*Dear Readers: the following entry discusses an experience that is theologically puzzling to me. I am not at all sure of what caused the experience or of how to properly understand it. What I am certain of are the lessons that God has taught me as I have pondered it. I share those lessons here because I hope that they will benefit you, regardless of the nature of the experience which taught them. I hope that they will bless you, especially on this day when so many of us are longing for reassurances that God is in control and is not blind-sided by anything that happens here on earth.*
In September of 2008, I experienced something like a vision in which I saw myself lying on a hospital bed being comforted after the death of my future baby. On September 21st, 2016, my second daughter (Noemi) died at birth. As I held my child for the first and last time, I kept thinking, “I knew I would lose a child.” I could not understand why God would allow me to have this foreknowledge if there was nothing I could have done to avoid Noemi’s death. What purpose could it possibly have served? Was the vision even from God? As I have pondered these questions, God has revealed himself to me in new ways and has reinforced what I already believed to be true about Him.
First, I understand God’s sovereignty in a new way. Regardless of whether or not He gave me this vision eight years before my daughter died, it had already been determined that I would lose a child. Her life and death were not an accident and as God was guiding me through my young adult years, He already knew that His plan for me would include parenting a child in Heaven. In fact, before I even existed, He knew that Noemi would die since Psalm 139:16 says “…all the days ordained for me were written in your book before one of them came to be.”
The reminder that God already knew my future brings me to the second lesson: God prepares us for what is ahead. Eight years before Noemi’s death, He was preparing me for it. After experiencing the vision, I did a lot of research on neonatal loss. I wanted to know what happened, what could be done when a baby died, and how mothers survived such a terrible ordeal. My need for answers was deepened when, within a short period of time, two of my friends experienced their own infant losses and were very open about these on Facebook. I spent hours reading about the resources that are available to families who lose their babies and personal accounts written by mothers and fathers whose children had died too soon. As a result, when my own daughter died, I already knew that I wanted to hold her body and to take pictures of her. I also knew to ask for professional photos, which resulted in some beautiful black and white images that were appropriate to share with our three-year-old daughter. I was not afraid to hold Noemi for as long as I needed, to explore her tiny fingers, and to discover her deep brown eyes. Had I not researched neonatal death, I would have been forced to make very difficult, emotional decisions during the short time that I had with Noemi’s body. In hindsight, I am not sure that I would have been able to make the right ones. When an infant dies, there are no second chances, so I am grateful that I already knew what I wanted ahead of time.
In the midst of my pain, I find great comfort in knowing that my suffering is not a surprise to God. Thinking about how God prepared me for Noemi’s death eight years before it happened helps me to trust that it was not a mistake, that God has a plan to redeem all of this pain, and that he knows what lies ahead for me. I know that this plan is good and that He intends to help me to prosper and not to harm me. I have faith that He will give me hope and a future (Jeremiah 29:11) and I believe that this is true for everyone who reads this, as well. Today might hold surprises for us, but none of them are surprises to God.
In closing, I would like to share the following prayer that I found in a booklet called Powerful Prayers Every Catholic Should Know. I suspect that this is a prayer that every Christian would benefit from knowing:
Unfathomable Plans Morning Prayer
Dear Lord, I do not know what will happen to me today – I only know that nothing will happen that was not foreseen by you and directed to my greater good from all eternity. I adore your holy and unfathomable plans and submit to them with all my heart for love of you…Amen.