March 5, 2016. Cora would have been eight. I can hardly even imagine eight.
How do you celebrate the birthday of a loved one who isn’t here anymore? We struggle with this question every year as Cora’s birthday approaches. Thankfully the day is no longer accompanied by the gut wrenching pain that left us feeling paralyzed, but eight years later and we still often find ourselves stumbling around, not knowing what to do. Do we celebrate? Reminisce? Look through old photos? Cancel everything that day? Fund raise for a good cause? Do random acts of kindness? Eat cupcakes and cry? The last one always seems like a good option.
March 5, 2008 was one of the most memorable days of my life. I still remember the incredible nervousness we had as we called the hospital in the darkness of that early morning after suddenly being awoken by my water breaking. We couldn’t get to the hospital fast enough. I remember being greeted by my sweet nurse friend who happened to be working that night and checked us into our room. She was only there for about an hour but it was such a gift to see her face as I was preparing to be ushered into motherhood. In other words, I had no idea what I was doing and needed her to reassure me that everything was going to be okay. I remember finally hearing “girl” after two hours of pushing and not believing that I actually had a daughter. I thought boy for sure! I remember hearing my family recount the story of Joel going out into the waiting room to tell everyone that we had a daughter. They said he had tears in his eyes as he proudly introduced his girl, Cora Paige. He was so proud of her. I remember Cora’s dark hair and how absolutely perfect she was. I remember how many visitors we had and feeling so exhausted yet my heart was so full. I remember how well our family and friends loved us as they rejoiced over the miracle of sweet Baby Cora. I couldn’t believe that we actually got to take home that beautiful baby girl. She was the most precious gift and she was ours.
So as you can imagine, everything within us wants to celebrate that beautiful day. We long to celebrate Cora’s life. And we do so in the best way we know how. But the celebrating is mixed with the painful reality that the one we celebrate is no longer here. The life that was so precious to us, ended way too soon in death–at least that is what our limited perspective tells us. There is no one to blow out candles or open presents and well, the emotions of that day often feel very conflicted.
I have noticed a pattern over the past eight years of birthdays. Not the kind of pattern that leaves me prepared to face the day with a battle plan. The truth is I never really know what to expect because that is just how grief is…unexpected. But I have noticed something about myself. As March 5th approaches each year, I begin questioning if I am enough.
Am I doing enough to make this day perfect for Cora?
Am I doing enough to show people how much we still love and miss her?
Am I doing enough to celebrate how significant her little life was?
Am I doing enough to keep her memory alive? For my boys? For other people?
Am I doing enough to make an impact in the lives of others who are hurting?
As a mom, I naturally want to create a beautiful birthday for my daughter. And I think that is okay. Cora’s life…any life…is precious and worth celebrating. But no matter what I do, how I celebrate, or how big I plan, in my own strength it will never be enough. I don’t have to try to do enough for Cora because Jesus has already done enough for me–enough for both of us. Every year as I’m trying to seek satisfaction…and maybe even find comfort…in doing enough or being enough, I am reminded that the satisfaction I’m looking for is found only in Jesus.
He is enough.
He is enough to experience peace in my daughter’s absence.
He is enough to comfort my broken heart.
He is enough to bring joy in the midst of sorrow.
He is enough to complete the good plan He has for Cora’s life and for my life.
He is enough to graciously allow me to comfort others with the comfort I have received from Him.
Jesus is enough.
So we celebrate March 5th in the best way we know how. We eat donuts, send balloons up to heaven and spend time together. We talk about Cora, laugh, cry and usually go about our day pretty much like normal. One year we hosted a book drive to benefit Cora’s hospital and one year we went bowling as a family. Every year seems to be different. Every year I have to release myself from the expectation that I have to do enough and preach to myself that the satisfaction my heart seeks is found in Jesus alone.
This year as we were driving home with our van full of pink balloons, Levi looked at me and said, “You really miss her, don’t you mom.” I told him that I did really miss his sister and that it made me so sad that he and his brothers didn’t get to know her. He was quiet for a minute and then a huge grin came across his face as he exclaimed, “But we will get to know her in heaven!”.
Yes we will. What a precious gift to know that in Jesus life doesn’t end at the grave.
He is more than enough.