Hope Is Stronger Than Sorrow

Hope Is Stronger Than Sorrow

From Chicken Soup for the Grieving Soul

Hope Is Stronger Than Sorrow

Light always follows darkness.

Anonymous

In a quiet room away from the noise of the emergency room, I gazed at my four-month-old son Heath. As tears streamed down my face, I kissed his soft cheeks and stroked his downy blond hair. “How am I going to live without you?” I sobbed.

Just that morning, he had been laughing, but now my heart shattered as I envisioned everything he would never experience, everything I’d miss. I’d never see him take his first steps or hear him say, “I love you, Mommy!” There’d be no first day of school or wedding to look forward to. Looking into the future, all I saw was sorrow. I didn’t think I could go on. But in time, I would learn that hope is stronger than sorrow. . . .

Before Bob and I were married eleven years ago, I learned after a routine exam that my kidneys weren’t functioning.

“You have chronic renal failure,” my doctor told me.

Stunned, I asked, “Am I going to die?”

He assured me that with a change in diet, I could live a normal life. Relieved, Bob and I made plans for our future. We wanted a baby right away, but first we saved to buy a house. One year later, we bought a lovely home in a lovely neighborhood. The time was right to have a baby, we happily decided.

But my doctor cautioned me, “If you become pregnant, the strain could worsen your condition to the point where you’ll need dialysis or a transplant.”

Later, I sobbed to Bob, “We’ll never have a family now!”

“Then we’ll adopt,” he soothed.

Hope filled me, and I focused on staying healthy. But gradually, just walking up a flight of stairs exhausted me, and at night, twelve hours of sleep wasn’t enough.

“Your kidneys have gotten weaker,” my doctor explained. “You need a kidney transplant.”

My name was put on a donor list, and I prayed that a kidney would be found soon. Thirteen months later, the hospital called.

“We have a donor,” the transplant coordinator said. A man had died in a car accident, and I prayed that his family would find comfort in knowing their loved one had given the gift of life.

The surgery was a success, and I felt more alive than ever. Your gift has given me a second chance, I wrote in a letter of thanks to the donor family. I’ll always be grateful.

As my body healed, my dream of having a baby was rekindled. I was elated when my doctor told me that it was safe for me to get pregnant now. He assured me the antirejection drugs I took wouldn’t harm a baby I was carrying. But there were risks: Pregnancy could put a strain on my new kidney, I could have a rejection episode, or my baby could be born prematurely.

“We have to have faith that everything will be all right,” Bob said.

And he was—I became pregnant a year and a half later. It was a healthy pregnancy until my seventh month, when I was at the hospital for a routine kidney test—and my water broke.

It’s too soon! I anguished. Please don’t let me lose my baby! Two hours later, Heath was born. Though tiny, he was healthy. As I held him in my arms I wept, “You’re my miracle baby.”

Every day with Heath was a reason to rejoice. From the way he held my finger while he drank his bottle to his sweet gurgles when I picked him up, he filled my heart with love. I couldn’t have been happier. But then tragedy struck.

Just a few hours after I’d kissed my baby good-bye and gone to work, the police called to tell me that Heath, who had been with a sitter, had stopped breathing.

Numb with fear, I rushed to the hospital, praying that he’d be okay. He wasn’t.

“I’m sorry,” the doctor said. “Heath died of SIDS.”

Bob and I were numb with grief and shock as we said good-bye to our son.

How can I go on? I agonized.

Before we left the hospital, a social worker talked with us about donating Heath’s organs. In a strange twist of fate, I suddenly understood in a way I couldn’t have before how my donor’s family must have felt when faced with the decision Bob and I were being asked to make now. Can I be as selfless? I wondered.

But in the depths of my grief, I realized that in giving someone else new life, a part of my son would live on.

“I want to donate Heath’s organs,” I told Bob. He agreed. Later, doctors decided that Heath’s corneas were the best option for donation.

Someone will see because of my son! I realized. It brought me some comfort, but I still grieved for the baby we had loved and lost. Just looking at Heath’s picture tore at my heart.

I tried to go on by throwing myself into work. But every night I prayed, please don’t let me wake up in the morning. When I did awake, I cried and cried.

Bob was hurting, too, so we joined a bereavement group. At the first meeting, I cried quietly while other parents talked about their grief. When it was my turn, I wept, “I miss being a mother.”

One woman said, “I know what you’re going through.” Knowing they understood helped ease our pain, and seeing how some members had healed gave me hope. And in time, Bob and I knew we needed to go on with our lives. When we’d donated Heath’s corneas, we’d decided to give someone a second chance. Now we needed to give ourselves the gift of life—and hope—again. So we decided to have another child.

When I became pregnant again, I was elated, but also very frightened. What if we lose this baby, too? I worried. And when I went into labor seven weeks early, my mind reeled.

“Just like Heath!” I sobbed.

Though she weighed just two and a half pounds, Savannah was perfect. But I worried, What if she dies from SIDS, too?

As a precaution, Savannah came home with a monitor that would alert us if she stopped breathing. But I constantly checked on her anyway. As the months passed and Savannah thrived, I began to relax.

Still, I knew I wouldn’t find peace of mind until Savannah was out of danger. That happy day came when she was almost one, and she no longer needed the monitor. Her first birthday party was a celebration of life and a return of happiness.

Today, Savannah is three, and she fills our home with joy. And when I look at pictures of Heath, I smile instead of sob.

Someday, I’ll tell Savannah about the donor program and how my life has been blessed because of it. But for now, I’m just looking forward to watching my daughter grow. And because of the gift of life I received, I won’t miss one special moment.

Duane Shearer
As told to Janice Finnell
Previously appeared in
Woman’s World

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