A couple of things have reminded me lately that I need to keep sharing with all of you. The first was an email I got from someone who is going through similar circumstances to us and has been encouraged by our faith. It’s humbling, to say the least, when most days I feel like I’m just barely getting by. The second was the gospel lesson from yesterday.
I haven’t been doing much talking to God lately. In fact, I realized the other day that I hadn’t done my daily devotions since Samantha left HealthBridge and went back to the hospital, when we learned that she was not going to survive. I don’t think I actively decided to stop speaking to God, but I certainly stopped bothering with daily disciplines like devotions and writing thank-you notes. Those were things I tried to focus on while we were at HealthBridge. The truth is that I hated being there. It was a difficult atmosphere to be in, and I think I knew deep down that there was still something very wrong with our daughter. I spent a lot of time crying and feeling frustrated, wanting to get away from all of the monitors but at the same time fearful of what might happen to her.
Anyway, back to the passage from yesterday:
Jesus Feeds the Five Thousand (Matthew 14:13-21)
13 When Jesus heard what had happened, he withdrew by boat privately to a solitary place. Hearing of this, the crowds followed him on foot from the towns. 14When Jesus landed and saw a large crowd, he had compassion on them and healed their sick.
15 As evening approached, the disciples came to him and said, “This is a remote place, and it’s already getting late. Send the crowds away, so they can go to the villages and buy themselves some food.”
16 Jesus replied, “They do not need to go away. You give them something to eat.”
17 “We have here only five loaves of bread and two fish,” they answered.
18 “Bring them here to me,” he said. 19 And he directed the people to sit down on the grass. Taking the five loaves and the two fish and looking up to heaven, he gave thanks and broke the loaves. Then he gave them to the disciples, and the disciples gave them to the people. 20 They all ate and were satisfied, and the disciples picked up twelve basketfuls of broken pieces that were left over. 21 The number of those who ate was about five thousand men, besides women and children.
Somewhere in the middle of my husband’s sermon, my mind began to wander (sorry honey!). I know he had pointed out that what happened right before this passage was that John the Baptist had been beheaded (Matthew 14:1-12). This passage begins with Jesus hearing the news and withdrawing. It occurred to me that this wasn’t just Jesus being sad about a friend or even a fellow minister. John was his cousin! Here is Jesus, learning the news that a close relative, his cousin who was only six months older than him, has been beheaded. Of course he withdrew to be alone! Despite the fact that Jesus is God, He also had human experiences. He needed to grieve the loss of one He had known throughout His life on earth. Yet despite His grief, He “had compassion” on the crowds who followed Him and He took time to minister to them and feed them. Travis and I are called into ministry, and this passage reminds me that we, too, need to have compassion on those who are hungry to hear the Word. Our grief will stay with us, and we will still need to take time for it, but we can also take time to serve those in our midst.
I’ve thought a lot lately about the things God shared with us through His Word, and I’ve realized that there are a lot of stories about parents losing their children, or struggling with fertility. God Himself had to watch His own Son suffer and die!
Parents who come to mind from scripture who lost children: Adam & Eve, Job, David, Mary, the Egyptians, the Israelites in captivity in Egypt, Jacob (whose son was not actually killed, but he didn’t know that for years). There were at least two widows in scripture whose children died and were raised from the dead. And Jairus, a Roman leader, had a daughter who died and was raised. Some were raised from the dead or discovered to be alive, but in many cases the death was permanent. And there are many tales of women who were barren, but I know from my own experience that some of that could have been miscarriages or even stillbirths. Many who have served and followed God have experienced heartbreaking loss, just like we have. And through this process we have learned of many others who have lost children.
I’m also someone who loves to read, and in the last few weeks so many books have been coming to me about people who have lost children, the fictional stories about this kind of loss. But art generally reflects life, and it reminds me that we are not alone or even unique in this kind of loss. I don’t know if it makes it easier for us to handle it, but I find a small measure of comfort in knowing we aren’t alone.
A few books that deal with the loss of children: Anne’s House of Dreams (LM Montgomery, part of the Anne of Green Gables series), The Timepiece (Richard Paul Evans, sequel to The Christmas Box), Little Women.
What has been the most difficult thing for us to adjust to is that our lives were RADICALLY DIFFERENT after Samantha was born. Anyone who has had children knows what I mean by this. Your life before kids is so different from your life once they are born. Everything changes. And now that she is gone, from the outside our life looks remarkably similar to before her birth. But on the inside, everything is still RADICALLY DIFFERENT. And it is so difficult to find balance between the two. Coming back to work has been so hard for me, because I was gone for almost six months between my hospital stay, Samantha’s early days at home, and then all of the horror of her illness, hospitalization, and final days on hospice care. I had planned to come back to work with her by my side after Easter. But instead, she got sick and we followed a much different road. And now I am in an office I thought would be shared with a baby, and everywhere I go I see babies and I wonder how old they are, how they compare to what Samantha would have been. I see pregnant women and I find myself getting angry or jealous or something that they probably don’t have to worry about the life of their child.
I once saw a news piece about infertility, and the couples they interviewed were all talking about how they felt miserable looking at people with kids. I reacted with judgment, because we were always content in our childlessness. But now I keep thinking about the song “Blessings” by Laura Story and I wonder if contentment is not what God intends for us in this life:
When friends betray us, when darkness seems to win
We know the pain reminds this heart
That this is not, this is not our home
It’s not our home
Cause what if Your blessings come through raindrops
What if Your healing comes through tears?
And what if a thousand sleepless nights
Are what it takes to know You’re near?
What if my greatest disappointments
Or the aching of this life
Is the revealing of a greater thirst
This world can’t satisfy?
And what if trials of this life
The rain, the storms, the hardest nights
Are Your mercies in disguise?
I never expected to long for heaven as much as I do now. And while doubts sometimes plague me, I do know that my children wait for me to meet them in heaven someday. I wish I knew what that will look like. I wonder sometimes if they will always stay as babies, or if they will grow and develop there. We just don’t know what God has in store for us, except that there will be no tears and He will be our light. I pray He returns for us soon.