Saying Goodbye

I have been writing and re-writing this post in my head for days. I knew that it would be the hardest, and honestly, I’ve kind of been avoiding it. Watching our baby girl slip away was much more difficult than I could have imagined, although I’m sure there’s nothing I could have done to “prepare” myself for it ahead of time. There is no man-made preparation for this—only the grace the Father so graciously gives, each moment that we need it. And His grace was there. Poured out on us as my husband prayed aloud, desperate for it.

By Sunday morning, I knew that our time with Elizabeth Grace was drawing to a close. Her color was very dusky, her breathing shallow. I was going to be discharged from hospital that afternoon. I had always said that I wanted to be able to take her home with us if possible, but now that it was almost time and she was doing so poorly, I felt uneasy about this prospect. We had been in touch with pediatric hospice, but the nurse was unsure if she’d be able to get out to us that day. The initial meeting is apparently a three hour ordeal. There was the option of taking Elizabeth to a hospice facility in Atlanta, but it was unclear if Onan and I would be allowed to ride in the ambulance with her, and I couldn’t bear the thought of her passing without us there. I began to feel stressed. I prayed for God to work out every detail.

I took a quick shower around 8 am and was just finishing up in the bathroom when I heard Onan calling for the nurses in a panicked voice. Elizabeth had begun to cough up some blood. Our nurse, Madeline, who had also been with us all day Saturday, quickly rushed in and helped to suction it out with the aspirator bulb. She listened to her heartbeat and told us that it was very faint.

We took Elizabeth over to the window and turned on the CD that a sweet friend had made for us. We sat, listening to the beautiful worship music, looking out at Kennesaw Mountain, crying, praying, talking to our baby girl. We stayed this way for a long time. At one point I was holding Elizabeth and her breathing became very labored. I wondered to myself if she may experience seizures. As soon as I finished this thought, she began to seize. It was as if the Holy Spirit had whispered it to me, right before I needed to hear it. I remained calm as we again called for Madeline, who immediately returned. The seizing had stopped by then and her vitals were checked. Still breathing, still a faint heartbeat. Elizabeth was fighting, but she was struggling so much to do so. She made some little cries at this point—the loudest she made the whole time she was with us. It was like she was sighing, long and drawn out. I kept telling her over and over, “It’s okay, baby girl. You don’t have to fight so hard.”

Madeline came back a short while later and administered some morphine, which Elizabeth took very well. This seemed to really help her relax and any seizures she had after this were much milder. She continued to hang on.

By now my in-laws had returned to the hospital and had been able to spend some more time with Elizabeth. I was seen by my OB and was discharged but told that there was no rush for us to leave, which I greatly appreciated.

I began to pack up our things while my father-in-law held Elizabeth with Onan close by. I heard my husband say that it looked like she was having another seizure. He took her into his arms and I went over to hold on to her as well. She finished seizing and made one more little sighing sound as she breathed her last. I knew that she was done fighting. I sobbed. They were tears of sorrow, of course, but also tears of joy. I was just so relieved that she was in the arms of Jesus, no longer struggling for breath, perfect and whole. I was consumed with the image. I told Onan, “I think she’s done.” We called for Madeline and I told her the same. She put her stethoscope to Elizabeth’s little chest and nodded, “I don’t hear anything,” she told us through her own tears. It was a little after 1:00 pm. She cleared out the room to give Onan and I some time with our daughter, just the two of us.

We took her back to the window. Onan prayed: “Lord, we need your comfort.” We held her and we held each other. We changed her into a beautiful little white dress. I had ink pads and we put her foot prints in our Bibles, on scrapbook paper, in my journal. We took more pictures. Our family and a few friends came in to cry and pray and hold us too. After awhile, we knew it was time for us to let her go. Everyone left, once again, and Madeline told us to take us to take our time. She would call the funeral home to come and get her. We would leave her there; she would stay on our hospital floor until they picked her up.

We spent just a little more time with Elizabeth Grace before we called to tell our nurse that we were ready. One last kiss for each hand, one last “goodbye for now” whispered. We left the hospital late afternoon on an unseasonably warm day in February. And we are forever changed.

Still Holding On, Sunday Morning

Saying Goodbye

Wife to an amazing husband, mommy to four cherished babies, daughter of the Most High.

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15 Comments

  1. Anonymous

    You are beyond an amazing woman. I lift you and your family up in many prayers. Thank you for sharing with so many of us.

  2. Anonymous

    Your story is so touching,you are amazing,with tears I continue to pray for you and Onan As I simply cannot imagine. Thank you for sharing these sweet details with us that have prayed for your sweet family for so long.

  3. Anonymous

    this is one of the most God glorifying testimonies I have ever heard. Thank you for sharing it with us and know many prayers are being prayed for your family’s comfort and joy in the knowing that your little girl is perfect beside Jesus.

  4. Anonymous

    Continuing to pray for your entire family! Your testimony has touched those far and wide! Your faithfulness to God in times of a mother’s greatest trial is so encouraging. Thank you for your faith and for sharing these beautiful details with a hurting world. I’m am amazed and touched by you and your husband!

  5. Anonymous

    you are such an amazing family. i am truly inspired by you and you are amazing. i love that you have continued to be so strong for your other littles. may god continue to put a shield of strength and mercy on your household.

  6. What a difficult road you have had to walk. Much prayer has gone up on your behalf. When I joined your blog there were 16 followers. Now there are over 120! May each of your followers continue to lift your dear family before the Lord. It is so difficult to lose these precious little ones. The only consolation we have is that they are forever in the arms of grace.Blessings!

  7. GaGa

    As I look back on that weekend in February, I realize we were standing on holy ground. She was our little angel that couldn’t stay & she’ll be forever missed. I love you, sweet baby Elizabeth Grace!

  8. Its not easy to bring tears to my eyes, but your story continues to touch me and bless me. If I can do anything for your or Onan, I’ll be there in a heartbeat. Love you guys.

  9. Anonymous

    Leah, your family’s story has touched me, as I am sure it has so many people. As a parent, I could not imagine the pain and sorrow and suffering you must have endured during the time Elizabeth Grace was struggling to hold on long enough to spend time with you and your family before she had to say goodbye. Although this last chapter of Elizabeth Grace’s life has left me with a lump in my throat, a hole in my heart and so many tears, I am so glad that you were given the strength to share this testimony of God’s good grace. I am glad to know that you share the knowledge of God’s miraculous power that can overcome anything. I am glad that you know that you will see Elizabeth Grace once again when your time on this earth has come to an end. What a joyous day it will be when we all get to heaven! Again, thank you for sharing this story and reminding us about His Will and His Wisdom, which we will one day understand.

  10. As I read this post, I felt like I was in the hospital room all over again. I am so sorry for your loss. I had a little girl 2 years ago with anencephaly. She lived for 43 hours. Similar to your story, she passed away minutes before we left to take her home.
    My heart breaks for you and your family. I remember the pain of losing her like it was yesterday. It never goes away, but it gets easier. I am praying for you and your family. I will pray that God carries you through this hurt and wraps his loving arms around you.

  11. Mama Geyer

    Leah and Onan, I continue to pray for you daily. I pray that God will wrap His loving arms around you and comfort you and the rest of the family. As a Nana, I grieve for your parents, too. I cannot imagine the sorrow that they, too, are experiencing. I am so deeply touched by your deep and abiding faith and strength in the Lord. You have touched the lives of so many here and around the world. Love you all.

  12. Thank you for sharing your stories and pictures. May God get the glory for her beautiful life.

  13. Anonymous

    Dear Coca Family,
    God in His sovereign wisdom has been laying your family deep within my heart and I am praying for an overflow of His grace for each of you. I know that the dust is beginning to settle and this is a hard time as you gain strength to pick yourself up. BUT we serve a God who is carrying you. He has never left you alone in the dust and His strength is greater than anything we could imagine! I hope you are feeling His grace more than ever and I wanted you to know you are still in my prayers.
    Elycia Seagrave, Grace Baptist Church

  14. Hello,
    Through the grace and guidance of God, I have been led to your blog. You were mentioned for the prayer list in our Sunday School class at FBC Rock Hill, and ever since, you have been on my heart. I have also faced tremendous tragedy in the past four years. Through it all, God blessed me through His divine intervention and showed me three miracles of unimaginable proportion. The journey I was placed on was so amazing, so unbelievable, that I stopped everything I was doing and wrote a book about it, which was published this week. I would love to send you this book, and I was wondering if you could provide me with an email address to speak with you directly, or call me to discuss how I might send a copy to you and your family. I know GOd can use it in your life to strengthen you in this tragic time, and inspire you in some way. Please feel free to contact me at [email protected] and may God bless you!

  15. Thinking about you today and praying for you family. May the Lord give you all peace and comfort today.
    Every blessing to your sweet family.
    Dana

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