In the midst of the great tragedy that has surrounded our lives this past year, there are things that I'm deeply thankful for.
*I'm extremely thankful that I had our beautiful little girl, Cara, and for the time we spent with her. We held her for a little over twelve hours, and I continue to cling tightly to those memories. She was completely perfect, and I'd give anything to go back to that day. As marked with pain as it was, there was still deep joy in meeting our firstborn and marveling at her beauty.
*I'm grateful for the nurses and doctors who cared for us that day. There are certainly aspects of our care that I would have changed, but for the most part it was more than we could have hoped for.
*God sent us a living angel via one of the nurses who shared with us the most profound advice to aid our grieving. Tim asked her how we should grieve this. She said with tears filling her eyes, "I have never lost a child, but if I was in your situation, I would want to tell her everything I had planned to tell her." And so that's what we did after our family and friends left for the evening. We sat with Cara for several hours, all three of us in my hospital bed, and Tim and I told her everything. Some things were funny and some more serious. We cried, we laughed, but most importantly we wrote those thoughts down as we shared them. We forever have the words we said to our little girl that day. For that I'm so thankful. I can remember very little of what I said to anyone that day, but those thoughts will forever be a part of me. I most remember being in awe of how beautiful she was and deeply, deeply broken at her loss.
*I'm thankful for the physical memories we have of our time together. The hand prints, feet prints, lock of hair, pictures, and the outfits. She wore three outfits in one day! Her mother's daughter!
*This next thought is one that continues to warm me to this day. I'm extremely, extremely thankful for the care we received from our community. While that week was deeply painful, I would go back to it in a heartbeat just to feel that amount of love and provision. Before we even returned home from the hospital, our freezer was packed with food. I remember at one point weeks after we lost Cara finding a lasagna that I had no idea was in there. We literally did not cook for 3 months! While this was an immense need that was filled, there were other details that we didn't have to think through. Any army of women organized a full buffet for the reception after Cara's service. It is often said that when Southern women need to help, they head to the kitchen. We reaped the benefits of their efforts for days. I didn't give a single thought to the reception, because I knew it was in capable hands.
*The cards, flowers, and gifts we received are all treasured possessions. I still have not come to a place where I can go through them again. The leader at Compassionate Friends tells me that this is ok, and when the time is right, I'll be able to go open up those memories.
*I'm incredibly humbled by the friends and family who travelled for Cara's funeral in the midst of a holiday weekend. Their presence uplifted us in ways they must have seen evident as they filled our house. We spent a lot of time crying, but oh, did we also laugh! We had not been together as that group before, and we may never be again. Those are precious, precious memories.
*I'm thankful for our church that physically embraced us on Easter morning as we came to celebrate the resurrection in a way we had not intended the previous Palm Sunday. We barely made it through the door before we were surrounded. I remember standing in the middle of the aisle, which was as far as I could get, because person after person continued to meet us with a hug. It's an embrace that still reaches out to us every Sunday.
*And finally, I'm thankful for a wise man who continues to provide us counsel to this day. We stumbled into our counselor's office two days after I delivered Cara. I remember having difficulty climbing the steep steps to his office and once I entered collapsing in the chair in deep sobs. Getting the story out was painful that day, but it continued to be even harder in the following weeks. We have stuck with our visits and are in a significantly better place as a result. He has helped us learn to manage the pain and situations we never thought we would be in.
I'm sure my list is missing many other things I'm truly thankful for, but these reflections take me back to the heart of that week when we met Cara and released her back to God. I miss that little girl desperately every day.