Our oldest grandchild would have been 12 yesterday
but she died twelve years ago today.
This is a small article I wrote four years ago about her and what happened.
Unto Us a Child Is Born
Losing a loved one seems harder to bear when it comes during the holiday season. When a baby has died, Christmas songs about a mother and her child can make the loss even harder.
While the last third of the year 2001 was a time of tragedy for thousands of people, our particular tragedy started well before September 11th. Our daughter and her husband were expecting our first grandchild and had volunteered to participate in a study of Down's syndrome babies. They went in for an early ultrasound, expecting to be on the control list with a normal baby. Instead the doctors found that their little girl had no skull and would not live long after birth--if she survived even that long.
The doctors recommended abortion, but my daughter chose to try to have the baby because she and her husband wanted this little girl in their family, even if they could only know her for a short time.
They named her Winnifred Grace and they grew to love her as she made herself known to them. Her mother was constantly aware of her as she shifted, squirmed, and stretched inside her. Her father would put his head close and talk to her and sing.
Little Winnie was due to be born at the end of November, but as her parents prepared to leave home to join us for Thanksgiving dinner, my daughter sneezed, and her water broke. Both sets of grandparents spent Thanksgiving Day at LDS Hospital, waiting for the birth of their special granddaughter.
Winnifred Grace survived her birth, and we took turns holding her, spending as much time with her as we could because we didn't know how much time we had. When it was my turn, I sang my father's version of "The Eriskay Love Lilt," a song he had sung as a lullaby to me and then to my children. He was not there to sing it himself, having died two years before, but his grave would be Winnie's resting place as well because there was room above his large coffin for her small one. As I held her and sang, I pictured him holding her when the time came for us to say good-bye to her, too.
She lived for ten hours. When the man from the mortuary came to the hospital, my son-in-law wanted to stay with my daughter, so I volunteered to carry Winnie down to the car. The man escorted me through the back ways, saying it was hard to have to explain to people that the baby I was carrying was dead, so it was better to go where we wouldn't meet people. I laid her on the passenger's seat and returned to the hospital room to help my daughter get ready to go home.
When Winnie's body was ready, we went to the mortuary and helped her mother dress her in a beautiful white dress trimmed in yellow that her other grandmother had made for her granddaughter. My daughter then wrapped Winnie in a baby afghan crocheted for her by my sister and laid her in the tiny coffin. There was a viewing, and then we took her to my father's gravesite.
The snow had been cleared away, and though cold, it was a beautiful day. My son-in-law had a brother who had died as a baby, and his mother told us that it had been very hard to leave his body all alone in that cemetery full of strangers. It was a comfort to leave this grandchild's body with the body of her great grandfather.
Then came the Christmas season with all the songs about the world's most special baby and about how much His mother loved Him. Those songs took on new and painful meaning as we mourned our own special child.
Rather than mourn alone, though, we chose to go to out of state to spend Christmas with Winnie's other grandparents so that her mother and father could spend Christmas with both of their parents.
Christmas that year was on a Tuesday, but we arrived in time to attend Sunday services. Those of us who could sing became impromptu additions to the choir. And there we sang those songs about the most special child of all, welcoming Him once again, and feeling comforted because His coming has made it possible for us to be together someday with all of those we have lost. The tears we shed in sadness then will one day become tears of joy because of the birth, death, and resurrection of one very Special Child.