Sunday, December 16, 2007

Evie's Story

We wrote a tribute to Evie that was read at her memorial. We'd like to share it with you, along with some pictures that we haven't posted on this website before:

To describe a life so short, it would be best to start at the very beginning. We first found out Evangeline was on the way early on a cold February Sunday morning. We were surprised, nervous, and excited. We went to church that morning, this same church, with many thoughts and emotions about our upcoming adventure. We worshiped with great thankfulness for the blessing we’d received.

As the child grew in the womb, so did our anticipation and dreams for her life. At 20 weeks we were told that we should expect a girl. Happy for either a boy or a girl, we were excited to now better visualize who this little person would become. As the baby grew inside of Nicole, mother and daughter already began their bonding. Dad got in on the action too; giving pep talks to the baby, singing songs to her, and feeling for kicks. Even so early in her life we knew the little girl was mighty.

Long before we ever thought about actually having a baby, we fiercely debated baby names. About six months into the baby’s gestation we finally started coming to a consensus. We liked the name Eve or Evie, but we couldn’t decide what her full name should be. Then during a late night drive, Nicole had an epiphany. She suggested Evangeline. Matt was sold. The name was versatile for many nicknames, and it had significance. Evangeline means “good news”. We knew this baby was good news for us, and we hoped that her life would help share “good news” with others.

When autumn came and Evie’s arrival was only brief months away we were overcome by the love and excitement that so many shared with us. Our excitement became nearly unbearable. On Friday night, November 16th we were finally off to the hospital to deliver our long awaited baby. Nicole labored through the early morning, and after hours of pushing, Evangeline Marie Gustafson Kennedy was born at 11:13am, November 17th. She came out a beautiful shade of purple with a pointy cone head. We wept with joy. Weighed and measured she was 8lbs 15oz, and 21” long. She was born exactly on her due date. Mother and daughter rested quietly together throughout the afternoon. Though exhausted from a long night of labor, mom and dad could not help but simply sit awake and stare at their beautiful baby girl. She enchanted us.

We had a brief time to start to get to know our child. Evie was a quiet baby. When she fussed, a tight swaddling easily comforted her. In the darkness of early morning, Evie’s eyes opened and mom and baby bonded as they looked into each other’s eyes. The sweet little girl charmed all her visitors, but her parents most of all. We called her “the love dove”.

We only shared a single night at home with Evie, by morning we knew that she was not well and soon that day we discovered that she had a congenital heart defect. She was admitted to the Neonatal intensive care unit at Children’s Memorial Hospital to begin the fight for her life. From the moment she was admitted, Evie was in the care of amazing people. We spent as much time as we could at her bedside; touching her, talking to her, praying over her, and singing to her. Within a few days the care team at the hospital helped stabilize Evie and mom and dad were given opportunities to hold her and care for her even though she was hooked up to monitors. A few days later Evie met her grandparents. With all her family gathered around, Evie was baptized the day after Thanksgiving.

On Tuesday the 27th, Evie had her first surgery. It was then when we learned her heart defects were even more serious than first understood. With hundreds of family and friends supporting her with prayer, Evie had a second surgery three days later. She spent another 10 days in Intensive care on a bypass machine. After a long struggle to restore her health, we had to make the decision to take Evie off the machine to see if her heart was strong enough to make it or not. It was quickly determined that she would not, so we spent her last hour together as a family. Evie passed away in mom’s loving embrace. She was 23 days old.

We could have never predicted how much deep deep love we could have for a person we barely had the chance to know. What we do know about her is that she was both strong and beautiful. More than a few times she bounced back from severe setbacks, and everyday we stood amazed at her beauty. She had daddy’s eyes and nose, mommy’s ears and fingers. We hope that if she only knew one thing about us, that it would be how much we love her.

In the three weeks we had to know Evangeline, she changed our lives. We will never be the same. We were her parents, and we will always be her parents. Evie made us proud as she fought hard against the toughest medical adversity. We find some small comfort in knowing that in her short life she was surrounded by incredibly caring people and that that nurses and doctors worked as hard as they could to save her. Though we spent most of her life with deep heartache, she gifted us with great joy. We are still Evie’s parents, we will never forget her and we will always do our best for her. She will be kept in our hearts until that day when we are all reunited, and there we hope to pick up where we left off.


Anonymous said...

What a beautiful tribute to your daughter! Thank you so much for sharing it! You're in my thoughts and prayers!

Debi Bender said...

Thank you for sharing such personal thoughts about your beautiful daughter's life. It reminds us all to love those around us a little more deeply and with real intent. You bless us all by sharing. I hope you know that Evie's life has already change us all. She was a gift. Love and prayers to both of you. May you find some peace and promise in the season and beyond. Debi

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Anonymous said...

galye mat and nicole your story has touch my heart. As i read it i thought of my niece who had passed away this summer at 18 months old from a rare form of blood cancer and yes i to did cry. You guys are in my prayer and thank you for the beautiful story. She will be in your hearts forever.

Anonymous said...

Dear Nicole and Matt-
We were very sad to hear the tragic news. How hard it is to understand why these thing happen, but we pray that your love for God,
his love for you and your love for each other will work together in such a powerful way that you eventually find meaning and purpose
in what it seems like a senseless tragedy. You are in our prayers.
We pray that God will grant you his
peace, which supasses all human understanding. Love,
Alina and Frank Casanova

Patty said...

Matt and Nicole,

This tribute was amazing. The memorial service was beautiful -- you chose the perfect hymns, the pastoral prayer was great, and the sermon was right on. I especially wanted to shout those resurrection hymns. I will keep that bulletin forever in my blue Covenant hymnal. I can't imagine a better send-off for Evie. Take care as you travel, and Andy and I look forward to your return.


elm said...

Matt & Nicole,
You are Evie's parents for a reason, she was given to you as a part of God's plan. It's so evident that you both embrace His sovereignty & His love. The way you've shared your Evie with the rest of your family, friends, church body, and even blog readers has been a blessing to all of us. She is a special girl & her time here on earth was short enough to make us wonder, long enough to make us sure what love is.
Blessings in Christ Jesus,
Emily Manning

Anonymous said...

beautiful evangeline marie
beautiful parents
beautiful tribute
thank you Jesus

Jane said...

Thank youi for sharing Evie's story with those of us who did not know her in life. Your tribute is an amazing testimony to your faith and the power of a parent's love.

Our family is praying for yours,

Jane Deitrich



Christy said...

I heard of your blog through a friends blog. This is a beautiful tribute to a special little girl! I pray that God brings you much peace during the holiday and that you are blessed to know that those few weeks you had with your daughter were the best gift you could ever receive!

Sarah said...

I've been thinking about you all today. I know this has probably been a really awful horrible day. I wish I could be there to give you a hug. My thoughts and prayers have been with you.

Anonymous said...

Dear Nicole and Matt,
A friend directed me to your blog for your dear little blessing. We share our sympathies with you and praise you for the love that you shared in your time with/for Evie in life and in her passing. It is not mere coincidence that "angel" is in Evangeline's name. Through your sharing of your times, she truly is an angel of God - sent to you and to us through you. May God continue to embrace you in his loving arms!

Blessings in Christ,
Craig & Shannon (McMillan) Pirmann

Kati said...

That was a beautiful tribute to a beautiful little girl. Evie has another heart buddy in heaven with her. Our Seamus earned his wings on Sunday. I'm sure they're playing together in Heaven.

Kati and Bruce

Praying in Delaware said...

Nicole - I don't know you, or anyone who does know you - I just followed your link from Nate and Tricia's blog (more people I don't know). I have never had much time to follow anyone's blog, even people I do know) but the Lord has brought me back again and again to the amazing story of "the cf husband". Just recently I started following links to hear the stories of the other people who are reading along with me. When I read your blog about your precious little girl, I just felt my heart drop out the bottom of my gut. Three weeks, you only had three weeks to love your little girl here on earth. I can not imagine. All I know is that our God is an awesome God and that He does not let anything pass through His hands that are out of His control. Your daughter's name is so perfect - her life, and death will no doubt challenge you to hold even tighter to the "good news" of Christ (which is so evident even in your blog). Our pastor's wife wrote a book about her experiences after losing her 16 year old son in a car accident ( just a resource you could check out if you wanted to, it's based on her journals & the Lord's promises. The Lord has not forgotten you! May God Bless you richly!