2 Corinthians 4:7-10
7 But we have this treasure in jars of clay to show that this all-surpassing power is from God and not from us. 8 We are hard pressed on every side, but not crushed; perplexed, but not in despair; 9 persecuted, but not abandoned; struck down, but not destroyed. 10 We always carry around in our body the death of Jesus, so that the life of Jesus may also be revealed in our body.
I was reminded of this passage through an old facebook message, from back in May. It is clear to me that the faith and strength that everyone keeps mentioning they see in us is truly not from us. It is God-given, and often times I don’t know that I’m even aware of it. I feel weak, crushed, in despair, abandoned, destroyed. Yet this passage reminds me that I am not actually any of those things. And the line about carrying around the death of Jesus and revealing the life of Jesus in our body – that was especially true of Samantha. Through baptism she carried both, and both were revealed visibly in her body, through her last days and ultimately in her death.
At least once a day I am overcome by the realization of what we’ve been through, but usually many more times. I find myself thinking and even saying, “it CAN’T be true.” I cry daily, multiple times sometimes. Looking backwards, it feels like the past six months have been this strange series of dreams. In many ways I think I postponed my grief over her illness once we knew the prognosis. It wasn’t a conscious decision, but I focused on her, on spending time with her and soaking up every moment, instead of crying about her state or mourning her before she was gone. Now every day feels so empty without her. And when I think about the fact that we don’t have any children, that our lives have been “reset” and that we have two children already buried in the ground and waiting for us in heaven, it’s so hard to breathe.
When we lost Jonah, it was so hard. I cried so much for so long over him. Then at some point in the last few years, I buried that pain and with it the memory of him. I didn’t want to think about him. During my pregnancy, the fear kept looming, and I was reminded every day of what we had lost. And once we knew Samantha wasn’t long for this world, I had to bring out my memories again. This time it wasn’t sad or painful in the same way. Instead, honoring Samantha’s life also allowed me to make room for honoring Jonah. I had let go of a lot of things that were “his” including everything we had prepared for him – crib, baby clothes, maternity clothes even. We didn’t have anything in our house save a few things tucked away in a box and a single Precious Moments figurine of Jonah and the Whale. Now I want to bring out what we have and cherish it. I can allow myself to think about him.
Part of my need to bury his memory was that I didn’t want it to be a focus in our lives. Part of it was because I felt guilty for feeling pain about him when others lost children who had been born, even grown up a little. In some ways losing Samantha let me realize something. Each loss is unique, and though some losses are harder than others, it doesn’t mean the less hard loss is EASIER. It’s just not. And it’s okay to miss him and mourn him. We don’t mourn him in the same way as Samantha. A big part of that is because our memories of him are so limited, to morning sickness and hiccups and then stillness. Even ultrasound technology back then was not what it is today.
This business of grieving sneaks up on me all the time. One night it was flipping through a magazine in the bathroom, realizing the last time I had looked at it was when I was pregnant. Sometimes the sadness comes in realizing we won’t have our natural-born children with us in this life. Some of it comes from wondering what God’s purpose was in sending us our daughter when she was taken away so quickly (thoughts I also had back when we lost Jonah). Most of the time the attacks come at night, when all the lights and noises and distractions of the day are gone. I lay down to try to sleep and my head fills with thoughts of her sleeping next to us, or getting up to feed her, or a million other memories. If I have this many memories from four months, how do the parents do it who have years of memories stored up when their children die?
I find myself sometimes saying I want her back. Oh, I do. But when I say that I realize what I want back is the little girl who was first born, not the one who was in pain and suffering every day, the one whose little brain slowly disappeared and was replaced by fluid. Believe me, I would have kept her forever even in that state, but I can’t wish for her to be here suffering when I know she is without pain in heaven. I thank God that I am not the one making the choices for who lives in pain and who is called home. I couldn’t do it. But then I’m not God.
Every time I try to step back and take a look at what our lives have become, I find myself thinking that this whole path is impossible. How could this have happened to us? Why? I still know there aren’t any answers to these questions. And I don’t understand how I can still be standing, except by the grace of God. I don’t think I could get out of bed or even breathe right now if it weren’t for Him holding me up.