Friday, October 25, 2013

No two are alike

This was originally written five years ago. At that time, I was asked by a collaborative online grief support site to write about the intersection of loss and faith. It's a long story as to how and why I was asked, but I was and I did. I have written a lot of things over the years but this one has always stood out for me as one of the most honest things I've ever written. It has become a sort of testimony for me in the larger sense of the word. It is my story and it is my truth. 

I have updated it to reflect this 10 year anniversary, which has felt strangely significant. I don't know why a number should matter so much but it seems to. So, thank you to the friends and strangers reading this who will allow me this 10 year mark to be a bit sentimental. I'll try to tone it down for the 11th. 

And just in case this story makes you concerned that I am spending my day tucked in bed with the covers over my head, I'd refer you to my post of the other day. I am completely okay. I'm just using this mile marker as an opportunity to share some things I haven't before. Sort of a release before I move on to the next phase of the journey. 

So, I'm okay, friends. But I'm not ruling out a nap.

No Two Are Alike

It was January and it was snowing. Great big fat flakes were floating down and, even more exciting, they were sticking to the ground. It was enough to make two young boys nearly hysterical.

I helped them piece together whatever suitable outdoor clothing we could find and sent them out the door in ill-fitting snow boots from last year and adult sized stocking caps that kept falling down over their eyes. They whooped and hollered and started scraping together snowballs from the wafer-thin blanket of snow that had accumulated on the grass.

I retreated upstairs to my bedroom, my sanctuary, and leaned on the windowsill watching them from above. It had been less than three months since I had birthed, held, loved and said good-bye to my other two - the two that now existed only in my dreams. Silent tears slipped down my cheeks as I struggled yet again with my inability to find joy in a scene that was nothing less than joy-filled. Two glorious, living, breathing, sturdy boys. Mine. But my thoughts were consumed by the two that were missing.

During those long three days in the hospital prior to Joseph and Molly’s birth, and then death, I felt held. I prayed only for God’s presence and He was there.

He was there in the nurses who ministered to us with such tenderness and mercy. He was there in the family members who waited with us in silent support even when we refused to see anyone. He was there in our friend, an ordained minister, who abandoned all of the duties of her own life to come to us in our time of need. He was there in the remarkable peace that surrounded us during the hours we held our babies, loving them, memorizing them, struggling to figure out how to let them go. I felt sustained by the prayers and rituals of our faith that were offered up on our behalf. Tears were everywhere, but so was grace.

I thought that presence that had been so easy to recognize in the hospital would follow me home. It didn’t.

I thought the peace I had felt when my babies were here would continue in their absence. Again, no. Life moved on so quickly, it had to.  Boys at the ages of five and eight don’t understand periods of mourning, or a mother who can’t find the energy to help them with their homework or to volunteer in their classroom. Guilt heaped on top of grief and I found myself drowning. 

Through it all I tried to pray. I tried to cling to all that I had always known to be true in the hopes that it would bring some kind of comfort. I tried. But most of the time my prayers didn’t get any further than, God, please help me...

Help me what? Help me heal? Help me still be a mother to the children who are here with me? Help me stop torturing myself with all of the things I believe I should have done differently? Help me stop doubting my babies’ value, and my right to grieve their absence? Yes, all of that. That, and so much more. 

I gave into many demons during those days. I agonized myself with all that I had done wrong, and shut myself off from everyone who cared. But the one voice I never gave credence to was the one that tried to claim this was God’s will. The devil didn’t win that one. I had reconciled long before this tragedy that I was a part of a larger story; a story of a broken world and a broken relationship with God. Accidents, illness, disease, all evidence of a creation gone wrong. As a Christian, I believe the Incarnation and the Resurrection restored our relationship to God, but Creation is still in need of repair. The Kingdom has not yet come. The world is still broken and we see that brokenness in a thousand different ways every day.

Leaning on my windowsill that snowy afternoon, I felt myself slipping into doubt, into despair. Over and over I thought of the cry of that anguished father in the Gospel of Mark: Lord, I believe; please help my unbelief. And in that moment I felt something. It wasn’t peace. It didn’t erase the sorrow in my heart. It was more like awareness, a window opening to a place that I hadn’t seen before.

In that space, for just a moment, I heard His voice.

I’m here. They mattered. They matter to me. They were my beloved. You are my beloved. They are with me and they are perfect. You will be okay, I promise. I am here... I am always here.

In the quiet of that blessed assurance I looked out the window and saw my boys working together to try and gather every ounce of snow they could find to build a miniature snowman. From the depths of my soul, I smiled.

It’s been ten years now and I still hold onto that moment of clarity.

It is the voice that tells me it is okay that I am still here, still writing about them, still remembering them, and still missing them. It is also the voice that tells me it is okay that I am happy again, that joy returned. It is the voice of love in all its forms. The love that weeps over those we miss, and the love that rejoices in the blessings of today.

I believe in love.  I believe that God is the source of that love. I believe we are called to love and that in doing so we assist God in repairing the world. And I believe that my babies, my son and daughter, are wrapped forever in eternal love - both mine and God’s.

I believe.

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