of Molly’s life was all about Jesus—coming to Him, living for Him, and in the end flying to Him in glory…escorted by soldiers. We give thanks to God for His gift of Molly who guided us to encounter our real almighty eternal Father.
Whatever you are facing today, may you walk by faith knowing real life is yet ahead on the other side of the veil, and the Presence of Jesus will never leave you or forsake you.