Choosing Hope and Grace: How two babies who shared one heart momentarily brought heaven to earth
(Editor’s note: LifeSiteNews dedicates this story to Luci and Chris who celebrate tomorrow the 3rd anniversary of the passing of their children Hope and Grace. Luci told LifeSiteNews that the Klare family is flourishing with baby Joseph being born just in time (2 weeks ago) to give older sister Maria, age 2, a playmate.)
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COVINGTON, Kentucky, June 22, 2012 (LifeSiteNews.com) – Luci and Chris Klare were barely married three months when, in December 2008, a pregnancy test revealed that they were nine months away from becoming a family. The couple was exuberant.
“It was joyful and frightening, but mostly pure elation,” recounted Luci on her family’s blog.
But the parents’ elation was short-lived. Two months into the pregnancy a visit to the doctor revealed that Luci was carrying conjoined twins who amazingly shared a single beating heart.
The doctor gave the twins one percent chance of survival.
Luci and Chris remember experiencing an impossible mix of emotions. They were elated by the thought of having twins but devastated by the thought of losing their babies so quickly.
The couple spent a number of days crying in each other’s arms, trying to find a way to make sense of the situation.
“God, why us?,” they asked time and time again.
Luci found consolation in remembering the loud and clear thumping of her babies’ heartbeat that she had heard during the doctor’s appointment. “When I heard their heart beat for the first time, I was in love.” The echo of that heartbeat in her memory reminded her that she was still a mother and these unusual babies were still her children.
“It didn’t matter what form they came in or what their chances were, they were our children,” the parents realized.
But the parents could not help but look upon the forthcoming birth of their children with fear and uncertainty.
“We struggled countless times, but we took it one day at a time and one prayer at a time. Each day brought new hope as we grew closer to them being born. We still cried often together — when we were scared of what our future held — but those days were less often than the ones where we laughed and felt overjoyed to feel them kick, to see them grow in our weekly ultrasounds, and to hear their heart beating…”
While the parents did not “completely understand” how to make sense of what was happening, they “simply wanted to trust” that what was put before them “was the will of God, and therefore perfect”.
Luci and Chris’s close friends and family members found it hard to understand why the young couple was given such a heavy burden to bear. But the young couple began to see things through the eyes of faith.
“We feel chosen for this task”, the parents learned to say to their friends and family members. “Our sufferings come in so many different ways and in so many different sizes. The suffering is only not knowing when they will be with us or leave us. But we have been chosen and are grateful to be given this chance to love two children of whom many mothers and fathers would have chosen to terminate their chances of life.”
Treasuring the Gift
In June 2009, Luci gave birth to conjoined girls, naming them Hope and Grace. Together they weighed 6.8 pounds. Each had a full head of hair.
“They were born kissing and hugging each other, and they were beautiful,” Chris remembers.
The parents knew that they did not have much time with their precious daughters.
The doctors gently placed the baby girls into the arms of Chris, who immediately baptized them so that they would now belong to God’s family. During the brief ceremony, both girls had their eyes open and were gazing upon their father and their mother.
“One of the girls looked over at her mom and gave her a big wink,” Chris remembers.
For the next 46 minutes, Luci and Chris’s whole universe revolved around treasuring the fragile gift of their tiny children.
Luci held the girls upon her chest, placing their single heart right next to hers. “We cried in joy and love. And we sat there together as a family in love,” she said.
Luci and Chris could not stop gazing upon their girls with love.
Maria recounted how Luci kept saying over and over again, “I’m just bursting with joy, I can’t explain it. I just love them so much.”
“I’m not sure what it feels like for Heaven to pour down on me, but this must be it,” said Luci. “I am just so happy.”
The girls’ time of departure was beginning to draw near. Chris held his babies until they took their last breath and their single heart gave its last beat.
“Then the little girls peacefully, so very peacefully, left for their trip to paradise. Hand in hand, they went eagerly to see the King who created them so specially,” said Maria.
Shortly after the girls’ passing, Luci and Chris invited family members into the hospital room to bid farewell to the tiny babies.
“Everyone rotated into the hospital room a little at a time,” said Maria. “Most of us held the little treasures and marveled at their tiny hands and long feet … Everyone just kept saying, ‘They are so beautiful.’”
It was finally time for Luci and Chris to say a final farewell to their baby girls. The parents wept bitterly.
“From the depths of their souls came a sorrow that only a parent who has lost a child could know,” said Maria.
Two weeks passed by.
Luci found the courage to share on her family’s blog the miracle of love that took place in the hospital room. She wrote her thoughts in the form of a love letter to Hope and Grace.
“My Dearest Daughters,
“I miss you. I love you. It’s hard to believe that it was more than two weeks ago that I received the news that you were to be born to me that Tuesday evening. I was so scared. I was so unprepared to finally meet you. I truly was not ready to part from the joy you brought while I carried you.
“I shook with such anguish knowing that once you left the comfort of my belly, that you would shortly leave me forever here on earth.
“You came to us at 6:01 pm, and you both took your first breaths of life. When I saw them carry you both over to the warming table and your Pappa by your side to baptize you, it was the proudest moment of my life. I couldn’t believe that you were mine and that God had given me such a beautiful family.
“It is an image I will never forget - Your Pappa in his blue scrubs baptizing your foreheads with holy water, and though I could not see your face Hope, I know your eyes were open looking at your father. And Grace your eyes open looking at me for the first time. To see your eyes so big and beautiful staring back at me let me know that the ultimate gift had been given to your Pappa and I - the gift of life.
“When your Pappa brought you over to my arms I was so impatient to get every glimpse of you I could. We sat together for the first time as a family. How big all our hearts grew in that moment.
“In your Pappa’s arms and my hand caressing your faces, I was in love.
“I fell in love with your curly hair, your smooshed noses, your long fingers and long feet and so in love with your beautiful bodies that were connected together in a hug so tight, that even God did not choose to separate.
“I was so proud to show you to our families that gathered in prayer and love to welcome you into this world. We were all there, expecting you to come to us and to fill our hearts, and you did.
“How I miss your sweet lives in my arms. It is a feeling I will never forget for the rest of my life.
“When I go to bed, I can still feel you on my chest, pressing our hearts against each other, as we did in the hospital bed. And I hold my heart so tightly as though I am holding you again.
“And though your sweet heart finished beating, the hearts of your Pappa and I are still here.
“We were not overwhelmed with grief or pain: we saw such beauty and comfort in knowing that you were here and with us. I couldn’t stop the awe that overwhelmed me in that you were right there in my arms snuggling with me. It was truly what I had asked the Lord for, and he did give it to me.
“And as I watched your Pappa bathe you and dress you, and look at you in such pride and love, I think I fell in love with you three all over again.
“And today, my sweet Hope and Grace, I have to continue without seeing your faces or watching your Pappa hold you, until we are called to be with you in Heaven. And this hurts my heart the most.
“I know you must hate it when I cry everyday and have this longing pain to be with you, but it is because I love you. It is good this pain and suffering I feel for you daily, for I hope that it only makes me stronger to be a saint like you have taught me; that way, I may go to Heaven right away and sweep you back into my arms again where I desperately need you to be.
“Please pray for me, girls that I will be strong, that I will be patient and most of all that I will be completely surrendered to God’s Will.
“We have had such a tremendous journey together. Haven’t we? You have been with me at each second, of each moment of each day for the past 8 months and now you are with Jesus.
“Thank you my darlings for bringing me the greatest joy my heart has ever known. Thank you my sweet dumplings for making me so proud of who you have become to so many people who have heard your story of life.
“Thank you Hope and Grace for filling my heart with your love. I will always cherish and appreciate that God gave you to us. He gave your Pappa and I life with you in our arms; something that was supposed to have never even have happened.
“I am so unworthy of such a gift.
“You brought to me Heaven in a little room, in this big world.
“God has called you girls each by name. We love you and will be with you again.”
A year later, on the anniversary of their birthday, Chris wrote his own letter of love to his departed daughters.
“One year ago today at 6:01 pm you made me the proudest and happiest Papa ever! It was on June 23, 2009 when I finally received the answers to my prayers.
“I got to see you face-to-face … I got to meet my beautiful daughters.
“It was both of you who showed me the beauty of life, the heavenly sacrifices and the gratitude of all that God has blessed me with. I thank you both for giving me the honor of loving you, reading to you, holding you until you left for a higher journey, and for allowing me to be your Papa.
“You girls, mean more to me than words can ever describe. So much that I have reserved a place in my heart especially for you. A place that can never be filled and a constant reminder of what I must fulfill to someday be given an eternal opportunity to meet you face-to-face and hold you again.”
The Beauty of Life
Photographer Melanie Pace, whose profound pictures capture the birth, life, and death of the two girls summarized in her own words the power of love that she witnessed that day in the hospital room: “God gave us these girls to teach us the beauty of life. To remind us how blessed we are even in times when it feels quite the opposite.”
Today, Luci and Chris find consolation in the words of the Psalmist: “you knitted me together in my mother’s womb. I praise you, for I am fearfully and wonderfully made (Psalm 139:13-14).”
“To this very day I read this verse and look at pictures of Hope and Grace and see God’s perfection,” said Luci to LifeSiteNews. “I see how much effort God put into ‘knitting’ two such beautiful souls together through one heart and how blessed I am to be their mother. Their lives have touched so many people in so many incredible ways.”
“Hope and Grace, you showed me that all this time your Pappa and I were right about you, in that you are fighters for life and for faith! We were right in that, even though God has asked so much of our little family, that much was also given to us. It is something only that our four souls will truly ever know … how beautiful it all really was ... and is.”