Friday, September 21, 2012

September 21

I have so many things I want to share and have no idea how they will come out through words.  First, I am overwhelmed by the love I have been receiving today.  One of the greatest blessings of Vivian's life was that we only saw good in people.  It is amazing how wonderful our world is, and when we get down to the heart of the matter, we are all connected.  Thank you for attributing to that feeling.

Yesterday was a total whirlwind.  It began like any other day.  I was up through the was rather exciting in the 100 pod of the CICU.  Nurses were on their toes all night--not because of Viv, but the other kids around us.  I would look out the door and watch the nurses roll up what I affectionately called the "cart of death" to 3 different rooms.  At that point, I had been an 8 week live-in of this pod and I had NEVER seen a night like that.  Needless to say, when 6:45 rolled around and I had been awake most of the night, I was ready to sleep.  I had been so exhausted...the past few days Viv had some upsets--she spit of blood on Monday night and then all day Tuesday was quite fussy through the night and Wednesday was the same.  I happily awoke at noon, just in time to watch Viv have a melt down, shower and get back to my room in time to greet our prayer friend to pray over Vivian.

Viv and I had become my mom's job.  Originally Thursday she was going to be with my sisters all day.  I got a message from her when I got back from my shower that she was done early with the walk-a-thon and was going to come to the hospital to hang with me.  While our friend was there saying healing prayers over Vivian, I was able to sit at the side of the bed while she slept and held her hand.  There were a few times when I looked up at her and caught her smiling.  For a mother's heart, it was some of the most beautiful moments of my time with her.  I love seeing her different faces, and most of the ones I had seen were ones she would give were her angry eyebrows or a grimace.  But who could blame her?  Her entire life she had tubes down her throat, through her name it, she had it.  About 2:45, it was the grand exodus.  I had 3 visitors, 2 friends and my mom, and all on cue they got up to leave.  I was getting ready to hold Viv and to have my friend Megan come visit, so I was fine with that.  There was nothing though that could prepare me or my heart for what lied ahead in just a few quick moments.

I looked out the door waiving as my mom exited the pod.  No sooner did I turn back around to go play with Vivi did she begin throwing up blood.  Not just a little, a lot.  It ran out of her mouth.  It was a scene I know I could never forget.  I was torn for my immediate reaction...wipe off Viv or yell for my mom.  I tried to do both, but missed my mom out the door.  Immediately my body went into panic mode.  I called my mom frantic to get back up to the room, and wiping up the blood covering Viv, welcoming Megan into my room and calling Rod.  As my mom walked back in the door Vivian threw up again.  I thought I couldn't be more freaked out than the time before, but this was terrifying.  The blood kept coming in clots, out her mouth and nose.  I couldn't even tell you how or what happened next...I tried to clean her off around the nurses and the doctors that filled the room.  I then got so light-headed, I thought I was going to pass out.  In that moment, it was almost as I saw things is a dual screen in slow motion.  On one side was my reality.  My 58 day old baby covered in blood, but just laying there.  No crying, not even a blink of her eye.  She just accepted it.  On the other side was a scene from the Passion.  After Jesus was scourged at the pillar, Mary comes out of the crowd and soaks up His blood in white towels given to her.  Everyone around her is just staring at her.  Her face a this moment has always been imprinted on my stoic, so numb, so helpless...and I knew we shared the same face at that moment.  With my white 4X4 gauze pads, I too, was wiping up my child's precious blood....blood she needed to continue to fight all over.

I felt my heart being piereced, it took the wind out of me.  I don't even know how or when the doctor came to me, but he simply said, "there really is nothing more we can do.  We need to get her comfortable while you wait for her to pass".  Was I really at this point?  And how did this happen?  I would have never thought the way September 20 started, so mindless, so normal, that it would be a day that I will never forget.

Just the night before I went out for a bit to blow off some steam by doing a bit of retail therapy, and at one moment pushing through racks of clothes I thought, "I am almost 26 years old.  I should be out having fun...or if I have a baby out showing her off, not living out of a hospital wondering if my baby is going to live" .  Of course I immediately shut that out.  You will be ok.  Rod will be ok.  Vivi is going to be ok.  Not even 24 hours later, none of those were true.  I was numb, Rod was confused, and Viv was soaked in blood.  None of those scenearios in my mind ring "OK".

A few weeks ago when I thought about the potential of all this happening, I was freaked out.  I was so weak--I couldn't imagine going on.  I couln't image seeing a baby without crying.  I couldn't image being able to be in the same room as any of my pregnant friends.  I mentioned this once before, some Jan wisdom, "you don't get the ticket until you ge to the station".  Well I was standing out front Grand Central, and the moment I stepped in, the floodgates of grace opened.  God was there.  I was graced with a peace that certainly surpassed all understanding.  I will never be able to explain how I went throught the rest of the night and this morning besides that.

Even in Vivian's last hours of life, she was sharing such love with everyone.  One of the transplant doctors came in to talk with us about what our plan should be to say good-bye, and as she looked at Vivian and spoke with us she started to cry. "Vivian is such a special baby" she had said-certainly a gift for me to hear from one of the doctors who sees thousands of babies.  Of course I had to dress her up in her tutu, and wrap her in a cozy blanket, and then Rod and I parked it for the next 12 or so hours.  It was very sweet--a few nurses poked there heads in to say good-bye, and thanked us for sharing our daughter with them.  Knowing that Vivian left each person a little better is a sure consolation to this mama's heart.

In that time we were able to have family come to see Viv, to hold her one last time and to really take the time to cherish her and love her into heaven.  We all said the Rosary around her, and as we said the fifth Glorious mystery, The Coronation of Mary as Queen of Heaven, I could see Viv in her tutu dancing around Mary, picking her flowers and smiling.  I knew that Viv was going to be bringing such a great joy and happiness to Heaven.

As the hours spilled into the early morning, Rod and I took turns holding Viv.  I got to tell her the story of her life, from when we found out we were pregnant to that moment.  I got to sing to her, kiss her beautiful face that we were seeing without tape for the first time, I got to tell her I love her, tell her how special she is, how proud I am of her all night long.  It was so amazing.  Truly moments I will never forget.  I shared with her my favorite moments with her...each time I got to hold her for the first time--after she was born, after her surgery--she is my heart. 

Rod and I were a little nervous about how she would leave us.  After we had extubated her the two other times, her heart starting beating so fast, it could have had a heart attack.  I think we both feared that.  God truly blessed us, and we were able to see her go so peacefully.  Around 4:30, the doctor and nurse came in to tell us that her heart rate was dramatically slowing down...the time was coming. For about a half hour her breathing slowed down little by little.  I felt that since I escorted her into the world, her daddy should be the one to escourt her out, and while comfortable in his arms, she had 3 big breaths, and then in typical Viv fashion let out a sweet little "good-bye" breath.  It was 5:13.

My whole life I feared being in the room when someone died, but this moment was a moment full of beauty, full of life--it was truly a holy moment.  In those moments when Viv was transitioning from this workd to Heaven, I could feel our room be filled with angels and saints and I know Mary was righ behind me reaching out her arms to grab Vivi's soul.  At 5:13, I kissed her little fingers, and felt her arms around my neck.  She was still wearing her tutu, and was all smiles.  My job as a mom was done.  My baby was in Heaven, not just in Heaven, she is a saint, experiencing Heaven in a way I never will.

I was able to bathe her, to wipe all the blood off her body, to pull out her IVs, take off her bandages, swaddle and hold her for one last time.  It was amazing to love her..all of her, for her entire life.  Although I pray I never have to do that again, I praise God for being given the opportunity to love all the way.

Today I am having moments as I know I will from here until I see her again in Heaven.  My true joy is that if our mission in this life is to leave the world better than we found it, Viv did it.  She did it in a way some people will never be able to after being on this side of eternity for 100 years.  In her 59 days of life, she truly lived life fully by sharing such great love, and by living that bringing out such goodness of each person in her path.

We are Celebrating Vivian's life Monday, September 24 at St. John the Baptist Dry Ridge.  We would love to welcome all of you who have loved her, and who she has loved to join us.  Her Visitation will begin at 10, with Mass at 11.  Her "Welcome to Heaven Party" will immediately follow. 


  1. Thank you for sharing your Gift with the world. God is here, in my life, more than I let Him be before Vivian. I needed her. Thank you, Maria, for teaching me how to cherish each moment. Domenic and our children will benefit from what I have learned about Love from your family. Just one concrete example of what your godly child has done for the world. God's Peace be with you.

  2. Maria, this post touched my heart so much. What an amazing gift you are, and what a beautiful mom. Each time I've read a post from you it lifted me up so much to see your courage, your faith, your joy, your fidelity - all of it. It reminded me that Christ hand-makes each cross for us with so much love, and I am without words to tell you how your witness in this cross helped me with my own attitude with just my little crosses. Thank you for that. So much love and prayers for your family.
    In Mary's Heart,

  3. Maria and Rod,
    My sister, a SUA classmate of yours, informed me today of the sad news. Being a new mom, my heart immediately began to ache for you and your family and I wanted to read about your journey. To my surprise, I noticed "Rod Dunlap"--the Rod I worked with at Boys Hope. Rod was loved and admired by so many at BHGH and after reading your posts start to finish today-it is no wonder God put you two together. I cannot begin to fathom what the two of you have gone through, but I do know your story will inspire so many people-the way it has myself. Your faith is incredibly admirable. The fact that you had the strength to carrying on this blog with the world through some of your most trying days (especially today) will be something I will always remember. I will treasure every day as a gift from God, even when I think they're "bad" days. You, Rod and beautiful Vivian will be in my prayers.

  4. My wife and myself our hearts and prayers are with your family. We know what you are going through. Yet we are not worrying We know with your faith and all the people are praying for your family. You blog helped complete God.s plan for Vivian.Tonight and every night parents will thank him for his greatest gift children. You are already great parents.Your future children will be so lucky to have such loving parents.
    With all our love and prayers.Cheryl and Kerry Maddux.

  5. Wow!! We were all made better for the beautiful gift of Vivian in our lives. We will be FOREVER touched by her life--her miracle of life. Hopefully you know in your hearts she was so wonderfully lucky to have you two as her parents--two parents who loved her like no other. Our hearts are with you. Love, Uncle Dan and Aunt Deb

  6. God bless you and your family. These are beautiful entries that you have written. Your daughter is truly a miracle and a great reminder for everyone to remember how precious life is in this world.

    If you and your husband are ever in need of a spiritual journey, take axweekend to drive to La Crosse, Wisconsin and visit the Shrine of Our Lady of Guatalupe. We witnessed a miracle there and were blessed by the Holy Spirit.

    God bless your daughter in Heaven and you and your family on earth. Thanks again for the wonderful messages you shared. Heaven is now a better place than before!

    Steve and Meghan Wildt

  7. I am so sorry for yours and Rod's pain. I want to thank you for sharing Vivian's life with everyone! She touched my life in so many ways. Rod and you are such wonderful parents; you all have been through so much in such a short time. You two are great examples of how God wants us all to live and have faith in Him. Thanks for reminding me! I will always remember Vivian and how beautiful she looked. She is a happy angel now watching over her family. I like to imagine she is having fun with my little angels! I will keep your family always in my prayers. God bless!

  8. Your story has truly touched me. My heart aches for you, but is so touched by your faith and your joy in little Vivian's life. You and Rod are such amazing parents- I hope some day I may be half the mother you have been to Vivian. Your example of love is breathtaking. Thank you for sharing your story. You and your family are very much in my thoughts and prayers. God Bless you.

  9. I have read your story and followed Vivian's life. What an amazing little person she is, you must be so proud! We too have a daughter, Mary Cate, in heaven, and I'd like to think she and Vivi are now friends.

    We have a lot in common, and I was once where you are now. I know the anguish, the numbness, the loneliness, the anger, the confusion, the bewilderment...all of it. Just know that whatever you feel is normal! Time doesn't heal, but it does get easier. I promise, it truly does.

    We were blessed to have other children after Mary Cate (I always liked to hear that from other women, it gave me so much hope), and our daughter here with us is named Vivian, Vivi is what we call her. Also, the giraffe lovie in all of your pictures is from our store (my Mom and sisters and mine). I remember making it in the summertime for your beautiful Vivian.

    I'd love to provide any support you may need. I know we don't know each other, but I feel like our lives were meant to cross. If you would ever like to talk or email, I'd love to hear from you. If you don't, I completely understand.

    Please know that you are in my prayers and in my heart. May God grant you peace and acceptance, and may you always remember your precious Vivian with a smile. She is a beautiful girl and she will live on through you. I'm so sorry for your loss, my heart breaks for you tonight. God bless you and your husband and may He wrap you warmly in His strong arms. You know He's holding Vivian too!

    1. Molly McMahon FasslerSeptember 25, 2012 at 10:38 AM

      my email is

  10. I just found your blog and Viv's story after getting an email from SUA. You are an amazing mother and I'm praying for you and your family.

    Shannon Hazard