By Nick McGeehon, Everly’s Dad
My Time with Everly
August 14, 2018 started like almost any other had in our house. We all got up, got the day going. We packed up the kids to head to their respective childcare. I remember Everly laughing and giggling that morning from her car seat as I played with her in the minutes before she left. Never could I have imagined how that day would play out or how those early morning moments would turn into such treasured memories.
Everly came into my life at a time that I was working a high stress, high intensity and high demand job. As with her big sister, we didn’t find out our baby’s gender until the day she was born. So my first real connection in defining who this child was to me came in the moments after her birth. As with all my kids, I vividly remember the day they were born, the tears that were shed and those early moments with them just after they joined our world.
The time we had together with Everly was a whirlwind to me. Struggling to keep up with the demands of a high stress, high intensity job, I often found myself short tempered, agitated and downright overwhelmed. Looking back, I’m grateful for some advice I embraced incorporating my kids into my work life wherever I could. As such, we did pack up the whole family one Saturday for a trip to Poplar Bluff, Missouri to attend an event for one of my clients at the time. The memories from that event have been some of the most cherished I have of our time with our sweet little girl.
Nothing in the world prepares you for the death of your child. There are no words to describe the pain and grief that follows that loss. Languages, even our own, struggle to give descriptors that can mount a sufficient word to describe what it feels like to lose a child. It is just something that society as a whole doesn’t want to address because it is THAT painful.
And so when that fateful day arrived, of course the death of my child, a healthy happy baby was the furthest thing from my mind. The moments of receiving a phone call from the childcare provider turned to driving at ungodly speeds to get to the hospital while bargaining with God for what was ahead of us, to then walking into a stale, cold hospital room where medical heroes gave valiant attempts to revive my little girl … and it was all for not. She was gone. A child that was vibrant, laughing and cooing just that morning was gone.
As a person who prides himself of anticipating what’s next and how to deal with it, there is no anticipating watching a doctor pronounce the death of your child and hearing that terrible shrill and steady noise of a heart monitor with nothing left to monitor.
I held her in my arms, I sang her one last lullaby and nuzzled her sweet little nose one last time. Not only were we at a loss of why or how this happened, we were struggling to find answers to what to do next and where to turn for help. Unfortunately, not much advice, help or support was able to be provided. We felt like we were the first people to ever lose a child as no one seemed to know what to say to us or how to do whatever was next.
As we handed Everly to a nurse that would stay with her until her next journey began, we walked towards the exit doors unsure of what had just happened, uncertain about what world lay ahead of us and without our child. To say we were lost was an understatement. We had so many questions, very few answers and even fewer options to turn to for help and support.
The days and weeks following Everly’s death were some of the deepest valleys of my own life. It was in those days that we felt an enormous outpouring of love from family, friends and even complete strangers. It was in our searching though that we were able to find and connect with people who could help us connect dots and find strategies to cope with the situation including how to tell our then 3 year old that her little sister had died, how to communicate with our employers what had happened, how to plan a funeral for your own child and what grief really looks like.
We have traveled many many steps in this child loss journey and we know that it is a path we will travel for the rest of our lives. Milestones will be missed, family gatherings will always be void of one and the nagging “what ifs” will always lay whispering in the back of our minds.
Ultimately my daughter gave me a gift of a new and more purposeful life. In the months following her death I was able to take stock of what I counted most important and dear in my life and set out to change my life and that of my family’s for the better. I left an environment where I did not feel I could flourish and found new roads to travel. I spent time with myself and figured out who I really am and who I want to become. I can write this story today as a changed man, for the better. And that is a gift that my beautiful little girl left me.
While she may no longer be with us physically, Everly’s story is still being written and her legacy lives on in the help she will ultimately provide others through Just Enduring.