Good Friday and Easter Sunday are perhaps the most significant days of the church calendar, and yet, in a real sense, we live our lives on Saturday, the day in between. Philip Yancey

Friday, September 23, 2011

Storms and the Grief Baby

Just as my sky cleared, the bottom fell out over our city. Tuesday a rippling heartbreak occurred as an infant suddenly and traumatically died. The rain has pounded down every night since, dramatically concluding a summer of drought. The deluge of water pounding overhead and the fierce thunder has interrupted sleep. My abrupt consciousness begins with a racing heart as the sound immediately takes my thoughts to the young parents at the beginning of such a season of dark storms. I then calm as I imagine God’s tears mixed in that rain, washing over them...and us.

My storms kept getting shockingly stronger as the grief season progressed, until Lydia’s Birthday. That storm only brewed a week rather than a month. The focus was simply Lydia rather than the magnitude of secondary losses. Anticipation was by far the darkest aspect, during which I labored over the expression. Documenting a snapshot of our divided hearts, the part that left us and the portion that remains, was all I needed to release me to run out of the intensity into the storm shelter for the rest of the day. There we did as little as possible till the remnant passed. A long nap and a simple dozen purchased cupcakes with family were involved, unlike last year. Both extremes were perfect in their time. I’ve come out emotionally satisfied but spent. 

Saturday, September 17, 2011

I'll Love You Forever

A couple days ago Josiah grabbed the little book I'll Love You Forever off the shelf and snuggled up next to me. I obliged his request even though I've always found that book to be a little creepy, in the sweetest sort of way. I mean climbing into your grown son's window while he's sleeping to hold and sing to him? I needed to get a cathartic cry out of the way before today so I willed myself to let the sweetness win out. It didn't take much effort as just inside the cover was a dear friend's hope-filled inscription in anticipation of Lydia's birth. Then basically every other page reads this sappy "chorus":

I'll love you forever,
I'll like you for always,
As long as I'm living
My baby you'll be.

When you get to the end the son does similar sweet weirdness for his aged mother and flips the words. Hard turned to torture.

I'll love you forever,
I'll like you for always,
As long as I'm living
My Mommy you'll be.

This is the natural order of the parent-child relationship. Natural order went out the window soon after Lydia's textbook perfect birth.

It was replaced with a life exponentially stranger and more endearing than the story line of I'll Love You Forever
A hugely distended, "pierced" and scarred tummy, accessorized with hard plastic shoes, never looked so sweet.

I can think of few greater temporal joys than the first smile witnessed from your child in years, after finally treating the proper diagnosis.

Still the brokenness and intensity were too great for a novel length life. We came to appreciate and expect a short story for our girl. 

Oh how I long to pick back up where we left off, but in a restored eternal order, for our first two-sided conversation. I promise to let you do most of the talking to make up for lost time.

After a morning of tearful reflection I sat down for some spiritual nourishment. Too much emotion and not enough substance make me irritable. I kept coming back to J. I. Packer quotes to clarify some of the conflict between what my pain actually is verses what it's generally presumed to be. “It has become conventional to think as if we are all going to live in this world forever and to view every case of bereavement as a reason for doubting the goodness of God.”

Being Lydia’s mom has been my course in desperately learning the counter-truth to this deception. Death indeed is horrible and unnatural. Please don’t ever call it a blessing even though it can bring great relief. Our souls were created for forever, not endings. God sent Adam and Eve out of the garden to separate them from a second potentially devastating tree, the tree of life. If they would have eaten from it after infecting themselves and the world with sin, physical immortality would be set in a broken state before restoration. This is not the kind of forever ordained by the Creator for them, us, or Lydia. While death is indeed an enemy, it is actually evidence of God’s goodness, a provision for restoration.

Even with this redeeming understanding, the pain of Lydia's death is just so great that it has knocked the breath out of my passion for Saturday. I know that this time between Christ's death and the full impact of His resurrection is a precious extension so that more may be brought into the fold for Sunday. I am selfishly just eager for the restoration, so I can naturally long for only those things He will satisfy. I want to live like I fully believe that He alone is enough.

“Materialism, with its corollary that this life is the only life for enjoying anything, has infected Christian minds producing the feeling that it is a cosmic outrage for anyone to have to leave this world before he or she has tasted all that it has to offer.” Everything this world had to offer Lydia paled in comparison to what we wanted for her. I imagine that is only a tiny taste of what motivated God to assure that death would be a part of this time to keep this life, with a hard relationship with Him, from being our climax.

On this September 17th, 11 years since your birth and 1 yr, 2 months and 12 days since your death I don't know which event displays God's goodness more. I marvel that our overwhelming joy, following your birth, was the prelude to your most epic pain. And that your overwhelming joy, following your death, was the prelude to ours. I treasure having been with you for both and would live them over again for the privilege of being your mother, dear sanctifying child.

Happy Birthday Lydia.

I'll love you forever,
I fought for you always,
For all of eternity
My baby you'll be.

Wednesday, September 14, 2011

Good Questions to Deeper Layers

I recently was struck by a sentiment that the best verbal support we offer as friends is often through having good questions, not good answers. Of course we have the strong example of God’s counterintuitive words of comfort  to Job.

A friend asked a simple question in passing that got me thinking (I love help thinking). “Have you done tonsil and adenoid removal before with any of your kids?” Yes, Lydia did but as an add-on to abdominal surgery with a PICU admission. Amelia was just outpatient in the office surgery center. Lydia took all her nutrition via tube and Amelia would be a battle of the wills to keep her drinking. Both would lay around afterwards well medicated. That would only be odd for one.

Grandparents, Yoo-hoo, Homework and Tonsils

As a child I spent a week by myself at Moms and Pops’ house each summer. It was a highlight of the year. Morning and evening I’d walk hand in hand with my grandmother the block from home to their family department store to play in the clothing racks and sit around learning how to crochet. A neighbor would drive down the main street with a pickup truck full of watermelon so Pops would buy one and cut it up in the back room, complete with dentures made from the rind. I washed it down with a Yoo-hoo picked up across the street and “put on my grandfather’s tab”. The cashier knew who I belonged to without elaboration. One year that little store had good looking kiwi for sale. My exuberance was expressed and Moms and Pops put their green thumbs to kiwi growing for the next couple decades.