35-year-old Sarah Rodriguez has processed more pain and suffering in a few short years than most of us could fathom enduring in a lifetime. But this widowed mother’s warrior spirit has become all the stronger for it. And now she’s sharing her profound journey of beauty from ashes in her new book, From Depths We Rise.
It all started seven years ago when her husband Joel was diagnosed with an aggressive form of kidney cancer.
“We found out in 2010 that he had Stage 3 kidney cancer that had eaten away his entire kidney,” recalls Sarah.
Though chemo treatments sent Joel into remission, it returned stronger than ever two years later, just three short days after their son Milo was born.
This time, Joel would not win the battle against the “Big C.” But several months before the kidney cancer took his life in 2013, he left his wife with a message that she was simply unable to shake.
“I need to tell you something. You and I are going to have another child and it’s going to be a girl,’” he told her. “I’m looking at him, thinking, ‘There’s no way we’re going to,’” Sarah recalls.
After Joel passed, Sarah couldn’t help but think about the frozen embryos they had placed down the street in an infertility clinic. The couple had struggled to get pregnant for five years, and after successfully conceiving Milo through in vitro, they decided it may be their only shot at having another baby.
Sarah just never thought she’d be doing it alone.
But as it often goes, God’s plans don’t necessarily align with our own. Soon, He opened her grieving heart to the idea of having another child. Sarah even recalled a dream she had years before Joel died, where she was holding a little girl named Ellis, and she wondered if it could have any tie-in with the prophetic words of her late husband.
“Within days of his death, I thought about that conversation and knew there was this piece of him – two more embryos – just down the street at the infertility clinic,” said Sarah. “I had this feeling in my heart that I should have another child and that there would be purpose to her life.”
Sure enough, on Nov. 6, 2014, she gave birth to a beautiful baby girl, Ellis.
As Ellis reached her tiny fingers up to clutch Sarah’s necklace embossed with Joel’s thumbprint, the proud mama could taste the bittersweet redemption this miracle child would bring.
“She was the beauty that came from the ashes of our story,” she said. “It felt like a part of Joel had returned to me with her birth.”
However, just two weeks later, she would be faced with losing the little miracle that had brought so much meaning to her life.
Ellis’ health quickly took a turn for the worst after she contracted a deadly form of Bacterial Meningitis and Sepsis. Doctors gave Sarah no hope for her daughter’s survival and recommended she be taken off of life support.
“Basically, they told us that she would not live, and if she did, she would be in a vegetative state,” she told ‘The Church Boys’ podcast. “A decision had to be made to remove the [ventilator].”
As Sarah stood in the hospital bathroom processing the unfathomable event that was to unfold after the devastating loss of her husband, she asked God in a tone reminiscent of Job, “Haven’t I endured enough?”
“I didn’t understand why the miracle of her life, why her name, why this conversation with my husband — if it was all going to end at this point,” said Sarah. “It was the lowest I had ever been.”
Still, she refused to curse God and lose faith in His healing power.
In an act of total surrender, she cried out, “God I don’t know if you will, but I know that you can … so please, please don’t allow her to die.”
Shortly after, doctors gently placed Ellis on her chest as they took her off life support and removed every last tube, other than the one that monitored her vitals.
As she prayed, Sarah sang to her sweet baby who was breathing her final breaths right there on her bosom.
“She let out a cry and she was moving and wiggling around, and she wasn’t seizing,” says Sarah, but doctors still assured her that Ellis wouldn’t last long off of the ventilator.
But as seconds turned into minutes, and minutes into hours, they were forced to reconsider their diagnosis.
“It was just a moment of, ‘Oh my goodness, are we witnessing a miracle?” she said.
In fact, they were.
“They were dumbfounded that she was able to go from not breathing on a vent to breathing room air on her own,” she said. “By the end of the week, doctors and nurses were just coming in the room and saying, ‘We want to look at her, because she’s a miracle.’”
Today, almost two years later, Sarah’s living breathing miracle continues to thrive, inspiring her mama with her courage.
Though it’s hard to imagine being thankful for the kind of brutal pain and heartache Sarah walked through, in looking back, she wouldn’t have had it any other way.
“I think that that’s part of the mystery of God, and I think he keeps some things a mystery, because it keeps us seeking Him always,” says Sarah. “We never want to talk about suffering. We always want to talk about blessing. In suffering, I’ve become a better version of myself.”
Now she’s on a mission to share her story in hopes that it may encourage others to march toward purpose out of their pain, so our suffering may produce in us a character that conforms us to the likeness of Christ. To read more from Sarah’s miraculous story of hope and overcoming, purchase your own copy of From Depths We Rise: A Journey of Beauty from Ashes today.