It was the day after Christmas and my mom and I had spent the day shopping with baby Laura in tow and now we were heading home for dinner.
As I drove down the highway, I peeked in the rear view mirror and into the happy face of Laura, my 18-month old baby, snuggled safely in her car seat. I smiled. "Honey, we'll be at Grandma's house soon."
Suddenly, taillights blinked red just ahead. My foot pressed the brakes and the car lurched, skidding into the path of an oncoming minivan. My mother's screams pierced the air as I fought the car for control. The minivan tried to serve out of our path, but to no avail. Our car lunged toward it at sixty-miles-per-hour.
The thundering impact exploded around me. When I opened my eyes, I gasped, surprised to be alive. I turned to mom. She looked okay. But then I heard it. Silence.
Laura should be crying. Why wasn't my baby crying?
I turned and looked into the backseat. But the backseat had been ripped off the car.
Clawing my way out of the wreckage, I found my baby. Laura was still sitting in her car seat, dazed and still, in the middle of the freeway.
I knelt in the mud beside her and cried out to God, but as I prayed, I sensed our world was forever changed.
Once at the hospital, I pushed open a heavy emergency room door and crawled on hands and knees to the window that overlooked the doctors' valiant fight for Laura's life.
There I watched, wept, and prayed until I was finally discovered by a passing nurse. She ushered me back into the waiting room and into the arms of my husband, Paul, who had just arrived.
"Is Laura going to be okay?" he asked.
"I don't know. I, I think she has a fractured skull." I cried.
That evening we were moved to ICU where Laura quaked with seizures. But after the surgeries to relieve the building pressure in her brain, Laura remained hooked to life support, unconscious.
I kept my daily vigil by the still body of my child for weeks. One day, one of Laura's doctors dropped by to see her.
"There's still no change," he said. "You might as well…"
I felt startled. I knew what he wanted to say. He wanted to tell me to end my baby's life!
"But," I argued, "Laura's brain waves are active. She's not dead."
The doctor stared at me and tried to say more, but as he faced my hope, he fell mute and slowly turned and walked away.
In the weeks, then months that followed, I clung to my hope as well as my faith in God. When Paul and I were able to fly Laura from Texas to another hospital closer to our home in Colorado, I knew things would be different.
Two weeks later, the new hospital staff finished their evaluation of Laura and called a meeting.
"My husband's out of town today," I explained to the doctors. "Could we postpone this meeting until he arrives tomorrow?"
"No need to wait," the doctors explained. "You already know what we're going to say."
I smiled. I did know. They were going to tell me of the therapy treatment they use to coax children like Laura from their comas!
But once the meeting started, how stunned I was when one, by one, twenty-four healthcare professionals encircled me to pronounce their verdicts.
"Your daughter is not in coma. She's in a vegetative state."
"She'll never wake up."
"She's a vegetable."
"There's no hope."
I sat stoic, bent on gleaning information before my threatening-tears stopped the meeting. But though I was a brave actress, I felt numb, violated, shocked.
Later that night I sat in the stillness of my daughter's hospital room, holding her hand, watching for signs of life. As I studied her, Laura looked as if her dark lashes would flutter open and she would sit up, ending our almost two-month-long nightmare.
How I longed to hear Laura's giggle as she snuggled with her silky hair against my cheek while I read to her from one of her favorite books.
Impulsively, I leaned over and kissed her cherubic face. "Honey, it's Mommy. I love you...I know you're in there. I'm waiting...."
The words caught in my throat. The mechanical breathing of her respirator jarred my thoughts. A strange mood of uncertainty settled over me. I looked at the child I had fought and prayed so hard to keep. She's really in there, isn't she?
I stood up, trying to shake the doubt that had suddenly caught me off guard. Noticing my watch read 11 p.m., I decided to get ready for bed. Because Paul was still out of town, I wouldn't drive home, but would sleep over in Laura's room.
Flipping off the light, I shut the door. The nurses had already completed their evening rounds. It would be hours before anyone would check on us. I felt alone, too alone. I popped two extra-strength pain relievers and sat the bottle on a nearby tray table beside my glass of water. What if the doctors are right-and Laura never wakes up? I thought as I spread a blanket in the window seat.
Fluffing my pillow, I wondered about God. Maybe He's abandoned us. Maybe He isn't going to answer my prayers.
This new thought punctured my tired spirit. Just who am I trying to fool? I questioned. I need to face facts, Laura will never awaken. She'll live the rest of her life, as a vegetable, hooked to life support.
I tried to stifle the emotions that began to boil as Laura's respirator mocked, no-hope, no-hope, no-hope. My chest constricted as I gasped for air. Everything seemed so different, so pointless. Laura, I decided, would be better off if she were...to die. After all, I concluded, I couldn't allow her to live in this suspended state of life, could I?
A plan rose from my grief. I couldn't bear to ask the Doctors to take my child off life support after I'd prevented this action once before. But now, I realized Laura's smile would never return. My dreams for her life were dashed. And God? He had been as silent as Laura's stilled voice. Perhaps God's silence meant I needed to take matters into my own hands. Perhaps it was up to me to end this horrible suffering.
I can kill Laura without the doctor's help, I reasoned. I can turn off the alarms and unplug the vent from the wall. It would be so simple, except...except, I wondered, if I kill my daughter, how could I live with myself? How could I face Paul or my parents?
The moonlight reflected on my bottle of pain killers. If I swallowed them...no one would find us until morning...Laura and I could...escape...this living hell... Together.
Just as my plan seemed like the only solution, I found my hand resting on my belly. My hidden child was only two weeks old, but I knew he was there.
My thoughts slowly cleared. How could I kill myself? How could I kill Laura? A new life was growing inside of me. A life that had the right to live!
My reasoning returned, Lord, I'm willing to wait-despite the pain and the cost. I'm willing to wait on You.
That night I cried myself to sleep, terrified of the future and terrified of the murders I had almost committed. But despite my night of terror followed by my surrender to God, Laura remained unchanged. As she continued to sleep, my girth grow. Nine months later, I held my newborn son, Jimmy in my arms. Once home from the hospital, it was his cries that finally awoke Laura from her coma!
Though Laura returned to us paralyzed and on life support, she is a happy child, full of understanding and joy. Though unable to speak, Laura is able to silently communicate her wishes and feelings through tongue-signals and facial expressions. Now seventeen-years-old, Laura beams with joy, laughing at our jokes and enjoying the world around her.
But some would question her right to live, asking if her life was truly viable.
It's then I think back at the charge Jesus repeatedly gave in his earthly ministry. He charged us "To love the Lord with all our heart, and to love our neighbor as ourselves."
Laura has taught her family how to love. When I see Paul's love for his daughter and see Laura's little brother, now a teen, hug his sister and tell her how much he loves her, I'm so proud.
Then, when I look into Laura's innocent, joyous eyes, I can see that despite her handicaps, Laura loves her Lord and those He has put into her life more purely than anyone I know. Her life is viable indeed.
Your life is not only vialbe, it's valuable too. You have a purpose. You may be tired and weary, but did you know that the Bible says, "Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you and learn from me, for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For my yoke is easy and my burden is light." (from New International Version)
I have learned to give my burdens to God, as my life hasn't been so grand either. I can honestly say that despite my troubles, I have real peace and real joy. So can you. Not only give your troubles to God, through His son Jesus, give Him your sins as well as your life.
|Laura and her speech therapist Pam,
playing with old jewlry box.
|Laura and her brother and her mom,
Linda in 2003.
|Laura and her dad Paul. Linda and Paul
have been married over 30 years.