Let yourself be inspired today

Today, one month ago I gave birth to a stillborn infant named Cora. There are several words that come to mind when I think of Cora: miraculous, bittersweet, tragic but most of all inspirational. In honor of her, instead of publishing the blog post I was already working on about how we are dealing, I decided to share some really incredible stories I’ve collected. Please watch these videos…all of them. Yes, you will cry your eyes out, but the people in the videos will teach you the most important lessons you will learn in this life: how to celebrate every day, how to overcome the odds or how to deal when you can’t overcome them, appreciation of every little thing and perspective. In honor of Cora today, let yourself slow down, watch the videos, cry, and let yourself be inspired by these stories….

Meet Zach Sobiech, he had cancer; Osteosarcoma to be exact, and he was only 18. He passed away in May of this year but he truly, truly knew how to appreciate life and the people in his life. He wrote a song, “Clouds”, that got 7 million views and attention from some celebrities. You can tell in the video how much people love him, what a light he is to the world in his short life and how he changed many.

“My closure is being able to get my feelings into these songs so they can have something to remember me by or lean on when I’m gone,” Zach explains. “I want to be remembered as a kid who went down fighting, and didn’t really lose.”

This is Julie Manning, mother of two little boys who is diagnosed with a chronic heart problem that could result in a cardiac arrest at any moment. She is on the transplant wait list for a new heart. To this day, she struggles with the fact that she could die doing anything: running around with her boys, laying on the couch, in her sleep. This is her story of the faith and peace God granted her in this life.

“There are hundreds of times a day I’m reminded that my life is not my own and that any moment Jesus could take me”

This is Elliot and his parent’s story, one that intimately touches my heart. I watched this video in ultrasound school and bawled my eyes out. Now I have gained his parent’s perspective. This video is a story of a little baby with Trisomy 18, which is a fatal fetal syndrome almost 100% of the time before the age of 1. This little boy lived 99 days and everyday his parents chose to focus on his life and not his diagnosis. They celebrated and documented each day. I always kept this family in my heart, especially when Josh and I learned of Cora’s diagnosis.

Finally, this is our Cora’s story. She is no longer around to tell it, so I must. She never took a breath, her heart never beat outside of my womb, but she touched thousands. What helps me cope is the fact that people won’t forget her. It won’t just be Josh and I grieving her loss, she touched too many people. This blog has over 38,000 views from all over the world. That is seriously incredible and I promise it has NOTHING to do with my writing, as incoherent as it is. It has everything to do with our Creator and His creation. I received so many pictures of people praying for her and even those were just a small portion of the prayers she received internationally. Josh created a video celebrating Cora in a prior blog that visibly shows all the people Cora changed. I am different. God taught me to slow down, be content in every stage of life and enjoy the small moments. At some point, you stop complaining that “Life isn’t fair” and just live. It makes the wait for eternity so much more pleasant and maybe, just maybe you’ll change someone’s life along the way. I would give anything to hold Cora again, but I know that is not how God intended her life. God knew exactly what He was doing when He created her life. He meant so many greater things for her than this world can provide.

Advertisements

Leaving a Legacy

Blessed are those who mourn,
    for they will be comforted.

Matthew 5:4

Our Cora is quite the popular girl. Throughout her short time here on earth, she influenced many and changed lives; including her mommy and daddy’s. Josh created a video slideshow, which includes many “Prayers for Cora” pictures I have shared, pictures from my two showers I was so generously given, ultrasound pictures and pictures from the hospital. The song playing is “How He Loves” by David Crowder Band; it is the song we chose for her memorial one week ago and is the inspiration for the blog title (Afflictions eclipsed by Glory). The video shows the amazing support Josh, Cora and I had throughout the pregnancy and the influence a little baby has on the world.

For those of you new to this blog, Cora’s story starts here and this is the story of her birth. Many people have emailed, messaged and written to us describing how Cora has influenced their walk of faith and changed their lives. Please continue sending these stories. Life is incredibly difficult without Cora for Josh and I, but knowing we have people praying constantly for us helps us through this dark time. God meant so much more for Cora than her 29 weeks of life here on this earth. She has given us such unimaginable joy just by existing and fighting to overcome the odds. God, in turn, is giving us unimaginable joy through your stories of Cora, so please keep them coming. You can email me your story (rebecca.shrader@duke.edu), send us a Facebook message or type something into her guestbook here. Here are just a few stories sent to us by dear friends:

20130712-091846.jpg

20130712-091839.jpg

20130712-091825.jpg

 

In Him forever and ever,

The Shraders

Cora Kimberly Shrader

I went into work on Monday July 1st to do as I always do, scan myself and check on sweet Cora. As I started scanning myself, my heart stopped after I realized her heart was no longer beating. I couldn’t believe it; I’d had this moment of fear several times throughout the pregnancy but her heart was always beating and she was always wiggling on the screen. I scanned her the previous Friday and saw her heartbeat and watched her move. I asked a coworker to come scan me, as I was trembling and needed confirmation. She confirmed the worst and as we both started tearing up,  she stepped out to get the doctor. Up to this point in my pregnancy, I thought no matter what, I would be getting a C section. I knew there was a chance for a classical C section because she is so small, which would mean only C sections for my future pregnancies and a much longer recovery time. She suggested that I have an induction of labor instead. Not only was this a change of plan, it was scary. Not only did I just lose my daughter and Josh and I would not hold her alive, but I had to go through labor. I was not been prepared for this, but I trusted the doctor more than my fear and headed home to wait until I could have a room around 4pm. Josh left for work before I did, so I called him and told him the news so he could come back to meet me at our house.

The wait period from 9 am to 4 pm at home was horrible. I wish I could have slept, as I would not get much that night, but there was no way I could calm my nerves to sleep. Once we got into the hospital, we quickly got a bed and started the induction. Originally, the doctor told me it could be 24-48 hours to deliver Cora, so we settled in to our room and began contacting family and friends. I was in the hospital for the long haul, or so I thought. I had misoprostil placed in my cervix at 6 pm and by 9:30 pm I had already had enough contractions to get to 6 cm dilation and asked for an epidural. Then, progress stopped. All night long I went without much change, or sleep. At 4 am, I got another dose of misoprostil and at 6 am, I was fully dilated. At that point, I was supposed to push if I felt pressure. I never did. I had a few visitors come by around 9 am, until the doctor came in at 9:30. She told me we were going to try to push because they could feel Cora close. For some reason, this did not register in my mind that this was THE push. I thought I would push for a while, rest, and we would try again later. At 10 am, after only a few pushes, Cora was born.

I am forever grateful to Dr. Ellestad for being there to deliver Cora. She was one of the two great doctors I work with everyday; she had been there at my very first ultrasound when we discovered everything and she loved Cora. She was incredibly supportive throughout my pregnancy and she was so gentle delivering her. She coaxed her out and called her by name; I will always have that memory. All four nurses who were there taking care of us were outstanding. I cannot say enough in praise of them. They were incredibly sensitive to our needs and did whatever we asked. They knew that pictures were the most important thing to us, so they made sure to take some for us. They also called Cora by name several times and talked about how beautiful and sweet she was. Two of our pastors from our church, The Summit, came by to pray with us Monday night and our first night shift nurse, Shannon, asked to be in the room. They made sure to send us home with footprints, hand prints, keepsakes like a very tiny lace dress and a mold for her feet. These are things I will treasure forever. Shannon, Lisa, Carly and Amanda if you are reading this now, thank you.

I cannot describe to you now how I felt the moment Cora was born. It was surreal, like this was happening to someone else. By our request, they cleaned her and wrapped her up in the blanket we’d brought so that we could hold her. They left us alone to hold her for as long as we wanted. I touched her face and arms in an effort to memorize every bit of her I could. She had a little,very dark hair (she obviously takes after her daddy) and she had the Shrader nose. The Shrader genes are very strong apparently, so I never stood a chance. She was beautiful and I miss holding her so much.

After a while of holding her alone, we had a few people, dear friends and family, desperately wanting to come in to hold her too. Our families came in and took turns holding her and taking pictures. At first, I didn’t know if I wanted people to see and hold her. Her skin was very fragile and her body wasn’t perfect; I was worried people wouldn’t feel comfortable. Our wonderful family and friends didn’t mind her premature features and loved on her most of the day. Thank you to all that came to hold her when we didn’t, couldn’t, ask; I didn’t realize until now how much that meant to us. We had visitors in and out all day until about 9 pm that night. By that point, the epidural wore off and I finally could get up to use the bathroom and take a shower. After my shower, Josh and I knew what was coming. We had to call Decedent Care to come get Cora. I wasn’t ready. I’m still not ready. We had just met our daughter, and even though we never knew her alive outside of my body it didn’t matter. That’s how strong and how deep we love her. That was THE hardest part of the entire day, including the moment she was born and placed in my arms. It was such an intimate moment and precious to us that I won’t share those particular details.

These are Josh’s words he shared the night she was born:

Today has been the darkest day of my life. Today was the first and last time I held my daughter. This morning, at 10am, my lovely wife delivered our 1 lb 2oz baby Cora Kimberly, whose heart had stopped beating sometime over the weekend. Grief, like a hurricane, swept in and racked my heart and soul today. My faith, such as it is, has been tested and retested over the last 36 hours. My strength failed. My hope failed. My spirit failed. But….but God has not failed. He has not forgotten. He weeps as I weep. He mourns because I mourn. He has endured all that I have and infinitely more. All so that a few might be redeemed and restored to him. I beg you, turn to Jesus. Turn and run to him with the same vigor that I would pursue Cora. My deepest prayer, my final hope for Cora, is that her life, her story, her ultimate purpose, would be to turn weary sinners like me to a deeper love for Christ. If his heart breaks for lost children the way mine has broken today, he must be God to endure it perpetually. I love you all, and would have you meet my Cora one day, perfected, radiant, and safe in the arms of the heavenly father who created her. God bless you all.

I couldn’t have explained how I felt any better. We are so broken, so lost, in such immense pain. I lost my mom too early, yet losing a child is something so painfully unnatural, the hurt is so much deeper. I had prayed for the entire pregnancy to be able to hold Cora with her heart beating. God decided not to grant that request, but I realize it doesn’t matter. She is our daughter and we miss everything about her. We were both worried we hadn’t bonded with Cora as we should because we knew the outcome. Her birth proved us both wrong. I yearn to hold her, my heart aches without her, I feel empty now that she’s no longer carried under my heart.

Cora had a purpose on this earth and it has yet to be ultimately fulfilled. We have received so many stories about how Cora’s story has brought someone back into a prayer life or made their faith stronger. A few people even shared the Gospel to others through her story. She was not only precious to Josh and I and our families, but also to numerous strangers who read this blog or know her story. Those stories and the strength God bestows on us will get us through the incredible pain. They say time will heal, but I experienced after losing my mom that the years to come will be the hardest. Cora has changed my life completely. I have always loved children and one of my goals in life was to be a mother. I think I wanted it so badly that I made being a mother more important than being a child of God. Cora is still in the process of teaching me ultimate dependence on God. She lived 29 1/2 weeks and impacted more people from the womb than so many who live a lifetime.

As painful as it is and will be in the years to come, I’d get pregnant with Cora all over again. She is such a blessing to our family. Her siblings will know about her and see her pictures. Her impact will not be forgotten in this house. If you would like to honor Cora’s memory, we are starting an adoption fund through her memory. Josh and I absolutely love kids and we would like to have many, adopted and biological. How awesome would it be to tell a future adopted child we were able to bring them home because of their sister? If you feel led, you can contribute to our adoption fund through a PayPal link from the previous blog here.

We had a beautiful memorial service last Friday, the 5th, celebrating her memory. I am immensely grateful to my brother and sister-in-law who went above and beyond helping us with all the details of the service while we were getting out of the hospital and struggled to make decisions. They found a wonderful cemetery with lots of trees and a lake. It was a lovely service that perfectly fit our darling Cora’s memory. View her beautiful obituary here and the program from her memorial here.

I want to share an excerpt from the message from Spence Shelton, a pastor from The Summit Church:

“If you’ve followed Josh and Rebecca online, you know the title of their site is “affliction eclipsed by glory”. Let me be very clear in this moment to you what they mean by that. At the core of Christianity is the message of Jesus Christ. The Gospel. This message is that sin has corrupted everyone and everything on earth. So we have pain and affliction. God is not surprised by our suffering. And this brokenness is why he sent Jesus. Because we do not have an answer to death. We hate it but we cannot stop it.

See the Christian message is that God created you and He loves you. yet sin has brought the plague of death onto earth. And death stings. But though the world was broken and marred by sin, God the Father still loved you and I, his children. While we were still separated from Him by our sin, he sent Christ to pay the penalty for our sin. To face death for us. That is the gospel in four words, JESUS IN MY PLACE. He faced the full force of death so we only face a shadow of it.

But the Christian message does not end in the grave. Jesus gives us hope because after He died, He got up. Everything else Paul says here, his words of hope, hinge on the fact that Jesus got up out of the grave. THIS CHANGES EVERYTHING. By getting up, Jesus has beaten death. Where there was death, Jesus brought life! And so…through Jesus…God will bring with him those who have fallen asleep. The gateway to victory over death is Jesus and only Jesus.

And there, we find hope. That is hope that is different than anything else you will hear. Those who are in Jesus share not just in his death, but in his resurrection of Jesus. To family and friends, Josh and Rebecca want you to hear and consider this message. That is what they hope their daughters’s life points you towards. The love and hope of salvation for you. Because we will all be here one day. And when you are here, where will your hope be? There is only one hope in this moment. Believe on Jesus for your salvation. Repent of your sin and turn to him. He is not only the answer to death but the comfort in the midst of it. Jesus changes everything. Jesus gives hope where there is no hope, he brings life where there is death, He turns mourning into praise. He changes everything.”

This is the point of Cora’s life. To point all of us to Him. I know she has done that for Josh and I. I hope her story does that for others. Like my husband says, “I beg you, turn to Jesus”. There is NOTHING more important. One day, we will meet Cora, perfected, radiant, unbroken and she will be able to introduce Josh and I to our Father. What a glorious day that will be.

In Him,

Josh, Rebecca and Cora Kimberly Shrader

I consider that our present sufferings are not worth comparing with the glory that will be revealed in us…In the same way, the Spirit helps us in our weakness. We do not know what we ought to pray for, but the Spirit himself intercedes for us through wordless groans. Romans 8:18; 26

20130708-122103.jpg

A guest post, In Honor of Cora

Hi, I’m Julie and I am one of the incredibly lucky people who gets to claim Rebecca and Josh as friends. I’m here to do a short guest post to update you on the happenings of the past few days while Josh and Rebecca rest and recover from a terribly long and painful week.

Monday morning, July 1st, Rebecca went to work and, as she did frequently, scanned herself to check on her precious daughter. Unfortunately, this time she discovered that sometime over the weekend Jesus had taken Cora home to heaven. She delivered her sweet baby girl on Tuesday and they had a beautiful memorial service for her earlier today. Sometime in the next couple of weeks Rebecca will write a more in depth blog post, but in the mean time, you can look at Cora’s beautiful obituary here.

However, I wanted to get on here and let you know how you could help the Shraders in the coming weeks and months.

First, no matter where you live and no matter whether you know Rebecca and Josh in real life or just from reading their story here, please pray for them. Pray for their broken hearts, that God will shower them with His peace and His grace and that there will be many people who come to know Jesus or grow deeper in their relationship with Him as a result of their amazing testimony.

Second, if you live locally, please consider either making them a meal or sending them a gift card for a meal. For those of you who have grieved the loss of a loved one, you know that sometimes just brushing your teeth and getting a shower can take every ounce of motivation you have in you, much less grocery shopping, preparing and cooking a meal. This can be a wonderful and practical way that you can be a huge blessing to them. You can sign up for a date here.

Finally, if you want to make a long term difference in the life of the Shrader family, one that will last forever, please consider donating to their adoption fund in honor of sweet Cora. You see, Josh and Rebecca are passionate about the Gospel and as a result of that, have grown passionate about adoption. For as long as I’ve known them, adoption has always been one of the ways in which they desired to grow their family. They are hoping to start the adoption process in the near future and there is no better way in which you could honor Cora’s memory and her life than by contributing to the funds that will help bring her siblings into a loving home. The gospel is all about bringing beauty from ashes and bringing hope and life from death and mourning and so what a beautiful picture it would be if Cora’s far-too-early death can help to bring a future of hope for another child who is loved by God just as much as she. Please click here to contribute.

Thank you in advance for all of your prayers and support of Josh and Rebecca.

Galatians 6:2 “Bear one another’s burdens, and so fulfill the law of Christ.”

Love,

Julie