by Barbara Rainey and Rebecca Rainey Mutz
Editor’s note: “There is a rhythm to life, certainties that we count on,” writes Barbara Rainey in a new book written with her daughter, Rebecca Rainey Mutz. “We know that the sun will rise each new day and that the seasons will continue to follow one after the other. … Yet even when our daily lives become boringly predictable, the truth is we do not know what tomorrow will bring. From our human perspective, the future is a vast unknown.”
A year ago, Rebecca was awaiting the birth of her first child, and Barbara was waiting to fly to Colorado to be with her daughter and new grandchild. But within minutes of the birth of Molly Ann Mutz, it was apparent that something was wrong.
Doctors eventually determined that Molly had a rare and destructive abnormality in her brain. She lived just seven short days, but that brief period turned into an extraordinary time when the Mutz and Rainey families experienced the love of God as they never had before.
In the following excerpts from the book, A Symphony in the Dark, Rebecca and Barbara describe their thoughts and experiences on their final full day with the tiny baby they called “Mighty Molly” in the spirit of Psalm 112:1-2, which tells us, “Blessed is the man who fears the Lord, who greatly delights in His commandments. His offspring will be mighty in the land …” On June 15-19, 2009, FamilyLife Today aired a special week of programs that look back on the impact of Molly’s short life.
A Simple Sweetness
by Rebecca Rainey Mutz
Such a beautiful day. We didn’t think of the ticking clock or how the time was ebbing away. We focused all we had on Molly.
This was the day we got to give her a bath. A bath may seem like such a small, insignificant thing, but for us it became like a treasured jewel. The memory of this is so dear to my husband, Jacob, and me, something we hold close to our hearts.
It had been bothering me all week that Molly still had tiny bits of dried blood from birth in her hair. In those first few minutes after birth, when it became clear that things weren’t quite right, the nurses stopped working on cleaning her up. They whisked her away to get her on oxygen.
I had tried, every chance I got, to get out as much of the blood in her hair as I could, but there was only so much I could do. I knew warm water and soap would do the trick. We laid her on several soft towels, still on her bed, and gently washed her from head to toe. I wanted her hair to be clean and smooth so that we might brush it and see more of its beauty.
As our parents and [Jake’s sisters] Lori and Kelli watched from behind the lenses of cameras or over our shoulders, we gently washed Molly’s skin and gave her a clean look. She didn’t care too much for having her hair washed, but once we gently rolled her on her stomach she quieted down and fell into a deep sleep. For some reason, Molly’s back smelled like peppermint to me. No one else got the scent, but I did, sweet and fresh.
Giving Molly a bath was so fulfilling, so memorable. As a mom, I wanted to take care of our little girl. For most of the week I felt helpless to give our baby what she needed. There was always a nurse to change her diaper or move her from side to side or change her feeding drip. It was so wonderful, such a cherished moment, that we, her parents, were able to care for her. When she didn’t like some of it, I would whisper in her ear and speak loving words that calmed her little heart. Jacob even loved brushing her dark brown hair. Neither of us will ever forget those moments of bathing our daughter, as we dressed her for her meeting with her King.
That night after everyone left, Jacob and I snuggled up with our little Molly girl and held her close once more. Jacob would have held her longer had I not protested that it was my turn.
Oh, what a joy it was to hold her so near. As most newborns do, she slept a lot but I think she slept better when she was in our arms and close to our hearts. It’s where she belonged, no matter what was wrong with her. She was safe with us. It was heavenly having her in our arms, lying against our chests, feeling her heart beating. Her little hands brushed against my skin as she slept soundly and comfortably.
We held her like that until well after midnight, finally relinquishing her to her own bed so that we could get some rest. That night, we slept on the couch in her room, not caring about the beeps or nurses coming and going, just that we were close to our Molly girl.
Why Every Life Matters
by Barbara Rainey
A tiny helpless babe. One unable to make a sound, to give a smile, to even take a breath on her own.
Newborns are dependent on others for the sustenance of life. Someone else must feed, clothe, and clean them. Newborns can do none of these life tasks on their own, but most have the potential to develop to independence.
Molly is different.
She has no potential for an independent life. The news from the doctors makes it clear that her brain damage renders her unable to be a normal child or for her body systems to sustain life. So what is her life worth? What meaning does her little life have?
In this era of genetic testing and technology, expectant parents face choices unheard of in previous generations. For centuries, pregnancy has been a time of mystery, surprise, and sometimes apprehension and fear—especially in generations past when many infants and mothers died at birth. Medical advances have brought both life-saving discoveries and life-ending detections.
If Jacob and Rebecca had known about Molly’s condition before her birth, would that have made it easier?
Some might wonder. But it’s doubtful. The mourning would have only begun sooner. Would they have been less attached? Impossible. The mother-child attachment is part of the relationship inherent in God’s design for babies growing inside a mother’s womb. God asks the rhetorical question in Isaiah 49:15: “Can a woman forget her nursing child, that she should have no compassion on the son of her womb?”
Molly’s life began at conception, and her parents have had the privilege of enjoying her for nine months and one week in utero. Because there was no suspicion of anything wrong, no testing was offered and none was done. Rebecca and Jacob enjoyed the journey of pregnancy.
We have always believed, and still do, that life is a gift given by God. He is the Creator, the Author, the Originator—“Thus says the Lord, your Redeemer, who formed you from the womb: I am the Lord, who made all things” (Isaiah 44:24a). We also believe that God says human life has value because we are created in His image, in His likeness. Everything about us is a reflection of Him, the Trinity, the Three in One.
Molly is God’s little image bearer, and her life has been carefully crafted by Him for His glory. It does not matter to God that Molly’s body is not whole. He made her that way; her life is not an accident. To say that her malformations were a fluke or a random mutation is to say that her development was outside of God’s control. He forms and fashions His living image bearers with heavenly and eternal purposes in mind. And He loves each one passionately.
The purpose of Molly’s life is no less important than that of David, king of Israel, of whom it was said, “After he had served the purpose of God in his own generation, fell asleep” (Acts 13:36). We do not know the purposes God conceived when He made Molly, but we can guess at what some of them might be. We know that her life has invited us to give thanks and praise to God. She has focused our attention on Heaven, reminding us of the eternal and that none of us knows how much time we have on earth. In the small bounds of her fragile life an entire world of meaning and dignity has been revealed to those who have come near—a glimpse of eternity, a touch of the holy, a melodious chorus of Heaven.
I am also convinced there are purposes for Molly’s life that we will not know until Heaven. God will continue using her life even after she is gone from here. There are deep mysteries in the mind of God that are too wonderful for us to know, too high for us to grasp.
My son, Samuel, said it well in an e-mail he sent to family and friends:
Truly her life has been extraordinary. If there was a symbol that gives you a picture of her life, it is the exclamation point! She came, she changed, and now she is going. Molly’s work here on earth is done, and what an amazing work she has done. In seven days, she has accomplished more than most 77-year-olds. I pray that you experience the ripple, nay, the waves of change that her life has caused.
Molly herself was made for worship, as it says in Psalm 8:2 (NIV), “From the lips of children and infants you have ordained praise,” and she was given to her parents that they might worship the King. May you also feel the touch of the Master’s hand, hear the song of the Creator’s call, and give praise to God for all He does.