The windowpane was cold against my palm as I leaned against the glass and stared out at the November evening. The Ohio Valley fog covered the hospital parking lot with an eerie blanket. From my second-floor window, the emergency landing pad below me was barely visible through the heavy mist.
My eyes, swollen and red from lack of sleep and hours of crying, searched the sky above the hills, hoping to see a glimmer of light parting the darkened sky. I shivered and pulled my quilted robe tighter around me.
The evening visiting hours had just begun, and I could hear laughter coming from the newborn nursery up the hall. Andrew lay nearby, in the intensive care nursery. Yesterday I had laughed too as my husband, David, and I held our fifth child moments after his birth. I thought of Andrew’s fuzzy light-brown hair and how it had felt against my face. The baby’s hair was mostly gone now, shaved to allow an intravenous needle to penetrate his scalp. Pneumonia was ravaging his little body, and he was fighting respiratory failure.
My thoughts drove me from my vigil at the window to Andrew’s side, where the blips and bleeps of monitors offered me small comfort. Reaching through the pocket of his isolette, my heart broke as I touched his listless body. Just this morning, Andrew had opened his eyes at the sound of my voice. But he no longer even cried when nurses pricked his heel for blood samples. I felt helpless as I watched him slipping away.
A familiar white coat brushed against me, and I looked up into a young doctor’s face. His eyes held the burden of responsibility, and his voice was kind and gentle.
“Sharon, the helicopter from the pediatric center is on its way, but the fog is so heavy there’s no way it can land here,” he said. “They’re going to try to land at the airport, where they will transfer to an ambulance. It will be a while before they can get down here. One of Andrew’s lungs has already collapsed, and the other one could fail at any time. If it collapses before we have that infant respirator …”
The doctor looked at Andrew, watching him pause longer and longer before struggling for another breath. He then adjusted the flow of medicine dripping into the baby’s body. It would take at least another day or two before the antibiotics would begin their work.
“He’s a fighter,” the doctor said. “He’s got that going for him.”
I bounced between the nursery and my window above the landing pad until a member of our branch arrived to assist David in administering to Andrew. Family and friends joined in prayer that the fog would lift so the helicopter could land at the hospital, giving the baby precious minutes that might save his life.
Even with several loved ones by my side, I had never felt so alone. I wandered back to my room and pulled the curtains around my bed so that I could have a few moments of privacy. Kneeling on the cold tile floor, I rested my head on the white hospital sheets, wept, and wished myself home to my room, where I had learned to pray four years earlier.
As I knelt in heartache, I thought about the past four years and the changes that had come into our lives since we accepted the gospel. The missionary discussions had rung true, but soon after our baptism we learned that our faith would be tested.
Once I knew that the Word of Wisdom was true, I realized that I had to exercise faith and throw away the harmful substances that had been a part of my life. Once I had a testimony of the law of tithing, I understood that I had to live that law despite our lack of money, because I learned that tithing was not about money but about faith. I now faced another trial of my faith, perhaps the most difficult I would ever face.
As I pondered the times that I had been called upon to put my beliefs to the test, my memories drifted to the days before David and I had joined the Church. I could see clearly the park where we had spent pleasant summer days with our first child, Amy. In the evenings, after Amy had gone to sleep, David and I would sit on a picnic table and look up into the darkening sky, enjoying the time together and talking about the many wonders of life.
Kneeling now by my hospital bed, I could almost feel the cool summer breeze, smell the newly mowed grass, and feel David’s hand in mine. It was a welcome escape. On those summer evenings we talked mostly about pleasant things like our hopes and dreams of the future. But a few times our talks turned to death and the mysteries it held. Our religious upbringings led us to believe that all family associations ended at death, which we thought of as a thief that would someday come and rob us of all we held dear.
We held those fears until two missionaries came to our home, bringing with them the light of the gospel. They taught us that death was not the darkness that we had always feared, but rather a necessary step in our eternal progression.
I thought of the certificate of our temple marriage—framed and hanging above the fireplace at home—and of what that certificate symbolized. No matter what transpired in the intensive care nursery that night, I believed that priesthood power had sealed Andrew to us forever.
I arose from the floor and slowly made my way back to Andrew’s side. I looked at my son once more and held his little hand tightly in mine through the isolette. Because of the love I felt for our new baby, I hoped he could stay. But with my faith in the plan of salvation, I knew I could let him go.
Suddenly, the noise of a thousand birds came flying past the hospital nursery. I ran to my window above the landing pad. The fog had lifted, and through the darkness I saw a helicopter lighting up the sky as it descended.
A four-member medical flight crew quickly exited and made their way to the intensive care unit. They said the fog had settled over the airport, prompting them to attempt a landing at the hospital. After several frustrating passes, the pilot brought the helicopter in after seeing the fog momentarily lift from the hospital.
The flight crew consulted with doctors and prepared Andrew to travel 140 miles to the pediatric center. A member of the crew, a neonatologist (specialist in the development and disorders of newborns), took a picture of Andrew and handed it to me. He then asked me to touch the baby, who lay motionless except for an occasional labored breath, and to say a few parting words to him.
With family, friends, and medical personnel making a circle around Andrew’s traveling isolette, I reached through a pocket, touched my son, and spoke to him.
“Andrew, I love you,” I told him. “Look at me, please. Remember that I am your mother.”
For the first time in several hours, Andrew stirred. Then he opened his eyes and looked toward me. Gratitude filled my heart as tears flowed in the circle.
The medical flight crew hurried from the building, rolling Andrew along. Family and friends went to the parking lot to see the helicopter off as I stood alone at the window once again. In the darkness I heard the helicopter engine start and saw the blades of the chopper beginning to make their rotations. I heard the door slam shut and watched as the helicopter lifted off in a beacon of light.
As I watched the light become a tiny speck in the night, I thought about the trust I was placing in the medical crew and pilot to care for my precious son. Despite my heartache, I felt a sense of peace knowing that they would do all they could to protect him until I could see him again.
An even greater sense of peace then filled my heart. If Andrew were called tonight to even greater distances beyond the dark horizon, I knew with unfailing trust that a loving Heavenly Father would protect him until that glorious day when we would be reunited, never to be separated again. As much as my arms ached to hold my little baby tightly through mortality, I was willing to release my son into the immortal arms of God.
The tiny light flickered from view. I turned around when I heard David’s footsteps coming down the hall. The agony and worry on his face were gone. He was trembling, though, as he put his arms around me. I felt his tears on my shoulder.
“The doctor sent me up here to tell you that Andrew is going to make it,” he said.
The next day I was reunited with my son. He was harnessed to numerous tubes and machines, but he had been stabilized and was no longer struggling for breath or for life. After his eight days in intensive care, I carried my precious baby home.
Other trials of faith would follow, but the Lord had helped me pass through this one. As I knelt that night by my bedside, I felt gratitude—for my baby, for the gospel, and for the power of faith—that I will always treasure.