Reflections on the Life and Death of Our Newborn Granddaughter

One month ago, on December 14, 2019, our sixth grandchild was born. The 31-weeks of life she enjoyed in the safety of her mother’s womb continued for about 45 minutes after birth. Then she was escorted into the arms of her Creator and Savior. Since that day, I’ve wanted to write down some of my thoughts, but the death of a loved one—even when it’s expected—can take the wind out of your sails.

Grief is an exhausting journey.  

At eleven-week’s gestation, our daughter and son-in-law learned of their firstborn’s physical complications—complications that would make it impossible for her to survive outside the womb. Medical personnel immediately offered “termination of pregnancy” to her parents, but since they knew that their little girl was created in the image of God that wasn’t an option to consider.

Six weeks later, in mid-September, I shared the following prayer request with a handful of ministry peers.

We learned about six weeks ago that our sixth grandchild is a precious little girl who has Limb-body wall complex. She’s currently at 18-week’s gestation, and our daughter now has a team of specialists watching over her and the baby. This complex is incompatible with life outside the womb. They have told our daughter that she will most likely miscarry, or the baby will die shortly after birth. There is no genetic explanation, so it is unlikely this will ever happen again. It is random, as the world would call it, but of course we know that nothing is random when the Lord is in charge of all life. Please pray for her parents. They are doing well, overall, but of course they are grieving. It’s helped them to learn the gender, so they feel closer to the baby and will name her. It’s still so hard to watch. Even now I get choked up as I write to you. 

Twelve weeks later, I sent an update:

It is now pretty certain that Isabelle, our little princess, will go full term. She is now at 30-week’s gestation but, apart from God performing a real-life, biblical miracle she will not survive. As mentioned before, she has Limb-body wall complex. She has one leg, which is the least serious of the issues, and her spine is at 45 degrees. Her vital organs are outside of her body and, therefore, she will not be able to sustain life once the umbilical cord is cut. It strikes me that what gets a woman through pregnancy and delivery is the hope of bringing her precious child home from the hospital. But there is no such expectation in this situation. Instead they are embracing the privilege that they have to right now provide a safe place for their little girl, and love her for as many days as the Lord has ordained for her. We are walking through this valley with them, and are thankful that they know Christ and are knowing Him more deeply each day.

As time went by her parents’ request for prayer from our church family became very specific, namely, that Isabelle would survive birth, so that her mom and dad could meet her while she still had life in her body. God answered the prayers of His people. The evening after she was born, I sent out this note of thanks to friends who had been praying.

Thank you for your prayers and comforting words. Isabelle Carina Piscioneri was born this afternoon. The life she lived in the womb these past 31-weeks continued for 45 minutes after birth. Thank you for your prayers for her parents, Nick and Alaina, whose request was answered as they met her, snuggled with her, and placed her into the arms of Jesus. As grandparents, we were given the privilege of holding her lifeless body. Sufficient Grace Ministries provided perinatal hospice support and volunteer photographers who captured precious moments for us all. Thank you for your love and prayers in this valley. Please continue to pray for her parents and their families as we grieve this loss.

With the encouragement of Isabelle’s parents, let me share a few reflections in hope that they will draw your attention to the glory of God.

Reflections on Her Life

Your eyes have seen my unformed substance; and in Your book were all written the days that were ordained for me, when as yet there was not one of them.

Ps. 139:16

God ordains the length of each person’s life, even before they are born. Every human life is of immeasurable value regardless of abilities or disabilities, or how long the person lives. Since every human’s life is created in the image of God, and their definite purpose is ordained by God, they should be protected from harm and treated with utmost dignity. Some may be tempted to think of our granddaughter’s very brief life as a failed pregnancy, but it was nothing of the sort. Isabelle’s days were ordained for her and, even in a very short time, she did more to impact people for the gospel and the glory of God than we will ever know.

Reflections on Her Death

But when this perishable will have put on the imperishable, and this mortal will have put on immortality, then will come about the saying that is written, “Death is swallowed up in victory. O death, where is your victory? O death, where is your sting?”

1 Cor. 15:54-55

Death is an enemy. It is one consequence of the original sin that was engineered by the Enemy of our souls. The devil is a destroyer, but neither he nor death will get the final word. The devil’s doom, and death’s end, have already been sealed by Jesus (Heb. 2:14-15). One day, Jesus will win the day forever, and all who find their soul’s rest in Him will be resurrected and glorified in triumphant victory. His gracious sacrifice not only purchased salvation for all who believe, but also for those who are incapable of belief.

Reflections about Grief

Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of mercies and God of all comfort, who comforts us in all our affliction so that we will be able to comfort those who are in any affliction with the comfort with which we ourselves are comforted by God.

2 Cor. 1:3-4

Loss hurts; it hurts badly. It hurts deeply, regardless of the age of our loved one. No matter how or when it occurs, loss is hard. It’s just plain hard. Thankfully, the triune God is for us. We have the Savior who understands our pain, the heavenly Father who comforts us, and the Spirit who applies the healing power of scriptural truth to our wounds. But grief is not a burden we are strong enough to carry on our own, without the help of other people. We need one another, and shared loss eases the pain somewhat and bonds broken hearts together.

Shared grief has a way of strengthening God’s church and making us a gracious family of God. The comfort we receive from God, and through others, equips us to become more compassionate comforters ourselves. This has been, and continues to be, a difficult valley, but comfort continues to flow to our family through the Word of God and the love of His people.

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