By Dana Sleger //
On Jan. 14, Nick and Andrea Saucier of Saucier did the hardest thing they’ve ever had to do: Say goodbye to their 7-year-old daughter, Madison Katherine, for the last time. After being diagnosed at birth with Ohtahara Syndrome, a seizure disorder, her tired body was now at peace, but the grieving process was only beginning for her parents, who gave a remarkable quality of life to their dear girl despite her severe limitations.
Although Nick and Andrea knew they wouldn’t be emotionally ready to speak at their daughter’s service, there were several things they wanted done to celebrate her short, but impactful life. In addition to beautiful songs and touching memories shared, there was a moving poem read that perfectly captured the hearts of two people who were blessed to call Madison their daughter. She was a little girl who forever redefined the meaning of unconditional love in the most precious way possible.
The Sauciers’ story is about faith — faith of two people who have been tested to the limit, and yet maintain an anchored belief that with God, all things are possible. This type of faith can’t be learned overnight and it’s not something that can be acquired through a classroom setting. It’s developed by how one responds to life’s battles after having the wind knocked out of dreams while still finding the courage to embrace the power of hope and face another day girded with heaven-sent strength.
“Madison is not here anymore, but she’s still touching lives,” says Andrea, 29. “She wasn’t a rock star or a country singer, but she was a loving little girl. I would never pass up the chance to share her story with someone who might need to hear it.”
When Nick and Andrea were married in 2005, the young couple had grand dreams for their lives, and the wish for children was a definite part of future plans. Three months into their marriage, they were overjoyed when Andrea became pregnant, but that joy faded when she miscarried in the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina. Not only did they lose their child, but the storm took their home during that season.
By April of the following year, another baby was on the way and the pregnancy couldn’t have been better. Constant movement sent a strong signal that all was well, especially when the kicking grew more intense every time Nick prayed or would talk to his soon-to-be daughter.
The couple, anxiously anticipating Madison’s birth, endured a very long labor process. There was an unusual silence that filled the room when Madison was born on Jan. 26, 2007. Judging by the response from the medical team and the immediate rush to the neonatal intensive care unit, questions and fears enveloped the new parents.
“Three hours later, they brought her back in for us to see her and hold her,” says Nick, 29. “You could tell there was something wrong. She wasn’t moving around like a normal baby would.”
Madison’s umbilical cord was double-knotted and she wasn’t breathing when she was born. To go from an overactive, healthy pregnancy to a hushed eeriness in the delivery room, it could only be assumed something went terribly wrong during labor. After a five-day run of multiple tests, Madison was moved to the University of South Alabama Children’s & Women’s Hospital in Mobile, where they specialize in pediatric neurology.
The first three years of Madison’s life was an in-and-out of the hospital and filled with many touch-and-go moments. When the Sauciers took Madison home for the first time, they knew the constant care would be demanding for a little girl who experienced seizures daily, had a feeding tube and a trach, and required a ventilator to sleep.
“When she was first born, we always prayed and prayed for her healing, but we came to a point where we prayed she would be as healthy as she could be with what she had,” says Andrea, Madison’s primary caretaker. “I still believe in miracles because she was a miracle from day one. When she was diagnosed with Ohtahara Syndrome, we were told she would only live a week, but she lived almost eight years.”
A diagnosis of this magnitude is a scary journey for any parent to walk, but through it all, Nick and Andrea were locked side by side with a tight hold on their faith to push through the hard times and savor the happy times.
A lot transpired since Madison’s birth. The couple welcomed MacKenzie in 2009, a healthy baby girl born at 31 weeks. Andrea experienced an extremely difficult pregnancy with Andrea’s appendix nearly bursting, a colon rupture, and a diagnosis of Crohn’s disease. During this time, Madison also inspired Nick to pursue EMT training, which was then followed by a rigorous four years of school to be a nurse — all while helping Andrea daily with their daughter’s special needs.
As the Sauciers recollect all they have been through over the years, they could not be more appreciative of the endless support they have received from family, friends and medical staff. There’s also a place the Sauciers are very grateful for: the Ronald McDonald House in Mobile that serves as a home-away-from-home for families to stay near their hospitalized children for little or no cost.
When Nick talks about the recent passing of his daughter, he twists his wedding ring around his finger over and over again — a gesture of profound thanks for a life partner with steadfast faith, impressive fortitude and unconditional love.
“Andrea means everything to me,” Nick says. “I’m very lucky to have her, and I couldn’t have asked for a better wife and a better mother for Madison and MacKenzie.”
Andrea reciprocates his feelings: “He’s been my rock,” she says. “Any time I needed to be picked up, he was there to tell me ‘You can do this.’ He’s been such a great dad to both of the girls and even does hair and nails better than I could! He’s just perfect and God sent him to me.”
Through thick and thin, Nick and Andrea are still standing strong. Although they dearly miss their extraordinary daughter and her trademark big blue eyes, they remember the good times and hold on to God’s sufficient grace for the days ahead.
“Madison was perfect to us and surely she knew how much we loved her,” Andrea says. “She never spoke a word, but has taught us more than any teacher ever could. She couldn’t walk and her body couldn’t do what ours could, but she still managed to smile.”
From the writer …
At the time I conducted this interview, sweet Madison had only been gone a little more than a week. Prior to initially meeting Nick and Andrea Saucier, I did some research to find out more about this couple who just lost their 7-year-old daughter, and yet were so willing to share her story while still freshly reeling from a pain no loving parent ever wants to experience.
When I visited Andrea’s Facebook page, it was evident a strong faith in God is the cornerstone of the Saucier family, but even the strongest faith can be tested when unexpected heartache comes, especially through the loss of a child. However, with this family, that just wasn’t the case.
As we sat around the dining room table for our interview, I was awestruck by the grounded peace that surrounded this couple. In the midst of the pain from losing their firstborn, there was a resounding, comforting joy that trumped dark emotions grief may bring.
Please don’t misunderstand me; they deeply grieve for their daughter and would give anything to kiss that tender face again, but there is something very special about this family. Nick and Andrea carry a beautiful light that genuinely reflects an unshakeable, unwavering faith.
For them, looking through the lens of eternal life offers a sustaining hope they will one day be reunited with Madison. In the meantime, they stand united with eyes locked on their savior, Jesus, and approach this new family-of-three life one day at a time.
To Nick, Andrea and MacKenzie, may you experience a divine, authentic outpouring of love during this time of healing in unparalleled ways through your faith, family, friends, church and community. To Madison, may your now endless smile radiate as you dance with angels in the greatest playground you’ve ever known.
“I Still Would Have Chosen You”
By Terri Banish
If before you were born, I could have gone to heaven and saw all the beautiful souls, I still would have chosen you.
If God had told me, “This one will one day need extra care and needs,” I still would have chosen you.
If He had told me, “This soul will make your heart bleed,” I still would have chosen you.
If He had told me, “This soul will make you question the depth of your faith,” I still would have chosen you.
If He had told me, “This soul will make tears flow from your eyes that could fill a river,” I still would have chosen you.
If He had told me, “This soul may one day make you witness overbearing suffering,” I still would have chosen you.
If He had told me, “All that you know to be normal will drastically change,” I still would have chosen you.
Of course, even though I would have chosen you, I know it was God who chose me for you.