This week I was emailing a mom who just had the first anniversary of her daughter's death. In my email, I told her that those of us who have lost children are part of a fraternity that we would never have chosen to join. Instead, we were chosen.
I began to think of this later. I thought of all of the amazing, remarkable, strong and resilient women I have met on this journey. Women just like me who had to do the unthinkable - say goodbye to their children.
And I wondered, where would my life be if we had never lost Melissa?
It's a question filled with a host of emotions. I would have three children on this Earth, not just two. I would have twins daughters growing up together, sharing that bond that only twins can understand. I wouldn't carry this hole in my heart that sometimes threatens to weigh me down. Birthdays wouldn't be hard. Mother's Day wouldn't be hard. The first day of school wouldn't be hard. My kids wouldn't know about death and loss at such a young age. Chris wouldn't know what it means to sign your daughter's death certificate on your wedding anniversary. I wouldn't know what it means to hold your daughter as she takes the last breath she'll ever breathe.
But there's another side to this. There are so many people in my life that I have met as a direct result of my daughter's death. We have shared together, cried together. We've shared advice on how we got through that agonizing tragedy. We've shared our faith and our fears. Some I know personally, some I've only met on the telephone and through email. They have become trusted friends. They have shaped part of who I am today. Where would I be if I didn't know them?
Where would my faith be? I can honestly say it probably wouldn't be as strong as it is today if Melissa hadn't died. After all, it's when everything you have ever believed in and relied on is stripped away and faith is ALL YOU HAVE that you really learn what it means to rely on God and to truly believe in Him.
What would I be passionate about? When I worked at Channel 19, I served on many boards and volunteered my time to many worthy causes. But I wasn't passionate about them like I am about our NICU, premature infants and their families, and families who have lost children.
Now, time for me to be really honest. As amazing as all of things have been - those things that were a direct result of Melissa's death - I would still rather have her here with me. And I think any mother who has lost a child would say that.
However, five years later, I can claim Genesis 50:20 without any reservations - "You intended to harm me, but God intended it for good to accomplish what is now being done...".
I can't change what happened to Melissa. But I can embrace what came out of it. The amazing people I've met, the strengthening of my faith and the purpose that God has given our family.
And not only can I embrace it, I can be thankful for it. I can be grateful that this journey, riddled with pain and tears and sadness, is also full of beauty and redemption and love.
No, those of us who have lost children can't go back and change the course of that terrible day we said goodbye. But we can keep moving forward, thanking God for the many blesses we've encountered as a result of what was intended to harm us.
And we can lean on each other, rely on each other, pray for each other, cry with each other and laugh with each other.
There's a reason we met on this journey. And I am grateful for every one of you.