Today is the birthday of our middle daughter, Coco Madalena. She was born in 2005 with a congenital heart problem, was born a month early, had heart surgery a couple days after birth, and died of meningitis a month later. She would have been three years old today.
We have been unbelievably blessed with two other daughters who bring tremendous joy into our lives. Losing a child was one of the most difficult experiences in my life, but I have to say that God worked joy into our lives during that time. It is strange to suffer and find joy in the midst of suffering, but here we are again, in a way, with Maricel bedridden with a broken pelvis and an outpouring of love and help from friends and family.
Suffering is a kind of Holy Ground. It is where God reaches in to one’s life in a big way. God is always there, always present, always creating, but suffering can make his presence powerful. I think of Moses before the burning bush when the voice told him to take off his sandals for he was standing on holy ground. Moses was about to enter the next phase of his life, a life of great burdens and suffering, but also great joy. I don’t know what Moses felt at that moment, and I certainly do not put myself in the same category as him, but he must have felt a mixture of elation and dread. There is no more significant place to be this side of God’s kingdom than standing on holy ground, and no more difficult and terrifying place to be. Burning bushes are rare these days, but suffering is not.
At Coco’s wake, in January of 2006, I read the following words:
Last June, when Maricel and I found out that we were pregnant, we were so overjoyed. I could not have known that seven months later, on a rainy Thursday evening, I would be holding my beautiful daughter in my arms when she died.
There is no doubt this whole process has been very emotional and difficult for us. I have never cried so many tears. And yet, we have also found great joy and much for which to be thankful.
We are amazed at the concern that so many people have shown toward us. In so many ways people have come along side and helped us, whether through prayer, letters and emails of encouragement, meals, places to stay, taking care of our needs, and just being there when we needed moral support. I cannot begin to thank you all for your love and care.
We are also so thankful for the doctors and nurses at OHSU & Doernbecher. Not only are they great at doing what they do everyday, they showed real care and concern for us, for what we were going through. And they truly cared for Coco, not merely as another patient, but as the treasured, beautiful person that she was. That was a great gift to us. Thank you.
I also want to say thank you to our daughter Lily. The first time she saw Coco her whole body reacted with joy. She was so excited to be a big sister. This process has been difficult for her, but she has really done well; she asked a lot of great questions, was remarkably understanding with her parents, and is very excited to see Coco again someday.
I have to say that in all this, the person I am most amazed with is my wife. Maricel has gone through more than I ever imagined and in all of it she has been so gracious, so kind to others, so thoughtful to me and Lily, and so tough. There was not a single day that she was not at the hospital with Coco, often for most of the day. She gave all she had, physically and emotionally, to her baby, and still found time to be a loving mother, wife, and friend. Thank you.
We entered into this whole process as excited parents with great hopes and many conversations about the future. We also came with a perspective about God’s love and sovereignty that carried us through all of it, the best and the worst. At those times when life seemed most bleak I found myself constantly turning to the suffering of our lord and hero Jesus Christ.
I put on my computer’s screensaver the verse: “For to this you have been called, because Christ also suffered for you, leaving you an example, that you should follow in his steps.” It reminds me that when Jesus came to this earth he did not take away our suffering in this life, but entered into it fully, and gave us the perspective we should take when we experience suffering ourselves. He gave meaning to suffering. I can see that more clearly now.
Suffering in one form or another seems to be the lot of all of us, and yet we have a deep solidarity with Jesus in our suffering. I see this is a great gift, and although we would not wish what we have gone through on anyone, we know that Coco has had a profoundly lasting impact on our lives for the better. We certainly do not have all the answers we would like, but we do know that God loves us and is the author of Coco‘s story. In this we have found joy amidst our tears.
I am thankful that we still have hope, that we still have faith, and that we know that God is good even though the story He is writing with our lives is sometimes difficult to bear.
You honor us all so much for coming and sharing this with us. Thank you.
Happy Birthday Coco Madalena Teague!
3 thoughts on “>Holy Ground”
>Thanks for sharing, Tucker. When I learn these thoughts and feelings are there (in both friends and strangers), it reminds me that we’re not alone, though we may at times be lonely.Happy birthday, Coco. I’m sorry we never met. I look forward to when we do.
>What you say of suffering resonates and is wise. Thank you. And to Coco I say Happy Birthday, and thank you. Though your life on earth was short the wisdom you encouraged is far reaching and in that sense your presence is always with us.Loves to you my friend.
>Beautiful. Happy Birthday, Coco.