I think it was probably January 19, 1986…the day that Dee and Brock came home from the hospital…that I saw a young girl, probably in her early 20s, as a nurse pushed her in a wheelchair from the hospital entrance to the car that was waiting curbside. She was trying desperately not to cry. Gamely, bravely, she tried…unsuccessfully.

Then, I saw the second nurse, pushing a small cart behind her. The cart was loaded with flowers, cards, and small stuffed animals…the kind of stuff you see in the maternity ward.

And, then, I knew. What was missing was the baby.

I will never forget the sight of her, trying to stifle her sobs.

For context, we were in the middle of our own crisis. We were going home with one baby, but we were leaving another one behind…one that would never make that trip to our home.

In the early morning hours of January 14, 1986, while my young bride was still under anesthetic, I stood in the hospital hallway – between my mother-in-law and father-in-law – while a very nice, brilliant doctor explained to me in her most professional and compassionate manner that our newborn twins had two very different prognoses. He (Brock Samuel McGarity) was “just fine,” I heard her say, as I sensed a dark cloud beginning to descend.

She “has major problems”, the doctor said, and then went on to explain that her condition was “not compatible with life”. (Thanatophoric dysplasia; look it up.)

This was completely unexpected, and I’m sure that I probably had some kind of a dazed look on my face, so (I guess) to make sure that I wasn’t going to misunderstand, she added, emphatically, “She can not live.”

Sometimes, I go to the grocery store, and I find it impossible to remember the one thing that Dee told me to pick up, and, yet, thirty-two years later, I can remember EXACTLY what words that doctor used to drag me into a new level of awareness about how things don’t always go according to our plans.

A lot of stuff happened over the next month. Some of it was in a blur, and none of it was on my agenda. First, I was forced to make the transition from happy-go-lucky, cocky, clueless, all-about-me, American male…to being the person responsible for trying to find the right words to explain this new reality to my young wife when she began to come out from under the effects of the drugs that were supposed to protect her senses from the pain of surgery.

There are no “right” words. They don’t exist.

Then, we made the decision to name her Destiny Joy McGarity. It just seemed appropriate to us.

The people in our “faith community” – our church family – rallied to us. It was actually pretty amazing. Food, money for parking and meals (because we were having to go to the hospital in downtown Houston everyday), and a network of willing baby-sitters for our two oldest boys (ages 5 and 3 at the time) were just some of the expressions of kindness and support that helped in ways that are impossible to place a value on, and that I will always be grateful for.

I can’t really explain how this happened, but my faith…didn’t go away. Not then, anyway. Since then, I’ve had other experiences that were more of a threat to my relationship with God, but, somehow, during our “Destiny” journey, I had a very real sense of God’s strength in my life; it was a strength that I KNEW didn’t come from me. (I also discovered the cathartic benefits of writing about my experiences.)

But, I could never forget the sight of that young girl…going home without the baby that she expected. I have always wondered what happened, and hoped she was okay, somehow.

I know she didn’t mean to, but she helped me to see beyond my own problems a little bit. I was more grateful for the new, healthy boy we were taking home. And, I was able to appreciate the life that we were able to have with Destiny.

They told us she wouldn’t live through the first day…then the first week…. At the two-week mark, they told us she had set some kind of record for someone with her condition. She would live for 29 days, all of them spent in the ICU Nursery at St. Joseph’s Hospital in Houston, Texas. We got to hold her, and tell her that we loved her. We got to sing to her. (Music always seemed to soothe her.) We got to see her smile. During those 29 days, she was an inspiration, not only to us, but to a lot of other people, as well, including the students in my junior high classroom at Sweetwater Christian School, their families, and the staff. I had the incredible privilege of holding her in my arms as she skipped from this planet to the shores of Heaven.

Those 29 days changed us. Not all of the changes were good…but some of them were. We survived. We saw the goodness in a lot of people. We saw reasons to be grateful. We learned to lean on each other more, and appreciate each other more.

And, eventually, we saw (like King David) the “goodness of the Lord in the land of the living.” (Psalm 27:13)

It’s only taken me 32 years to write this, but…if you’re wondering if the sun will ever shine on you again, please don’t give up. You can recover, and see the sunrise again, no matter how dark your night might currently be. You can experience joy again. That’s my prayer for you today.

I love you all. ❤️🙏

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