The hallway was long and dimly lit. My nurse pushed me in the wheelchair – several family members by my side, and my daughter wrapped snuggly in a small blanket. I held her close. After her birth, and death, the nurses had tenderly allowed me to bathe Jacquelyn, and then thoughtfully clipped a small piece of her hair, took her small hand prints and footprints for me, and photos. They truly thought of everything. Thank God for thoughtful nurses. They were so thoughtful that, they knew it was best that I be on another floor where cries of newborns would not awaken me in the night. My new nurse, Cassandra, stood holding the door open to my new unit.
As we slowly approached Cassandra, I was in awe of her resemblance to my cousin Jackie, who had recently passed away, and who I named my daughter after, Jacquelyn Anne. Immediately I told her, “You look just like my cousin I named my baby after!” I remember her giggling and responding, “Was she fat like me too?” Just then, my mother responded, “She’s not kidding! You look just like her!”
Cassandra took us to a room with two beds, told my husband he could sleep in the other bed, which he immediately did, and then Cassandra sat on the side of my bed with me. She talked with me a long time – for what seemed like most of the night. It was just the two of us, and my daughter. She told me a story about her sister, who had a baby who died and decided not to see her, because she could not handle the heartache. She then went on to encourage me that I had done the right thing, and that I should never, ever look back with regret on any of the decisions surrounding the birth and death of my daughter. She reassured me that I would see her again some day.
But it wasn’t just the words Cassandra shared. She not only encouraged me. I very, very clearly remember her holding Jacquelyn in her arms, closely, and caressing the side of her face as if she were alive. It was more tender and sweet than I have the words to describe, and since her defect involved her head, and although she was my daughter and no defect could ever make her anything but beautiful to me, I found it incredibly kind that she would do just that – hold her tightly, and closely, and so tenderly touch her.
At some point, Cassandra told me to get some sleep, which I did while holding Jacquelyn. But when I awoke, I had a bit of a panic attack and began crying very hard. This happened just about the same time that my mother and father were returning to my room. There would be someone coming to take Jacquelyn from me, because we had agreed to donate her tiny little body to the Neonatology Museum at Loma Linda University Medical Center. Following that would be a Memorial Service in the Chapel. I seriously do not know how I got through any of it, except by the very strength of God Himself, because I was fresh out of any of my own strength.
In my panic, the nurse came running in the room, but it was a different nurse. I asked for Cassandra, but the new nurse immediately told me that SHE had been my nurse all night. My mother insisted that I was right. I explained what she looked like, that she had sat on my bed most of the night and visited with me, encouraged me, and held my daughter in her arms. But the new nurse insisted that SHE had been my nurse all night. In fact, she said, we HAVE no nurse named Cassandra.
For years I have shared this story with my sons and close friends. So often I have thought of writing it into this little story. It has been 23 years now, and I am the only one who remembers. Even my mother, who for a long time had been the person who remembered it with me, recently shared with my sons that she no longer remembered that having taken place.
But isn’t that just the beauty and intimacy of God’s love? That He knows us so well, so very intimately, that He knows EXACTLY how to comfort each one of us, in a way no one else is able to comprehend.
I never got to thank Nurse Cassandra. I never saw her again. But! I am overwhelmingly convinced I spent that evening being comforted by my very own angel, sent only for me, and something tells me, some day, I won’t only see Jacquelyn again, but that I’ll see Cassandra again as well….