Die before you die. There is no chance after. -C.S. Lewis
I wish Lucy’s death was the only one I had to mourn. I think if that were true it would be so much easier. I worked so hard in therapy to deal with PTSD and to handle my horrifying memories. I grieved so hard after she died and found a lot of healing in God. As I go on with my life, though, I realize that Lucy’s death on February 8th was just the first and most painful death that would lead to a thousand more deaths. That is why it’s so hard to heal when you lose your baby that you never knew.
I also think this is why it’s hard for a lot of people to understand this grief (I certainly didn’t before going through it.) One of my favorite quotes from a book I recently read (An Exact Replica of a Figment of my Imagination, by Elizabeth McCracken) is, “Grief lasts much longer than sympathy.” It’s true, but why? I think people saw the obvious, sad death of my Lucy. They mourned the loss of her life and moved on (which they should.) But they don’t see the thousands of deaths I am dying day after day. Here I am, six months later and I’m still deep in the grief process. But I’m not just mourning Lucy’s death or Jude’s death, I am mourning all of the deaths that keep happening. Many of these deaths happen right in front of other people (even my husband, Josh) and they don’t know it.
When my grandmother died, we were all so sad, even though we knew it was coming. We found comfort in the fact that she had lived a full life. In the weeks following her death, a lot of things would remind me of her, a certain smell, an older lady in the grocery store, and bring me back to some happy memory of her. When a baby dies, it’s different. Things remind you of memories that never happened, that never had a chance to exist. There are very few (if any) memories to mourn and cherish. Instead of memories, we have all of our hopes and dreams for that baby. And aren’t a mother’s dreams for her child endless? Those dreams die every day. Those expectations of having my daughter for my lifetime are crushed every day. That is what is so painful. Things I don’t expect; they come out of nowhere. My friend who lost her baby says that each day when she goes out in public it’s like walking through a field of land mines.
The other day my sister asked about Christmas presents because she’s getting started early this year (July seems a little TOO early, but anyway.) Thinking of Christmas brought an unexpected shock of pain. I won’t be hanging my baby Lucy’s stocking next to her brothers’. I won’t be buying baby girl toys and watching her experience her first Christmas. That dream died, and it hurt. I wept for the loss of all of my Christmases with Lucy.
Last Sunday I worked up the courage to go to church. I walked into my Sunday School class and there was a woman with her newborn baby. I felt the flush of sorrow run through me and just walked right out of the room. Another death. I will never bring my newborn Lucy to church, I’ll never show off my first daughter. I’ll never be able to sit in the back of the church with Lucy curled up on my chest. I’ll never feel her breath, feel her warmth, feel the weight of her body. I was also reminded of the death of my love for babies. The old me would have LOVED having a newborn baby in my Sunday School class. It probably would have made my day. Now I run from babies. For something I loved so deeply to cause me such anguish feels like a death. That is a death I encounter a lot in my every day life and I am working on getting over it. During the praise and worship time at church we sang a new song (that I really liked.) There was one line about God being there for us – from a newborn baby’s first cry to his last breath. It was like a knife in my heart. Honestly, my legs started shaking and I didn’t even know if I could keep standing. Tears poured down my face, I didn’t even wipe them away. I realized I had never heard Lucy’s first cry. I don’t even know what her cry sounds like. How can a Mama not know what her baby’s cry sounds like? Another death. I walked right out of church and sobbed in the car all the way home.
You know, God doesn’t spare me from this pain, and He doesn’t take it away (not yet anyway.) He allows me to experience these deaths day after day, but He comes along side me in my pain. He knows just what it feels like. Jesus suffered so much while He was here on earth.
Isaiah 53:3 He was despised and rejected by men; a man of sorrows, and acquainted with grief; and as one from whom men hide their faces He was despised, and we esteemed Him not.
Even on Sunday as I drove home, barely able to see the road through my tears, I felt His presence, His ability to feel my pain. I wish He would just take the pain away, but I know He will use it to produce something beautiful. He is leaving me in my pain for a reason. Instead of taking it away He just says, “I know.” And He sits with me.
Psalm 34:18 The Lord is near to the brokenhearted and saves the crushed in spirit.
The good thing is that I’m getting more and more used to these deaths. At first they came as a shock. I really thought I would just have to mourn Lucy’s death and I was not expecting to encounter this heartache again and again in my everyday life. A few weeks after Lucy died we were having a family dinner at my Mom’s house and my brother and sister in law (who had a baby a couple months before Lucy was due) brought their ultrasound DVD to show us all. They told us while we were eating dinner that they brought it and the shock of pain that hit me was unbelievable. It felt like someone hitting me in the chest with a hammer. Their announcement was, honestly, almost as painful as when the doctor announced, “We have a fetal death.” I couldn’t eat another bite of food. All I could think of was the last time I saw Lucy on an ultrasound. She was dying while we watched. Her heart was struggling to beat. I would never see her kicking around on an ultrasound again. It took me several weeks to heal from that death. That was the first time I realized that the pain wasn’t just behind me. It was in front of me too. I had to come to terms with that. I cling to the fact that none of these deaths I’m suffering take God by surprise. He is powerful enough to help me through all of the pain, my past pain and my future pain. Now, when I encounter one of these surprise deaths and my new friend, Sorrow, comes and settles in I think, “Oh, it’s you again” instead of “Hey! What are you doing here?” I also have peace knowing that God understands, and He will get me through it. He sustains me.
Isaiah 43:2 When you pass through the waters, I will be with you; and through the rivers, they shall not overwhelm you; when you walk through fire you shall not be burned, and the flame shall not consume you.
Most of you have heard of the book “One Thousand Gifts” by Ann Voskamp. It’s about seeing the beautiful gifts God has given you all around you in your everyday life. It’s about seeing God’s majesty in these beautiful gifts. But what about my one thousand deaths? Is He in those too? I think so. I feel Him just as much in these deaths as I do in the thousands of gifts He has lavished on me. His most beautiful gift to humanity was a death, after all- His death on the cross, so that we could have life forever. Every time one of my hopes for Lucy or Jude dies, it is a chance for me to release my expectations to Him, to die to myself and to die to my dreams I had for these children here on earth. I have to die to myself and accept this new, difficult path that God has allowed my life to turn down.
Philippians 3:10 that I may know Him and the power of His resurrection, and may share His sufferings, becoming like Him in His death
Romans 8:38-39 For I am sure that neither death nor life, nor angels nor rulers, nor things present nor things to come, nor powers, nor height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God in Christ Jesus our Lord.
You guys, listen to this sermon about suffering and death by Timothy Keller. Despite the seemingly depressing subject matter, it’s so good. It has encouraged me so much. I promise it’s worth the 30 minutes it will take to listen to it. (It starts off seeming a little “philosophical” but it’s only for the first few minutes.)