Daddy loves you so much. I’m sorry if I didn’t take very good care of you. I had a feeling that something could go wrong after everything your mommy had to go through when she was carrying you. And looking back at our few pictures of you, something does look a little off. I thought it was strange how you were so quiet and unlively after you were born. I remember telling myself that you would perk up and start being a little squirmy worm just like all of your siblings. I remember thinking that I would spend a lot more time with you once your personality started to develop, so I was pretty hands-off and just let Mommy enjoy her new little pumpkin. I never even changed your diaper.
On Thanksgiving morning, the day after your Baptism and the third day after your birth, Mommy came running in the room and said she didn’t think you were breathing. I took one look at you and I knew. My head started spinning as I grabbed you from Mom. I took the holy water off our dresser and made the Sign of the Cross on your forehead as I repeated the Holy Name. I took you into the bathroom and splashed cold water on your head trying to wake you up. I laid you down on the bed and told Mommy to call 911. I started trying to breathe in your mouth but had no idea what I was doing. The operator on the phone tried to explain CPR as I pushed on your chest and prayed for a miracle. Some of your sisters peeked their heads into our room and I told them to run back into their room. Everything was happening so fast, and I was in a daze. Two seconds later I heard the ambulance sirens outside. In an instant, they were upstairs trying to administer CPR. The head EMT told the others, “She’s still warm, let’s just go – let’s go!”
Mommy rode with you to the hospital as I stayed behind with all the kids and the police officers. I went in your sisters’ room and started crying. I could barely get the words out of my mouth, “We think Noelle might be gone.” Charlotte put her arms around me and said, “Daddy, I’ve never seen you so sad!” It took me a couple of tries to call Father Jenkins because my hands were shaking and I couldn’t think of how to dial his number. I called my mom and asked her to come. After what seemed like forever, my sister arrived and the nice police officer drove me to the hospital. Father Greenwell met us at the door and we walked in together. A social worker came over to me and asked my name. I asked her if you were okay and she told me what I already knew. “The doctors tried everything, but she’s gone.”
It was really hard hearing those words. I almost fell over in the hospital hallway. We walked into the room where you and Mommy were waiting, and I just fell into her arms. She was in tears but so composed as we looked at our little saint. I tried to ask the nurse what had happened, but she didn’t have any answers. Father Greenwell started saying the prayers for the dying, and it really felt like we were in a movie. I can’t even describe everything that went through my head for the next couple of hours. We weren’t able to hold you for awhile, but at last they told me that I could be the first one to pick you up. Oh, Noelle! – that was the hardest moment of my entire life…
It somehow seemed fitting that Father Jenkins walked in the room as soon as I first held you. I couldn’t look him in the eye because I couldn’t take my eyes off of you. I think that’s when everything really hit me. You were so cold and still. I hugged you as tight as I could and cried harder than I thought was possible. Father Jenkins put his arm around you and I and cried with me. That moment – as hard as it was – is somehow my favorite memory that I will cherish for the rest of my life.
Going home from the hospital was hard. I didn’t want to leave you, but I also knew that there was nothing left to do or say. Our whole lives felt so empty without you there. We hugged all of your siblings so tight that night, and we went to bed trying to close the first chapter of the hardest trial God could ever ask of a parent.
There are a thousand and one more stories that could be told about the entire process of your short life, passing, burial, and sainthood. The heroic fortitude of you mother; the simplicity of your siblings’ understanding and acceptance of God’s holy will; the outpouring of love and generosity from our friends, family, and even total strangers; but none of those things are the most important lesson to be learned. I think the one thing that everyone should learn from your sweet life, Noelle, is the infinite goodness of God.
How good God is to grant us a share in His creative powers! How good He is to bless us with so much happiness and joy in this valley of tears. How good He is to continue to create beautiful new human life and immortal souls. How good God is, Noelle, that He moved us to have you baptized at only two days old. Surely there is providence in that! Almighty God would have been infinitely just had He permitted you to perish without receiving the Sacrament of Baptism and a share in His Divine Life. His Holy Name would have been praised, and honored, and glorified by the entire court of heaven had He permitted that to take place. But simply out of the goodness of His paternal heart, He willed to come into your poor tiny heart and make you a saint for Him. You did nothing to merit sainthood, but God loved you so much that He simply gifted it to you! Everlasting and infinite happiness is yours, Noelle, simply because God is so good.
God is often criticized by those who do not know Him. They sometimes say that He is cruel because they do not understand His judgements. But how often do we who do know Him praise Him for His judgements? We know that His Holy Will is infinite wisdom and perfection, so let us thank Him for it! Let us thank Him for making such a beautiful little saint. Let us thank Him for giving us the consolation that we performed our parental duties well and led our daughter to heaven. Let us thank Him for our beautiful Catholic Faith which has infallibly assured us of your salvation and given us the strength to inspire those around us. Let us thank Him for the Communion of the Saints, through which we can still love you and you us.
It’s sometimes hard to think about you, Noelle, because it brings so much pain. But in a strange way your memory also brings so much happiness. There is perhaps nothing more sad in this life than a parent losing a child. But there is no happier thought than knowing that you are now safe in heaven awaiting our arrival so that we can meet again.
I’ve never told anyone this, but the very night that you must have passed away your mommy went into the other room to take care of some things and left me alone with you. Your Baptism had just been a few hours earlier, and I wanted to give you an introduction to the Catholic Faith. I knelt down beside you and asked God to unite my heart with yours so that we could pray together. I knew that your prayer would be much more pure and acceptable than mine since your soul had never been tainted by actual sin. I begged God to look upon your beautiful soul and be pleased. I prayed the Acts of Faith, Hope, and Charity with you, and I asked you to pray the Act of Contrition for all of my sins. For some reason that I didn’t know at the time, those seemed like the most beautiful prayers I have ever offered. I had no idea that I was praying with a saint who would be enjoying the sight of God in just a few hours. I can’t help but think that those prayers must have added to your glory in some way, and that you love me more because of them. I hope you always love me, Noelle, and I hope you always help me get to heaven. I can’t wait to see you again. Daddy loves you so much, baby. Please pray for me. Please pray for your mommy. Please help us get to heaven so that we can love God together forever.
St. Noelle, pray for us!