Sarah sat across from me at the restaurant. She looked stunning with her sunflower-colored scarf, her shiny gold earrings, and a necklace bearing Everlee’s name. She appeared so put together. I was honored that she would take time to meet with me and share her story.
God had laid her on my heart several weeks ago. I only knew her story from a distance but I had been reading her posts on Facebook. Sarah’s posts invited me into her life, into Everlee’s life, and into a journey of deep sadness mixed with hope, grief, joy, and peace.
It was just a little more than a year ago that Sarah, her husband Jeremy, and their daughters’ lives would be forever changed. She has come a long way in that time. As she shared her story, we found tears stinging our eyes, silence when there were no words, our hearts connecting on a deep level.
Before she even knew she was pregnant, God chose the name Everlee for Sarah’s beautiful baby girl. When she and Jeremy were surprised to find out they were expecting a little girl, they immediately started calling her Everlee Jo.
During Sarah’s pregnancy, they learned that Everlee had a condition called single umbilical artery. As the doctors monitored her, they also discovered a medical abnormality that would require several surgeries, but that ultimately Everlee would be ok. The doctors prepared Sarah for that journey, which included many more doctor visits, tests, and meetings with professionals to explain what these early years would look like.
At a routine visit at 33 weeks gestation, during an ultrasound, the doctor told Sarah that she would likely deliver within two weeks. He then sent her across the building for another test. The tests had become routine for this pregnancy as the doctors were monitoring little Everlee.
There would be nothing routine about this trip, however. By the time Sarah arrived in the next office, little Everlee was in distress. The heartbeat that was heard mere moments ago was now barely beating. Sarah said she felt like she was in an episode of “Grey’s Anatomy,” as doctors and nurses rushed around her in a flurry of activity. She threw the phone to one nurse so she could call Jeremy. Then Sarah was out.
She would awaken to Jeremy standing by her bedside.
“We lost her, Sarah, Everlee didn’t make it,” he said. His words cut into her being as she felt her heart being ripped in two and left dangling. This wasn’t part of the plan.
Months later, as she shared her darkest moment, her deepest grief, I could sense the sadness in her heart. The brokenness. But the young woman sitting across from me emanated a serious peace. Though she spoke of such a dark time, I could see hope in her eyes.
For God works all things together for good for those who love him and are
called according to his purposes. Romans 8:28
It was easy to see God’s work in Sarah. In our time together, I could hear the passion in her voice as she spoke of Missing Grace, an organization that helped her and Jeremy through their loss. Sarah now donates time to this ministry, helping others as they navigate their own infant loss. I see the love in her eyes when she shares how God has strengthened her marriage. I sense tenderness in her spirit as she shares her hope in the things unseen. Gifts of Everlee, her Facebook page, speaks of Everlee and of Sarah’s journey of healing. It’s sometimes raw with emotion, as she honestly reflects on this past year. I’m sure that in sharing her story, she is touching hearts that need to know that they are not alone.
But after speaking with Sarah, I knew that I needed to visit Everlee’s Garden, the very special place that Sarah and Jeremy created to honor their little girl. Sarah told me that it would be magical and it was. We walked towards the garden and sat on the bench, surrounded by stones, each one bearing a name of a baby gone from this world far too soon. As we sat there, the breeze touched my face; the wind chimes sang their song. We could sense those angel babies dancing, playing in our midst. And a peace settled deep within.
As we closed our time together, Sarah added her thoughts, “It’s not just a story of heartache, pain, and sorrow. It’s a story where love is at the center of it, tying it all together. The love the Lord has for his children; the love a mother has for her child. Love conquers in the end. Love is light and great enough to defeat the heartbreak. That’s how I really feel.”
And Everlee continues to give her gifts.