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A Beautiful Life

On Wednesday morning the 15th January 2014 one of our favourite doctors was on duty. He told us that Leah’s condition was deteriorating rapidly and that we were running out of time if we wanted to take her to the Northern Ireland Children’s Hospice for her end of life care. He said that he was off duty the next morning and he would give up his half day to voluntarily transfer Leah to the Children’s Hospice. He would also make all the necessary arrangements. One of our favourite nurses offered to come with us too. Our Social Worker and Teenage Cancer Nurse Specialist said that they would come as well.

That Wednesday was a whirlwind of activity: different specialists came to see Leah to assess her medical condition, more tests were done, and two doctors even surfed the internet until midnight searching for some ‘cure’ that they could possibly have missed. I had a long telephone discussion with our consultant in Bristol Children’s Hospital in England. There were consent forms to be signed, family members to contact, arrangements to be made.

My husband drove the seventy miles from home with our two younger children, arriving at 1am. Leah’s younger siblings hadn’t seen Leah since she had left our house on the 27th December. We walked through the deserted hospital corridors together, holding hands, as they came to say their goodbyes. It was heart-breaking.

Normally the praise and worship music on Leah’s iPad only played in her hospital room during the day. I instructed the nurses not to play it at night, to help Leah to distinguish between day and night. However, as this was to be Leah’s last night on Earth, I asked the nurse to continue playing Leah’s music during the night. The nurse looking after Leah that night had a strong Christian faith and I had been told that she had a beautiful singing voice.

I left ICU for a few hours during the night to get some rest. When I returned early the next morning the nurse said ‘I picked out the best songs for Leah to listen to.’ then she added ‘I sang to her too.” My heart just melted when she said this – how our Heavenly Father looks after every little detail. Leah had been unconscious for four days, but they say that hearing is the last sense to go.

Leah had purchased a new ‘desk calendar’ for 2014. As I turned over the page in her room that morning, my heart skipped a beat when I saw the verse for that day: “Let everything be done decently and in order.” 1 Corinthians 14:40

Leah was the most organised person I know. She wrote lists for everything. Before Leah became ill, she helped everyone in our household to be organised. How could we ever have let her die in an unplanned kind of a way? In my heart I prayed and thanked God for this confirmation that His hand was on all the arrangements.

Our minister, close friends and family members of all ages were waiting for us at the Children’s Hospice – around thirty five in all. Leah just loved big family get togethers so it seemed ‘right’ to do things this way. The hospice staff had prepared a very pretty room for her, with Leah’s name on the door. Annexed off this was a sitting room. People could choose to be in the room with Leah, in the adjoining sitting room, outside in the garden, or in one of the games rooms (some of the children chose this).

Initially the hospital staff needed time to settle Leah in her new room and set up all their medical equipment. I had asked for certain tubes to be removed before we had left ICU, ones that weren’t necessary for breathing or pain relief, like her nasogastric tube – she had hated this! Once Leah was comfortable in her very pretty room, it was time for us to say goodbye.

Leah’s favourite songs played softly in the background. Our minister read the Scriptures and prayed. Then it was time for Leah’s life support to be switched off. As Leah’s heart gradually stopped beating, some people held her hands and I stroked her forehead. Just before Leah died, the last song that I heard playing on her iPad was “A Beautiful Life” by Mikeschair.

A beautiful life is unfolding before my eyes

Just like the sun will rise to fill the empty sky, so shine

Oh, you’re beautiful, oh, you’re beautiful, oh, your beautiful life

I want you to see that you’re the one I love

And I will complete the work that I’ve begun

Oh, could you believe that the best is yet to come?

And I can’t wait for you to hold what I already know

Leah, our princess, had gone to be with her King.

Vicky Whyte

Vicky lives in Northern Ireland with her husband and two younger children. All she ever wanted in life was to get married, have kids, serve Jesus and love other people. Just quietly and without too much excitement. Her favorite spare time activities are catching up with friends or getting lost in a good book. Then, in 2013, family life changed forever. Leah, the second eldest of their four children, was diagnosed with a rare genetic mutation and went through a bone marrow transplant. Nine months after her initial diagnosis, Leah developed a rare side effect of her treatment and died shortly after her 16th birthday. Devastated and heartbroken by her daughter's death, Vicky has found that blogging helps her to trace the rainbows through the rain and see God's hand in everything.

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