Today is the one year anniversary of the day we walked into an ultrasound room and had our hearts completely broken. It was a day just like today. A little cloudy and breezy with the sun coming and going. I remember the long walk to the doctor’s office. I was meeting Matt there and I walked slowly, knowing I was about to officially hear the words that I already knew to be true in my heart.
You couldn’t pay me ten million dollars to go back to those first moments and days and weeks and months. The physical loss and heartache are unreal. The empty arms. The silent hospital room. I remember waking up morning after morning thinking how unnatural and wrong it was that I had slept the entire night before. I wanted a newborn waking me up. I shouldn’t be getting so much sleep, I just had a baby! I hated that nobody knew I had just carried and birthed the most beautiful baby girl. I remember making up reasons to be able to mention to complete strangers that I had just given birth.
Some awesome friends and my parents paid for us to get away to a local hotel with a waterpark two weeks after I delivered her so more awesome friends could come finish packing, moving, and cleaning our house, since we had sold it with plans to relocate to Seattle for Grace’s care. I proudly wore my bathing suit to the park because the extra skin and loose belly were the only physical evidence I had that I had carried my sweet girl for nearly 8 months.
It’s hard to believe that a year has passed. So much grief and joy. It’s exactly as Angie Smith has described it: a sacred dance of grief and joy. It’s both, and somehow they move and work together. Some days (and months) one leads the other with a strong hand, but they’re both there.
So as I reflect back on the last year, these are a few things I’ve learned. About myself, about God, about other people.
1. God is faithful. I know that’s Christianese to say but I say it as strongly and firmly as I can, and if I were sitting across from you, you would see the conviction in my eyes as I grabbed your hand and said, God is faithful. He will do it. He will surely do it. I didn’t think I would ever feel the full measure of joy again but he has filled my heart with such an overflowing measure of joy that I can hardly adequately describe it. It literally fills me.
2. God is kind. I had many moments and seasons this past year when I said in my brokenness to the Lord, You do not feel kind. You do not feel trustworthy. But in his faithfulness and in ways that I alone will treasure in my heart, he has shown me such kindness and unfailing love, it’s hard to truly fathom.
3. I wouldn’t want to be the person I was before. I would never ask for this or choose it but I thank the Lord that he continues to redeem it and bring beauty from the ashes. I had a lot of “right” theological answers before but I often lacked what people loved about Jesus, his compassion. I’ve learned that humans are intensely complex and there is no one-size-fits-all response to grief. What people often want in their pain is for someone to simply grieve with them, not give them a slew of “right” answers. Job’s friends had a lot of good theology but they were called “miserable comforters” and God himself rejected their words about him. Today I’m a lot less like Job’s friends than I was before.
4. The body of Christ is an amazing and beautiful thing. The love that we’ve been shown this past year has done more to make me want to love Jesus and others well more than any other thing I’ve experienced in my life. I feel better equipped to love and serve others because of the example I’ve seen in countless others toward us. I know that a simple card in the mail can brighten someone’s entire day because someone took the time to do that for me. I know that letting myself cry for the pain of someone else can do more for their broken heart than the most eloquently spoken words because somebody did that for me. I know that a homecooked meal, lovingly prepared and delivered, can take the edge off a grief-filled night because many people did that for me. So many practical and tangible ways that people loved us, I’m so happy it’s finally my turn to love others where they’re at.
5. New life has never meant so much to me. I didn’t go to church this Easter because Asher was sick so I volunteered to stay home with him. But to be honest, I wasn’t too sad to miss. I didn’t want it to be about a new dress and fancy clothes and Easter baskets. When I thought about the resurrection and the impossibility, apart from God, to bring life from death, my heart was craving more, something deeper. So Asher and I stayed home and weeded our front yard. And it was the most worshipful thing I could have done on that day. As I pulled dead and broken plants and weeds and saw the new life coming in underneath I couldn’t help but be in awe of God and what we learn to be true of him from his creation. As dead as those plants seemed and as long as the winter was, there was still new life! It’s true in creation and I’ve seen it to be true in my life again and again. Nothing is ever too broken, winters are never too long, that God cannot bring new life.
So yes, today and everyday, I miss my girl. I’ll always miss her. Someone asked us recently if we feel we’ve moved on or past it and Matt told them that it’s something we’ll never move past. We’ll always miss her and carry her with us. I’ll always mark dates and anniversaries. I don’t want to spend her first birthday at a grave site. I want her here with cake-smeared face and chubby fingers. I long with every fiber to know her on this side of eternity. I want to know what she looks like and if she’s as feisty as Asher or as sweet and silly as Micah.
I know tomorrow will be sad. I know I’ll cry when we visit her and wish with everything in me that things were different. But I thank the Lord that this life isn’t the end of our story. We will get to know her. For all of eternity, more deeply than we could ever have known her on this side. The very indescribably best is yet to come. And I’m thankful that he has not allowed this to destroy us. I’m thankful for the hope that we will see her again, for this overflowing joy he’s placed in my heart, and for new life and resurrected hope.
He is faithful and he brings such beauty from the ashes.