When I am asked, “How many children do you have?” I don’t know how to respond. “Three,” I answer, while I finish the sentence in my head, “…here with me and one in Heaven.” I will never forget my daughter, Rachel Faith, even if the only life she experienced was in the womb. She is always with me. As beautiful as she was at birth and at death, those images are not what flutter through my mind. I imagine her dancing with her sister. I twirl her dark curls. I embrace her, though she’s not physically here. Rachel died at birth and age stopped counting, but to me she’s almost 10.
Rachel lived in me. Her heart beat loud and strong while she stayed with me. But she left my body, and our hearts no longer beat in harmony. She was here. Then she was gone. About a week before Rachel Faith was born, I felt a sharp pain on my lower left side. I feared its significance; I knew her birth was near. By this time, the trisomy 18 had been confirmed, and the grim outlook bore gravely down upon me. I fell to my knees and wept. Through tears, I whispered to Rachel, though she could not hear or understand, “Stay with me! Don’t come out! Don’t go!” As long as she was in me, her heart beat. In me, she was alive and strong, vital. Apart from me, her imperfect body could do nothing.
Jesus says in John 15:5 (NKJV), “I am the vine, you are the branches. He who abides in Me, and I in him, bears much fruit; for without Me you can do nothing.” The Greek meno (abide) means to stay in a given place, to continue, endure, or remain. Jesus tells us to stay in Him. In Him, we are alive and strong, vital. In Him, we bear much fruit. Apart from Him, we wither. Apart from Him, we perish. Now, my Rachel could not physically remain in me forever. Her departure from this world was an act of the Father pruning my husband’s and my branches. We faithfully allowed God to work His will in our lives out of obedience to Him. “By this My Father [was] glorified, that you bear much fruit” (John 15:8 NKJV).
Losing Rachel evoked desperate emotions. My thoughts echoed Job’s, “May the day of my birth perish…That day – may it turn to darkness…May darkness and deep shadow claim it once more; may a cloud settle over it; may blackness overwhelm its light. That night – may thick darkness seize it; may it not be included among the days of the year nor be entered in any of the months…for it did not shut the doors of the womb on me to hide trouble from my eyes” (Job 3:3-10 NIV). The pain was so intense; I felt it would be better never to have existed at all than to experience such heartbreak.
Though I lingered awhile in the darkness, I could not wallow forever in my misery. I emerged from the pit despair plunged me into, “And I declared that the dead, who had already died, are happier than the living, who are still alive. But better than both is he who has not yet been, who has not seen the evil that is done under the sun.” (Ecclesiastes 4:2-3, emphasis mine.) Rachel existed, but she did not live to “see the evil that is done under the sun.” I know she is truly happy, for to be absent from the body is to be present with the Lord.
From time to time, I gaze my affection upon memories of Rachel. She was here so briefly, they are but few, so I hide those treasured trinkets away in my heart. Often in regard to writing, I tell people I know it’s a God thing when my writing goes a completely different direction than the one I had planned. The same is true in life. I had plans for Rachel. Big ones! But what God had planned for her was so much better. Better than both is he who has not yet been! All Rachel has ever known is Glory. I rejoice in God’s plan. Sure, I cry tears of sorrow from time to time, but I long for time without end when I join her in God’s presence and see what she has always seen.
Jesus wants us to produce fruit for Him. The type of fruit we produce by remaining in God’s love is what results from our example of faith, things such as reaching the lost, drawing His children closer to Him, and exemplifying His gentle mercies. We must continue in Him. We must remain attached to the vine in order to bear fruit. He tells us this 10 times from verses 4-10 of John 15!
If I abide in Christ, and He in me, I am vibrant. As Rachel was alive in me, I am alive in Jesus! Remain in Jesus, dear sisters. “These things I have spoken to you, that My joy may remain in you, and that your joy may be full” (John 15:11 NKJV).