Letter to the Adoptive Mother of a Four-year Old Child Who Passed Away
Dear Mrs. H,
You and Isabella have continued to be in my thoughts since last Tuesday. My heart is with you during this very difficult time, and I would like to share a few of the thoughts that have been filling my mind.
The night Isabella died, you asked, “Why, God? Why?” and I have wondered this too. But as I have reflected on her passing and wrestled with the question of why such a sweet, beautiful child had to die at such an early age, I’ve come to wonder if perhaps her purpose never was to live a long life. Maybe her soul’s intention from the very beginning was to stay among us for only a short time – and maybe it was the very shortness of her life that caused her light to shine more brightly than that of most people. Certainly, in the short time she had, she led a very full life and touched those of us who knew her deeply. And though she departed far sooner than we would have wished, she left many gifts of love behind.
It was a privilege for me to be Isabella’s doctor and to help take care of her for the last weeks of her life. I felt honored to experience her courageous spirit and her radiant soul. It was a privilege, too, to experience your deep love and caring for her.
You wondered if you could have done more for Isabella, and I wondered if I could have done more too. But I believe we both tried just as hard as we knew how, and that is what counts. If, by any chance, we weren’t absolutely perfect, I believe Isabella would forgive us. We are only human, after all, and Isabella would understand that and not judge us harshly.
In fact, we fought in every way we knew how to help Isabella to live, but that night when death finally came for her, there was no further fighting we could do. The only thing to do then was just to be with her as fully as possible – and that is exactly what we did. I feel enormously grateful to have been there that night, to have been with you and Isabella, holding her hand as she left this life and perhaps making her passing a little easier.
I have tremendous respect for you, because you have been by Isabella’s side every step of the way. That is a very great gift to give another person – to be willing to endure the sorrow and be there for that person right up to the very end. Not many people are strong enough, or care enough, to do that. And not many people are as fortunate enough to have someone who can do that for them. Isabella was very fortunate to have you.
“Betsy MacGregor has been a wise and compassionate guide for critically ill children and for the dying. The beauty of her soul is reflected in this wonderful exploration of healing and medicine. Don't miss it.”
~ MICHAEL LERNER, Founder of Commonweal, Co-Founder of the Commonweal Cancer Help Program, author of Choices In Healing: Integrating The Best of Conventional and Complementary Approaches to Cancer
I see how much you loved Isabella, and I believe love such as that is a bond which death cannot break. I believe all the love you have had for her since you adopted her as an infant, and all the love she has had for you, will stay with you. Certainly that cannot take away all the pain of this time, but it is something very special to hold and to cherish.
You said you thought God sent me to Isabella, to take care of her. If that is true, I think it is equally true that God sent Isabella to me, to teach me how to take care of children better. I think we truly helped each other, and that is how it should be.