The following article was in the Knoxville News Sentinel on Saturday, September 2. Chandra Harris started interviewing my sister before Emma passed away, and when she heard the news, she wanted to finish the story as a tribute to Emma. I'm glad she did. No sweeter words could have been written. Thanks, Chandra.
Her infant daughter was taken away too soon, but the memory of their time together and her bright-eyed 3-year-old help young mom find strength for the future
By CHANDRA HARRIS, firstname.lastname@example.org September 2, 2006
TALBOTT - Strands of necklaces drape around her dolls' ears and then underneath their noses.
The beaded decorations, to 3-year-old Gracie, symbolize oxygen tubes that wouldn't be enough to save her baby sister's life. Born at 23 weeks, weighing a pound and five ounces, with barely formed lungs and a heartbeat that could be seen through her thin skin, ailing Emma Faye Cody fought for her every breath for seven months. She lost the fight near the end of July.
It didn't matter that a glass window barrier stopped Gracie from planting kisses on Emma's forehead at East Tennessee Children's Hospital. The question was always the same: "When is Emma coming home?"
"Soon," her mother, Jessica Cody, would say. She would quickly follow up her answer with a quiet chat with God asking Him to please "lessen the close calls (of Emma dying) and keep her baby's heart beating so she can see, play with her sister."
"I have a baby sister. Her name is Emma," Gracie says to strangers in grocery store aisles. "She's in the hospital now. But she will be coming home soon."
Emma wouldn't be coming home.
Her pastel nursery would remain empty. Her pink baby clothing would stay neatly folded and affixed to hangers.
Still the big sister, Gracie asks: "When will Emma be coming home?"
Her Nana answers: "Baby Emma went to live with Jesus in heaven. She's not coming home with us because Jesus knows best."
Temporarily satisfied, Gracie scoots off to play with her dolls, still adorned with her necklace oxygen tubes.
Carole and David Turner know their granddaughter will ask the same question later but "we'll just keep answering her the best we know how."
At 24, Cody's questions aren't dissimilar from her daughter's: "Why couldn't Emma have made it? Why couldn't she get better to come home?
"I am angry with God."
Dreaming that the loss of her child isn't real, Cody can hear what Emma's cries might have sounded like in her sleep.
"I never heard her cry," Cody said, remembering rubbing Emma's tiny chest night after night.
Soothing Emma soothed Cody as she dealt with the heartache of going through a divorce.
What became normal was driving to and from Hamblen County to Knoxville; hearing the microwave-sounding beeps of Emma's monitoring machine and resetting it herself; handing her bills over to her parents; figuring out when her mother could stand in her place at the hospital; and checking in with her dad, who took on the roles of father and grandfather, to tell Gracie "goodnight and I love you."
"I would whisper the same thing in Emma's small ears every night," she said.
"She looked like me, with her fat cheeks and her big brown eyes. She was stubborn like me, never wanting to give up.
"Emma taught me how to be a fighter for every moment in life.
"She was the littlest thing that I ever put my whole life into," Cody said with a tear-stained face.
She finds her refuge in what seems like buckets of her tears, her parents' patience and strength, and homemade meals from her surrogate grandparents, neighbors Bill and Betty Pearson.
"While I know God doesn't give more than you can bear," she finds herself asking rhetorically, "Lord, haven't you given me enough?"
"I don't know where or what to do from here," she said.
"I eventually want to go back to Walters State (Community College). I want to get married again. I would even have more children. I want a family life like my parents gave me and my sister.
"But right now I can only concentrate on the next five minutes, the next 10 minutes and Gracie keeps me looking forward to the next minute because her life helps to continue mine.
"I do thank God every night for the short time I had with Emma. And then I thank Him that I still have Gracie."
And Gracie thanks God for her "Mommy, Nana, Bop-Pa and God, can you please keep Emma's diapers changed until me and mommy can come and get her? Amen."