by Dana Gensler, Lindsay's mom
"How many mothers are over the age of 95?" the priest asked.
The one mother left standing after a long process of elimination, made her way to the front of the sanctuary where she received a blessing and a rose. It was Mother's Day, May 14, 1989. The presentation had been in progress at church for 20 minutes. We already honored new mothers at the baby dedication service. We determined the youngest mother, the mother with the most children, the mother with the youngest child, and the mother of the oldest child.
Next he asked, "Do we have any mothers who have lost a child?"
Five mothers walked forward where they also received a blessing and a rose. "What an odd-looking group," I whispered to Phil. "I can't imagine how they feel today."
Then the priest announced, "Do we have any mothers whose baby is due within two months?" Three mothers stood and after another elimination process only one mom was left standing--ME! I was the one: the next New Mother closest to Mother's Day. I wobbled to the front of the sanctuary where Father Gary Payne gave me a red rose tied with white ribbon. He made the sign of the cross over my head, then over my huge belly, giving us both a special blessing.
The following Sunday we were back at church, celebrities this time. The ladies gathered around, oohing and aahing and patting my even bigger belly. Then they surprised us with a luncheon and baby shower. We spent the afternoon laughing, enjoying the fellowship, eating, dreaming, opening gifts.
Two days later I called Father Gary: "This is it! She's on her way!" We had a close relationship with our priest; had even discussed allowing him in the birthing room when he hinted he would love to witness the miracle of childbirth. Instead, he arrived at the hospital at 6:30 a.m. to baptize a very sick baby. We weren't sure if this ceremony was crucial, but Lindsay's condition had deteriorated to the point where doctors deemed it necessary to transfer her to Kosair Children's Hospital in Louisville, KY, 120 miles away. Only five of us attended her emergency baptism, including two nurses. I sat on a stool and watched as Father Gary used tiny drops of water from our wedding bands to trace a cross on Lindsay's forehead, then her shoulders. I watched as he carefully shifted the endotracheal tube to trace the cross on her lips. I cried as his hand rested on her chest, which was violently jerking, with the force of each respiration. And I heard our young priest say, "I've never had to do this, Lord . . . never baptized such a sick baby."
Our hopes were high until the call came: Lindsay was dying. We arrived in Louisville at 4:30 a.m., and twelve hours later she took her final breath - held and surrounded by the love of her family. Her entire forever-lifetime had lasted 44 hours.
As we drove home I remembered the Mother's Day service less than two weeks before; particularly the five mothers who had a child in heaven. With sudden horror I realized I would be among their small group next year. Glancing at Phil, I wondered how he would cope on Father's Day, only a few weeks away. And what about the baby gifts we had received? And the Next-New-Mother-rose? Should I give it all back? Could I? We arrived home to find the rose withered, its vase empty of life-giving water, its petals scattered on the table.
Saturday, we went to a funeral. Only two women from the baby shower joined us for this baby's memorial service, now bearing gifts of tears. Father Gary placed a hand on Lindsay's very still chest and said, "Last Sunday I blessed her. Wednesday, I baptized her. Today, we bury her." Pink roses engulfed the ghostly white box cradling our baby, each one a symbol of the broken promises of my own special Mother's Day rose.
We went to church the next morning. Nobody patted my belly, there was no laughter, no pride, no oohs and aahs, and very few came to offer comfort. As we made our way to a seat near the back, we heard snatches of furtive whispers: . . . "they are the ones" . . . "the baby" . . . "fine on Tuesday" . . . "something about the heart" . . . "their baby" . . . "buried yesterday" . . . "baby" . . . "dead . . ."
I stumped into the pew feeling like a failure. We had let everyone down. I cried through most of that morning worship service, acutely aware of the empty spaces left around Phil and me. Even more aware of the enormous emptiness inside my still, swollen womb. Mother's Day would never be the same. Never again would I receive the honor of being the "Next New Mom." I was such a fraud!
After the service was over the priest was quickly by my side, offering me a pink rose. He simply said, "I'm so sorry."
"But Father Gary," I whispered. "I cannot accept this. My baby is dead. I am not the 'newest mother' anymore." He wrapped his arms around me. "Yes, you are," he said. "This Mother's Day we celebrated the life of your baby. We must remember that your baby lived. She made you the mother you will always be."
In the beginning, she lived.
Lindsay Nicole Gensler, was born on May 23, 1989, and died on her due date, May 25, 1989, from Hypoplastic Left Heart Syndrome.
Written by Lindsay's mom, Dana Gensler. Visit Lindsay's website.
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