As you live them, two years can seem both infinite and momentary.
Today is Cora’s second birthday. On her second birthday, we know better what could have been and is not. We’ve spent the past five months caring for our second child and learning just what we missed when we lost her. I see beautiful two year olds around me almost daily. A few weeks ago, one of them instructed me to put her hair back in a ponytail, twice because the first time wasn’t good enough. The cracks that I’ve gotten used to carrying in my heart started to burn again, aching for my little girl that I won’t get to know this side of heaven.
The ache is acute, and the sadness permeates me completely: it’s part of who I am now. I’ve always thought that life experiences weave into who you are like a piece of yarn in a blanket, but losing Cora felt like my whole life’s blanket got dipped in a vat of dye that has colored every part of me. When we first lost her, I was amazed that the sun kept rising and that life kept moving even though everything felt like it shouldn’t. I wanted to stop participating in my life and to retreat into silence, which I did for a time. But now, it is time to live again. I refuse to stop living my life because the Lord took her sooner than I expected. I could easily quit and dwell on what is not, but instead, today I choose to celebrate her life and her impact. Every day that my eyes open is a gift, and God has a purpose for those days. He has granted us a gift in our son Teddy, and it is my responsibility to parent him as well as I can and to be mentally present in the roles God has called me to.
I am grateful. God provides. I am grateful for the family and community that have carried us on their shoulders for the last two years: through tests and grief, another pregnancy and the uncertainty of whether or not I could carry a child who survived, the early months of pregnancy, and the anxiety that has threatened to pull me under. I am grateful for doctors and nurses and techs who held my hand and worked with me to try and find a way to get us through Cora’s delivery and tests, decisions about genetic testing and treatment, finding out that we’ll never know exactly what caused her die, and the marathon that was Teddy’s pregnancy and birth.
I’ve been pretty silent publicly about Teddy because it’s hard to know how to share his life in a responsible manner. How do you celebrate the life of a child born after a loss without making his life about her death? He is a gift from God, but God would have still been good if we had no more children than Cora. We did not deserve him because we lost Cora; there is no morbid system of entitlement built into God’s nature where a loss sustained automatically guarantees the birth of another child. I don’t know the answers to any of these questions, but I think about them.
Through it all, God is gracious. I don’t know why Cora died. But I can tell you that God is good. I am thankful that for 27 weeks I carried her. I am thankful that she is with Him in Heaven, and that I have assurance that I will see her again. I am hopeful that because of her life, God has been glorified.
I pray that in whatever trial you find yourself you cry out to God. He is near to the brokenhearted. You do not need to clean up your feelings or attitudes before you run to Him; He can and wants to be with you as you are. I have probably said everything imaginable to God, and He hasn’t left me yet and won’t leave me. He can handle your ugly, and He will turn your mourning into gladness.
Happy birthday to our little girl, Cora Lorraine. Every day of my life, I will miss you so much, but I thank God that you lived.