McCartney Piper Lee Coleman was born on April 25, 2014 at 2:47a.m. She weighed 3.47 pounds. She died two days later on April 27th. “She was what I had prayed for my whole life,” says Angelique, her mother. “I always knew I wanted to be a mom and I wanted a daughter, and that’s what God gave to me ... When McCartney died, the most important relationship in my life changed. Grief became a three letter word: God.”
As a child, Angelique had childlike faith and attended church with various friends. Baptized at nineteen, she found that her faith ebbed and flowed with the tides of adulthood. When Angelique became pregnant with McCartney, she and her husband were part of a Missional Community group at The Austin Stone Community Church. They were excited about God’s plan for them, but Angelique sensed something wasn’t right from the beginning. Thirty-three weeks into her pregnancy—after Angelique and her husband had bought a house, decorated the nursery, and picked out tiny tutus and Longhorn booties—Angelique began seeing spots in her vision.
She called the doctor. A few days later she had blood tests, and a few days after that, her doctor told her she had a condition called HELLPS, a life-threatening pregnancy complication. The only cure was delivery. While Angelique’s health was in jeopardy, nobody realized how much danger McCartney was in. Only after her death would they find out that their daughter had Trisomy 18, and that her little body had been infected by the bacillus virus. Two days after she was born, they lost her.
In their final moments with their daughter, Angelique and Matt stood by her crib and cheered, “Come on, baby girl, come on!” as nurses tried to revive her. Their efforts were in vain. As the Colemans held McCartney’s lifeless body and watched as blood trickled out of her nose and mouth, Matt asked, “What now?”
His words haunted Angelique in the days and months to follow. What now? Reminders of her lost baby surrounded her. Whether it was the diaper aisle at the grocery store, the clothes still hanging in McCartney’s closet, or recovery from her C-section, she was constantly reminded of her loss. She began to blog about her experience as a way to cope:
May 11, 2014: Everyone keeps saying that I’m so strong, but they don’t know that I am screaming “I hate you, God!!!” constantly in my head.
May 15, 2014: It feels like my whole body and soul are scratching at a way to be with her...
June 7, 2014: Sometimes the word “love” sneaks in my thoughts, but it feels like when you watch those movies or TV shows and the girl goes crawling back to the boyfriend that just gave her a black eye.
McCartney’s death changed Angelique’s faith. She had always known God was mighty, but his might had never affected her in such a painful way before. As time passed, Angelique was drawn into a deeper relationship with God. By the end of June, she was ready to stop cursing, questioning and yelling at him, and try talking to him again. She realized that prayer was not a way to get what she wanted, but a way to align her will with his.
Angelique and Matt did not walk this troubled road alone. Their community surrounded them from the moment they came home from the hospital. Family and friends were ever-present. Their MC brought meals and prayed with them. “My MC leader texted me every single day—not just the first week or two, but for months. She pointed me to the truth, and sometimes I didn’t want to hear it, but she just kept asking how I was doing.”
September 15, 2014: Yesterday, we went back to church for the first time since we lost her ... The words of each song appeared ... I waited. I waited until the weight of the words was so much that I couldn’t help but throw my arms up. They didn’t lift up in praise. They lifted up in submission. They lifted up in surrender.
November 14, 2014: I’m pregnant ... and I’m okay. Maybe God is giving me the serenity He knows I need.
God spoke to Angelique through worship, through prayer and through community to show her that she was never alone. He was there at the side of McCartney’s crib, and he was there in the long, dark months that followed. A year later, Angelique dealt with the anniversary of McCartney’s death with a maturity and grace that was born from pain and struggle.
April 27, 2015: We received an outpouring of love from friends and family ... we were constantly reminded of how blessed we are and how surrounded we are by love and support. We’ve never been alone and she has not been forgotten ... He has filled me with grace and peace.
There is hope, and above all, thankfulness—for her community, for her healing and for the faith that has brought her this far. Angelique now has an answer to Matt’s haunting question of “What now?” Now is community, now is healing, now is grace and peace.