I had never known the depth of my reliance on the Atonement until the night my heart broken into a million pieces.
My 7-month-old daughter, Ruby Jane, had been in the hospital for months, waiting for a liver transplant. We had every hope that she would receive that transplant, and live a long, happy life. The first week of August things started to go downhill very rapidly, but we still did not fear the worst. After being intubated and placed at the top of the transplant list, she started to slip from this world. Ruby’s mighty heart stopped beating one night, and I had never felt so afraid. But through the fear was my faith in Heavenly Father. I pushed my husband through the chaos of doctors and nurses, and asked him to give her a priesthood blessing. He reached through a small opening and laid his hands on her head and blessed her. Her heart eventually began to beat normally, only to crash several hours later. I pleaded with Heavenly Father, like never before, to please save her life. I was holding onto Ruby and fighting with every fiber of my being to keep her here on Earth. Again, her heart started to beat.
The next day I sat in a chair in the corner of her crowded PICU room. I was in a constant state of prayer that day. I remember looking out the window and feeling the hot August sun beating through the window on my face, and then closing my eyes. That is when my life changed forever. I had a very strong and clear thought in my mind, from Heavenly Father, that Ruby’s work on the Earth was finished. My eyes shot open and I pushed that thought into the deepest part of myself, wanting to ignore what Heavenly Father wanted me to understand. Several hours later, Ruby’s heart stopped beating for the final time.
When I saw the screen with a neon green flat line, I just kept sobbing to Ruby, “I am so sorry, I am so sorry, I am so sorry.” As a mother, I felt like I had failed her in every way. I had always been able to protect my children. Looking at her little body, I could not believe I had let this happen. For days, the suffocating fog of grief and shock overpowered most everything. One night laying in my bed, my tears silently fell in a constant stream down my face. My chest physically ached. It felt like a ton of bricks were placed just over my heart, pushing down harder and harder. I remember thinking that it was so heavy, that I just couldn’t take another breath. I even started to count, telling myself that I would breathe when I got to 3. 1…2….3…the breath wasn’t coming. I had never felt so alone in my life. No one could understand this type of pain. And then I remembered.
I remembered that I was not alone. There was actually someone who had felt this exact heaviness in my heart. Jesus Christ had felt the pain and grief of MY heart, over losing Ruby, all those years ago in the garden of Gethsemane. This allowed me to take a breath. And then I started to pray. I asked for relief. I asked for comfort. I asked for an escape from the heavy pain, just for a moment. Relief came immediately, right when I had asked, washing over my body. I was able to catch my breath, and then fall asleep.
After that night, my relationship with Christ changed. I now knew how much I needed him. I needed him to survive spiritually and also physically now. I had always had a strong testimony of the Atonement, but I have never used the Atonement in the way I had that night. When I thought there was no one, there He was, carrying me, protecting me, saving me. And that saving continues.
Easter is different for our family now. It is a very tender reminder that there is life beyond the grave. There is life for our Ruby. We know that her soul lives on, and that she will be reunited with that tiny perfect body someday. Hope , happiness and joy have prevailed through our trial because we know that “he breaketh the bands of death, that the grave shall have no victory, and that the sting of death should be swallowed up in the hopes of glory” (Alma 22:14).
Our family’s testimony and understanding of the resurrection provide the hope we need to endure. It is because of the Atonement that I am able to withstand this mortal trial I have been given to live without one of my daughters. It is because of the Atonement that I am able to repent and become the best possible daughter of God that I can be. This Easter I cling tightly to the promise that My Savior Jesus Christ’s Atonement overpowers temporal death through the Resurrection.
“I will not leave you comfortless: I will come to you. Yet a little while, and the world seeth me no more; but ye see me: because I live, ye shall live also.” John 14:18–19