This quilted wall hanging was made in memorial for my son, Daniel. I used fabrics that were part of a contest at a local quilt shop and I won a ribbon. The story behind my son and the amazing thing that happened after his death was published in Chicken Soup for the Soul. It is reprinted below.

In my forthcoming novel, Lily, my main character is known for her very small and even hand quilting stitch. Like Lily, I am a fan of hand work too.

Meant to Be

My neighbor called me on the morning I had dropped off my husband at the submarine base. This was not the first time he wouldn’t be home for a life-changing event.

When she spoke, her voice trembled. “My daughter went out for the night and left her baby with friends. She hasn’t come back for three days.”

Her daughter had been on and off drugs for years, disappearing and reappearing unpredictably. At times, she was responsible. Other times, she was sucked into an underworld that neither my neighbor nor I could understand.

While I listened to her story, I opened the door to my son’s nursery. Nothing had changed. A bright, rainbow-striped comforter covered the crib mattress, and a stack of flannel baby blankets rested on the dresser. A few diapers sat on the changing table next to a box of wipes that were probably bone-dry by now.

I sat in the rocker, and the soft cushion stirred memories of many nights. If I closed my eyes, I could imagine it hadn’t happened and that he was still in his crib, delight in his bright blue eyes.

Two years earlier, when my son was six and a half months old, at 4:36 in the morning, I awoke from a deep sleep with my heart racing. I dashed to the nursery. I found Daniel, warm and pink in his crib. But when I lifted him, I knew.

I screamed. No one could hear. I was home alone. Every nerve in my body vibrated. This couldn’t be happening. How could this be happening? With fumbling fingers, I called 911. I did baby CPR, each gurgle from his lifeless body a painful shot of hope.

When the EMTs arrived, I pleaded, “Help him. Hurry.” I handed Daniel to them, praying for a miracle as they left. Their sirens blared as their lights sliced the pre-dawn darkness.

A gentle policewoman stayed with me. I couldn’t think. I didn’t know what to do. She prompted me to call someone and get dressed, and then she drove me to the emergency room. I didn’t remember getting there, but I found myself standing at the side of the gurney. Daniel lay there with a blanket over his legs, his tiny chest marred by the round electrodes that couldn’t save him.

I picked him up, his body now cool, a tinge of blue spreading around his eyes and on his fingers. His head lay heavy on my shoulder. I pressed my lips to him and inhaled. His sweet scent—the waning essence of him—lingered in his downy hair and on his silky skin. I willed my life to pass to him as a cry from deep inside me expanded and tore through me, a piece of my soul escaping.

I remember nothing of the next months except that I wanted to die.

My husband tried to comfort me. He sat by my side when violent waves of grief exploded from me without warning. Slowly, I contained my despair in a box in my heart. It rattled and threatened to burst open, but I learned to live again.

However, the nursery door remained closed, until the day my neighbor called.

“I hate to ask, but I need to.” Guilt laced her words. “I need to get the baby. Can I please borrow Daniel’s things?”

Her grandson was younger than Daniel had been when he died, but close enough. My neighbor needed help and I could give it to her. After two years, could I give up the shrine I’d made from his nursery?

Even though I felt glued to the rocking chair, I knew it was time to move forward.

“Sure,” I said. “Whatever you need.”

I stood. The rocker swayed gently as I walked to the nursery door and turned for a last look. This time, I left the door open.

As I waited for my neighbor, I couldn’t help wondering what justice there was in a world where my beloved Daniel, for whom I would have sacrificed anything, slipped silently from life, while babies were born to people who couldn’t take care of them. It was senseless, out of balance.

Several hours later, my neighbor called again.

“I found my daughter. She knows she needs help, not a child. His father can’t take care of him either. They’re going to put him up for adoption—unless you want him.”

“I don’t understand.” Did they want me to take care of him while his mother got her act together?

“They want you to adopt him.”

“But you’re his grandmother. Isn’t that better?”

“No. I’ve only seen him once. I haven’t bonded with him. And if I take him, I’d be his grandma, not his mother. We all agree it’s best for him to have a stable family.”

“They want us to adopt him?” People wait years to adopt, and I was being handed a six-month-old infant.

“Yes. They want him to be yours.”

My heart swelled with love. Then I remembered that there was one enormous problem. By then, my husband was in a submarine somewhere in the depths of the Pacific Ocean. I couldn’t contact him. We wanted to have another baby. Would he agree to adopt?

I had to take the chance. I went to meet David, my son-to-be.

When I entered the front door of the small apartment, David was in a walker, his toes dangling over carpet, his back to me. He turned, and a two-toothed smile broke across his face as he gazed up at me with heart-melting brown eyes. I loved him as immediately and completely as I did my newborn Daniel when I first cradled him against my breast.

A few weeks later, pulsing with anxiety, I met my husband at the pier with David in a stroller. For sailors, coming home from deployment to meet a new child isn’t a rarity, but for my husband who’d only been gone a few weeks, it was a shock.

I explained, “I had to take him.”

“Of course you did.”

I can’t remember what else we said, but he had no hesitation.

As I plowed through piles of adoption paperwork, I uncovered David’s birth certificate.

Electricity shivered up my spine. I ran for a calendar. Could they have told me the wrong age? I counted and recounted.

Daniel died on the day he turned six months and twenty days old.

David was given to me on the day he turned six months and twenty-one days old.

No gap. No overlap.

David may have grown in someone else’s womb, but he was meant to be my son.