There are really no words for today, or for yesterday, when my sweet friend lost her child, seven months after he was born. It feels useless and almost unnecessary, unimportant, to share the heaviness of the grief.
Almost harder for me, as the mother of two healthy children, has been the weight of responsibility.
I heard the news while sitting between my two children at home, at dinner. Our home is not a quiet one, and this is especially true at mealtimes (and bathtimes). The children were screaming in delight at each other, alternating between “Rooooaaaarrrr!” and “Noooooo!!!” enjoying the sounds of their voices volleying back and forth, at escalating decibel levels.
I sat, crying hot and silent tears, as they screamed, oblivious. Amidst the sadness and anger, I felt a heavy responsibility.
I felt so strongly the weight of it all, the sadness and ache, the anger – oh, the anger — and the blessing of what I’ve been given. I did nothing at all to “deserve” two healthy, beautiful, curious, extroverted, intelligent, musical, medical-problem-free children. Nothing. Yet here they are, my heart-loves — screaming with their healthy lungs, their healthy hearts beating reliably.
What to feel, in the face of this?
I fell asleep on the hard floor of their room, unable to think or pray, feeling empty. Surrounded by the noise of their sound machines, the whisper of their breathing, the heaviness of the humidifier-air in the cold night, an external realization of the heaviness of my heart.
My husband woke me later, and my body ached. Stiffly, I crawled out and into our room, into our bed.
Our beautiful children, he said. We are so very, very blessed. Let’s go to bed.
I fell asleep for the second time, nestled close to his beating heart, listening to him pray for my friend’s family and for ours, for strong faith in the face of all that we were feeling. For peace and comfort and hope and all these seemingly-impossible things to fill our empty and sad and angry hearts. I kept thinking, I don’t care each time he repeated anything about God’s love or goodness or promises or compassion. I don’t care, I don’t care, I don’t care.
“Can you fathom the mysteries of God?
Can you probe the limits of the Almighty?
They are higher than the heavens above—what can you do?
They are deeper than the depths below—what can you know?
Their measure is longer than the earth
and wider than the sea.
“Yet if you devote your heart to him
and stretch out your hands to him,
if you put away the sin that is in your hand
and allow no evil to dwell in your tent,
then, free of fault, you will lift up your face;
you will stand firm and without fear.
Job 11:7-9, 13-15
I cannot. I cannot fathom the mysteries of God. What can I know? Yet, I stretch out my hand to Him, because I have nothing else to hold onto. I devote my heart to Him, in gratitude, because I have been granted two wonderfully healthy children that I do not deserve. I do not understand this God who orchestrated the creation of the whole world and the miracle of childbirth, who created all things bright and beautiful, all creatures great and small.
Intellectually, I know that His heart aches for the pain and suffering in the world, the brokenness that was brought by our sin and disobedience. I know that He promises to make all things new one day, to bind all our wounds, take away all our suffering, and restore all our brokenness. But it does not seem to matter right now.
This morning, I hugged my children tight and kissed them long. I noticed the feel of their skin as I got them dressed, and the cadence of their voices as they talked. I could not stop looking at them, could not take my eyes from their faces. I could not get enough. I longed to catch a smile, and then another. I wanted to maintain eye contact forever each time they met my gaze.
I will see the goodness of the Lord in the land of the living.
They are His goodness. I can’t look at them and see anything other than what they are — living miracles, undeserved blessings, the faces of God.
My heart is heavy, filled with grief and confusion and anger, and it is also so full, with gratitude, with the humility of the undeserving, and with love.
Yes, we are so very, very blessed.
There’s such responsibility
bound up in a healthy child.
Not just the mundane –
clothing, feeding, loving –
But just in having,
When some don’t.
to find the delight in the frustration –
But it’s there,
in a living, breathing child.
Such a stark contrast
To one who is not.
Who, suddenly or slowly,
Has left us.
We are left with sadness,
with a gaping hole,
with this heavy loss.
And such responsibility.