Shelly's Story - part four
They were able to bring her back ok and she then recovered in her room. But to every ones dismay, the doctors found that the procedure didn’t work on Shelly so they decided to insert a pacemaker. Mark and I told Shelly about the pacemaker procedure. Then for the first time in all her hospital stays she wasn’t brave or friendly, but became very irritable and uncooperative with the nurses, doctors and her family. Shelly continued to be in PICU and it was not unusual for me to crawl in bed with her if she was in Intensive Care or the regular Cardiac floor.
So the afternoon before the procedure was scheduled for the pacemaker the next morning, I crawled in bed with Shelly and said, “what’s up? What’s going on? Why are you so crabby?” She then replied “ I’m scared I won’t wake up after the procedure.” I then said “and if you don’t wake up, where will you be?” Shelly said “in heaven!” (very matter of fact!). I then, testing her, said “and how do you know that?” She said “because I prayed asked Jesus to come into my heart on Halloween night with Lilly and I was baptized and I just know I’m going to heaven”. I said, “you know Shelly, it’s not our will if one of our loved ones goes to see Jesus before us. But it will be God’s will and we have to want what God wants don’t we?” She said, “yes, and there will be no more shots, no more heart biopsies”, I said “ no, and no more pills and breathing treatments and throwing up. Then Shelly said “And no more spelling tests or math tests!” I said, “YES!”
We both lay on the bed and laughed. She said, “OK lets get this over with.” Later when the doctors and nurses came through they mentioned that Shelly’s mood was changed. I explained about our conversation how that she was afraid she wouldn’t wake up. But how she remembered the day when she prayed and asked Jesus to come into her heart and she knew beyond a shadow of a doubt that she’d be in heaven after she died and she was now anxious to get the procedure over with.
The pacemaker procedure went well and she decided that it too needed a name so she called it “Life Saver”. We thought that was so unique for an 8-½ year old to think of calling a pacemaker LifeSaver! Unfortunately, Shelly’s tummy continued to enlarge so the transplant team thought that they should take her to the heart catherization lab and do another heart catherization and biopsy. After being in the lab for several hours, the transplant team of a doctor and nurse said they needed to sit down and talk to us. We knew by the sounds of their voices that it was not good news.
After our meeting, Mark, Kimberly and I sat and looked at each other and just cried. The news we had received was that due to an unknown cause of acute coronary artery disease Shelly’s new heart was in total rejection and she would have to be placed again on the heart transplant list. They also told us that maybe she would not live long enough to receive another heart. How could this happen? We took such good care of her. Kept her healthy, always made sure she took her medications. How could God take this child? This child that he gave to us to raise even though we had no intentions at the beginning to keep her for ourselves? This child who brought so much joy to our home; who brought new life into our home. Shelly was to be Kimberly’s flower girl in 8 weeks. Her dress material was already bought and a friend, Ella, was making the dress Shelly would wear.
The adoption still had not gone through. Could God take this dear child not knowing she was not legally in the sight of the law our child? Mark and I were asked if we wanted to put Shelly back on the heart transplant list. We said how could we not. Shelly enjoyed almost 4 years with her new heart. Was there a possibility that she’d have more years with another heart? But to see her go through another heart surgery, we knew God would have to give us the strength. About 5 days later, the Saturday before Easter, Shelly was stable enough to return home.
Because of her failing heart, her little waist grew from 21 inches to about 35 inches because of fluid that was developing and settling in her tummy. She needed help walking and getting out of bed. Brian and Jessie came home the first day Shelly came home. They colored Easter eggs with her but she mostly just watched. She was just too tired. She would try to walk and then stop and look at you and say, “I think I’m preg-a-nent”. We assured her she wasn’t. Because of the excess fluid in her stomach Shelly was in a lot of pain.
Her home care nurse she had several years prior and now a good friend, Lynne, came over on Tuesday and we put on a “Praise” CD and Shelly just laid back on the recliner while Lynne prayed for Shelly and we took turns rubbing her tummy. We could feel the calmnest in her body when we prayed. On Wednesday, March 30, 2005, Kimberly’s 26th birthday, we were to take Shelly to see her cardiologist. A friend had loaned us a wheel chair so we were able to take her in the wheel chair. Shelly looked so beautiful that day. I was able to wash her hair and get the tangles out.
Because she had gained so much weight, I found a dress in the back of her closet I had bought one day several months earlier that was 2 sizes too big for her, but now fit perfectly. Dr Hani’s eyes said it all “if she doesn’t get a heart soon, Shelly’s not going to live”. After Dr. Hani’s visit, we had promised Shelly we’d go to a new restaurant in town for some bar-b-que chicken. We did go but we had to leave because she was in so much pain. On the way home Shelly talked Mark into going by the pet store to pick up fish for her aquarium.
Mark of course did but Shelly wanted to stay in the car while he ran into the store. When we got home we were put the candles on Kimberly’s cake and her fiancée Mark came over to help celebrate Kimberly’s birthday. Shelly lay on the couch while Mark and I took turns rubbing her tummy and we watched the new American Girl movie “Samantha” that had just been released. That night, Mark and Shelly were reading their Tarantula book that they had picked up from the library. I then came into her room to say prayers. As I prayed, I said “and maybe just tonight dear Jesus, we will receive a call that a heart is available”. Shelly said, “No, Mom not tonight-maybe in the spring”. I just said, “we’ll see”.
The night was very restless for Shelly. We have an intercom that was in our room and her room so we could hear any unusual sounds even though we were just in the next room. Several times during the night Mark and I would check on her and several times I heard her just sigh. I would get out of my bed and crawl in bed with Shelly and just say “are you ok sweetie”? She just said, “I hurt Mommy”. I said, “I’m so sorry baby”. The next morning before Mark went to work he checked on Shelly. After he left the house, Shelly got out of bed by herself and walked into the living room. I heard Shelly so I jumped out of bed. She said she was doing fine and was hungry for some oatmeal. So I made her some oatmeal. She ate every bite of her breakfast and took all of her medications. Kimberly had stopped by the house and asked if we needed anything. I asked her if she’d go down to the store to pick up some Motrin because I just had one left to give to Shelly. Kimberly said “Bye Billy I’ll be right back and I love you ”. Shelly’s reply was “me too”.
Ella, our friend who was going to make Shelly’s dress for Kimberly wedding stopped by to see Shelly and brought some patterns for us to look at because if Shelly was going to be in Kimberly’s wedding, and her waist was getting so big, she’d need another style of dress. Ella came into the house while Shelly and I was combing her new American Girl, Marisol’s hair. Shelly said that her tummy really hurt and I said I could give her some Motrin because Kimberly was going to get some more. Shelly put the Motrin in her mouth, took a drink and started coughing. She then said to me “Mommy help me”. As I was sitting on the couch next to her, I reached to help her sit up. As I was hugging Shelly I began praying in her ear “Dear Jesus, please help Shelly right now, Oh, Jesus she needs your strength and help right now. Please take away the pain in Shelly’s tummy dear Jesus”.
Just then our precious little angel arched her back and took her last earthly breath and went from my loving arms into the arms of our caring and loving Savior.
My first reaction was “No! Oh, Jesus please, No. I didn’t want you to take her. I wanted you to heal her here on earth.” Then I kept repeating “Oh Shelly I love you, Daddy loves you, Lilly loves, Brian and Jessie love you, Jason and Mo love you, oh Shelly.” I had to call Mark. I had to call Kimberly. I was in a panic. Ella handed me the phone and I called Mark; he dropped the phone and came running home. Shelly was already with her Jesus. Kimberly was just pulling back into the driveway when I called her and she ran into the house. Being a cardiac nurse, Kimberly put on the stethoscope and listens for heart sounds. There were none.
Then Kimberly said the most incredible thing. She starting consoling me by saying “Mom you were such a good Mom to Shelly; Mom you were so awesome to Shelly; She knew how much you loved her; we all loved Shelly so much.” Mark, Kimberly, and I sat on the side of the couch just hugging Shelly and loving our daughter! I was so thankful that Ella, Shelly friend was there with us.
I called Shelly’s pediatrician right away and she was out of town so her associate, Dr. Cindy rushed right over and pronounced her dead on that day of Thursday, March 31, 2005. Dr. Cindy made all the necessary phone calls while Kimberly, Mark and I made phone calls to family and friends. Many of them came over right away to say good bye to Shelly.
We were able to keep Shelly at home for several hours before the funeral home director came to the house to take her away. When we were ready, Mark laid Shelly on the gurney and we covered her with her special blanket that Kimberly and a friend had made for Shelly. I said to the funeral director, “ I’m going to tell you what I told each doctor that took our daughter away before surgery – please take good care of our daughter”. They promised to do just that. This was an experience that we look back on and actually thank God that Shelly died at home in my arms instead of in a hospital room full of strangers and the chaos of the hospital red code procedures.
The next day we had to make the funeral plans and pick out the cemetery lot. We had decided that there would be a viewing on Saturday afternoon and evening and the service on Sunday afternoon. Our hearts began to ache for the family that donated unconditionally the new heart to Shelly. Also our thoughts turned to Shelly’s biological parents. Even though they had not seen Shelly for about 6 years, they were still her biological parents. I called her father and explained to him what had happened and we set a special time aside where Shelly’s biological parents and their family could come to the funeral home before the funeral service on Sunday.
Brian, Jessie, Jason, Mo, Kimberly and her Mark and Mark and I joined hands and formed a circle in our living room before we left for the funeral home on Saturday, just to spend time with the Lord. It was an awesome time to give God the glory for Shelly’s 8 ½ years with us and we asked that in our grief we be a testimony of God’s love to all of the people that would be coming to see Shelly. Oh, Shelly looked so beautiful. Kimberly and I had picked out an outfit that Shelly had modeled at a girls store at the mall the previous Christmas. Her hair was beautiful. She just looked like she was going to sit up and say “ok, do you have any questions for me?” Friends, relatives, Bob the greeter from Meijers Supermarket who was a special friend to Shelly, library employees, animal control and pet shop employees, clients and colleagues of Mark, neighbors, pastors, home schooled children and their families, doctors and nurses from several of the hospitals all came to see our precious angel for one last time here on earth.
At the service on Sunday we had played many special songs that Shelly loved. One of them was song by the Continental Singers that sing the phrases of “I’m dancing in Heaven, I’ve got my dancing shoes on, I’ve got my new heart today.” That particular song was singing in my head and I mentioned to Mark that I thought it would be nice to play that at the beginning of Shelly’s funeral celebration. Then right before we left the house for the funeral service Mark and I were looking for a blank tape to have on hand so we could tape the service if possible. I found one and I said, “lets just make sure that it is blank.”
I put it into the tape record and then realized that it was a recording that I had taped of Shelly when she had four weeks prior, called into the local Christian radio station during request time. She had asked the announcer if he’d play a song for her. He asked her name and she said “Shelly Bash and I would like to know if you’d play a song for me. It’s called I love my sister, I love my brother song and I would like for you to play it for my sister Lilly or I mean Kimberly”. He said “well which is it Lilly or Kimberly?” She said “both”. Then she giggled. He then asked Shelly why would she like to hear that song for Lilly AKA Kimberly?” Shelly said “because I love my sister and she comes to visit me in the hospital and we have fun”. He said “oh, ok.”.
Oh, God is so awesome! We just knew that we had to play that also during the service. The funeral celebration was a wonderful time where friends and relative were able to tell little things that reminded them of Shelly. Also Shelly’s two special pastors, Pastor Dan P and Pastor Dan W. gave a salvation message and of Shelly’s love for her Jesus and her family. There were not enough seats for the people to sit so some people were standing up in the lobby just to be able pay their respect to our little Angel!
After the funeral services, our boys and their wives all went back to their different states and Kimberly drove back to her apartment, Mark and I were now official empty nesters. Wow, how did that happen? It’s supposed to happen gradually. We buried our precious daughter but the State of Michigan still couldn’t find the paper work to say, “yes, Shelly is your adopted daughter”.
We knew Shelly was our daughter but there is something about a legal piece of paper that we felt in our heart we needed to finalize the thought. Seven weeks later, Kimberly and Mark were married. It was a joyous occasion but our hearts were aching for Shelly.
Kimberly had called the florist who was preparing the flowers for her wedding and asked if they would make up Shelly’s flowers but put them in a beautiful heart shaped vase so she could put them on the organ in memory of Shelly. The beautiful gerbera daisy flowers were then taken to the cemetery to lie on Shelly’s grave sight. About three months later, the fact that the State of Michigan ‘couldn’t find Shelly’s paper work for adoption” really bothered me. So I started doing some calling to find out what happened. After talking to many different employees over a weeks time we were told that all of Shelly’s paper work was approved and sent to her case worker at the Department of Social Services on March 30th, 2005-one day before Shelly died.
What have we learned and what are we still learning from the death of our child? That people can say the most awkward statement to grieving parents; that there is a totally different sleep pattern, and a new life of physical and emotional emptiness; that there are grief counselors and many helpful books besides the Bible (one like “Holding on to Hope”), but there are also other parents who have lost a child that can give an encouraging letter or word; that there is a time of being angry and turn from our God, but also a time to trust our God and His Will; and that is there really a right time to go through Shelly’s room and give her things away?
That time does not heal; it only allows us to deal with life without Shelly. We want to continue to serve the Lord and love our family and friends. When people ask how many children do you have our reply is 4--3 on earth and 1 in heaven. Our grieving seems even more now, 15 months since Shelly’s death, but we are learning to be a listener to other grieving parents. And that giving a hug and being there is more appreciated than the comment “how are you doing” to a grieving parent.
As Mark and I try to understand our different times of grieving, the tears which come at anytime or any place are not because of why but because of the love Shelly gave to us and others. We will continue to share Shelly’s story with others and her love for her Jesus. We are still amazed of the lives that Shelly touched that we didn’t realize at the time. Mark and I continue to go on in our life living in our empty nest. We try to make ‘dates’ and go out with friends. Mark is back to teaching Sunday school and enjoying the time studying God’s word.
As for me, through the encouragement of some very special friends, I am involved in a ladies bible study and am now the facilitator of the study group. I am also enjoying being the choir director for our adult church choir. Brian and Jessie are doing well living in Ohio with their 2 cats anticipating a job move to China. Jason and Mo are proud parents of beautiful little Miss Riley and their dog Kaiko living in South Carolina and Kimberly and her husband Mark are living in Michigan enjoying the new role that God has given to them as our pastor and wife of our church. Each day we pray for God’s leading and will in our lives and our children’s lives realizing even more than ever that life is so short. Shelly would be so proud of her brothers, sister, and their spouses because she loved them so much. And she would have had so much fun playing with her little niece.
Mark and I are getting involved in the Michigan Gift of Life making people aware of organ donation and the unconditional gift that was given to Shelly on that October 1, 2000. For my birthday a year after we brought Shelly home from the hospital, my very special friends gave me a beautiful picture of a child playing by the side of a waterfall. The captioned words say “One hundred years from now it will not matter what kind of house I lived in, How much money I had, nor what my clothes were like. But the world may be a little better because I was important in the life of a Child. It’s been 15 long months since our precious little angel left her earthly sickly body and became heaven bound.
And yes, we are still licensed foster parents for the State of Michigan but at this time we are putting our license on hold. There has not been an hour that goes by that we don’t think of and miss Shelly. Her smiles, her little quirks, her singing, her sweet smell, her stories, her hugs, are forever embedded in our hearts. And someday, when our dear Lord calls us to our heavenly home, we too will see our precious gift that God loaned to us for a short time, who changed our lives forever, and we pray Christ will say “well done”.
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