February 20, 2015

‘I saw the light of God again’

Family’s heartbreak leads to poignant lesson of great love in the midst of great loss

Adam and Lauren Megel of St. Bartholomew Parish in Columbus pose for a family photo with their daughters, Madelyn, left, and Abigail, in October of 2014, a few months before a great loss in their lives showed them how much they are loved. (Photo by David Bugert Photography)

Adam and Lauren Megel of St. Bartholomew Parish in Columbus pose for a family photo with their daughters, Madelyn, left, and Abigail, in October of 2014, a few months before a great loss in their lives showed them how much they are loved. (Photo by David Bugert Photography)

(Editor’s note: As the archdiocese and the Church prepare for the 2015 World Meeting of Families in Philadelphia in September, The Criterion is inviting readers to share their stories of how their faith has made a difference in their families. Here is one of these stories.)

By John Shaughnessy

Looking back, Lauren Megel never imagined that her devastating loss would teach her so much about the incredibly supportive love of others—or the deepness of love that she could give and share.

She also never understood so fully the depth of God’s love for her.

At the time—in early January of this year—Lauren was an expectant mother who couldn’t wait to meet her new child.

She and her husband Adam had already been blessed with two daughters—Abigail, 4, and Madelyn, 2. And the joy of having a new family member filled all of them when they went together for what was expected to be a quick, pre-natal doctor’s appointment for Lauren, who was 16 weeks pregnant.

As a technician set up the ultrasound machine, Lauren anticipated seeing her baby “doing swirls and dips and dives.”

“Instead, I saw our baby laying there, still and lifeless,” recalls Lauren, who is 30. “And right there, in front of strangers and my young children, I started sobbing big, ugly, loud and uncontrollable sobs.

“The ultrasound technician quickly turned off the screen, but it was too late. The picture was already seared into my memory.”

Amid that heartbreak, Lauren couldn’t envision that another reality would also soon have a lasting place in her mind.

It’s her story of great love in the midst of great loss.

‘I listened, but I couldn’t hear God’

Overwhelmed with grief about her miscarriage, Lauren initially “walked around numb” and cried herself to sleep before she visited a place that has often offered her peace and solace in her life.

“I was always taught to turn to God in times of struggle,” says the member of St. Bartholomew Parish in Columbus. “So the next morning, I went to our church and sat in the Blessed Sacrament chapel. I sat in the quiet and wept and prayed. I began praying the rosary, looking for comfort. I began to think about Mary. She was a mother, just like me. She would understand my grief and take it to the Lord. I wanted God to tell me why this had happened to us.”

She insists that she wasn’t mad at God, “just sad and confused.”

“Surely he had a reason,” she says. “We had prayed for this baby. We had truly and deeply loved our unborn child. We had excitedly shared the news with everyone. The next day, I was scheduled to go into the hospital to deliver. So I sat in the chapel on what I knew would be my last day with my baby. Even though his or her life was already gone, the idea of being separated from him or her seemed unbearable. I listened, but I couldn’t hear God. He was quiet.”

She wondered, “Why wasn’t he sending the light I was so desperately searching for? The darkness seemed like it might be endless. I left the church feeling lost.”

Minutes later, she started to experience glimmers of light.

Embracing ‘a new normal’

“The phone calls and texts started coming,” she recalls. “Our family and friends were calling and sending out words of comfort and love; letting us know they were praying for us. Some shared their own stories of miscarriage. Many offered to bring over meals or to help with the girls—whatever we needed. Through our friends and family, God was sending the light.

“With each kind word, the darkness turned to gray, and I thought that maybe my grief would not suffocate me. I was not alone. We were deeply loved.”

As the weeks have passed, the heartbreaking loss of their child and the healing love of so many have evolved into “a new normal” for their family, Lauren says.

“I made peanut butter and jelly sandwiches for my girls, folded towels and watched TV after bedtime stories,” she notes. “But in our new normal, my grief would sneak up on me at random times during the day. For a few minutes, and sometimes hours, my grief would overwhelm me, and the tears would flow. But there was something else different about our new normal. It was so full of love, kindness and support that I could hardly believe it.

“Our marriage felt stronger and more precious than ever. On the worst day of our lives, we had each other. My husband saw the weakest and ugliest parts of me that day in the hospital. He held my hand the entire time and whispered words of encouragement. Then he held together the pieces of my broken heart in the dark days that followed. In our new normal, we were reminded why marriage is a sacrament, a vocation.”

She also views her daughters in a different light.

‘We had never felt so loved’

“I had loved them both beyond words from the minute the pregnancy tests read positive. But now I began to see them through God’s eyes. They were our greatest gifts from God, meant to be protected and cherished.”

Through it all, Lauren has seen her own faith grow because of the faith and the prayers of all the friends, family members and co-workers who rushed to support them.

“We were covered in Christ-like friendship and blessings,” she says. “Through my husband, my daughters, our family and friends, I saw the light of God again. I saw the light of God shine brighter than I had ever had, through the goodness and love of others.

“It’s strange that during our darkest grief, we had never felt so loved. It brings new meaning to one of my favorite sayings, ‘God is good, all the time. All the time, God is good.’ ”

(Has faith made a difference in your family’s life? Has it deepened your relationships as a parent, a grandparent, a sibling, a son or a daughter? Do you have rituals and experiences of faith that have helped to make your family more Christ-centered? If so, we’d like to hear about it.

Please send your responses and your stories to assistant editor John Shaughnessy by e-mail at jshaughnessy@archindy.org or by mail in care of The Criterion, 1400 N. Meridian St., Indianapolis, IN 46202. Please include your parish and a daytime phone number where you can be reached.) †

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