As a reminder to myself to remember how great an impact her short life had in ours, I am posting her eulogy that I wrote for her funeral. I'll warn you, it's long, but I cannot think of a better place for it to be than in my blog tucked in with family memories where it belongs.
My life has been blessed in so many ways. I have a wonderful, loving husband. Alyssa my honor roll student, Noah, my very imaginative five year old, and Ricky, a very active and luckily for him, very adorable baby.
Briona was our little surprise. I knew from the beginning of my pregnancy that something was different. I just had no idea of what really was to be in store for us. Everyone would ask me as they found out I was pregnant again, "I bet you are hoping for a girl this time!" To which I could quite truthfully answer, "Not really, I just would like a healthy baby, and a boy would be much easier with them being so close in age."
We found out at 20 weeks gestation that Briona had Hypo Plastic Left Heart Syndrome, a very serious and very rare congenital heart disease. We were worried, and scared, but determined to give our little girl every chance possible.
Briona was supposed to be a "straightforward" hypoplast. Even before she was born, her surgeon predicted that she would be home within two to three weeks after her first surgery. The day she was born, the doctors actually let me hold her for several minutes before taking her to the neonatal unit. For her father and I it was love at first sight. One look at her and we were hooked. We both agreed that as long as she had fight left in her, we would do everything we could to help her win her battle. There was a quality about her that had an affect on everyone who met her. Her beautiful spirit shone through. Her wonder at the world around her amazed people. There's not really much for a baby to look at in a pediatric cardio thoracic unit, so Briona quickly became fascinated with her "bug butt" mobile. Many days my hand got tired from winding it up over and over again, but to see her smile even with a breathing tube in made it all worth it.
One of Briona's doctors once said that Briona had more lives than a whole litter of kittens. She endured three open heart surgeries in less than four weeks, and was on ECMO life support twice. She had a fungus infection in her bladder, a bacterial infection in her blood, her lungs even collapsed once, but she bounced back every time. Her will to live was amazing. More than once we told that she probably wouldn't make it through the night, and until January 14th, she proved the doctors every time. She would wake up in the morning, look up for her mobile, and wave her hands around until someone wound it up for her. She loved to be touched, which can be unusual for a baby in the ICU. We could stroke her beautiful, but untamed hair, and she would roll her eyes back and sigh as if to say, "That feels so good!" She loved to suck on pink sponges and to be rocked on the few occasions that we were allowed to hold her. She loved to hear her bedtime stories, Goodnight Moon, Mama Do You Love Me, and her daddy's favorite, Guess How Much I Love You. She tolerated all of the silly hair dos that the nurses and I had so much fun creating. She even let us play dress up one day. I had such big hopes and dreams for her. I miss her so much already.
On the morning of January 14th, I knew that Briona didn't have any fight left in her. I looked at her poor little body, stroked her head, and whispered to her that it was okay to stop fighting. I promised her that we would never forget her, and that we would love her forever. I also told her to look out for her friends in the ICU, many of them as sick as she was. Then I asked the doctors to let us hold her so that she could die with dignity in our arms. She died snuggled between her father and I. We knew that she was ready.
People always wonder WHY do things like this happen? I've asked that question many times myself, and I don't really expect an answer. All I do know is that Briona taught me more in 12 weeks than I had learned in a lifetime. I saw miracles happen at the hospital every day. I learned to appreciate my family more, and to take the time to thank God for even the little miracles that happen every day. I received random acts of kindness from strangers, whether it was a hug, a piece of candy, or even a basket of flowers from our veterinarian. It's too bad that it takes a tragedy to bring out the best in people. I know I will try much harder to appreciate life, and to live it to it's fullest.
If you learn anything from my daughter's short life, take away the fact that life is meant to be lived. There is no promise of tomorrow for any of us. Even though she never left the hospital, Briona live her life the best she could. She truly made the best of her situation, and her family and the wonderful people who cared for her are all the better because of her. Robert Frost wrote a poem that reads..
Nature's first green is gold
Her hardest hue to hold
Her early leaf's a flower
But only so an hour
Then leaf subsides to leaf
So Eden sank to grief
So dawn subsides to day
Nothing gold can stay.
Our daughter was golden.
Happy Birthday in Heaven my darling.
God is good. All the time.