Dear family and friends,
Today was Madeline’s memorial service. The service was beautiful, and I was humbled by all of you who honored Madeline and us with your presence. Thank you all again for your presence at the memorial whether in body or in spirit. As I was thinking about Madeline and what to say at the memorial service, I kept thinking about her story, what was her life about, what was God’s purpose with her? This is what I came up with.
When we first found out about Madeline’s heart condition, we were both scared. Back then, I didn’t realize what this was all about. You see I thought that this battle, this thing with Madeline, was going to be between God and I. We were stuck in this situation, the result of a fallen world, and it was my job to convince God to perform a miracle, and deliver Madeline from this problem that she had.
Now convincing God to do something that you want Him to can be a difficult task so I enlisted help, mostly of my local congregation, figuring that if I had more people trying to get God to see things my way, he may consider my plea and respond favorably. And so we prayed and prayed and prayed. As time went on and ultrasounds came and went, little changed with my daughter still in the womb but we still had time and my faith and my perseverance were not wavering.
The time came for Madeline to make her big entrance into the world much sooner than expected. It was on a Sunday. I was at church with the girls and Lisa had gone to the hospital to check up on Madeline. Her motherly instincts had told her that something was not quite right, but she knew everything would be fine and wanted me to go to church anyway. Then I got a call from Lisa, she said: “You need to give the girls to someone, get a car, and get here right away. Madeline is not well and they’re going to do an emergency c-section.” I was scared, and I was helpless to do anything. Madeline Grace came into this world on August 15th, around noon, 2lbs 8ozs. She didn’t cry or make a sound as they whisked her away to the NICU.
In the minutes and days and weeks following, I continued to feel helpless and broken. I was just a spectator, sitting by as nurses, doctors, and specialists made their rounds and gave their opinions on what to do to give Madeline the best chance for survival. Madeline might have had a chance had she gone full term, but now she’s 5 weeks early and fighting for her life. What was happening? Didn’t God hear my pleas? In the crazy environment of the NICU at St. Joseph’s hospital, where it seemed each moment could be Madeline’s last, I began, mostly out of desperation, to compose the first of my emails. Each time I wrote it was my goal to let as many people as possible know what was going on with Madeline, and get as many people as I could on her team praying for her. Maybe with the newly added reinforcements we can finally get God to change His mind and perform that miracle for Madeline.
I soon moved over to posting updates on Facebook as a way to reach yet more people, pleading each time that people would pray for Madeline. Each time I would send out a note, more and more replies would come back. Notes of encouragement, people thinking of us and Madeline, people praying for us, and quoted scripture. I was amazed by the faith with which people prayed. There was this confidence with each prayer that God is able to heal Madeline. I would always get these replies: “Praying continuously for your little girl.” We were so encouraged by those replies and so hopeful that Madeline would be healed. I remember one of the very first replies came from my friend in grade school from Brussels, whom I hadn’t spoken with in years, but had found me on Facebook. He says:
“Hi, Shanker, My English is a little bit bad and I didn't know the correct words I wanted say to you: I also pray for you now. When you knew me, i had no real 'touch' to God but it changes. life learns me a lot about and I deeply know that God hears us when we need. And don't forget: God often saves 'in extremis', to improve our faith. Kind regards, Friendly, Xavier.
I was amazed at how for Madeline’s story had travelled and how many people were being reached.
We got moved to Children’s hospital after 6 days. It was there that our eyes were opened to many others in similar situations to ours. In a short while it was time for Madeline to undergo her first cardiac surgery. It was a complex and crazy day.
That night was a night we will never forget. God got into the deepest depths of our souls as we watched the reality of what happens in the hospital unfold. We prayed like never before as we cried out to God for help for Madeline and for those around us. As the days passed and we realized how honored we were to be there on that hard night in the Cardiac Unit. God was able to use is in a way we had never imagined, to pray. And from that moment God led us to pray for everyone around us. This verse from Job 13:15 about faith in God came to mind that night:
“Though He slay me, yet will I hope in Him”
That’s when things began to change for us and Madeline. Our faith began to increase, not in God’s ability to heal Madeline, but more to trust in Him and His plan. I kept sending out messages and I kept telling the story of what was going on at Children’s Hospital. More and more replies would come in, and the story kept spreading. We started hearing from people who knew someone that knew someone that heard about Madeline’s story.
I remember Lisa telling me, that no matter what happened, she wanted Madeline to “have a good story.” Now as I look out over this sanctuary, as I scan the countless emails, letters, and cards I see that story coming together, and it’s oh so good. What could bring together family, friends, co workers, a UPS delivery driver, a woman who met us at a garage sale, and so many countless strangers united in such an endeavor? Who could get so many around the world praying in unison? And who could give us another little baby?
Only God could have created such a story.
Through Madeline’s story, God was increasing our faith. We saw many miracles along the way, some of them in Madeline, some in others that we had been praying for. As time went on, God was teaching us new ways to pray and what it means to pray without ceasing. I heard from many of you who had not prayed regularly or at all before and how your prayer life got jump started again. I was humbled as God used all of you and molded you into one body, where if one member of the body suffers all members suffer along with it.
Madeline’s life on earth has come to an end and left so many of us forever changed. Please continue to pray remembering and sharing the story of how God used one small life to teach us all about faith, trusting God, and prayer.
Shanker & Lisa