From the moment our little daughter, Karen Sue, came into the world, she lived in a world of pain. We did not know what was wrong. The assumption was that perhaps she had a congenital heart defect. This was in the early 1950s when they did not have the medical tests and equipment to diagnose such things. All I knew was that things were not right with my tiny little daughter. She cried and cried and nothing that I or anyone else could do seemed to help. Night after night and day after day I would hold her, rock her, and try to soothe away her pain.
During the eight months of her time with us there were only a few days during which she seemed to be without extreme suffering. There were few golden moments of experiencing joy and delight in her small life and a handful of precious memories of her three-year-old brother playing with her and bits of laughter and giggles.
It was a hard time for all of us. Stanley, her small brother, pretty much had to fend for himself as I spent every moment trying to help Karen Sue. She was never strong, she could not hold down food, and all the time she cried and cried.
I could think of little else but coping through the day, struggling to keep Karen Sue alive. I lost a lot of weight, became dazed and numb with lack of sleep and exhaustion I struggled to keep going. Finally one night, when she seemed to be particularly bad, I whispered tearfully to Jesus, “I can’t do this anymore.”
That night we took her to the hospital and found she had developed pneumonia. I stayed with her through the long night as she gasped and coughed and struggled. Later the next morning, I went home to catch a few hours of sleep so that I could spend another night with her in the hospital.
I fell onto the bed, totally spent and drifted into an exhausted sleep. I awoke to the ringing of the phone. It was the hospital. Karen Sue was dying, they said. I did not drive at that time but I quickly called my husband and he drove immediately from work to pick me up and we rushed to her bedside. When we got there, the little bed was empty and I knew she was gone.
I remember the moment hazily as if I was in a dream. I just looked at that little bed, dazed and numb and whispered to Jesus, “It’s all right.” I felt that God had given me the grace to accept this loss. “It’s all right.” My heart was broken, my heart was crushed, but “It was all right.” I did not want her suffering to continue. I knew she was better with Jesus. The grace to accept this I think was what kept me going.
I do not remember now if it was that night or the next night that I went to sleep in total anguish. I woke up in the middle of the night and saw something that until now, I have shared with only my husband and a few others. I guess I felt that no one would believe me. From my bed, I looked into the hallway and clearly and distinctly as could be, I saw Our Lady standing in the hallway between two bedrooms holding our little girl in her arms.
I was so comforted; I just lay back down, rested my head onto the pillow and went to sleep. It was all right.