Four years ago, my soul sister Mel lost a friend. He was very young, and had been sick his whole life. She was asked to perform a song at his funeral, and asked for my help in writing something special for him. The melody of my song, “Until Heaven” immediately came to me. Mel ended up going a different way with her song for the funeral, and I kept my little melody in the back of my mind.
Two years later my sister Natalie was expecting her first baby. Her daughter Margot was born, and we were all devastated to learn that she had Trisomy 18, a chromosomal disorder with a grave prognosis. (You can read more about Margot's story here.) We cherished each day with her, and I had the privilege to stay with her for one whole night.
I don’t think Margot was ever set down her whole week of life. She was passed from loving arms to loving arms and held and adored every second. In the perfect stillness of the nighttime, I had some time alone with Margot. I held her and stared at her perfect little features as I listened to the rhythmic chant of her oxygen machine. The melody I had written years earlier suddenly popped into my mind and the words to the chorus just flowed:
You’re safe in my arms
and then someday I’ll hold you once again
I will long for you
We knew Margot would pass soon. This song was a plea for her to stay with us as long as she could. It was also a promise that I would keep her safe, even though I couldn’t protect her from her own heart, which was failing her.
The verses were harder to articulate. I wanted to capture all the feelings I had in that moment with her. It was overwhelming. I was so in love with this tiny person but no matter how hard I wanted it, she couldn’t stay with us. I wanted to express how I looked forward to a better time for her. A time in heaven where she would be freed from the limitations of her mortal frame and she could grow up and “laugh and dance and play,” as well as a time when we wouldn’t have to say goodbye.
Later that week as I was attempting to fall asleep, a thought came into my mind that deeply disturbed me. Was Margot afraid to die? I was quickly thrown into one of my worst panic attacks I’ve ever experienced. I wanted to take away her pain and possible fear. This is why I included the words, “Baby, don’t be nervous. You’ll be safe with Jesus.”
I believe each of us has a spirit, and I suspect that babies are more deeply aware and wise that we can tell. I think she knew her turn on Earth would be brief, and I was scared for her. I didn’t want her to be afraid of her return to her heavenly home. As I thought about this more and more, it became clear to me that Margot wasn’t afraid. Her return to heaven would be liberating and glorious. She would be freed from the pains of life. She could be with her Great Grandmother, Heavenly Father and Jesus Christ. Her time in Heaven awaiting her parents would be wonderful and brief and she would be well attended to in the meantime.
I wanted to express through my song that we would miss her every day. That our hearts would ache for her deeply, and that Heaven is a wonderful, glorious place where every pain, burden, and insecurity is relieved.
After I had recorded the music for “Until Heaven” we held a candlelight vigil for children lost in infancy. Parents from all over the country emailed me photos and asked that a candle be lit in honor of their child. We had a videographer document that event and put together a music video.
You can watch it here:
The day Alice died was so surreal. I don’t remember why but at one point I said, “I wrote a song about infant loss.” It was a statement of disbelief. I had been introduced to so many parents who lost a child, and I never thought I would be one of them.
This song was given to me from God. It was a tremendous gift to be able to sing it and record it before Alice passed so we could play it at her funeral. As I listen to it now, I almost can’t believe that it’s me singing the words I so badly need to hear.
I now have “Until Heaven” stamped on a necklace I wear almost daily. It reminds me that although I don’t have Alice with me right now, our goodbye is not forever; it’s just until heaven.