Ever since Caroline's diagnosis, I have struggled with what my role is as a Dad. Because she was in the womb, I could not hold her. And I could not do anything to fix her. I felt helpless and lacked purpose. It became even more painful because she is our first child. I do not have any other children (yet!) that I can hold tighter or love harder. (This just means that our next kid is in trouble already!! They won't know what hit 'em, because we are going to love them beyond all understanding!)
I had no problem knowing what to do as a husband. And I feel very prepared for being a Dad to a child that lives here on earth. However, I have this huge void in my heart that cannot be filled by being Caroline's daddy here on earth. How do I process these emotions? What do I do? Hmmm...
While Caroline was with us, Emily carried Caroline for 7 months. For the last two months, I had to fight myself to get out of bed in the mornings and leave Emily and Caroline so that I could go to work. Leaving Emily and Caroline was so hard for me. Each day, I thought, "maybe I could just stay home today! And just not go to work." This went on for about 2 months. But even though I went to work, I was late almost every day for those two months!!
While I was at work, Emily had the privilege of spending that Mommy-daughter time with Caroline. I thought this was would actually make it harder for Emily. However, through God's grace, Emily embraced this time with Caroline and made special memories with her. We kept praying for a healing miracle, but we also knew God's plan was perfect and He may not give us THAT miracle, but give us another miracle. Feeling her kick (which was awesome by the way!), feeling her stretch, talking to her, playing music to her, reading with her...just a few of the things Emily was able to enjoy with our little angel. I had the joy of doing a few of these things too, but I just wasn't connected to Caroline the way a mother is during pregnancy. Some days, I just felt left out.
It was very painful for me, thinking that I would not get a chance to carry her while she was alive (unless we received a miracle and she WAS born alive). Well, I never got to hold her alive. And I never got to provide for her like Daddy's do for their children. But that's okay. Because I can provide for her now.
In the next few days, I have the privilege of calling multiple pastors and multiple funeral homes and arranging plans to celebrate her life. Some may think this is a huge burden. I know. That is how I felt at first. But when I got to really thinking about it, I realized that this is my role as her Daddy. I was not able to carry her alive, but I can honor her by providing the proper arrangements so that her life is celebrated in a beautiful ceremony (or two!).
So, the arrangements will be as follows:
-One service in Maryland
-One service in Texas
-One reception in South Carolina
Being a military family, we have moved around quite a bit. Emily is from Texas. I am from South Carolina. We live in Maryland (for now). And this complicates things because we want to lay Caroline to rest in Texas. So, things have to happen between now and Texas in order to fully complete the closure process. First, we have to transfer Caroline from the hospital morgue to the local funeral home. We will have a memorial service for Caroline on December 29th, but her casket will not be at the service. We made this decision because this service is meant to honor her time here on earth and celebrate her eternal life with Jesus in Heaven. We feel that if we have the casket at the service, the focal point will be her earthly remains. And the reality is that, though her body is still in the casket, she is not here anymore. She is in Heaven. Her body is just a shell that her soul lived in while she was in the womb. As for the service in Texas, her casket will be there, but this is for obvious reasons. It will be our intention to still focus on celebrating her eternal life. We will also visit with our friends and Emily's family for quality time and closure. Then the reception in South Carolina will also be to visit my family for quality time and closure for all.
I embrace all of these things, despite how emotionally charged they may be, as my role as Caroline's Daddy. She is my little girl and I will do whatever I can to protect her and lay her peacefully to rest.
I love you, Caroline! Please tell Jesus we love Him and we will all see Him soon!! You are so precious to us.
"I thank my God every time I remember you." -Philippians 1:3