A letter from Kaia's daddy, Ryan...
Dear Dear Friends,
Tonight Kaia went to be with Jesus around 5:10 PM. Her last moments on this earth were in my arms, and from my arms, she went directly into the arms of her loving Heavenly Father. She died peacefully, after suffering the last several days and nights with intense seizures, in addition to her an inability to swallow or breathe on her own. Neither Leanne nor I have felt such deep sadness and sorrow in our lives. Though we felt this day was likely coming, we could have never fully been prepared for the ache and the lostness that we feel. I write all this as I sit in the rocking chair where we expected that Leanne would get up late at night to nurse Kaia. We are together sleeping on the floor in Kaia’s room tonight. We have had such wonderful, painful, open, real conversations throughout Kaia’s entire life, and today and tonight have been filled with many more. Please pray for our wounded, fragile hearts.
As Kaia’s life drew to a close, Leanne and I had the chance to spend some special time alone with her. I held her, then Leanne held her, then I held her again so tight. I can’t get the image out of my mind of her in my left arm, outstretched so I could see her clearly. She is so beautiful. She is my absolute delight. This image in my mind isn’t a haunting image, but a mesmerizing image. From the first day when she was born, and shortly thereafter entered the NICU, she had my whole heart. I remember realizing that no one in the whole world could ever possibly love her as much as Leanne and I love her, because we are her mommy and daddy. What made her “our little girl” wasn’t simply that she came as a result of our union, but what made her “our little girl” was our deep, intense love for her.
This evening, as I held my dying little girl in my arms, and as we paced her hospital room, I asked Leanne to turn on the ipod. A dear friend of ours had called a week or so ago and left Kaia a voicemail. It was a voicemail of her singing a beautiful song to Kaia, and we played it for Kaia with tears streaming down our faces. It was a song Leanne and I both already love, too. It was the song Wildflowers by Tom Petty. I asked Leanne to turn on Wildflowers, and as Kaia’s heartbeat became fainter and fainter, I danced with Kaia to Wildflowers. It was an unbelievably special moment for me as her daddy. From even before she was conceived, I have dreamed of having a little girl. I’ve dreamed of her growing up and knowing her daddy’s love. I’ve dreamed of taking her on little daddy dates, and I’ve dreamed of taking her to dances. I’ve dreamed of her getting all dressed up in a new dress I bought her, and I’ve dreamed of telling her over and over again how beautiful she is. I’ve dreamed of helping her to understand the love of God by doing all I could to resemble that love to her. And so Kaia and I danced to the song. We played it three times. Somewhere during our dance together, Kaia’s heart stopped beating and she went from my arms into God’s arms.
Last night Leanne and I stayed the night with Kaia in the NICU. Our wonderful nurse brought in a cot for us, and we laid Kaia down on the bed beside us. And Leanne and I each took turns laying for hours next to little Kaia. As she seized, we kissed her forehead. We fell asleep for brief moments as we laid there throughout the night, but never for long, as her struggles kept us rushing to kiss her and comfort her. We enjoyed snuggling so close to our little girl. We memorized the feel of kissing her forehead and her hands, and we memorized her scent. Since we’ve been home tonight, we have caught her scent on one another, on blankets, on her stuffed animals. And we know it is unmistakably the scent of our little Kaia. She is truly our delight.
Our hearts ache and ache and ache. I know the days ahead are going to be brutally difficult. We have spent the last 20 days creating a lifestyle the consisted of very little, other than holding Kaia, caring for Kaia, and enjoying Kaia. I don’t know what tomorrow will be like, when we don’t drive to Legacy Emanuel, when we don’t see, hold, and kiss Kaia. I don’t know. We have cried big tears every day since she was born. We will certainly cry more tomorrow. And the next day, and the day after that. We love our little girl so very, very much.
Tonight Leanne wrote a message to some family members, and I asked to include part of it in what I wrote, as well. She said “A few days ago Kaia was seizing over and over again, and they had to re-intubate her and re-do her feeding tube, and she looked like she was in so much discomfort and had tears in her eyes... it was really, really hard on me to see her in pain and struggling. I felt so desperate for her to know comfort, and that we weren’t trying to hurt her but only wanted the best for her. It grieved me so deeply that she couldn’t understand that. And as I prayed through this, God showed me that he feels the same way. It grieves Him so deeply to see our pain and know that we don’t understand what is really happening. He is doing something so much bigger, richer, deeper than we can comprehend. Our greatest, most extravagant dreams for Kaia here on earth pale in comparison to God's plans for her. Please trust Him with us. Please remind us to trust Him when we don’t. I know He is good, to the core of my being I know it. And I believe that Kaia is in glory with Him now, and for the rest of eternity will get to see the unraveling of all that He did, is doing, and will do through her. She is such a gift.”
Thank you, thank you, thank you to each of you who has read these updates, prayed for our little girl, and loved us. We are so thankful. You no longer need to pray for Kaia, except to tell God thank you for her 20 days of life. She is in the best hands possible now, and God will be a greater parent to her than we have the capacity to be. It’s less difficult to comprehend trusting Him with our little girl, and more difficult to comprehend that for 20 days, He trusted us with His little girl. Please do pray for Leanne and for me, and for our families. This is so hard. And pray for all who have been impacted by Kaia’s life. Pray that God would do things in the lives of people that would make Kaia’s short life worth it! Isn’t our little Kaia just beautiful?
Ryan and Leanne Donovan