When a Baby Dies

Dennis Rainey and his family look for hope in the valley of the shadow of death.

By Dennis Rainey with Chris Lawrence   |  05 . November . 2008
mighty-molly-465x280.jpg One hour after she was born, Dennis Rainey learned that his granddaughter was in dire trouble (here with her mother and father, Rebecca and Jake Mutz). Photo Courtesy of HL Concepts, LLC

The days were filled with expectation. Every time our cell phone rang, my wife, Barbara, and I hoped it was from Rebecca, our fourth child of 6.

We were eager for our new granddaughter to be born. And on June 13 at 5:27 a.m., little Molly Mutz entered the world.

An hour or so later, we received an e-mail saying that Molly didn’t cry during her first few minutes — not a good sign — and that doctors thought that she might have a heart murmur. 

This was on our minds as Barbara and I flew to Colorado and joined Rebecca and her husband, Jake, at the Denver Children’s Hospital at 9 p.m.

Baby Molly Was In Dire Trouble

Jake met us in the lobby and told us more disturbing news — the doctors thought Molly needed brain surgery.

My heart sank to the floor. The situation was more serious than any of us realized.

In the face of such uncertainty, we were left with a choice of whether to trust God or to get angry with Him, deny Him or go off on our own.

Our family chose to trust God.

New Parents’ Joy Turned to Mourning

Saturday was a day of testing, in more ways than one.

Molly underwent multiple X-rays, MRIs and an ultrasound. We found out that more than 50 percent of Molly’s brain was permanently damaged, affecting both halves of her brain.

We knew that her time on earth would be short. The news hit my daughter and her husband like a truck — their joy had quickly turned to mourning.

The next day, Jake’s parents arrived along with some of their family, as well as several of our children and their families. Rebecca and Jake introduced Molly to each family member.

Many came and kneeled at Rebecca’s feet, while she sat with her daughter on her lap in the NICU and sobbed.

When a family is being a family it is powerful, even worshipful.

Questions That Remained Unanswered

On Monday, we surrounded Molly for a baby dedication, reading Scripture, praying and singing a couple of songs.

Again, many of us kneeled at Rebecca’s feet close to Molly, her little frame tethered to life-support tubes.

I remember thinking, If love could heal, Molly would be well . Instead, we saw her little chest pounding, her heart beating faster and faster, trying to keep up with what she needed to live.

Throughout the ordeal, there were moments when our trust in God waivered.

While running an errand at Walgreen’s for Rebecca, I saw several moms with their babies. I couldn’t help but wonder, Why did they all have healthy babies, and my daughter didn’t?

Such questions were left unanswered.

With the reality that Molly would not live long, we took steps to remember her.

On Wednesday we shot video, took pictures and made molds of Molly’s hands. My Bible now has Molly’s footprints all over Psalm 127 and 128 and her handprints on my life verse, Psalm 112:1,2.

On Thursday morning, a nurse informed us that Molly’s vital signs were slipping. Her little heart raced at more than 170 beats per minute, though she was receiving 100 percent pure oxygen, and she began losing color.

Not Quite Ready to Say Goodbye

Around noon, I got my chance to say goodbye to Molly.

As she was placed in my arms, I tried to sing “Jesus Loves Me,” but tears choked my words. Later I began to tell one of my “Speck People” stories. My grandkids love these tales of adventure about tiny little people living in a microscopic world.

The story was less than a minute long. At the conclusion, I looked up to see Rebecca with the biggest grin.

Then she began to laugh.

Rebecca’s laughter has always been contagious, and I too began to laugh. I held Molly carefully, afraid that the stress of handling her might be more than her little body could handle.

Jake and I looked at the heart and oxygen monitor to see if our hearty laughter had stressed her system, but the opposite was happening! Her oxygen saturation, which had been at 80, now shot up to nearly 100 percent.

It was a moment of sheer delight and mystery.

In the valley of the shadow of death, God gave us laughter.

The Hope of a Christian in the Middle of Grief

I was reminded that Christians are the only people who can laugh without despair in the midst of such a crisis — we know where we are headed.

Heaven is certain because of what Jesus Christ did for us through His death for our sins. Because He lives, we who believe have the hope of life after death. And it’s why we could laugh even as our beloved Molly was about to leave us.

Eventually the laughter stopped and the tears flowed again as I said good-bye.

Later that day at 6:15 p.m., Molly made her way to heaven.

The sunset that day was spectacular.

Thunderstorms had formed over the mountains, resulting in splashes of platinum-gold light all over the Rockies from the sun’s rays. It was as though the sun was declaring, “Magnificent Molly is home!”

How We Were Able to Keep Perspective

People often ask us how we were able to keep perspective during this ordeal. I tell them that it’s the result of having walked with God (or attempted to walk with Him) over the past 40 years.

You get to know Him for who He is, that He’s a good God. We’ve seen a lot of tragedy in our own family (Barbara’s heart surgery and our son Samuel’s muscular dystrophy).

In the process of grappling with these issues, I realized that if you don’t trust God, whom are you going to trust? If He is not a sovereign God who is in control, then all of life is out of control, bringing me to a place of hopelessness.

We’ve seen through Scripture and know that the Bible doesn’t lie but tells the truth. It is authoritative. Scripture not only explains who God is but how to respond in the face of difficult situations.

Molly’s Epitaph: A Gift for 7 Days

This didn’t take the sting out of losing Molly, yet we hope in God.

This is evident by what Jake and Rebecca printed on Molly’s gravestone:

“We cannot, Lord, Thy purpose see,
But all is well that’s done by Thee.”

Molly was a gift entrusted to us for 7 days. Then she was ushered home, undoubtedly by a band of the gentlest and mightiest angels dispatched from the throne of God to carry her into the presence of the Savior.

Her life may have been short in terms of days, but it was mighty. She helped us experience God and the fellowship of our family to a greater depth than before.

We are thankful.

Read more from the Rainey and Mutz families.