6 months ago today I sat in a dark room and listened to a doctor tell me I was not going to get to keep her.
3 months ago today I held her.
3 months ago today I had to give her back.
This weekend, I got to share a little life with Sara (yes…Sara from Texas:)) and her family. When I say “family,” I mean that they came in two cars and one of them was a 15 passenger van. It was more of a blessing than I know how to say. It is amazing how God can bring beauty from ashes…and He did. I feel like they have been friends forever, and we were really sad to see them go. We laughed when we went to the grocery store and the checkout guy assumed that we were sisters. Truth be told, we are.
6 months ago today, I didn’t know that I would sit with a “stranger” in my pajamas and talk about what it feels like to mourn a child. Although there were many tears, we also had a lot of fun together. You would think that two women who met in such a horrific time would not describe their time together as joyous, but it really was. Anyone who has lost a child (or anyone who has lost someone close to them, I’m sure) will tell you that unexpectedly, normal life sneaks in sometimes. You don’t know how to handle those moments, because you are so broken, but the laughter feels like a respite from the storm. It was so good to be in the presence of someone who understands that balance, and knows what is on your heart even before you say it. We all sat together and watched my neighbor’s fireworks while the sound of our kids playing filled the air. It was bittersweet. I was so grateful to have met her, and so sad that it had to be like this.
On Saturday night, Sara and I went to the cemetery to be with Audrey. We cried as we sat there, alternately raking our hands through the dirt and wiping tears. I didn’t say anything to her at the time, and I’m not really sure it even hit me until later that night, but I noticed that Audrey’s grave was one of the only ones that didn’t have flowers in the little vase. I realized that it must be kind of an “unspoken rule” that you bring flowers on a holiday. I was telling Todd about it last night and I couldn’t stop crying because I felt like I hadn’t taken care of her. I realized in that moment that I still want to parent her, even in death. It is a hard thing to feel like a mommy when you can’t even hold your child. Every time I go there, I have to fight the urge to dig into the ground, and wrap her up in a blanket. I just want to rock her and whisper to her and feel her little cheeks against mine. There are times I think if I could just hold her one more time, I wouldn’t hurt the way I do. I know it isn’t true, but I don’t want her to be there tonight. I have all these crazy thoughts, worrying about if she’s cold or if she’s afraid when it gets dark. I know she isn’t really there, but I am her mommy. I want her to have flowers.
Today, I went back to her with Todd’s family. As soon as we left my house to head over there, it started pouring rain. It didn’t stop until we were pulling in to the cemetery. I knew it would, because it has happened this way each time I have gone. It rains from the moment I leave my house to the moment I get there, even though it is less than a 10 minute drive. It is one of the ways that God has chosen to remind me that He is with me, and I will never forget that He did that for me. Our neighborhood sits across the street from a Catholic church, and it seems like every time I walk out my front door, the church bells are ringing. For the first dozen or so times, I thought I must be walking out right on the hour, but then I started checking the time. I can find no discernible pattern to it, other than the fact that He wants me to know He is with me.
He is a Father, after all.
I bought her a beautiful bouquet of pink flowers. Nicol said they reminded her of my wedding bouquet, which I hadn’t noticed until that moment. We sang and talked and sat with her. Todd told her that Ellie had lost another tooth while I pulled the weeds that have started to grow in the dirt. My hands went right to them, angry that enough time had passed for weeds to have crept in. Furious that the weeds would dare try to come to this pure place, and yet, they find their way. I didn’t stop until it was clear.
I am her mother, you know.
I have spent a lot of time crying in the last few days, and I would love to ask for your prayers. I know that this season (and many more to come) will have peaks and valleys. It’s just that when you are in the valley, you feel like you won’t ever come out. I think one of Satan’s greatest schemes is making us feel hopeless because we don’t have the strength to climb again. He doesn’t want us to believe that God is our rescuer, that He can carry us. He wants us to feel like God doesn’t see us, doesn’t know how weak we are. He wants us to believe that our Father has left us, cold and without comfort. No flowers, no blanket, no parent. Just the night sky and the sound of silence. I know it isn’t true, but I want to say it because I’m sure there are others who feel this way, and I want you to know that I understand.
I also want to tell you that I appreciate you all being with me, and with Sara, Nicol, and the other women who walk this road. I hesitated to post tonight because I can’t stop crying and I feel like my thoughts are jumbled. The Lord reminded me of something that happened last week, and I want to share it with you so that you will know my heart a little better.
We went to the home of John Catchings, the greatest cello player I have ever had the honor of listening to. He has performed on all of Selah’s records, and he played at our wedding, so I feel connected to him. He is gifted beyond measure, and I want to thank him here for what he did for our family. You will get to hear it whenever I have permission to share, but just know that it is beautiful. I sat with headphones on and listened while his hands danced to the sound of Audrey’s music. I sobbed the whole time because it was so gorgeous. Here’s the weird thing. He kept stopping in the middle and telling the producer to start the track over so he could try again. For the life of me, I could not figure out what he was hearing. It was perfect to me. He knows music much better than I do, and he certainly knows what he is capable of doing, but to my ear, it was flawless. On the way home, I was remembering the way he played, and God spoke to me. It didn’t fully make sense to me until a few days later, but I want to share it with you because it is important for each of us to know as we make music with our lives (and we all do). The Lord whispered,
It is My song. I am just asking you to keep your hands steady on the bow.
Many, many times I feel like I am a garbled mess as I write. I post something and I think that it will never make sense to anyone. I want so desperately to make her story beautiful, and I feel like I am always wanting to yell, “Stop! let me try to do that better…” while I write.
Reading your comments and your letters, I have often wondered, “What have they heard?” It didn’t feel that way with my hands on the bow (or, the keyboard as it were…). Now I am starting to understand.
I am grateful tonight for a God who cares enough for His people to use us in spite of ourselves, to bring others to His name. I am an imperfect vessel with little more than a piece of sheet music (which I cannot read) and an instrument I do not know how to play. And yet the Lord says to me over and over……keep your hands steady on the bow, and I will make it a beautiful song…
Thank you Lord. Thank you for allowing me to even be a part of her life…
One of my favorite books is “The Valley of Vision.” It is a book of Puritan Prayers, and it is one of the most amazing prayer books I have ever read. In one of the entries on “weakness,” this is written:
Help me to walk the separated life with
firm and brave step
and to wrestle successfully against weakness;
Teach me to laud, adore, and magnify thee
with the music of heaven,
and make me a perfume of praiseful gratitude to thee…
(excerpt from pg 189)
To Sara, Bradon, Sydney and the gang…we are humbled that you would take the time to come and be with us. We just like you all so much!!! We are blessed beyond measure to have you to walk with as we travel. Thank you for your openness, your transparency, and your love. Thank you for your sweet spirits, and for your desire to have relationship deeply. Sara, we are kindred spirits, and as I go to bed tonight, I will be thanking Him for your friendship.