The Gift

They say firsts are the worst but I don’t think seconds and thirds are any easier . Christmas, Easter, Mother’s Day…your baby’s birthday, then the anniversary. Losing a child is the ultimate loss. The pinnacle of human suffering. It is wrong in all sorts of ways and just shouldn’t happen….but it does. I have shared such heartbreak with dear friends. This week marks an anniversary. I wrote this story a year ago. It was a story that had to be written. I share it today, names intact with permission, to honour this mum and daughter and two other pairs of mums and daughters who too have  been cruelly separated.  This is Annabelle’s story.

Grey pillows allow a hint of sun to peek through. I imagine the light is her, little Annabelle. Well wishers are dressed in sombre tones matching the sky above. Sadness emanates from every person there but love flows in the tears shed. Epe walks toward me, arms open wide, radiating an ethereal glow. Words of comfort are sought and given at such farewells. She was here to say goodbye to her princess , yet it was her comforting me.

It is a gift that most parents choose with a selfish bent – the gift of life. Many parents want a child, a family, someone to love and care for, that sense of purpose and fulfilment. For Epe, the gift of life was wrapped in delicate paper with a perfectly tied ribbon and given with the promise of a rich and fulfilling life where time and love held no bounds. Medical staff presented a number which Epe and Annabelle respectfully dismissed. Their time as a family here on earth would not be confined in such a way.


The prognosis was poor. Medical experts predicted a short life…if any. This remarkable mum chose to give her babies a chance. Elena couldn’t stay…but her sister made her entrance with a kick and a wail. Sweet reverie to all present. And so the caring began. Specialists, early intervention, equipment, PEG feeds could all be clinically tackled. Not this mum. She set about caring with such love and grace as to attract admiration from those around her. Nothing was a task. Annabelle was her angel, her gift. As she was to all fortunate enough to know her. She emanated love and received it in return unasking. Mother and daughter went to family parties, to school and even on an overseas trip to meet family. Such is their courage. For only a miracle and love can take an expected two weeks and make it five and a half years of life.


Epe glowed. The bishop said her choice of a chance at life for her unborn twins had been serene. And so she is on the day she says farewell – serene, full of grace with love visible on her skin, in her aura and in her eyes as she speaks of her daughter. Men of faith bound in suit cloth choke to speak of this love they were privileged to witness, to share. It was Annabelle’s gift, they said, to teach love. And such willing students she found. It seems she added appreciation for life and time  to her pupils’ studies as both are evident on the faces at her farewell and in the chatter afterwards.


It is hard to explain an experience that shifts ones world. Hard to even understand that enlightenment can even be born from such sadness with immediate effect. Has it ever been more evident that a soul is the essence of being? This is the offering hidden in bodies that don’t cooperate; in limbs that won’t bear weight; in thoughts that never pass the lips as words. For those that are willing to pause and unwrap the layers of this present see a soul beared clear, honest and joyful. And so, it is sad to say goodbye but such a privilege to have shared her life. Annabelle, beauty, grace and joy in name and in spirit.

For Annabelle and Charlotte and Paige…always remembered.


9 thoughts on “The Gift

  1. Dear Shelly, I treasure your beautiful contributions, finding the beauty and delicacy of life in its raw and brutal truth, finding purpose and inspiration for all of us to grow and learn from. The love you share jumps off the page and is an amazing way to open hearts – God bless you and yours.

  2. I too knew and loved Epi and Annabelle and Echo your beautifully expressed thoughts. I will never forget them and their expression of true love and faith.

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