Monday 7 May 2007

Grace Liliana Bradburn

When her chicken pox became severe Grace was admitted into the Royal Berkshire Hospital in Reading. This was on her first birthday. Her condition worsened in the week and she was transferred by emergency ambulance to St Mary's Paediatric Intensive Care Unit (PICU). With the professional and dedicated care of the medical team and the love and support of her family, Grace fought for life for over three weeks. She finally lost her battle and died at the unit on 24th April 2007. It is not clear why her immune system could not stop the virus, but it is a comfort to know that the many blood tests and research instigated through the PICU may help children in the future.

To date almost £20,000 has been raised through two websites for COSMIC The Children of St Mary's Intensive Care.

The following poem was written and read out by Grandad Noonee at her funeral on 11th May 2007.

Grace’s Smile

Whenever I see the power of the sun bringing warmth into the world
I will see Grace’s Smile

Whenever I see a snowflake glistening on a mountain top
I will see Grace’s Smile

Whenever I see a flowing river full of energy and life
I will see Grace’s Smile

Whenever I see daffodils and bluebells swaying in the breeze

I will see Grace’s Smile

Whenever I see lambs leaping in the fields
I will see Grace’s Smile

Whenever I hear children’s laughter and their innocence of play

I will see Grace’s Smile

When I look up at night and see the stars sparkling in the Heavens above
That will be Grace’s Smile

The following story was read at the funeral by Grandad Phil

by Victor Hugo

I am standing upon that foreshore. A ship at my side spreads her white sails to the morning breeze and starts for the blue ocean. She is an object of beauty and strength and I stand and watch her until at length she hangs like a speck of white cloud just where the sea and sky come down to mingle with each other. Then someone at my side says "There she has gone" 'Gone Where" I replied "Gone from our sight, that is all". She is just as large in mast, spar and hull as ever she was when she left my side. Just as able to bear her load of living freight to the place of her destination. Her diminished size is in me not her. Just at that moment when someone at my side says "There She is gone" there are other eyes watching her coming and other voices ready to take up the glad shout - "Here she comes!".

The following was the address given by Jason Reid, the Curate of St John's Church, Woodley.

Grace Liliana Bradburn was born on 24th March 2006 in the Royal Berks hospital, weighing in at 6lbs 11oz. Grace never enjoyed great health, yet until recently there was nothing to suggest that she wouldn’t simply overcome some of the early problems she faced as time went on. At 11 weeks Grace was taken into hospital and was diagnosed with gastric reflux, which explained why she was so distressed for much of the time. Even after this diagnosis, Grace was never wholly well. She subsequently suffered from croup, an eye infection and remained a light sleeper, never sleeping through the night, which was incredibly draining for Natalie and Stuart.

Yet Grace wasn’t a miserable baby – she was always smiling and loved to share a cuddle. She showed great character from early on and created her own little games to entertain herself. It was Grace who taught her parents ‘peek-a-boo’ not the other way round! And she discovered a passion for cleaning her teeth that encouraged her brother to follow suit.

Grace was a great fan of her big brother, Oliver, and followed him wherever he went, seemingly with the ambition of destroying whatever he built. Oliver’s Lego towers, brick constructions, and jigsaw puzzles didn’t last long with Grace around. If Oliver’s Thomas train track was laid out, Grace refused to be appeased by a piece of loose track; it had to be a piece that was essential to the layout. As a result of all of this, the line ‘mummy, she’s ruining my game’ became one that was frequently heard in the Bradburn household.

On the 19th March, Grace was diagnosed with Chicken Pox. Her condition worsened and she was admitted to the Royal Berks on her birthday the following week. 6 days later as her symptoms continued to deteriorate, she was rushed to the Paediatric Intensive Care Unit at St. Mary’s, Paddington. Despite the wonderful and world class care that Grace received, ultimately her immune system lacked the means to fight the disease and it soon became clear that it was simply a matter of time before she lost her fight for life.

On 24th April, Grace died peacefully, with Stuart and Natalie at her side. Today we meet celebrating a life. Grace may have lived a short 13 months, yet the impact she had on many lives will last a lifetime. She brought joy to her family, to friends, to neighbours, the staff at the Ambleside nursery and many others. Her warm smile, cuddly nature, upbeat and cheeky temperament all leave a mark on those who knew Grace.

Yet while in some sense Grace’s funeral is a celebration of a life, it would be quite wrong to suggest that celebration is the mood of the day. This isn’t a celebration of a long and fulfilling life as it might be for someone in their 80s or 90s. Today is a day of mourning, an occasion when we grieve for the loss of a baby whose life has been tragically cut short. Having to face the awful truth that you have outlived one of your own children is the worst nightmare of any parent, yet it’s become a terrible reality for Natalie and Stuart.

Grace’s death is not only the loss of a loved baby – it is also the loss of a future that will never now be realised; her first day of school that can never be celebrated, the 18th birthday party that will never be thrown, the graduation day that she’ll never have. Grace’s death marks the cutting short of a life full of potential and hope; so we mourn not only what has been lost, but what can now never be.

As a Christian minister I’m supposed to have all the answers, but I stand before you having to confess that I don’t. I don’t know why God allowed Grace to die so soon; why she lacked the means to fight disease. Even if I did, those answers would sound trite and empty in the face of the overwhelming grief felt by all those who loved her.

All I can do is share the little that I do know. I know that God loved Grace. I know that God was with her through her suffering, and weeps with us as he feels our loss. I know that God’s love for us all is so great that he wasn’t content to stay aloof and watch from afar as we struggle through the journey that we call life. So he came down from heaven and became one of us, in the person of Jesus Christ.

And Jesus went through the highs and lows of life as a human being. He knew the pain and struggles that we all have to face, such that God is not just sympathetic to our troubles, but he’s able to fully identify with all that life throws at us. Jesus knew poverty, hunger, rejection, misunderstanding and grief; he wept when his friend Lazarus died. At his time of greatest need his friends deserted him, his most loyal friend denied he even knew him, and another friend betrayed him. An innocent man, Jesus was found guilty, beaten, flogged, and nailed to a wooden cross where he hung for six hours. And as Jesus hung on the cross he took the punishment for all the sins of the world, so that when we confess our sins to him we can be unconditionally forgiven, and once again enjoy an intimate relationship with God.

The reason that Jesus endured the cross was love, love for humanity, love for you and me. God was willing to sacrifice what he loved most, his own son, in order to restore the relationship that we had broken with him. Through the cross, God demonstrated unparalleled love. God the Father knows what it’s like to lose a child. He watched the suffering and death of the one he loved most. God knows what Natalie and Stuart are going through; he knows how all of us are feeling because he knows loss at its very greatest.

I don’t have the answers to the questions that are on our lips today. I don’t know why Grace was permitted to die so soon. There are so many mysteries that remain answered. But I do know that God weeps with us as we weep. I know that God is faithful and will be there for you when Grace’s loss threatens to overwhelm you. I know that his love is so great that he was willing to lose his only child in order that we might become his children once again.

The struggles of this life have now passed for Grace and she is at peace. It remains for us who are left to pick up the pieces. The Victor Hugo passage Phill read to us earlier spoke of a ship passing from one horizon into another. Grace has now passed from our sight and will no longer return to the shore on which we stand. Yet though we’ve lost sight of her, we can be confident that she has passed across the sea to a much better kingdom, where, in the words of the book of Revelation, ‘there will be no more death or mourning or crying or pain.’ Grace now lives in eternity with God, and when the time comes for us to take that final ship, she’ll stand on that distant shore waiting for us to arrive.