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Reagan Emily

J. Michael Sharman

Column No. 14

Publication Date: January 17, 2006

Title: Reagan Emily's Legacy



Reagan Emily would have taken her first breaths this month if she had lived, but instead she quietly passed from earth to Heaven on the same day Katrina's winds raged along the GulfCoast.

Reagan Emily's daddy is Troy, a former Marine who has the compassionate hands and heart that one would expect from a man who has just finished his orthopedic residency at UVA. Her mommy, Aimee, is my wife Nancy's niece, but I consider her a daughter. Troy never got to experience with Reagan Emily the deep sense of place and purpose I feel when I hear Aimee's musical voice calling me "Papa".

            God had assigned a pastor's wife who knew our family as the attending nurse in Aimee's hospital room. God knew we would need that night Andrea's friendship, her pastoral experience of helping grieving families, and her quiet, loving skills as an obstetrics nurse.

We all knew that we were awaiting the delivery of the body of a deceased baby rather than the birth of a live one. For times like ours, hospital volunteers had made a little gift box, with a disposable camera, a little hand-knit blanket, and a hand-knit baby-cap. Pink, of course.

The box also contained a book on grieving the loss of a preborn baby.

As Nancy and I waited and read that grief book, I remembered the time awhile back, when I sent a sympathy card to a colleague whose pregnancy had abruptly ended. She called me up, thanking me for it, her tough trial attorney façade melting beneath her pain and tears. That sympathy card, she said, was the only recognition she had received  from anyone which acknowledged that she had not simply had a miscarriage, she had lost a baby.

Our daughter, Kamie and Aimee are best friends and heart-sisters. They both had found out they were pregnant at about the same time. Both were having girls. Photos of Aimee as a little girl look enough like Kamie's oldest daughter to have fooled Troy, and we all had been looking forward to see if Regan Emily was going to be Kamie's likeness. Aimee did not have a pre-term medical complication, she had lost a daughter.

We had not been in the delivery suite very long when Aimee and Troy went into a private area Andrea had prepared as a possible area for her delivery. Before I heard Aimee's cry that night, I could not really understand the scripture that says the Holy Spirit cries for us with groanings that cannot be uttered. I have a better understanding of that now.

Andrea cleaned Regan Emily and brought her back to us, lying on a frilly lace blanket in a little flower basket.

Nancy held Reagan Emily's little feet ever so gently as Andrea inked them and then pressed a remembrance card to her feet, leaving an indelible impression of her passing through our lives.

Our local funeral director arranged to have Reagan Emily picked up from the Charlottesville hospital and flown to the small town in Wyoming where Nancy and I met and married, where Troy had grown up, and where Troy's grandfather is buried. Aimee and Troy thought it would be nice for Reagan Emily to also be buried there. Flying a body across country, even a very tiny one, is not inexpensive, and funerals aren't either, yet neither our local funeral director nor the Wyoming funeral director would accept any payment for their expenses.

Aimee and Troy had lived in Billings, Montana before moving to Virginia for their years of medical training. They had been planning on going back, but like Reagan Emily's delivery, they weren't planning on it being so soon. Their former pastor and friends from Billings drove 340 miles roundtrip to share their sorrow with them. One friend designed the funeral cards and created a graphic which put the ink imprint of Reagan Emily's footprint inside a heart.

Aimee has a relative that she'd been wanting to get closer to, but she didn't know how to do it. Reagan Emily did it for her. After Reagan Emily's death, that relative asked Aimee if she could have Reagan Emily's footprint-heart design tattooed above her own heart.

Reagan Emily left her footprints tattooed on all our hearts.

Even a life that has never taken a breath still leaves a legacy.