It was November 27, 2002 and the clock had just turned past midnight. After a rigorous 24 hours of labor and nearly missing an emergency C-section, early this Wednesday morning my beautiful daughter Lydia Marie was born, weighing 8 lbs 2 oz. and covered in a full head of dark hair. Heavily medicated and exhausted, I couldn’t believe what had just happened. I had a baby. A daughter. I couldn’t believe it. I was a mother. My heart was bursting with a gigantic love, one I had only ever read about. She would be named after my great-great grandmother, Lydia. Parents, family, and friends sat anxiously in the waiting room for hours, fighting sleepiness, unwilling to leave until they were able to meet our precious baby girl. She had a wonderful entrance into this amazing world; loved, adored, and cherished by so many. Little did I know, she would be the one to teach me the most valuable of life’s lessons, and only be here a short while.
The day after her birth was Thanksgiving Day, and with a little coaxing the doctor, we were able to bring her home for the first time. My dad drove my car, fighting a blanket of thick fog, as Lydia and I snuggled in the back seat. As I carried my beautiful girl to the front door, I realized this was no longer my home, but now ours. It was full of love as we were welcomed by our family- grandmas and grandpas, aunts and uncles, all eagerly awaiting our arrival. Well, probably her arrival! The amazing aromas of a delicious Thanksgiving dinner immediately overwhelmed me, and I was overtaken with the comfort and blessing of bringing my Lydia home. Lydia was a tiny bundle of heartwarming love. We passed her around like a little hot potato, each gawking at the awesomeness of new life.
Everyone looked at her with adoration, making me fight for time just to hold her that first weekend of her new life. She was so loved that no one wanted to give her up. The first grandchild on my side of the family, spoiling her rotten was the only way, according to my mother.
When I looked in the mirror for the first time with my new title as “mom,” it revealed a transformed young woman, three years out of college, in the beginning of a career, learning how to navigate this big world. In the midst of finding my way, this new life was suddenly handed to me. I was unprepared, and unable to comprehend the immense gift I had just been given. Lydia opened my heart to a new life, a new world I had never before imagined. What a fabulous day it was. The best day of my life.
In 2008, Thanksgiving came rushing in, four months after she had passed away. I must say, the last thing I felt like doing was gathering with a house full of people and I quickly grew to despise the word “happy,” and anyone who used it. My heart was devastated and showed me excruciating pain I never knew possible. For years, yes many years, I dreaded this day as I lived in a blanket of sadness and deep sorrow and looked with contempt towards others who were celebrating with delight.
As the days and years progressed, slowly, and I mean slowly, I began to evolve, hatching from my cocoon inviting sparks of hope into my life and soon, they out shadowed the darkness. I found myself smiling more, and counted the days in between the tears. Progress was being made. My faith was growing and glimmers of hope were blooming inside me. I began to forego the judgmental self of previous days, learning to appreciate the struggles of others, understanding full well that each one of us is fighting a silent inner battle.
As our family gathers today, my heart reminds me that I would give anything to have all my children sitting around the table. She is missed. And although she is not physically with us, she is with us in spirit. We talked, we laughed, and we remembered her. This year marks the 12th Thanksgiving without my girl. Hard to believe it’s been that long. In disbelief, I’m shedding tears as I write this. Time passes so quickly. Yet, I’m reminded that I am immensely blessed in life and grateful for His promise that I will see her again someday.
Thanksgiving will always be a challenging time for me as I am flooded with years of memories of the precious time I had with my blonde haired blued eyed daughter, in which we celebrated her birthday as well. Five years, eight months, and 16 days, she was mine and I was hers. And nothing will ever change that.
So, for all of you missing your loved ones. I’m with you. Holidays can be so hard. Do the best you can do, and be true to yourself. Remember to breathe. Find something to be thankful for each and every day. Serve others with love. Life is so much better viewed through eyes of gratitude. One day at a time. We can do this.