Five years ago today, at around this time, Greg and I were sitting in a room with a bunch of doctors, listening to them explain to us that our baby girl’s brain activity was nearly non-existent and she would never survive if she were removed from life support.
I remember thinking that it was a pretty fucked up world to have a healthy baby progress to a brain dead baby within a span of 24 hours.
I remember sitting there on the loveseat in the family room, holding Greg’s hand and staring at the doctors in numb disbelief, trying to process what they were telling us, but also knowing on some level that I knew the outcome of our daughter’s life the moment they first told us that she had become sick.
“So, what you’re saying, is that our baby is brain dead and you want us to make the choice to remove her from life support?”
I remember asking that question three times before one of the doctors finally looked me in the eye and told me that, yes, that is exactly what they were asking us to do -unplug our daughter from life support and end her already too short life.
I remember them leaving the room to give us time to discuss things and Greg and I both taking all of five seconds to make our decision and end our daughter’s life without any hesitation. Neither of us was willing to let her suffer one-second longer.
I remember returning to Cora’s room to begin the process of not only ending her life, but also holding her for the first time since she was born.
It should be a blur, but I remember every detail down to the sound of the tape ripping as the nurse, Susan, taped Cora’s lifelines to Greg’s shirt so he could hold her while she was still somewhat alive.
And then it was my turn and, when they started to prepare to transfer all of her lines over to my side of the room so I could hold her, I refused. I thought that if I was going to hold my daughter, I was going to hold her while she left the world peacefully, with the woman who brought her into it- without a bazillion tubes coming out of her and machines beeping in the background. They kept everything on and running until the last moment and then they placed her in my arms and, one by one, turned off all of her life-giving machines. Greg sat across from me, with his hand on my leg and holding Cora’s tiny feet and I stared down at our child as silence filled the room at last and she began to grow cold in my arms.
I didn’t cry. I didn’t shift in my chair. I barely breathed as I felt her leave us, but I knew that later there would be enough tears to fill up years of our lives over the loss of this beautiful child that we had waited six years to meet. I remember watching the pink drain from her skin to be replaced by a faded yellow and I held onto her hands, willing them to warm up, even though I knew they never would again.
As Greg sobbed beside me, still holding her feet, I stared at my daughter’s beautiful lips and felt myself fall down the rabbit hole of grief, so deep and so dark, I wondered if I would ever be able to see any light ever again.
I remember lying in my hospital bed a few hours later, Greg’s arms wrapped tightly around me, and the tears finally coming uncontrolled and unstoppable as we sobbed in each other’s arms for all that we had just lost-both past and future.
I remember driving home from BC Children’s Hospital later that evening, in a daze of exhaustion, disbelief, and mind-blowing sadness, barely talking to each other and just crying a never-ending river of tears, asking each other how we would ever survive this.
I remember everything as though it happened yesterday and all I need do is close my eyes to see the movie of the memory playing in my mind.
However, instead of that unbreakable sadness that always used to haunt me on the anniversary of her death, I now feel wonder at how I can relive those moments and not feel the darkness anymore. I marvel at how I can look back at the most tragic and life-changing moment in my life and feel strength and light and pride in how far we have come and how much we have learned and grown from our child’s death.
I am grateful that she has taught us how to take life as it comes – good or bad – and forgive ourselves when we fuck things up. I’m grateful that her death reminds us everyday that we are human and that we make mistakes and have to continue to forgive ourselves and keep learning, rather than beat ourselves up. I’m grateful for all the love she has spread, the new friends I have met through her loss, the strength she continues to help me find inside myself, and the lifelong connection that Greg and I will always have, regardless of where our relationship takes us.
I am grateful that her death puts everything else into perspective for me and makes me realize that nothing that happens in life will ever be as awful or as difficult to get through as losing a miracle baby.
Mostly though, I am grateful for her constant connection to me through her signs, her whispers, her visits in my dreams and the messages she delivers in my quietest moments. She’s always here, always helping, always loving, always lifting me up and always keeping my awareness of my soul in tune with the other side.