Marleigh Kendal Sanders died today, 3-1/2 weeks after she was born. I don’t know much about her, I never met her, and I don’t know her family yet, somehow I was deeply touched by her story and her confounding, maddeningly short life. I do not know exactly what it was that afflicted her body and caused her to pass…from what I can tell on the Facebook updates I have been following, I don’t think the doctors who were working on her know either. And I do not know why I am not sleeping right now, why I haven’t been able to get little Marleigh and her family off of my mind since hearing her story, and I don’t know why exactly I am writing this right now. Nevertheless, here I am, typing away and pondering the life of a little baby girl I will never meet on this side of Heaven…
When Casey was pregnant with the quints obviously there were a lot of things that we could have chosen to worry about…and we selected our fair share among the choices we were offered. Casey’s immediate health was in danger and would only get worse as the pregnancy progressed. The health of the babies was a constant source of attention and they were carefully monitored, at times painstakingly so, to ensure there were no problems. The striking fear of premature labor ticked and tocked between our ears, constantly counting the minutes remaining before the unknown hour at which the babies would make their entrance into the world. Depending on how far along the pregnancy had gone before that time determined how worried we should be about the babies’ chances of survival. So we worried and we prayed and we asked for prayers…and we worried. And no matter how much we prayed and how many times people prayed for us, whether known to us or not, and no matter how much time we spent trying not to worry, our concern for the health of the babies would not allow us to stop worrying. The thought of one our babies suffering…or worse…was simply too big and our faith too small…and so we worried and we prayed…and we worried.
The Bible says not to worry…says it very clearly in fact. Jesus said, “That is why I tell you not to worry about everyday life – whether you have enough food and drink, or enough clothes to wear…Can all your worries add a single moment to your life? Why do you have so little faith? Don’t worry about tomorrow, for tomorrow will bring its own worries. Today’s trouble is enough for today.” He was right, you know that by now in regards to our story and our babies. They all came into the world in perfect health for babies at their stage of development. All five of them, each individually wowed the doctors with how well they had developed in the womb and with how incredibly they were responding to their new world. I remember one of the NICU doctors telling me that they were all “at various stages of excellent!” I’m pretty certain the doctor got a hug from us that day…and I’m pretty certain Casey and I both cried tears of relief, joy, and pride. That’s right, tears of pride…but for what? Jesus was right. Our worry did nothing to breathe life into our babies. Our fear did nothing to ensure their health. When we wrung our hands, no healthy baby mojo or magic was produced! In fact, we did absolutely nothing that contributed to the vibrancy of our bundle of babies. Absolutely nothing…except pray, I’ll give you that. Prayer works, I believe it, and we did a lot of praying and we know that we were lifted up in prayer by people across the globe. We had an army of prayer warriors at our disposal and their services were in-disposable in ways we’ll never fully understand.
But didn’t Marleigh’s family pray as well? It seems very clear to me that yes, they did pray. And not only that, it seems very clear to me as well that they also had an army behind them praying for Marleigh’s health…prayers that apparently were in vain. God was silent on this one…he allowed Marleigh’s life to slip away today and he took her home with him in spite of the prayer and the worry and the wringing of hands no doubt done by her family and many, many others on her behalf. I don’t need to say it, but I will do so nonetheless: why? Marleigh Kendal Sanders is no less special than Brooklyn Faith, Britton Grace, Jack William, Lila Addison, or Ryan Elizabeth so why did they thrive while Marleigh had to fight for every last breath she took until she took her last? Only God knows if her family or ours is more faithful or said more prayers or whatever, but I really don’t think He is keeping score. Marleigh and her family deserve every good and wonderful thing that comes their way…so why didn’t the good and wonderful come this time?
No question I am not the first to ponder these thoughts and no doubt I will not be the last. And of course I do not have any answers for you…or them. Sure, we could recite all of the cliches that people utter in times like these…everything happens for a reason, God loved Marleigh too much to let her stay, etc, etc…and they would likely be true, but I don’t think that would help anyone right now. Not me and likely not her family either. At some point, all of those words will hopefully help and again they will likely be true, but right now they just seem hollow and empty. True or not, the cliches do not meet the most desperate desire of times like these…they do not tell us why, they do not give us understanding, they do not bring peace. Not now, not yet.
And so we do what I imagine Marleigh’s family is still doing right now…we pray. We pray for understanding and answers and for peace with those answers if and when they ever come. We pray because our spirit tells us to…we pray because Jesus prayed…and we pray because in those prayers, eventually, peace comes. And it comes to us in spite of the absence of understanding and answers. That’s what prayer does. It doesn’t solve the problems, it doesn’t answer the questions…not always anyway. It simply provides peace when there can be no answers and where there can be no understanding. Jesus wrestled and sweat blood in agony during the hours leading up to his crucifixion and horrendous death. But before it was all over he prayed, “not my will, but thine be done.” He prayed…he found peace. And so that is what I’ll be doing for Baby Marleigh and her family and I ask for you to do the same. Pray for their peace and pray for the peace of others that you know are struggling with the why’s of the world. At times, it is the only thing we can do. Much of the time, it’s the only thing we should do.
If you want to add – Marleigh died from Alveolar Capillary Dysplasia. A very rare disease that occurs in about 1 in 2 million births and there have been just over 100 cases known in the world. There is very little research being done about it but Baylor University and hospital are the biggest research base for it. it has 100% mortality rate. They think it is genetic but there is no way of testing for it right now. people can read her story at www.marleighonelove.com if they would like.