“I’ll meet her before you do, you know.”
My grandma is in her late eighties and I noticed during my last visit that she is slowing down in a way I’ve not seen before. I prefer not to think about losing her to death, and yet even without words it’s clear she longs for heaven and to see my grandpa again one day soon.
It’s coming up to the year anniversary of losing Scarlett Grace and I’ve been very tender again. Looking back over the last year I begin to wonder if there’s ever been a time when I didn’t feel tender about her absence. The grief has thinned and it doesn’t feel it as heavy as it once did, and yet there’s a part of me that can never go back to what life was like before.
“How many kids do you have?” I’m asked.
“Two,” I say, although internally I’m saying three.
“Thank GOD I’m not pregnant,” she lightheartedly jokes. I smile and feign a chuckle while my heart aches with the sting of my own pregnancy cut short.
I had assumed I’d be pregnant with another child this year when Scarlett’s birthday came. I suppose I had hoped that would help ease the pain.
But I’m not. My womb is empty and my arms are empty and my heart still yearns to hold a baby and call her my own.
There’s a grief for the child lost combined with a grief for absence of the child I still want to have. I look at the tiny age gap between my boys and feel sad that another child won’t share the closeness they enjoy.
My eyes well up with tears when grandma says she’ll meet her first. I’ve never thought of it before, but I nod, relieved, grateful, glad. No doubt she’ll tell her how much her mama loves her, how much we all miss her, how much we consider her a part of our family.
It brings me comfort to know that grandma will be able to bring news of her family here – left behind and yet hopeful, thriving.
Lately I’ve been wondering what I’ve learned this last year in the wake of losing our baby. Surely, her life counts for something, right? But I realize it’s not about what I’ve learned. Not really. I mean, I’ve learned some Very Important Stuff: how precious life is, how deep love can run, how easy it is to brush off another person’s pain and yet how simple and healing it is to validate it and make room for it in our hearts, how powerful the ministry of helps can be to someone who is hurting, the potency of scripture given in season with Love’s motivation.
But really, it’s not so much about what I’ve learned. What’s impacted me more has to do with how I’ve loved and been loved. It’s the giving and receiving of the one thing that never runs dry. The old cliché might be tired but it’s entirely true – the more you give love the more you have to give away. The reverse is true as well – the more you receive love the more you are able to receive.
Love. It’ll fill you right up if you let it.
Paul tells the believers in Corinth to “let love be your highest goal.” I feel like this is finally beginning to make sense to me – that all is nothing if it weren’t for love holding it together.
And maybe John Lennon really was onto something, echoing the words of Paul whether or not he knew: All we need is love, love, love; all we need is love.
During the last year I’ve spent countless hours answering hundreds of emails and comments in response to posts I’ve written about pregnancy loss. I’ve read stories of women left behind and have been in tears praying for dear ones I’ve never met. There are too many stories, too many broken hearts.
Although I “knew” we weren’t alone, now I know that we. are. not. alone.
There are so many in this sisterhood – the sisterhood of the bereaved – and there are days I wish I could scoop up all the hurting mamas and hug them and tell them I know and sing Amazing Grace over their broken hearts and weary souls. Because really, this is all we have – this Amazing Grace that came in the form of a baby born into the messy barn of our lives who grew strong and willing so he could shoulder the loss of our babies, our dreams, our solid ground.
He came for a million reasons. But one of my favorite? He came so that we might meet our little ones again.
As Easter approaches we look with anticipation past death, past loss, past heartache and pain. We look beyond toward redemption, toward old lives being made new, toward rebirth and hope deferred transformed into hope realized.
I pray for the mothers trembling at the foot of the cross with Mary, suffering the loss of their children and the unknowns of a future that’s unfolding so differently than expected. And I determine in my heart not to lose myself entirely to despair on Day One or get numbed in the darkness of Day Two. Because Day Three will soon dawn when mourning is turned into dancing, sorrow gives way to gladness, and ashes begin to look like something truly beautiful.
And so I pray, not just for our tears to be wiped away, but for new hope to spring from the cold, hardened soil of our winters. Perhaps it’s not been discernable as we’ve stood under gloomy skies during those long hard months of winter. But we know that our roots have been doing the hard work of growing down deep, even as we’ve shivered and shuddered and stared at the calendar, wondering when the page would turn. Those hidden roots have been preparing us for Spring when green pushes its way through the brown and life once again becomes a little easier to recognize.
For the beloved of the Lord, death is not only a marker for the end of life, but it’s an invitation, a summoning to trust and let go, a provocation of opportunity pulling us into new possibility. It’s an entryway to Life, hinging on the heavily weighted door of Love.
For death could not hold him back.
Dear friends, wherever you find yourself “at” as Easter approaches, I hope you are able to see your heartache in light of the cross of Jesus. It’s the only cross that casts no darkness in its shadow – only Hope.