November 13, 2009

The day I received the unexpected gift of nearly dying.

It’s a day I would never want to relive. Even more, I would never want my family to relive it.

But I wouldn’t trade it for anything.

You see, November 13, 2009 is the day my youngest son was born. The day I stood at the threshold of eternity but did not step over. The day I received some lessons that dramatically changed my perspective on life. Lessons that ushered me into a truly abundant life.

I know that I know that I know my Jesus. And I am confident that my eternity is secure in heaven.

I know and embrace my purpose in life. And it’s not to be a writer.

I know and experience God’s comfort. And it is only through my grief and brokenness.

My Story of Near Death

36 weeks of a perfect pregnancy.

Yes, I was tired from chasing a 5, 3, and 1 year old while pregnant. And yes, it was a full season of life which included traveling to the Grand Canyon and beginning homeschooling. But my pregnancy could not have been better.

Then one night.

Some hemorrhaging sent me to the hospital where I received a late diagnosis of placenta previa and was placed on strict bed rest.

Nine days of rest in a hospital bed.

Nine days away from my other children. An amniocentesis – twice. Bloodwork and monitors. A baby shower in my hospital room. Day after day of sitting.

Then November 13.

It was finally time for a c-section. Surgery was fine. I was fearful of being operated on while awake, but it wasn’t that bad. Baby Caleb was a bit early but quite healthy. We returned to our regular room to recover.

Everything quickly changed.

My nurse calmly mentioned she was calling the doctor back in. A few minutes later, I started feeling weak and generally bad. My body quickly began to spiral out of control from major hemorrhaging (due to what we later learned was placent accreta).

I felt like I was watching a hospital drama on TV.

Except I was the center. People were everywhere. Sticking me everywhere. Pushing on my everywhere. Giving me drugs. Demanding orders to one another. Putting a port into my jugular vein. Calling out vital signs.

In the midst of the drama, my mom and sister arrived with my three big kids to meet their baby brother. A nurse abruptly pushed them out the door. I am so thankful.

This team would have been amazing to watch, except I was their focus. I remember watching the hands on the wall clock move from 2:00 all the way to 2:50. Incredible pain. Minimal consciousness. Barely existent blood pressure. And oh yes, I was still quite conscious.

But I knew I was dying.

I remember vivid details of the conversation around me. Orders. Drug names. “I can’t hit a vein.” “Blood pressure 40 over 20.” “Is somebody charting this?”  “Aimee, can you hear me?”

I also remember vivid details of the conversation within me. My prayers were not coherent, well-crafted sentences. But my God knew my heart. Looking back days later, I realized the conversation was quite simple: “God, I’m ready to come home to You. But I have Aron and our four little children. I still have a job to fulfill.”

His response? “Yes, I still have an assignment for you to fulfill on Earth.”

My next memories are from three days later. I know the story from everyone else. Emergency surgery. Hysterectomy. A team of specialists from a nearby hospital. Multiple blood transfusions. Ventilator. ICU.

Aron stayed by my side. Baby Caleb received first-class babysitting in NICU. My other children were entertained by family to keep them distracted. But my oldest, Jackson, has vivid memories of his fear and tears.

I do remember my children finally meeting their 3 day old brother. Barely. I remember my violent sickness and excruciating walks through my recovery. I remember realizing Caleb would not be a breastfed baby. I remember thanking the surgeon for helping me stay alive. He told me to thank the good Lord and go home and love on my babies.

The surgeon knew it was God, not him, who spared my life.

My Abundant Life

I know my Jesus.

I possess absolute confidence that my eternity is secure in heaven. Before that day, I had moments of doubt. I taught the Bible and led people to begin a relationship with Jesus. But at times, I just wondered. What if I had bought into a lie? But not anymore.

I understand that life is in the blood. I am alive because people gave their blood. A selfless gift of time and pain. To those of you who are blood donors, I thank you. My husband thanks you. My children thank you. My parents, sisters, and friends thank you.

But it’s a mere shadow of the blood Jesus offered. Communion will never be the same. His blood is my only hope of true life. He gave the ultimate selfless gift of Himself. For me. For you.

In those fifty minutes of awful consciousness, I knew I was dying. Yet, my heart was at peace. In that moment, I wanted to talk with my Jesus. In His graciousness, He responded. He reassured me of my salvation for eternity, yet He offered me the gift of purpose for the meantime.

I embrace my purpose in life.

I know why God has me here on earth. I love my purpose. Before that day, I was searching for something grand. Somehow, being wife to Aron and mom to three (almost four) did not feel like enough. Yet, as I lay there dying, they were the people on my mind.

Looking back, I can see the conversation I had with the Lord. It wasn’t a coherent prayer. But He spoke clearly to me. My purpose is to love and serve my husband, my children, and my other people around me. My simple purpose is a grand purpose in His eyes. That is enough for me.

God chose me to be wife and mom in my family. That makes me the best for them. He still reminds me regularly “You are My servant. I have chosen you and not rejected you. Do not fear, for I am with you. Do not anxiously look about you, for I am your God. I will strengthen you, surely I will help you, surely I will uphold you with My righteous right hand.” (Isaiah 41:9-10)

I experience God’s comfort in my brokenness.

For months, I lived in awe that I was still alive. Every day truly felt like that gift that it was.

Exactly nine months later, the grief set in. I took my maternity clothes to consignment. As I hung them on the rack, reality set in. I could not have any more children. I had lost the part of myself that carried my babies. I was broken, physically incomplete. I took the clothes off the rack and returned to my car as the sobs overtook me.

People had been comforting me for months that “at least you already have four children.” Well-meaning encouragement, but it didn’t lessen the grief of my brokenness.

But God… The best two words in Scripture. But God had another plan. A plan of redemption. In my brokenness, I receive His comfort. In His comfort, I receive His presence. In His presence, I am healed and whole.

Is your story similar to my story?

Our stories are not really that different.

We are born. We live. We die.

It is that time of the dash between dates on our tombstones that matters. That is where God is writing our stories. We cannot change most circumstances of our lives. But we can choose the attitude of our heart in the midst of them. We can choose to receive the story of redemption that God wants to write.

We can choose to know Jesus and to have confidence in our eternal salvation. We can choose to embrace our purpose in what God calls us to do here on Earth. We can allow our brokenness to be the catalyst that draws us closer to the heart of our Savior.

Do you know Jesus?

Really, stop and consider that question. Do you know Him? If you were to stand on the brink of eternity today, are you confident that you will be with Him in heaven? Jesus said, “These things I have written to you who believe in the name of the Son of God, so that you may know that you have eternal life.” (I John 5:13) Yes, you too can have confidence in your eternity if you really know Jesus. Not confident? Find a friend whose life testifies that they really know Jesus, and talk to them.

Do you embrace your purpose?

Are you a wife, mom, daughter, sister, friend? Then, my friend, you have purpose! God says, “You are My servant; I have chosen you and not rejected you.” (Isaiah 41:9) Don’t allow the search for a grand purpose to distract you from your real purpose. God has chosen you to be His servant for your people. Embrace your purpose to love and to serve the people right in front of you.

Do you experience God’s comfort?

Are you broken like me? Maybe it’s physical. Maybe it’s your heart that has been broken. “The Lord is near to the brokenhearted.” (Psalm 34:18a) Oh friend, Jesus is near to you! He wants to be your refuge and comfort. Pour out your heart to your heavenly Father and receive His comfort.

One day, I will approach that threshold once again.

But on that future day, I will step over into eternity. I can honestly say that I am ready. For now, I will thank my God for every new morning because it testifies to His faithfulness. But His faithfulness is not dependent on the outcome being what we wanted.

I will also thank God that even if I had died on November 13, 2009, He would still have been faithful. He would have been enough for my family. He would have been faithful to carry me into His eternal, perfect presence.

Several months after this experience, I realized that I had nearly received that moment of seeing Jesus face to face. Now, I eagerly anticipate that glorious day when I will kneel before Him. “Even so come, Lord Jesus.”

But for today, I will enjoy the abundant life that is my story.