“Time of death, 4:52 p.m.”
Those words hit me in the gut while pain and peace flooded my heart at the same moment. She was with Jesus now and was able to run, eat, and talk again.
While I knew this was true, those words that I had only ever heard in the movies and on t.v. were now a reality in which I could never truly describe.
Little Ember Rayne, only two years old, impacted me. She helped me understand the calling God had on my life. Her strength and eyes reminded me that taking risks is worth it, that fighting for what you believe in is worth the cost, and that you can change the world without saying a word.
It was in March of 2014 that I sat in a room with my now husband and two friends, that were preparing to travel America with me, when God spoke the word “Casselton” to me while we were praying about where to go. I wasn’t sure if I had heard right, Casselton? I told Russell to type it into Google Maps and see if it was really a place; to our surprise, it was a small city in North Dakota. In two months we would know the gravity of that moment, because as we rolled into town that May in our 15 passenger van, four 19-year-old girls would look around this small town and wonder, what possibly could God have for us here?
Never judge a book by its cover. Seriously.
We dropped our bags off at the only hotel we could find, felt led to drive through the small town of just under 2,500 people, and asked God what our next dare was. I was the driver at the time, and found my heart beating with expectation and getting what I like to call “the spiritual butterflies.” As we drove by the small downtown newspaper journaling building, I heard God whisper to me to walk in there and ask if anyone needs help in this town.
I parked. We got out of the car and stepped into the building. A woman looked at us curiously and asked us how she could help. They couldn’t think of anyone in particular, but pointed us to an organization just a couple blocks down the road that helps a lot of elderly people. With that, we made our way a couple blocks over. The small downtown was pretty deserted as we walked into the doors of our next stop. The woman we were directed to talk to was on the phone, so we waited patiently outside of her office. She then hung up and waved us in asking us what she could do for us.
“We are a team of girls traveling America called ‘Dare You to Move’ and we were wondering if there is anyone in this town that may need service, company, or financial help?” I asked her with the expectation God was going to give us another dare.
She tilted her head and hesitated, “Are you being serious about giving someone financial help?”
“Of course! Nothing is too big or small for God!”
“Well, this is kind of funny because I just got off the phone with a woman who was asking for help financially. We don’t get calls like this very often. But she has an 8 month-old daughter in the hospital who is waiting for a heart transplant. Would you guys be interested in helping her and her family?”
“OF COURSE!” We all answered in unison.
So she called the woman back and asked her if we could visit her at her work only a couple blocks away. The woman agreed, and we thanked the nice lady for her help and went on our way with all of our hearts beating with a passion that longed to make an impact for the Lord.
We walked in the bank she worked at and met Joanie Carey, the mom who worked so hard and tried to drive as often as she could to the hospital where her daughter had to stay about fours hours away, while her husband stayed with their sweet baby. She even had a toddler named Willie. I looked her in the eyes and told her that we came to rain blessings upon her life and ignite fire in her soul again. She got emotional and told me her daughter’s name was Ember Rayne (fire and water). WHOA.
We asked her if she would be willing to go somewhere and record her story for us with our video camera. Her boss agreed to let her go downstairs and make a video that we would use to help their story go viral as fast as we could.
We had only two days.
We recorded it, posted it, and went back to our hotel room contacting news stations, news papers, and messaging our friends on Facebook asking them to share the video and encourage people to donate to the Gofundme account we created.
Within a couple hours, we were interviewed by the local newspaper and were on the news. THE FUNDS POURED IN. We raised almost $7,000 in less than 48 hours!!! We were blown away by the power of God.
A couple days later, we got the opportunity to go visit Miss Ember in Minnesota and pray over her and the family.
Her eyes and smile spoke to me. I saw her love and sweet spirit. She changed me in that moment. God was doing something bigger than anything I could ever imagine. He brought us to that very moment, and that was only the beginning.
It’s been a long year and a half since that moment in that hospital room, and a lot has happened to little Ember. On July 16th, 2015, Ember had finally gotten a heart and underwent the surgery. Sadly, the heart didn’t take as well as we all hoped, and she was put on life support not long after. Over the past few months, they discovered that she not only needed another heart, but also another kidney. Ember fought hard though. She still would have days where she laughed and was her playful self. She lit up everyone’s world who set eyes on her.
It was just before 5 p.m., my time, when I got the text from Joanie that Ember had a stroke and that it was looking like they were told it was up to them when they would like to take her off life support.
My stomach sunk. I was at work and so many things ran through my head. No, this couldn’t be happening. I am supposed to be there in only one week to pray for her and launch the fundraiser. No. No. No. I began to cry. I knew in my heart that she was going to be with Jesus soon and that I needed to be there. My manager looked at me and said,”What do we need to do?” You just let me know.”
She sat down with me and we texted my co-workers asking if they could cover my shifts for the week. We were having trouble finding someone to cover for me the following day, but I knew I needed to hop on the plane that night. My boss sent me home and said to wait and see if we could get the shift for Sunday covered. I booked it over to my in-laws and we started researching flights, prices, and every form of transportation and how to get me there the fastest.
I got the text, “Don’t come in tomorrow. I’ll figure it out.” My heart almost lept out of my chest.
“Russell, book the ticket!! Kourtney let’s go back to my place and pack my bags! Let’s go people!”
So within a couple hours, I was at the airport. I just kept praying, trying not to get emotional. I knew that I may experience something when I got there that would impact me in more ways then I could count. There was no way to really prepare myself, except pray.
I landed in Chicago at about 5 a.m. I was exhausted, yet determined. I wandered with all of my bags around the airport, looking as frazzled as could be. I grabbed some coffee, discovering that the bus I was going to take to Rochester got canceled. Okay, breathe Alicia. There must be another way. I called Russell while it was only 3 a.m. back at home, and asked him to help me. I decided to hop on a shuttle, make my way to the car rental place, and stood in line awaiting the keys to a five hour drive. Within a couple hours of landing, I was on the road and made my way out of Illinois, past Wisconsin, and finally into Minnesota!
Tired and even more frazzled, I dropped off the rental car at the Rochester International Airport. Discovered the wheel from my big suitcase was broken, smashed my big toe somehow, and made it within ten minutes before the shuttle left that would take me to St. Mary’s Hospital. Another hour later, I was the last person let off the shuttle as I grabbed my bags once again and made my way into the hospital lobby. Joanie met me there with another “heart mom” by her side. She embraced me and I breathed a sigh of relief mixed with bracing myself with whatever was about to take place a few floors above us.
Joanie informed me on the way up that the stroke had been pretty massive, and that it caused almost the whole left side of her brain to go dead. She wasn’t waking up or responding. The doctors had told them that they could decide when little Ember had had enough. The reality was that in only a few hours, if not taken off life support, she would most likely experience even more unnecessary pain. Joanie looked at me and confirmed that her and her husband, Nathan, had made the decision to take her off life support in just a short time.
I didn’t even know how to respond. I originally imagined me coming here one week later and praying over sweet, precious Ember. It was too late now…
I walked into the hospital room and found two of Ember’s nurses that had walked the journey with her, two heart moms, and Nathan cradling Ember in her arms. She had grown so swollen, and her head was bruised. It felt all too surreal. I couldn’t even imagine what Joanie and Nathan were going through as parents having to make such a huge decision. I ached for them.
They asked me if I would like to hold her, and I nodded trying to accept the fact that this was the last time here on earth I would be able to hold and kiss her. They had all become like family to me. I held her and smiled as I kissed her forehead. It hit me. Joanie asked me to tell the story of how we met Ember to the nurses. As I did, the tears began to flow and I began to understand even more with each passing word just how impactful this sweet little two-year-old was on my life. How could I ever think of quitting Dare You to Move if God could use me and use these people to reveal His love and purpose?
Her hands began to turn discolored, and her left arm grew slightly purple while I held her. That’s when they knew.
It was time. The oxygen wasn’t getting to her body like usual and they took that as Ember telling us all that it was time to let her go.
I handed her back to Joanie as her and Nathan gave her kisses and whispered loving words into her ear. The nurse unhooked the machine.
My heart ached more, and the tears came faster.
The doctor entered the room and explained that they were going to give Ember some stuff to help her body slow down peacefully.
“Would you like to be here for this and hold her? Or would you prefer to step out?” The doctor asked Joanie gently.
“I brought her into this world and I am going to take her out,” she spoke with confidence and motherly love.
Everyone in the room had their eyes filled to the brim with tears. They asked Nathan and Joanie if they would like a minister to be there and pray. They declined the offer and looked at me asking if I would pray the final prayer.
Whoa. This was not how I imagined praying when God told me to come pray healing over her. I heard God reassure me that He was about to heal her by taking her to Heaven. She would run, laugh, eat, talk, and play again. She was going to be whole and healthy.
I laid my hand on her head and prayed over her little body as her heart beat began to slow down. Peace and pain engulfed my heart in the same moment just like the crashing waves of an ocean in a storm. A few moments after “Amen,” the doctor came over and listened for a heart beat.
“Time of death, 4:52 p.m.”
I turned around and wept. Joanie just kept kept kissing her and telling her how happy she was that she got to be with Jesus. The room grew silent as we tried to soak in this harsh reality.
I had never experienced death in this way. It was raw, painful, and overwhelming. I stepped out of the room after a little while and cried in a hallway and hugged a random nurse who had no idea what had just taken place a few hallways away.
I came back, and they laid her upon the bed. We each gave her one last kiss and said goodbye as we took our belongings and made our way back to the Ronald McDonald House. I stayed with Nathan and Joanie in their room that night, and we all talked over pizza, cried together, looked through photos of our sweet Ember, and found an overwhelming amount of encouragement through texts and Facebook.
I fell asleep quickly that night, my eyes stained with tears and my heart still aching. The following morning, I woke up to the sound of mourning parents crying together in the room outside of where I laid. My heart broke all over again. Oh the pain and loss they must feel. Today they would have to tell Willie (only 4 years-old) about his sister, and how to do that was beyond what any book could tell you.
The past couple days have been filled with many ups and downs, tears, and understanding what life looks like now outside of hospital rooms. It has taken me a few days to even muster up the words to write this blog. It has been healing for me, I guess you could say. I don’ t quite know where to go from here, except with full confidence that I will pursue making Ember’s legacy live on.
I have decided, along with the Carey family, that Dare You to Move will continue with our “Thanksgiving Fundraiser” and that we will be raising money for families who have children awaiting an organ donation that are in a great financial need. We will launch this fundraiser right now and will go until midnight on Thanksgiving (this was all for 2015). We are asking people to nominate themselves or families who have children awaiting an organ donation. We will read stories sent through our website: dareyoutomove.org and decide which families we will divide the money between.
We will also be launching an offshoot organization through Dare You to Move called “Ember’s Spark” where we will give people the opportunity to “adopt” a family similar to the Carey’s. You can decide how much you would like to donate to them every month, send them gift cards, and cards, and walk the journey with a family of your choosing. Our goal is to raise awareness for Children Organ Donation and encourage people to consider the idea of being an organ donator and realizing that if they were to lose a child, they can save someone else’s by donating their child’s heart or other working organ. There are links below to donate, submit your story to our website, and learn more about Ember’s story.
Thank you for reading this, and I deeply appreciate everyone’s support. Please comment or feel free to message me if you would like to learn how to get involved or be on our e-mail list.
Support for Ember Rayne’s Facebook page: https://www.facebook.com/emberraynecarey/?fref=nf
Without Borders Ministries Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/withoutbordersministries.org/?fref=ts