This is the week.
This is it.
I just went back and read this one post and had forgotten about the water running down Ben's little cheek after our pastor baptised him. I wonder how much I have forgotten....
And I read the last line, where I wondered how long I could live, feeling that grief... and I can honestly tell you that, one year later, it's not the same. It aches. It hurts. But it's not the same raw, stormy, violent grief that I was experiencing on May 19. It's manageable, maybe. I can compartmentalize, maybe? I don't know. I'm going to think about it more later, but my testimony is this: it's possible to laugh deeply these days. It's possible to sigh and feel completely content some days.
I also find myself wrapped in a quilt, weeping on my front porch, calling my dear friend in Alaska who lost three babies and now has three beautiful children on earth. I call her, sniffling and gasping for breath and in the background, her precious children squeal and scream and rush around her house and I know that there is hope... there is hope.
I remember when she lost her son, Josiah. Winter was seven months along and she was one of my first close friends who had had a baby, as an adult, and my first close friend to lose a baby like that. Josiah had anencephaly and we had believed God for a miracle for four months, since she and Scottie had first found out that the baby had that disorder. Winter had suffered through two miscarriages and I remember the day that she pulled our friend Amy and me into a bathroom at the school where we taught and told us breathlessly that she was pregnant and we praised God with her. When we found out that the baby was sick, we just decided that we were going to believe for a miracle. Winter held on to that hope until the moment she delivered and she knew that the Lord had not chosen to heal Josiah. My heart ached for my precious friend when she called me from England, where she delivered the baby while at The Factory at the YWAM base in Harpenden. I wanted to hold her, to weep with her in person, to brush her hair back from her face, but instead we just cried and cried on the phone.
Seven years later, she has done the same thing for me repeatedly. This time, we were pregnant together and she delivered her third son about three weeks before Ben was born. When Don called from the hospital room to tell her that Ben had died, she was shocked all over again and she told me that she thought it was the worst joke she had ever heard-- it just couldn't be. She told me that she felt her loss all over again. Later, she told me that she laughed out loud when I sent her one of the close up pictures of Ben's little face...she laughed because he looked so much like Don and was just so beautiful. It was so unreal. So impossible. She has picked up her phone to my tear-choked voice countless times this year and she has dropped everything, every time.
If you've ever wondered how to be a friend to a woman who has just lost a baby, I will tell you this: listen to her tell the story over and over again. Never tell her that you heard her say something before. Be honest about the grief you're sharing with her-- I can't tell you how affirming it has been to me when my friends shake their heads and say that they just don't get it, that it's just not right...and that they trust God still.
Virtually all of my friends have been that kind of friend this year. I am so blessed. I can call any number of women at any time of the day and they will listen to me. They will come to my house. They will meet me anywhere and continually pursue me, even when I don't answer the phone sometimes or respond to invitations to baby showers that they wrestled over sending to me but didn't want to leave me out of...
Oh gosh, how loved I am. Jesus, Jesus, you have poured out Your love over me a thousand times in the wet embraces of women who know my secrets and those who only know my name. All have blessed me and held my heart. Oh Lord, You have ministered to me through Your body, the community of believers all over the world-- from women who have never had children but whose hearts are full of understanding and so creative and can only imagine the horror of the loss, and so full of empathy, who are willing to sit in the darkness and feel as much as they can with me. I have felt Your embrace from mothers who have never lost children but who can imagine the horror of it (how can I name you all? If I name one, I have to name forty... I cannot bear the idea of leaving any of you out... you have been a better friend to me than I ever deserved-- you are so selfless, dear women-- P and T and M, R and D and P and T and M and D and C and S and G and K and K... see? And that's not even close to the start). I have felt Your sweetness in the words of women who have walked this path before me, whose testimony is that it always hurts like hell but that it does get better and that there is hope and who tell me to keep talking, keep talking, keep talking... and who keep listening, keep listening, keep listening.... I have never been alone, even if I have felt it. I have been husbanded by a husband who loves me as Christ loves the church and I have been mothered by my mother and pastored by my father and gently held by my brother and nurtured by sisters-in-law and a brother-in-law. My mother-in-law has gently reminded me with her tears that she loved him, too, and that she longs for him, too, and my father-in-law has answered questions about what he thinks about eternal things in the light of our little boy being there, and I have remembered that this boy was part of his lineage, bearing his name. I have been shown friendship by my friends because Jesus is real and He has never abandoned me.
And He never leaves, even when I question His goodness...because I still question His wisdom in all of this, often. But there's a thing called "acceptance" that I am only beginning to understand.
I am crying out for something special on Ben's birthday.
This time last year I was getting the nursery ready. I was packing my bag and making my list and getting ready to leave on Monday afternoon. I was excited. I was scared of the pain of labor, but I did not think anyone would die. This time last year, I lay down on my bed, burning up hot, and talked to him... told him that it wouldn't be long now. I think I sang him a song. I had two afternoons like that-- today and tomorrow are the one year anniversaries of the last time I sang Ben a song.
I didn't have any idea how precious those memories would be one day. What a treasure those moments that felt so slow and heavy and hot were. Oh God, I wish I could go back and tell myself to pay more attention. I wish I could tell myself to make sure to tell him everything and poke him and feel his little body squirming and make him feel your hands pushing against him and make him hear your voice saying, "I love you, I love you, I love you-- mommy loves you, baby."
But I keep thinking that he knows. Right now, he knows. Wherever he is, he knows.
It's almost your birthday, baby. My God, how I miss you.