peace beyond understanding

It was 1993.  She was three years old, blonde-haired, brown-eyed.  Typically she went about her days with a cheerful, thoughtful energy.   But now she was sick, limp, pale-faced.  Everyone in the family had recovered from the flu except her.  We took her to the ER on Saturday afternoon, fear winning over my usual faith in the healing power of the body.

The doctor said she was dehydrated, and kept her in the ER for a couple hours for IV fluids and medicine.  He thought she would perk up over the weekend.  But she didn’t.   Two more days and she still could keep nothing down.   She stumbled when she walked, and by Monday morning she was white to the lips.

We called our pediatrician before the office opened.  He sent us to the lab for blood work, and promised to call us with results.  By that time our anxiety had bloomed to full blown terror.  She had not a speck of color in her face by then, and lay limply on the bed while I curled myself around her.

I opened my Bible randomly, heart hollow, eyes barely able to focus.   Psalm 20 wrapped its words, around me like an embrace.  And in that moment I claimed that psalm as Erika’s.

1 May the LORD answer you when you are in distress;
may the name of the God of Jacob protect you.

2 May he send you help from the sanctuary
and grant you support from Zion.

3 May he remember all your sacrifices
and accept your burnt offerings.

4 May he give you the desire of your heart
and make all your plans succeed.

5 We will shout for joy when you are victorious
and will lift up our banners in the name of our God.
May the LORD grant all your requests.

6 Now I know that the LORD saves his anointed;
he answers him from his holy heaven
with the saving power of his right hand.

I’d never clutched words so tightly to my heart in my life.  Surprisingly, scarily soon, the doctor called back. Our daughter had hemolytic uremia.  Her kidneys were failing due to an e. coli infection, and she was probably going to need kidney dialysis.  Come into the ER now, he said.  They’d start an IV there, and then take us to the tiny local airport via ambulance, where a Life Flight airplane would be flying us to Salt Lake City.

After many miserable moments getting the IV into her fragile veins, we were loaded into the ambulance.  The last face I saw as the doors shut was my mother’s, throwing me a lifeline with a steady smile, though worry lurked in her eyes.

The quiet growl of the ambulance (thankfully no lights, no sirens — that would have terrified me even more)  was soon replaced by the loud roar of the tiny airplane that in two hours would deliver us to Primary Children’s Hospital in Salt Lake.

Erika was given one blood transfusion that day, and another the next morning. I sat by her bedside snuggling her and reading Psalm 20 and willing her pale skin to turn pink again.  I didn’t even want to know what was involved in kidney dialysis.

I remember being surprised at how peaceful I felt, sitting there next to my gravely ill daughter.  Maybe it was because I knew we were in the best children’s hospital in three states, where every option for treatment was at the fingertips of attentive nurses.  More likely it was all the prayer.  Later I learned that dozens of people were praying for us.

Two days later Erika’s lab work was miraculously improved.  No dialysis needed. Three days after that we were on a commercial airplane flying back home to Boise.

But not before we’d met the little girl in the hospital room right next to ours. She’d had hemolytic uremia too.  Suffered a stroke.   Been on dialysis.  Had multiple blood transfusions.  Was on her way towards a full recovery but was still weak as a kitten after two months in the hospital.  I realized then how serious this could have been.  Felt breathlessly grateful that somehow we’d been spared.

My girl.  A precious gift.

Happy 20th birthday, dear Erika!

May He give you the desire of your heart, and make all your plans succeed.

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  1. Happy birthday to your daughter. And it’s so wonderful that you were very lucky.
    Not all of us are.

    Enjoy that birthday!!

  2. Happy birthday to Erika! And an emotional post. Wow.

  3. Sunnie in NC says:

    Wow that was beautiful!! Glad she rebounded so fast!!
    Happy Birthday Erika!!!

  4. Christine D. says:

    God is great and God is good. Those were full days for the family. Erika is a beautiful young woman and such a blessing. May the Lord continue to bless her days with His precious gifts.

  5. such a moving post, Mary – you make it look so easy to have a large, bright, happy family – but real life is real life and real miracles are real miracles – God is good all the time – we notice it more when it is a child involved. Happy Birthday lovely Erika – and good job Mary – very good job.

  6. Just beautiful… The post and your daughter. What a miracle… Happy 20th Birthday, Erika!

  7. Happy Birthday! glad you are still with us!

    this date is shared with my sister, who is murmur-mumble years old, but still 22 months younger than I am. She prolly got her card in time, I had to put extra postage on its size.

  8. Our musical daughters have so much in common. Happy Birthday to yours! She’s truly a treasure! 🙂

  9. I know that flight, that hospital, and that fear. I also know that Psalm, and the gratitude of being one of the lucky ones who got to bring my child home. Thanks for the reminder.

    Happy birthday to your lovely girl.

  10. Jabber Jaws says:

    Happy birthday to your sweet daughter! Happy Mommy Day to you – there is something about celebrating tht connection too. Best wishes for a wonderful family celebration.

  11. Happy BDay Erika
    That is scary stuff, my little grand niece had it just two years ago about a month before her 2nd bday. She was life flighted also, in ICU for 10 days and now is fine. They say she may have kidney damage when she gets older but fingers crossed since she was so little – she grows out of it.

  12. You know me, Mary. You know that I’m not mad or being hard to get along with when I say this, but I’m not sure what you mean by you “claimed” that Psalm. On the chance that others may be coming from the same perspective I am, I venture to say that I’m sure I had just as much faith in God when our daughter died. It wasn’t that somehow I didn’t claim enough or the correct promises. I think I feel safe saying this to you and maybe have been looking for a chance to say it to someone, because there is this lurking accusation from some Christians that we just didn’t try hard enough or do something right. But I know how big God is and that is why I can have peace even though she did die. Thanks for listening now and many times in the past.

    • Yup, I totally understand what you are saying, Laura, and why you might need to say it. I am painfully aware that many sincere Christians don’t get their heart’s desire when praying that Psalm.

      As you know, if Erika had died, it would *not* have meant God had failed me, or that Psalm’s promise was false. It just would have meant that God was planning to uphold me in an even bigger way than He did by healing her. The way that God has upheld you every day since Melody died.

      He is the only reason we have any peace in life, isn’t He? So glad that we will be seeing your precious girl in heaven some day.

      • Tina in IN says:

        I had to comment here. I commend both of you. Mary for the post, the answer. Laura, for asking the question. Someone else wrote “not all of us are that lucky.” No maybe not. I have heard God answer me in ways I wanted, and not answer me in ways I have wanted. Both ways are his way, not mine. In the time or after-effects of a loss it is so hard to see this. God has a plan, and as someone told me recently..”it is usually the down times, that he is shaping and making us into his creation” I thank both of you for your conversation.

        Happy Birthday to Erika!

  13. Another “stone of remembrance” well chronicled here. In part, this is why I write my life in living color on my blog… to leave a record of where I’ve been so that there is something lasting for my children and their children to remember for years down the road.

    God has been so faithful to me and my family over the years. He’s constantly testing the waters of our faith; we’re constantly testing the waters of his. Together, we’ve written a pretty good story; whether or not it makes it into the history books here, it’s already made its way into the annals of heaven.

    Keep writing your life, Mary. I loved having your visit today and might blog and have ordered a copy of your kitchen recipes. I can’t cook worth a lick and have a large family to feed! Think I need this? I’m hoping it will help me.

    blessings and peace~elaine

  14. Beautiful post, and precious conversation in the comments. 🙂


  15. happy birthday to your lovely daughter. how wonderful to have such an incredible family. xo – your fan club prez.

  16. Mary,
    This post is a perfect example of why I read your blog. Why I look at Erika’s soft smile & tears well up in my eyes, even though I have never met you or anyone in your family. Knowing a bit of your story, knowing how you poured out your heart on the, knowing that your knowledge made our path soooo much easier & more intentional…
    Your mother’s heart & your faith come through true & strong.
    Never doubt that your words touch hearts. When I wonder if the blogger world is valuable in my life, I remember you.
    Squeeze that girl good.
    And thanks. Sincerely. Thank you.


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