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When a Child Dies #11 . . . from Diane

2012 February 21
by Diane

I am Megan’s mom.

I had that title for 10 years. I know I am still Megan’s mom, but many people don’t know me anymore as Megan’s mom. They know me as Mike’s wife, Chris’s mom, Matt’s mom, Mrs. Cope (their teacher), Mimi… It seems like a lifetime ago, but I am still Megan’s mom.

Those 10 years were some of the most exhausting, formative years of my life. Megan had many challenges in her short lifetime. She had bone anomalies and mental challenges which caused her to develop slower physically and mentally. But she was a happy, fun-loving ball of fire! She never stopped. She was the energizer bunny! She didn’t sleep, which means we didn’t sleep. We were exhausted!

Megan taught me to live for each day. I learned that lesson from the very beginning. I could only think of how to survive that day. I couldn’t worry about the next day. Without realizing it, she was already preparing me for the journey I would have to live out without her. You see, walking through grief is a one day at a time journey.

I experienced grief at so many different levels with her. I grieved early on for the “normal” daughter I would never have. And, yet, I couldn’t picture Megan any other way. I loved her for her.

Because she was so all-consuming, when she left us, my life took on a dramatic change. My life consisted of taking care of her 24-7. I had three sheets with single spaced instructions on how to take care of Megan posted inside our kitchen cabinets. I was so afraid something would happen to me and no one would know how to take care of her. She had several medicines, a feeding tube (the last couple years of her life), percussion treatments, asthma treatments, etc. (I realize Mike could have taken care of her alone, but I was the one who usually took care of most of her medical needs.) So, when she was gone, it was so very different.

I spent hours just sitting. Chris was two years old at the time. I plopped him down in front of videos and sat. I’m not proud of that. But I couldn’t breathe. I couldn’t think. At night, I would cry for hours in the closet. I tried desperately to hold it together until Chris and Matt were asleep in their beds and then I would cry. I felt as though my arm had been cut off. I felt as though I was in a dark, black hole. There was no light. I didn’t realize how much despair I felt until I was listening to the news one morning and heard about the Oklahoma bombing that killed so many people. I remember thinking I wished I had been in that building. And then I remember thinking that I couldn’t believe I thought that. Of course, I didn’t want to leave Mike or our children. But, at that moment, I realized how heavy my grief was and it surprised me.

Not long after that, Mike was asked to help lead a spiritual retreat in Switzerland. I did not want to go. I know that is hard to believe. Who wouldn’t want to go to Switzerland! All I wanted to do was stay cocooned in my house away from everyone and everything. But I went. This trip became a healing balm for me. I know you are thinking this came from all that time in scripture and prayer. Although I’m sure that helped, it was more a near-death experience for me. At least, in my memory it was near-death; Mike might tell it a little differently.

While we were in Switzerland, Mike and Darryl Tippens led us through a morning of scripture and meditation. Then they would send us off in the afternoons for contemplation, fun, rest, whatever we needed to help be renewed. We would set off for hikes every afternoon with several from the group.

One particular day, we reached a part of the path that was full of snow. In fact, there was no path anymore and there was a sign with red tape on it. Now, I was with a group of very smart people. But I soon realized none of them had any common sense, except for me. I insisted that the red tape crisscrossed on the sign was a universal message that meant stop. My adventurous group didn’t want to believe the sign. My choice was to turn back and walk back on the trail by myself or go on with the group. I did not want to be by myself, so I trudged forward. We walked on guessing the direction we should go. We were finally close to the top of the mountain and realized we would have to climb up the side of the mountain to get to the top. I was to go first. I placed my hands in the snow and my feet. Then I froze. I couldn’t move. I was so afraid I was going to fall to my death. And then I prayed, “Please God, don’t let me die on this mountain.” That was a moment of epiphany for me. At that moment, I knew I really did want to live. I did make it to the top of that mountain at which time I sat down and cried like a baby. I cried because I was alive and knew that my life was going to go on, even without Megan.

My grief journey began in a very dark hole with no light. Little by little tiny specks of light broke through the darkness. Those were the moments that I knew I might be ok someday. My moment on top of the Switzerland mountain was a tiny bit of light breaking through for me. Later, I began to feel as though I had parts of days with actual light. Now, I walk in the light for the most part. As I’ve read all the comments on Mike’s blog the past couple weeks and as we get to walk through grief with friends, I find myself revisiting the darkness. But it is never as dark as it was for me those first few years. I walk in the light, enjoy my family, and long for the day I will be with my sweet Megan again.

29 Responses leave one →
  1. Cindy & Larry permalink
    February 21, 2012

    Diane,
    Thank you for sharing your experience. Your pain so correctly describes the black hole of grief and the tiny steps toward a new normal. You and Mike will always be so special to us for many reasons. Megan is one of them and your journey with her that ended differently than our’s has. Blessings and much love,
    Cindy & Larry

  2. Cheryl permalink
    February 21, 2012

    Diane (& Mike) – thanks so very much for sharing your journey! I know, as a mother, it had to be the most devastating experience ever!
    I don’t feel like I knew what life was at all, until God blessed me with my children. And now – I can’t imagine losing any one of them. Your struggles, journey, and courage have helped others to be able to cope through the years, and I want to thank you again for sharing!

  3. annie permalink
    February 21, 2012

    Diane, Your words in this post are just the sweetest, & have meant the most because you’re a mom. I only remember brief encounters with Megan, but every time, I would look at you & wonder how you did it. Then, I would look at my boys, & realize I’d do anything for them, & sort of get it. Thus far, I haven’t had to go through what you did & have, but I do pray I would have the strength, grace & love you have shown about yourself & to others, to go on. Thanks too, for sharing Mike with SO many people across the land, so that we can learn what really matters in this life journey. Love you both!

  4. February 21, 2012

    Diane – I’ve never heard this part of your story. Thank you so much for sharing it. Reading it made me miss you all over again. I love you friend.

  5. julie permalink
    February 21, 2012

    My sweet friend, I think that you know that I love you but just had to say it here after reading these words. These are words of hope and encouragement. So wish that I had known Megan but I really feel like I do and I think I will know her immediately in heaven. Can’t wait to know her because she is so a part of you.

  6. Zach Sheets permalink
    February 21, 2012

    Very well written Diane. I appreciate your courage in sharing. Particularly meaningful to me was your description of specks of light coming back into your life. Again, thanks for sharing.

  7. Betty Ulrey permalink
    February 21, 2012

    Diane, Your story is so touching and inspirational. Only God could have helped you out of that black hole. Now you are helping others and giving the glory to God. We love you and Mike. Betty (and Evan) Ulrey.

  8. February 21, 2012

    Thank you for sharing this journey; I hope it helps us all understand how much grief is a journey and not a one time event.

    I also appreciated hearing you say at the beginning how you are still Megan’s mom. After our son, Kenny, died, I had someone actually tell me that this was God’s way of saying he wasn’t ready for me to be a father. In a bit of anger, I told the person that if this was the case then God had failed because I would ALWAYS be a Kenny’s father.

    Thank you for your faith!

    – K. Rex Butts

  9. Kay Meredith permalink
    February 21, 2012

    Diane, thank you for sharing your inter most thoughts and feelings and being so open and honest. we love you and Mike. Floyd and Kay

  10. February 21, 2012

    Thanks sharing your experiences with us, Diane! They were close to what I felt losing my mother, who had become my child. Although I loved both of my parents, I don’t think I’d ever experienced such bone-deep grief as I did in losing my mother (who called me “Mommy”).

    BTW, we at the Hills miss Jonathan Storment.

  11. February 21, 2012

    Thank you for finally letting blog world meet the minister behind the minister!!!
    I count myself lucky for having sit a your feet during some my most formative years, well figuratively anyway. Your feet were always moving too fast for anyone to “sit at them” when I was around! Still love your daughter and you and so thankful the role your family played in my life!

    Mike this series has been amazing, even for those of us blessed enough not to need it directly. Thank you!

  12. February 21, 2012

    SG – You were the minister behind the minister behind the minister. You were a place of calm and sanity when it seemed like everything was falling apart. We’ll never forget.

  13. Marsha Ridgell permalink
    February 21, 2012

    Diane and Mike—even though I have retired from teaching I consider it a real blessing to have had Megan in my computer lab at Thomas! Megan was full of life as you said and ALWAYS cheered me up! I’m so glad she was a part of my life as well as Matt and Chris! Hugs to you both for sharing your hearts!

  14. February 21, 2012

    Thank you, Megan’s mom.

    Thank you so much for sharing. More than you know, thank you.

    I’ve talked to Megan’s dad – a tiny bit in person and a lot online – and I’ve often wondered about how Megan’s mom talks about her pain, too. But it’s not the sort of thing anyone every knows how to ask. If people aren’t ready to talk, it feels like something scary. But if someone is there with a story and no one asks, it feels like no one cares.

    I care. I didn’t know how to ask. But thank you for writing this.

    One day, I will get to talk to Megan and tell her everything her life, her parents, her brothers, her memory and the community it inspired did for my life. And I will probably have to wait in a very long line to do it.

    Thank you, Megan’s mom.

  15. February 21, 2012

    SG – I don’t know you, but it’s obvious how much you mean to their family, how much you meant to Megan.

    If you have time — and can/will — I would love to hear more of your stories, too. Here or your own blog or via email. I hope some day to meet you, too; I’ve only seen you through a set of initials on a blog about people and things we both care about (except guacamole — you can all have all of that; I’m not a part of that fan club) — but I’d be honoured to hear more about/from you as well. In your time and as you can and where you like.

  16. Kay Tucker permalink
    February 21, 2012

    Diane, thank you for sharing this.

  17. February 21, 2012

    Thank you, sweet friend.

  18. karen permalink
    February 21, 2012

    these words you have written are so honest. thank you for helping all of us, whether we are on the journey, or walking beside someone who is. blessings and thanks to you and mike.

  19. Sandi (Wright) Haustein permalink
    February 21, 2012

    Diane, thank you so much for sharing your beautiful words and heart. Megan was blessed to have both of you as parents, and you so selfishly poured yourselves into her. I have vivid memories of her in your home as we practiced “Love Potion #9” for our special dinner for our parents. I think I even have a picture — if I come across it, I will send it. I know that pictures we find of my sister that we’ve never seen before are all the more special because we’ve memorized all the others.

  20. Sandi (Wright) Haustein permalink
    February 21, 2012

    ha ha — that should have said selfLESSly, not selfishly. Sorry about that!

  21. Diane permalink
    February 21, 2012

    Thank all of you for your sweet comments. It means so much to have your support. Many of you are such good friends. Some of you walked with me during the Megan days and some of you walk with me now. I couldn’t have made it without you. For those of you I don’t know, thank you also.

    To Keven’s dad, hang in there. Some people just don’t realize how their comments hurt and don’t help.

    To Quiara, I don’t blame you for wanting to talk with SG. She is an amazing woman and very dear to me.

    To Sandy, I love the memory of you and the others dancing in my house with Love Potion #9…such good memories.

    Julie, Candy, SG, E ….love you!!!

    To my other dear friends, thank you for your comments. It helps to hear from you.

  22. freda permalink
    February 21, 2012

    Diane, I remember my Aaron and Megan sitting in cradle roll when they were tiny. We were facing some of our own traumas with a child we found had difficulties. We were not close, but I watched how you tried to stay even keeled amid the stress. (I have a comment here, but don’t want to share with others -too personal.) Just know, all those years ago when our babies were small – you helped me get through my own small visit in the darkness.

  23. Sylvia permalink
    February 21, 2012

    Diane,

    You’re such a great writer and it is so sweet to hear your side of the story. Reading this makes me miss you!

    Love, Sylvia

  24. Nelda Sims permalink
    February 21, 2012

    Diane–I am sorry for the times I saw you and did not recognize what you were going through. I am so glad you can embrace life again.

  25. Jeanne (Kyser) Meyers permalink
    February 22, 2012

    Diane, I wish I could have known your precious Megan. She’s beautiful. Thanks to both of you for sharing your story. Love from an old high school and church friend.

  26. February 23, 2012

    Quiara ~ I remember you from former blog world days! 🙂 My blog (skegreport.blogspot.com) is still there but I have not updated in many months. The ease of Facebook and the challenge of keeping up with three active kids has all but killed my blog life. However, if you do a search for Megan on my blog you will find some posts of my favorite memories of her. I worked with the Copes off and on for 4 or 5 years and dropped in on them as an unexpected house guest more times than I should. They were always so gracious. When you are given the blessing of watching up close and personal as real Christ followers rise out of what they call the darkest days of their lives, it changes you. I am very blessed to have known them. And Megan, well, she is unforgettable! 🙂

  27. Caarolyn Dycus permalink
    February 24, 2012

    Diane, coming in late as usual with my sporadic attempts to blog-read. Your words again make me realize how long we stay in darkness before those sparks of light begin to break through. And, how long I walked in my own grief not reaching out to you, especially through those early years. We both had good faces, I am sure, for public notice. Praise GOD for His light, his faithfulness to never leave our sides! I remember Glen Owen, years ago, saying, “Fake it ’til you make it,” and sure enough, my inside is now matching my outside, genuine joy looking down from hard-won heights.

  28. March 20, 2012

    Dear Diane, Our precious daughter died at 30. She was born with trisomy 18. She lived without uttering words, feeding herself, sitting up without assistance, walking. But, God gave her this amazing smile that lit up my world/life/day/memory like rainbows after a sweet rain. Her Daddy and I placed her in a group home when she was 2. So small, so difficult a time. Just remembering this brings tears and an ache in my heart. I visited her often and brought her home only occasionally. Goes without saying it was difficult to have her with us because we wanted so much more for her. God, in His great love and wisdom, taught us so much with her life. He is still teaching us. We have an older daughter who became a special ed teacher because of her little sister. I find myself praying that I won’t stop learning from my daughters life of 30 years as an angel in our presence. I don’t want the pain and difficulty of those years to go wasted cause it is so easy to just fall back into my selfish and selfcenteredness. I do know life is all about God and not me, more now than ever. I am thankful to know that when Michele left this earth she went directly into the arms of our Lord Jesus Christ. Thanks for listening. Love and hugs, vs

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