I remember lots of details about Anne Marie’s last days. I remember the day before she died going to Wal-Mart with my dad and the kids. I bought Anne Marie a new baby blanket with little white snowflakes all over it. I thought it would be pretty for the winter. I remember that same day sitting at the hospital with my dad and the kids talking about the Children’s Medical Center Christmas parade that we were planning to attend. And I remember that next morning, a year ago today, talking to Ginger on the phone, telling her how Anne Marie was doing. I didn’t know that day would be Anne Marie’s last.
One of the things I remember most about that day were Anne Marie’s doctors and the grace and compassion they showed us. I can’t imagine what's the hardest part about being a doctor. Maybe it's the long hours and personal sacrifices they make. Maybe it's seeing the effects of abuse and neglect. Maybe it's wanting so desperately to help someone but not being able to do anything. I think about these things sometimes, because Lincoln thinks medical school might be in his future. Or perhaps the hardest thing is having to look someone in the eye and tell them that their loved one -- the person they love so much that it hurts -- isn't going to make it. Our doctors that day had to deliver that news to us. And they did it with kindness and compassion.
Dr. M came on rotation later in the course of Anne Marie’s care, but we instantly liked her. She always spoke so calmly and soothingly. She was the first doctor we spoke to on that final morning. She explained to me that Anne Marie’s blood pressure had dropped and that they were giving her as much medicine as they could. She explained that they hadn’t been able to lower the ventilator settings at all. She had to mention the dreaded DNR concept, and all the details of what that meant. And she explained it all with such care and concern.
Our neonatologist was an ex-military man. And he was brilliant -- not only was he a neonatologist, he was also a pediatric cardiologist. But he too explained things so clearly that we could understand everything that was going on with Anne Marie. We first met him during our visit to Children’s before Anne Marie was born. He had explained the details of her care and what might happen, and had given us a tour of the NICU. He was also the one who told us Anne Marie was gone. I was holding her in my arms and this tall, ex-military man leaned over and listened with his stethoscope, then with tears in his eyes and a quavering voice told us that her heart had stopped beating.
And then there was Dr. T. She was on call the night Anne Marie was born and so she became our attending physician. She was about my age, cute and petite, and looked like she just stepped out of a J. Jill catalog. She was kind, and smart, and did everything she could to save Anne Marie. I don’t know when she ever slept because she was always at the hospital. On that last day she was the one who asked me if I wanted to hold Anne Marie. That’s when I knew things were really bad. Providentially, it had worked out for us to be able to have Anne Marie’s picture taken after she died -- a picture without tubes and wires. I remember being upset because I didn’t have anything for Anne Marie to wear. She hadn’t been able to wear anything but socks and then she eventually had so many I.V.'s on her feet that she couldn’t even wear socks. I remember crying, saying that I didn’t know today was going to be her last day and I didn’t have a dress at the hospital. Dr. T knelt down beside me and said, "I'll go get it. Tell me where you live and I'll go get it." I will never forget that. And I won’t forget Anne Marie’s funeral, seeing Dr. T in the back of the church.
My memories from our last day are sacred. Anne Marie was there in my arms and then she was gone. Her last breath with us, and then instantly with Christ. Heartbreaking and beautiful.
I will always be grateful for the people who helped us on what was the worst day or our lives. For the doctors and nurses who showed such kindness and compassion. For grandparents who were with Mary Margaret and Jack Henry all day and then brought them to us to see Anne Marie after having to tell them that their baby sister had died. For Ginger, for being with Lincoln and Lille in Oklahoma City those many days. And for so many people who prayed for us.
Happy heavenly birthday, Anne Marie. I can't say it enough: We miss you every second of every day. I can't wait for the day when I can hold you again.
Outside the grass is brown and the leaves are falling, but the winter grass at Anne Marie's gravesite makes it look like springtime.