The doctor turned off the sonogram and took the instrument that he’d been gliding atop my large, seven-months pregnant belly and placed it next to the machine. With a very deliberate turn of his body and a solemn expression on his face, he looked at me square in the eye. “Mr. and Mrs. Meador, I’m afraid I have some bad news,” he began. “Your baby’s heart has stopped beating.”
He gave us a moment to digest it. “I’m so sorry,” he said.
Chris and I just looked at each other quizzically, not saying a word. I think the first thing that happens is the heart assumes news like this couldn’t possibly be true, even though I suspected that something was wrong since she hadn’t kicked me all morning.
We hugged each other in silence, then pulled back and looked at each other again. “I need a moment,” I told him.
I walked into the restroom and started to tremble. Tears began to burst from my eyes and my body heaved up and down uncontrollably. I wrapped my arms around my baby girl still inside my belly and fell to my knees.
“Why, God, why?” I screamed. “Why take my Luca!” I cried, my voice echoing off the walls. My worst nightmare was being realized. Could this really be happening to me? My mind quickly darted back six months to when Chris and I sat side by side on our couch, name books in hand. “What about Luca?” I remember saying.
“Luca,” Chris said slowly and thoughtfully. “That’s a cute name. What does it mean?”
“Bringer of light,” I replied. He looked around, trying it on in his mind.
“Luca—Bringer of light,” he said. “I love it.”
It was the happiest I had ever seen Chris. As for me, it was the most excited I had ever been. We had miscarried once before. God was so good to give us another chance. Our little Luca had certainly lived up to the meaning of her name and brightened our lives.
Now as I lay crying on the bathroom floor, all I could think was that my daughter’s light was extinguished forever.
“Lord, why take my sweet girl?” I pleaded with God to answer.
It was then that something happened that I can only describe as a miracle because I am not capable of manufacturing anything like it in a moment like this. “You can keep asking me why, Michelle,” I heard a voice inside my head say, “but it will be a long, painful road and you may never know the answer. Or you can just trust me.”
I looked at my swollen face in the mirror. I rubbed my belly again. And suddenly I said it. Perhaps more significantly, suddenly I meant it. “I choose to trust you, Lord,” I said. It was all I had.
God was about to show us that trust is not something you do, but a power you unleash.
I didn’t know what might become of saying such a thing. I guess I may never totally know. But God was about to show us that trust is not something you do, but a power you unleash.
I walked into the room where Chris was waiting for me and talking with God. I told him I felt that God was asking us to trust Him in this. He said he felt the same way. The doctor gave us the option of going home for a couple of days to digest what had just happened or to be admitted right away and deliver Luca immediately. Nothing felt right about going home and spending an agonizing few days with her still in my belly. “We’ll do it now,” we told him as we held each other. The baby we weren’t expecting for a couple of months was coming now. We couldn’t wait to see her. At the same time, it was going to be the most painful homecoming imaginable.
They took us to room 321 to fill me with contraction-inducing drugs and Chris and I looked at each other with the same thought. “The Trinity,” we said to each other. “God is watching over us.” Our trust swelled.
In time, friends and family, including Rock pastors came to cry with us, offer their words of encouragement and pray. Each time we prayed we sought God’s sovereign hand and could feel Him responding with rays of his light from above, like bolts of joy, not sent to obliterate our sadness but to fill our tears with certainty that He was close and in control. The feeling was indescribable.
My attending nurse had watched it all. When we were alone, she took our hands and told us she was a Christian and thought she was working on this day for no greater purpose than to get in a few more hours on her paycheck. She knew now that she had walked into her divine appointment. “I will be with you till the end,” she told us. For us, God had provided an angel.
Twenty-four hours later, it was time to push Luca into this world. Our nurse took our hands once again and prayed powerfully, invited God into the moment, to fill the room with His mighty presence and give us joy. I was overcome with a palpable sense of God protecting me like a mama bird covers her young with her giant wing. I can’t tell you how grateful I was for her.
I closed my eyes, pushed and before I knew it, Luca was in the hands of the doctor. When I opened my eyes, there was a light in the room that I hadn’t seen before. The lights were brighter, yet the color was warmer as if the room had been set aglow. It felt unbelievably soothing to my eyes and my soul. For a few brief moments, I just let myself bathe in the light that I somehow knew was there for Luca’s arrival. And me.
When the doctor handed Luca to me, her hands were folded in the prayer position. I took her in my arms and looked at my little girl, black hair covering her petite, beautiful head.
“You’re here, my sweet girl,” I told her. “I’m so sorry we couldn’t spend our lives together.” After more than a day of near constant crying, there were still waves of tears to travel down my face.
They ushered us to room 777 to spend time with Luca. “Sevens,” Chris and I said to each other, managing to share a smile. We both knew that 7 is the number in the Bible for God signifying completion, perfection and rest. It was another bolt of light from above.
“Mommy loves you,” I told her as I stroked her hair in the quiet of room 777—my sniffling the only sound. “We will spend eternity together, you and me. We will have so much catching up to do.” Luca’s tiny mouth fell open as if she wanted to speak. There were no muscles to keep it closed. “You know, sweet girl, when I think about it, you got to spend your entire existence in the warmth of your mommy’s belly. Not everyone gets to do that, you know.” I prayed with my daughter, in my arms but with the Lord in heaven, light years away.
I looked up and said, “Lord, I trust You now more than ever. This is Your will.” Again they did not feel like they were my words. Something was going on, something was happening to me.
It almost began to feel like God wasn’t breaking into the moment, but He was the moment.
Pastor Ricky stepped in to handle all of the logistics we were in no frame of mind to handle. It was an extraordinary gift. When he asked us how we wanted the burial of Luca to be handled, we told him cremation.
A few days later, through the generosity of our Rock family, we were on a boat on a sunny day, traveling out to sea with an urn of Luca’s ashes. A nearby docked ship gave Luca a cannon salute. We stopped the boat and Ricky and his wife, Nova, led us in a ceremony to say goodbye. When it was time, we took the urn and opened it. Luca’s ashes spread out over the water and as they touched it, they glistened brightly in the sun, like gold leaf everywhere. Bringer of light, I thought, as I cried once more. That’s our girl.
In the weeks that followed, there were no shortages of God’s mercies just as there were no shortages of moments of unfathomable pain and feelings of loss.
In the weeks that followed, there were no shortages of God’s mercies just as there were no shortages of moments of unfathomable pain and feelings of loss. Friends stayed and people prayed and meals were delivered and it was a strange combination of being broken-hearted and lifted higher than I’ve ever been before.
The Rock’s Safe in Heaven ministry was an extraordinary comfort as the leaders, Michelle and Ryan Icenhower, were able to offer the kinds of words that can only come from those who have been there.
The crib sat untouched in Luca’s room until it was time for us to address it. With a pained look in his eyes, Chris said he was going to go in the room and take it down. I knew how Chris felt about that crib. This was going to be his saying goodbye as much as anything.
I sat on the couch and prayed for Chris as he dismantled it and I could hear him in her room, just feet from where I was. His sniffling was gut-wrenching for me. He had been such a kind, thoughtful, generous, loving husband throughout the entire ordeal. I wished there was something I could do for him. And so I continued to pray. And that is when the voice that I heard in the hospital spoke again. “Please don’t worry,” God said. “You’re going to have a son and you’ll name him Luke.”
My eyes popped open and I looked around the room. “Luke!” I whispered to myself in awe.
A few moments later, Chris walked out of the room, puffy eyed, but peaceful. “How are you?” I asked.
“That was the hardest thing I’ve ever done,” he said. “But God just said to me, ‘You’ll rebuild this crib for a son named Luke.’”
Exactly one year to the day after the birth of Luca, Luke was born. He looks exactly like his sister did, with a head full of thick black hair. We took him down to the water, so we could all be together and we talked about what a beautiful sister he has and how he’ll get to see her one day. He may not quite understand yet, but he will. Hopefully he will also understand what kind of God we serve, with his life being a testimony to God’s graciousness.
Today, whenever I see the water, I think of my baby girl and the light she still brings. She’s out there, somewhere—dazzling gold leaf reflecting the light of God.
A few months after Luca was born, the Meador’s received a letter from the Arizona Children's Hospital. A former co-worker of Chris—someone with whom Chris had lost touch years before—donated a large sum on money in Luca’s memory, and with it, several children's lives were saved. The Meadors have no idea how he learned about Luca’s life or passing. With those saved lives, Luca’s life continues to bring light to so many.
The Meadors are now a part of the Safe in Heaven ministry at the Rock. They believe it was hand picked for them so they could come alongside other parents experiencing the loss of their babies, offering the hope that was given to them by trusting in God.