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march fifth

Three years ago tonight I was getting my tired, pregnant self ready for bed, totally unaware that in just a few hours my life would forever change. A few hours later, after falling asleep, I awoke to my water breaking. I hardly even knew what was happening. It was five days before my due date. Everyone had insisted to me that your first baby never comes early. But five days early or not, our first born was ready to make an appearance. I think I was pretty much in shock as we drove to the hospital very early that morning. Could it really be that easy? My water breaks and then we have a baby? I remember talking to Joel on the way to the hospital about the names we had chosen. I still wasn’t sure about the boy name. I’m sure Joel thought that I was a crazy lady as I once again started to debate about boys names in the middle of the night, on our way to the hospital, as my contractions were starting. I didn’t have to debate with him about the girl name. I loved the name Cora Paige. I was feeling all of the conflicting emotions of a first time mama–excited, scared, nervous, and overjoyed that maybe my swollen feet would return to their normal size in the near future. Of course meeting Miss Cora Paige wasn’t that easy…you know, like my water broke and boom we had a baby. There was a lot of pushing involved. I mean a lot.

March fifth is a day that I will never forget. A day that came as a total surprise. A day full of anticipation as I waited to hold my first born. A day when I found out that I had a daughter…a little girl. A day when I felt like my heart couldn’t be any fuller…ever. It was an amazing day. A day that forever changed my life. March fifth is the day I became a mama.

Tomorrow we once again face Cora’s birthday. This will be the third birthday that we have celebrated without our sweet girl. My baby girl would have been three. Three…how is that possible? Oh how my heart longs to know Cora as a three year old. The past few days as the sadness has been creeping in on me again I have wondered how different my life would look right now if we were preparing to celebrate my little girl turning three. I wish I knew what Cora would have been like as a three year old. What would she sound like as a jabbering toddler? What would her favorite color be? Would she have been a girly-girl or a farm girl helping her daddy? What kind of birthday party would she have begged for? What presents would we be wrapping up for her? What would I be saying to my little girl as I greeted her on the morning of her birthday?

Instead of a fun birthday party with all of our friends and family we are wondering once again how to mingle the celebration of the day our daughter was born with the deep grief that our hearts are filled with. Instead of filling our house with balloons and presents and cupcakes we are planning when to take flowers to our sweet little girl’s grave. It all seems so wrong. So wrong in every way. And if I let myself dwell on what tomorrow will look like in “reality” instead of what my heart longs for it to look like, I so easily can slip into despair.

So tomorrow, on March fifth, I know that I need to choose to remember that I am one blessed mama rather than dwell in my sadness. On March fifth my life was forever changed. When I saw Cora Paige and realized that the Lord had chosen me to be her mama, I felt like my heart was going to explode. It was love at first sight. An instant bond between mama and daughter. And then to see Joel fall head-over-heals in love with his little girl…no words can describe what that was like. And I wouldn’t change anything about that day.
For you created my inmost being;
you knit me together in my mother’s womb.
I praise you because I am fearfully and wonderfully made;
your works are wonderful, I know that full well.
My frame was not hidden from you 
when I was made in the secret place.
When I was woven together in the depths of the earth,
your eyes saw my unformed body.
All the days ordained for me were written in your book
before one of them came to be.
Psalm 139:13-16

Just like all of the other days that the Lord ordained for our sweet Cora, March fifth wasn’t a surprise to Him. On March fifth He already knew that the fearfully and wonderfully made little girl that I was holding in my arms wouldn’t live to see her third birthday, or even her first. He had created sweet Cora to fulfill a big mission in the short eleven months that she would live on earth. The Lord knew that the days written in His book for Cora would look so different from the days we would have chosen for our daughter. And yet he chose us to be Cora’s parents. He chose us to be part of His plan for her life. He chose me to be Cora’s mama.

Tomorrow, on Cora’s birthday, I want to remember the blessing that March fifth marks in my life. I want to remember the incredible privilege it is to be Cora’s mama. I want to praise the Lord for the day my daughter was born. His works are so wonderful, I know that full well! Of course along with my praises there will be many tears because the reality is that I miss Cora more than words could even describe. But I think that is okay. He understands. And just like March 5th, 2008 wasn’t a surprise to my Lord, March 5th, 2011 won’t be either. Happy birthday to my sweet Cora Paige.

  • Diana - You are an amazing woman of faith. I pray that the God of all comfort permeates every moment as you celebrate the beautiful life of your baby girl, Cora Paige, and she celebrates her special day with Jesus.ReplyCancel

  • Maureen - Remembering Cora… thinking of you… lifting you up in prayer…


  • Wanting What I Have - Happy Birthday sweet Cora Paige.

    Jess, I am praying for you and Joel…ReplyCancel

  • Kristin - One of the most touching posts of yours that I have read…my thoughts are with you for your sweet Cora’s birthday, even though I don’t even know you… my sweet Anna will be three at the end of April so reading your thoughts of what things would’ve been like makes me heavy hearted that you do not get to experience that…we will be thinking of you tomorrow…God Bless.ReplyCancel

  • Trisha Larson - Tomorrow is my Nathan Ryan’s 3rd birthday as well. Though I was already a mother before he arrived, his birth day (March 5, 2008) was a day that changed my life forever! I feel many of the same emotions that you described.

    It’s so hard to celebrate birthday’s when your child lives in Heaven. It’s not the way that it should be but we will make it a special day to honor a special boy nonetheless.

    Hugs to you and Joel as we are feeling your pain,


  • Sarah - This post touched my heart. Praying for you today as you grieve and celebrate. You are an amazing witness to the love of our savior.ReplyCancel

  • Stef - Happy Birthday, Cora Paige! I’m sure your celebration with Jesus is gonna be completely incredible.

    Love you, Jess.ReplyCancel

  • Stef - @Trisha Larson – I will be praying for you as well tomorrow <3ReplyCancel

  • lindasjournal - Happy birthday to a sweet little girl who touched a lot of lives. ((HUGS)) to you and Joel.ReplyCancel

  • Carla - Thinking of you as we prepare for our little guy’s first birthday. My heart aches for you Jess, and yet fills with joy when I see what you have done with your loss, how you lift up and carry so many sore and broken hearts out there by keeping this blog. Happy birth day to you momma and happy birthday to sweet Cora Paige as she plays with the angels. you will be in my thoughts all day.ReplyCancel

  • Anonymous - Happy 3rd birthday beautiful girl. Praying for you today Jess and thinking of your sweet baby girl celebrating with Jesus. Your family will not be far from my thoughts today. I love the pictures and am so touched by your words on becoming a mama. You are an amazing mama and I hope you are comforted some today with that knowledge.
    Praying for you today and always.
    Krista aka babykatesmomReplyCancel

  • Lara - Remembering your sweet Cora today. Many, many prayers for you and your family.ReplyCancel

  • Nicole - Remembering Cora today and keeping your family in my thoughts always.ReplyCancel

  • Mum2twopreciousgifts - Beautifully written Jess. I will say a special prayer for you, Joel and all who loved Cora.ReplyCancel

  • Rachel - You are an inspiration of faith, a testimony to the Lord’s comfort in suffering. Thank you for opening your heart. Praying for you and Joel today. Beautiful pictures of your sweet baby girl.ReplyCancel

  • Andy and Jenni - Although our daughter is still with us (despite being under Hospice care for two years) her birthday, on the seventh, will be filled with mixed emotions. Reading about your feelings helps me know that mine are normal,and witnessing your positivity and faith gives me strength.
    I hope today is filled with all the right things, and I’m so sorry your arms aren’t full of the one thing you most wish for.ReplyCancel

  • Hanni - Thank you for begin so honest about your feelings. It shows me that I am not “crazy” I am just a greiving mommy. After Hadley’s death, someone said to me, “even if you knew that you would have her for only 7 weeks, and you would experience all this pain without her the rest of your life, if you could go back to a year ago when you got pregnant you would still choose to have her. You would because knowing her for 7 weeks was better than never knowing her.” This is so true. Even though your time with Cora was too short I know you would choose to do it all again just to know your sweet baby girl for 11 months. Happy Birthday Cora!ReplyCancel

  • seekatelive - Thinking of all 3 of your today.ReplyCancel

  • Disney Freak - Happy Birthday Sweet Cora, I hope you have another wonderful party with Jesus this year.

    Jess, praying for you and Joel on this difficult day.ReplyCancel

  • The Hopkins Home - remembering your sweet girl today and praying for you and Joel…beautiful post full of so much truth.ReplyCancel

  • Brandi - Happy birthday to your sweet baby girl! Remembering and praying for you and your family on this special day. God bless!!!!ReplyCancel

  • Beki - TheRustedChain - Praying for you today.

    I’ve always LOVED her name!
    Praying you’re surrounded by warmth and love today.ReplyCancel

  • Carly Winborne - you are unbelievable. my heart aches for you this morning. but, as you know, his grace is sufficient for you. today and everyday. i will be praying for you today.ReplyCancel

  • Kelly - Those are some of the most beautiful words I have ever read.

    I don’t think it’s coincidence that the picture of Cora with her little legs tucked up under her ended up right next to the similar picture of Levi on the sidebar. I couldn’t help but notice.

    Praying for you & Joel today! Happy Birthday Cora!ReplyCancel

  • Millicent - Happy Birthday sweet Cora, and to you her Mama! Saying a prayer for you this morning.ReplyCancel

  • Sarah - What a beautiful post. Happy Birthday to your sweet angel, Cora!ReplyCancel

  • Shawna - This is my first comment on your blogsite, but I’ve been reading your blog ever since y’all found out about Cora’s cancer. Today was the first time I realized that Cora shares my son’s birthday (he turned one today) and that her due date was also his due date (March 10). Thought that was neat. I’m thinking of your family on this special (and hard) day.ReplyCancel

  • Toni :O) - Happy Birthday to your precious, precious angel. I still pray for your sweet girl in heaven and for you as a family….she made such an impression on so many of us. Her life made me appreciate my children that much more. Sending love and virtual hugs (( )) (( )) (( )) for strength and support on this very difficult day…we will always, always remember your sweet Cora Paige.ReplyCancel

  • Anonymous - Thinking of your sweet Cora Paige today. You continue to be such an inspiration!


  • Bethany - Happy Birthday, Cora! Thank you, Jessica, for your sharing your testimony of Cora’s life and Jesus work through her. What a beautiful girl! I’m praying that Jesus will minister to your, Joel and Levi’s hearts on this special day.ReplyCancel

  • Alyssa - praying for you today.ReplyCancel

  • Natalie - love this post. Happy birthday sweet angelReplyCancel

  • Sue - Wishing only blessings of happiness for today. I can only imagine how hard this can be for you and Joel. You are so brave and so strong. Cora, and now Levi,was lucky to share her life with you, just a pity that it wasn’t for longer. Hold on to the knowledge that she is happy & safe & that you will see her again.

    With love, Susan xReplyCancel

  • Brooke - The most amazing, loving, beautiful post. Tears are falling. You have an amazing faith that shows through your words. May your day be filled with love from your family and friends. BrookeReplyCancel

  • Laura - Liftin you all up in prayer today, praying God gives you a peace beyond all understaning. Happy 3rd birthday to your sweet Cora!ReplyCancel

  • Amy - Thinking of you all today. Praying that you can feel the love and support of all those around you who love you so much. Hugs to you, sweet friend.ReplyCancel

  • Anonymous - Happy Birthday, Cora! Jess and Joel…and Levi….prayers and blessings on this day full of wonderful memories and tears.

    Evelyn in Newport News..VirginiaReplyCancel

  • Lindsay - My heart is with you all over these next few days. I have learned so much from you just by reading your amazing posts of faith, grace and God’s love. Happy Birthday beautiful Cora Paige.ReplyCancel

  • The Moffats - Happy Birthday sweet Cora Paige McClenahan!!! God picked you guys because he knew that HIS sweet little girl could only be entrusted to the very best momma and daddy. So wishing she was here…but astonished by the lives that she has touched and changed.

    Celebrating, aching, and praying with you guys today.

    Much love. Many Hugs.ReplyCancel

  • Happiness Is... - Your faith is an amazing inspiration and a reminder to release ourselves to the Lord in everything we do. Happy birthday to Cora – may your hearts be filled with peace as you remember her sweet life on Earth.ReplyCancel

  • Whitney - There aren’t no words.

    Thinking of you today.

    Happy Birthday, Miss Cora!ReplyCancel

  • Carpenter's - I am praying for you during this time of saddness and joy as you remember her! She is beautiful. Every year we celebrate our sweet Gracyee by going somewhere we think she would have liked. It is also a way for our children to celebrate their sister in heaven. They always look foward to her birthday!ReplyCancel

  • Lyn-de-lou - And we get to be mamas to our sweet baby girls for all eternity when we are re-united with them – that thought holds me through the darker daysReplyCancel

  • Melissa Joy - Happy Birthday, beautiful Cora Paige! You are remembered and loved, and your legacy of faith and grace live on.
    Thank you for sharing life with us, Jess. Life that is full of bitterness & sweetness. Joy & grief. Forwards & backwards things.
    May the Lord be with you today as you remember the joy He brought your family three years ago today, and may He be your comfort as you endure the grief of missing your beautiful daughter.
    Praying for your family today.ReplyCancel

  • Hayley - Praying for you, your sweet family, and your precious angel on this March 5th.ReplyCancel

  • Amanda @ DAES of Our Lives - You are such an inspiration. I’m praying for you today.ReplyCancel

  • Ryan - Happy Birthday Cora Paige! Oh, the celebration you are having in Heaven. Praying that God is near to you, Joel, and Levi as you wrestle with the many emotions this day holds.ReplyCancel

  • Sarah - Hugs for you and Joel. Happy Birthday sweet Cora!ReplyCancel

  • Anonymous - God bless you!ReplyCancel

  • Tricia - Sending love to your sweet family today, Jess. My heart hurts for you, for Joel, for your entire family today. I also rejoice in God’s plan made perfect even in our imperfection.
    Thank you for continuing to share your faith with us.

    Happy birthday to you, Cora. You are a very special little lady. Always will be.


  • The Gunter Family - You and Joel are in my thoughts and prayers today.ReplyCancel

  • LibraryGirl62 - I found your blog around that time and I will never forget the feeling when I popped into see how Cora did and saw she had gone home to be with Jesus. I still follow you because I have never seen such faith in God’s plan. Prayers to you all.ReplyCancel

  • Carrianna - Thank you for sharing Cora with us! I pray that you are able to celebrate all the wonderful memories of Cora today.ReplyCancel

  • amanda - Happy Birthday Cora! Much love to your family today. xoxoReplyCancel

  • Janine - Happy Birthday in Heaven to Cora. May you and your family find some peace and comfort today.ReplyCancel

  • Alex and Jill - Well I’m not going to lie – I’m in tears & my heart aches for you as a Mama. You’re an amazingly strong woman and your faith is such a testimony to so many. Happy Birthday to beautiful Cora! You guys are in my prayers.ReplyCancel

  • Jody - Happy Birthday, Cora!ReplyCancel

  • The Chance Family - I’m praying for you today. My son will be 3 on March 11th and I can’t help but feel guilty sometimes that I have him. You have been such an inspiration to me. Cora had such a huge impact that you never would have imagined. You are a wonderful mom. Praying for you as you go through this difficult time. You have such a positive outlook on it, but I know it has to be difficult to face.ReplyCancel

  • The Schilling's from Cimarron - I have been thinking of you!!!!! woke up this morning thinking of sweet baby CORA! thank you for sharing your thoughts and pictures of her…. still praying daily for you!!!! give LEVI and Joel a big hug!

    Miss you!


  • Anonymous - Praying…ReplyCancel

  • Marla Taviano - Happy, happy 3rd birthday, Cora!! You share a birthday with my friend Angie’s son, Joshua, who was just a few weeks old when he went to heaven. He would’ve been 9 today. And my friend Amy’s daughter Abigail would’ve been 2 tomorrow. Praying for all your mommies and daddies this weekend. I’ll bet you and Josh and Abigail are having an AMAZING time with Jesus!!ReplyCancel

  • Mommy to Two - Praying for you guys! My heart goes out to you. Stay strong in the Lord. You WILL be seeing your daughter again one day.ReplyCancel

  • Nicole - Your words to and about your daughter are beautiful. They honor her and the Lord who created her. Happy birthday Cora!ReplyCancel

  • tami - My heart swells as I read this post! My heart hurts as I read this post as well. Please know that I am yet another person Cora’s life has touched! My heart is humbled by your continued faith!ReplyCancel

  • k and c's mom - What a beautiful picture of your “mother’s” heart, Jess. Blessings on you and the family today.ReplyCancel

  • This is the day! - Praying for you! I share a birthday with your sweet Cora and I was thinking of her today. What a sweet life, Cora has touched so many lives.ReplyCancel

  • Scribe - Happy BIRTHday sweet Cora…

    Praying for you all a special day… in remembrance of your sweetest strawberry… she was a stunning little bundle! What a blessing and miracle that God chose you to be her Mama! He captures your tears… praying you for you mamy smiles today in rememberance of the one who made you a mommy!

    Take Heart!ReplyCancel

  • Mikaela - I was/am blessed by your sweet Cora Paige (and you)! I can seriously say, there isn’t a day I don’t hold my own kids a little closer and appreciate even the tough moments because of Cora Paige. Her short life had a big impact. God is good! Happy birthday Cora Paige!ReplyCancel

  • Tara - Happy birthday sweet Cora…I hope you had the BEST birthday party today!ReplyCancel

  • All Doll(ed) Up - Happy Birthday Sweet Cora- happy “giving birthday” to you, Jess. We love and pray for you guys often!ReplyCancel

  • Dawn Eshnaur - Oh Jess! I will be praying for you today! I pray your day will be full of sweet memories of your beautiful daughter. Thank you for being such an inspiration and reminding all of us how precious life truly is.ReplyCancel

  • Donna H - I started following your blog a few weeks before Cora got sick. I don’t even remember how I came across it. My youngest is 15 and I have 4 grandchildren, I don’t do crafts or farming, and I live in Michigan, not the mid-west. The only thing we have in common is I’m a mother too. I was as taken by surprise as anyone would have been when God took Cora home. I have cried many tears as your heart broke. I can’t believe this much time has passed either. Today I cry again. Thank you for sharing your heart and your faith.ReplyCancel

  • Natalie - What a beautiful post. I admire your strength. Thinking of you and your family.ReplyCancel

  • TimandCeri - Happy Birthday Miss Cora Paige. She was loved. Jess you never failing faith is so inspirational. Happy Mothers day to you, as I feel that mothers day is really the day you first became a mom. Holding your family in my heart and prayers. Your words give me perspective every time I stop by. Thank you for sharing your life with all of us.ReplyCancel

  • Teresa_Rae - I have been following your story since Cora went to be with the Lord.

    I cannot fathom how much pain you have experienced.

    I am bawling as I type after reading your words.

    My sweet daughter turned a year old on March 3rd. She, like Cora, came early, unexpectedly, 15 days before she was due. My water breaking was the first sign as well.

    God bless you and your family.ReplyCancel

  • Marie - That was such a beautiful post. I think Cora would be so proud of her mom’s beautiful writing. My heart ached for you as I read, wishing you hadn’t had to go through losing her, wishing she could be there with you to enjoy her little brother, but the way you hold on to the hope we have in Christ is just so very inspiring.ReplyCancel

  • The Mershawn's - Happy day to a precious girl. Praying you both feel comfort & love over these next few days. Praying for a glimpse of that girl in some special way.

    Thanks for the reminders to love our precious one’s good. We just don’t know His plan. It’s a good place to be, but so hard in so many ways. I do know one thing. He loves so good & your sweet, sweet girl is right in His arms waiting for you. Until then, keep holding tight! You’re doing it so well. And squeeze that Levi as much as you can!! My heart just aches for you all…ReplyCancel

  • Georgie - My heart aches for you as a fellow mama of an almost 3 yr old.

    Celebrate the day you welcomed your dear daughter so warmly into your arms.ReplyCancel

  • Jamie - This comment has been removed by the author.ReplyCancel

  • teresa - Prayers continue for you. Thankful that Cora made you a mama. Grateful God knows all of our days and we are in His grip. Thanks for sharing your joy and your sorrow …. and God’s faithfulness thru it all.ReplyCancel

  • kp in boston - hugs to you.ReplyCancel

  • Miss G - My heart screams out that this just isn’t right and the tears flow. Why oh why do these hard, hard things have to happen? I am so thankful for a God to whom days don’t come as surprises and to know that He does hold all of us in the palms of His hands when things do not make sense and when they do. Praise the Lord, the Maker of Heaven and Earth.

    I am sorry you are not planning a birthday party but I hope that March 5th was a good day. KellyReplyCancel

  • Anonymous - Cora Paige. What a beautiful, beautiful girl. We celebrate Cora’s life with you dear Jess. What a sweet privilege to be called her mama. Much love – Carrie M.ReplyCancel

  • Alli Unruh - Your life and perspective continues to challenge and encourage me. Thank you for sharing. Thinking of you and praying for you.ReplyCancel

  • Holly - ♥Cora♥ReplyCancel

  • Country Roads - A beautifully written post. You are an amazing woman and mother. Your faith gives us all a wonderful example.

    Cora must surely be smiling down upon her earthly family as Jesus embraces her in his arms.ReplyCancel

  • Lori - Thank you for this post. I am bookmarking it and will re-read it on 7.3.11, the due date for our baby that is in heaven. I’ve thought a lot about what that day will be like, and I’m inspired by your faith and desire to honor God by being thankful for your blessings.ReplyCancel

  • The Shepherd Family - Praying for you on this day, and each and everyday that you are apart from Cora. I remember the day I became a mommma, oh the joy! I cried reading this as your strength is without words. I know exactly where that strength comes from and I am faithful in that.ReplyCancel

  • Emily - you have such a beautiful way with words and i admire your strength and ability to look towards god during these tough moments in life. praying for you!ReplyCancel