There were flowers in the delivery room before his lifeless body even entered the world.
A gorgeous arrangement of exotic white flowers delivered by a thoughtful friend who knew how much joy they brought me and knew I would need them even more under such heartbreaking circumstances.
There were flowers waiting for me when I returned home with empty arms.
Colorful flowers were dropped off by a lovely older couple who had walked through our same sorrow and wanted us to know we were not alone.
Flowers arrived in the hands of a delivery man; a large, stunning bunch of white long-stemmed roses in a tall, sleek glass vase selected by Dennis's birth mom.
Four days after I delivered Matthew, while leading a MOPS meeting at church, Micah, Luke, and Caleb walked into the room, each carrying a bouquet of flowers in their small hands, and presented them to me one by one. Dennis followed with his own bouquet and hugged and kissed me while thick tears rolled down my cheeks and - the cheeks of every other woman in the room.
And every year since, flowers have marked the anniversary of Matthew's delivery.
Sometimes, I feel those fifteen years.
Sometimes, I feel like his tiny body was in my arms fifteen minutes ago.
Either way, I remember.
I remember Dennis.
My college roommate Ginger.
The four of us in the room, waiting, talking, crying, praying ... knowing what was to come but not knowing what to expect. None of them left my side for a second.
And then it happened.
My body felt the discomfort of the contractions.
Within a few minutes, a rush of pain.
The nurse made me push.
And then - a tiny, lifeless body entered the world.
Dennis, Stephanie, and Ginger followed the nurse to witness our child removed from the fully intact placenta and were there to discover with their own eyes that our child was - a boy.
The nurse wrapped our son in a tiny hand-made blanket and placed him in my arms.
I opened the blanket immediately so I could look at every detail of his body.
His skin was paper-thin.
His mouth was open, shaped like an "o" as if he had been singing.
Bumps covered his tongue.
His hands and feet, his fingers and toes ... so very tiny.
Every single part of him was perfectly formed. His ears, his head, his arms.
He was "fearfully and wonderfully made."
And the days numbered for Him by the God who so lovingly and purposefully created him were 133.
Dennis held me while I held our son.
"What is his name?" he asked.
"Matthew. It has always been Matthew."
He nodded and whispered his son's name for the first time. "Matthew."
'Gift of God.'
Stephanie and Ginger came back and the four of us wept together as we stared at this precious life. A life that weighed just 14 ounces, not even a whole pound. A life that fit inside my hand. A life that had never taken a breath, yet changed my life, forever.
My husband's tears splashing on my cheek.
The tears of my sister as her own personal losses mingled with mine.
The tears of my friend who wept with me and for me because she loved me.
The tears that fell from my own eyes when the nurse came to take our son away.
The tears that flowed like silent screams until I could hardly breathe as I lay in the dark hospital room, alone.
The tears that poured out as I prayed, begging the Lord to make sense of it all and crying out, "This has to be bigger than me, Lord! I am not the first woman to bury a baby, and I will not be the last. Please use this for something bigger than me!"
The tears that rolled down my cheeks the next morning when the nurse brought Matthew back to us so we could dedicate him to the Lord, and the fresh round of weeping that poured out of both of us when Dennis's best friend looked upon the lifeless body of our son before switching to the role of pastor, opening Scripture, and offering praise to God for the beauty of Matthew's life.
And I remember the day I stood on the sand, years later, staring into the vast expanse of the Pacific Ocean as tears once again wetted my cheeks as I was finally able to say, "Thank You, Lord, for taking my son."
In everything give thanks: for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus concerning you. I Thessalonians 5:18
The Lord gave, and the Lord has taken away; blessed be the name of the Lord. Job 1:21