Tuesday, November 24, 2015

To Give Thanks

by Megan Coker

I am so broken. I am the most broken I have ever been.

On Thanksgiving this year, I should be celebrating five full months of watching my
beautiful baby girl grow. I should be photographing her progress since June,
dressing her up in a gown with a turkey sewn on, and passing on the wine so I may
focus on losing the baby weight I would want to be rid of so badly.

Instead, I will be celebrating five full months of knowing she is at peace and healthy
in Heaven. I will drive to the mountain to photograph the snow on the ground and
wait for my Momma to send me a picture of her grave. My husband will have duty,
and I will welcome any wine that may find my glass. Do I really wish to lose the last
bit of weight she gave me?

Oh God, I am broken over all of this.

I find myself asking constantly: what can I do to find thankfulness in this? How is life
good? Where is the beauty in my pain? Please, joy, reveal yourself.
It is hard for me to smile and nod and wave and quietly be the woman I am
supposed to be this holiday. It is hard for me to accept my life this year. It is grief
that swallows my heart and anger that consumes my brain.

Question. What is there to be grateful for?

It is so hard a puzzle to piece together. For one to make a connection and keep
choosing that connection of thankfulness in mourning- it is a feat near impossible. If
you are grieving, don’t let anyone make you feel like it should be easy to find it and
choose it. Don’t let anyone make you feel like you are less than if you cannot, if you
will not. You can’t be forced to feel what you don’t or forced to not feel what you do.
I need to feel hope. I will, personally, seek appreciation. My heart craves it.

But how will I find it? Shall I reference Confucius? Aristotle? Shall I go back to my
philosophical learning of what it means to be a human being and to be happy?
Where is my self-realization? Is it an answer found in theory or in practice? Can
someone tell it to me? No. I must discover it for myself for it to be true.

I did not anticipate having such a hard time with this. I don’t know why, because for
all of my (few) adult years, I have been prone to the Winter SAD. I have always had
to fight off depression and actively work to be “in the spirit” during the holidays. I
love Thanksgiving and Christmas, but the time during which they fall is usually a
season during which I am naturally down.

I guess this year it all has snuck up on me so quickly. I’ve been so preoccupied with
just surviving I didn’t think about surviving through first holidays too. “I’ll cross that
bridge when I get there” has been my attitude about most things not directly in front
of me since Eden’s diagnosis. If it is not the battle I face today, it is not my biggest
concern (Is that the right way, Lord? Each day has enough worry of it’s own?).

But here it is…the battle facing me this week. A day I’ve always celebrated the
thanks I give year-round for all my blessings, now the first Thanksgiving I’ll live
through in the without. What should have been my daughter’s first Thanksgiving,
now another opportunity to straighten her belongings on the mantle and just miss

What is there?

This is a little of what I’ve found. Perhaps it will help you find your answers too.

Answer. That I have her to miss. My love for her. This ache. Motherhood. I gave her
all I could, praying for her very best chance. I am a mother. I am a mother. I. Am. A.

Have you had to give your child back? Have you had to make the hard choices? Are
you carrying a baby you’ll have to say goodbye to? Your only child? Your first child?
Your second? Your fifth? You? You are a mother. You are a mother. Know that.
Believe that with every ounce of your soul. Angela Miller would tell you in her book,
“you’re the best damn mother”. Repeat it often: “Best damn mother. Best damn
mother.” And our babies made us that. And isn’t that all we need to utter a hoarse
thanks between our screams of anguish?

Answer. Marriage. The tested and true kind. The kind that has walked through a
trial. The kind that has seen the “for worse” at the same time as the “for better”.
Marriage with a man meeting me where I am every day, whether it be in my valley
or on my peak. Marriage with a bereaved father, the only man who can possibly
understand how I lost I am without this particular human, the human we made
together. A man that will never ask me to be quiet with this pain, a man that will
never ask me to stifle it or forget. To spend my life with him, to still have him when
we have lost our most precious... that is grace. That is some mercy to be thankful for.

Answer. A picture of us together. I held this child. She was in my arms. Oh, how they
ache for the weight of her, the warmth of her plump skin between them. But yes,
they are blessed for even having touched her. And, look I have proof! Her head
propped up by my left shoulder. Her curls captured perfectly, her chubby cheeks
and button nose. The lines of her lips matching the shape of mine. One simple
picture of my child, enough… But alas, I have more than one. Thanks upon thanks.

Answer. The smell of her. That I may breathe it in when I open a box of her
belongings. That I now know the value of a precious breath, that I know the value of
the ones she fought so hard to take. Gratefulness for the most basic; a gift of
breathing and breathing deeply.

Answer. Community. A group of women I wish I never met, but I am so grateful to
have met. Women just like me. Women missing their own babies. I know in my heart
the names of children I will only meet when I finally see my own girl face to face. I
can’t wait to kiss those children and thank them for sharing their amazing parents
with me. I get to have fellowship here in the meantime. What a sacred gift... I find
myself overwhelmed.

Answer. I am still here. I am alive. I can still see, taste, smell, hear, and feel. I can
experience this pain. Isn’t this the most human experience… grief, that is? Isn’t it
sacred? Oh, how good it is to know, to be changed by this. To be handed the worst
condition the world has to offer and live through it. To seek hope, to find healing,
and to hide under the covers when you cannot. To realize the most important things
in your life, to finally begin to cherish them like you never have before… That is
simply good.

I miss her. Lord, I miss her. My love for her grows and with it my empty ache.
And yet, life is still beautiful. I sit and look at all I have been given, even in this. I am
still being smiled upon.

I cannot bring myself to be thankful for her death. I will probably never be genuinely
grateful that she is not here with me. But I can, somehow, find goodness, grace, and
mercy in this pain. Here is my broken Hallelujah.

Thanks, for Eden.
Thanks, for Ryan.
Thanks, for memories.
Thanks, for senses.
Thanks, for family.
Thanks, for old friends.
Thanks, for new friends.
Thanks, for fellowship.
Thanks, for love.
Thanks, for pain.
Thanks, for breath.
Thanks, for brokenness.
Thanks, for this life.
Thanks, thanks, thanks.

Whether you find immense gratitude or just a quiet moment of peace, my family is
wishing you all a gentle Thanksgiving Day.

~ ~ ~

Megan Coker carried Eden Olivia to birth in June 2015 after receiving a diagnosis of a severe Congenital Diaphragmatic Hernia in the Bilateral form. Eden lived for 40 minutes. Megan is Ryan’s wife and together they follow his Army career. She has found a way to honor Eden’s short life in capturing the beautiful moments of others through starting her photography business, Eden’s Garden Images. Each day has its new challenges for both Megan and Ryan but they are learning to lean on each other through it and work steadily on strengthening their marriage. Megan finds healing through writing about Eden and remembering their beautiful time together


Sharon said...

So beautifully written and such a wonderful person! So thankful that I know Megan and Ryan and Eden as they have all touched my life.

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