Today was supposed to be a day of happy rejoicing. We should be welcoming Joshua Zion into our arms. Instead, our bassinet and blankets are empty and cold, not likely to be filled for quite some time. He probably would have been true to the form of his brother and sisters and not arrived on his due date. But the moment he was gone, the only thing I was left with was a date when he should have arrived. So that is why I am commemorating his birthday today.
The past few months have had their fill of emotional highs and lows, but mostly a dull ache has resided in the back of my heart as I’ve steeled myself for this day when I must finally and completely put Joshua’s loss behind me. Not that I will forget him or stop hurting all of the sudden. But as long as I have dwelt safely within the days leading up to his due date, it’s as though I’ve been tethered to his memory in a special way that will fade the moment I pass the day that once represented such sweet expectation. It truly is over now, even the should-have-been weeks of dwelling in my belly.
As I’ve pondered in my heart a picture to take with me as a memento of my time in this wilderness, I keep coming back to something the Lord showed me in the early weeks of fresh loss. I saw a picture of my womb, with Joshua sleeping in it. In the background, I could hear my own heartbeat, slow and steady. Then I saw Yeshua reach out His arms to get Joshua from his resting place. He said, “It’s time to go now.” Joshua woke up and immediately reached for Yeshua, but he paused for a moment. “She won’t understand,” he said out loud, as he listened intently to the sound of my heartbeat. Yeshua smiled at him and with calm sincerity whispered, “Someday, she will.” Then Joshua let the Lord pick him up and he was gone. I’ve thought quite a bit about that promise of understanding. Isn’t it true that in the midst of grief we most often want understanding? At least we want to know that somehow our tears are not going to be wasted on something that wasn’t purposeful. But even when painful things happen and we are aware of a greater purpose, somehow the understanding of the suffering still eludes us. I would have to admit that even though I have gradually felt a peace in my heart, one born of realizing anew that Yeshua will never leave me nor forsake me, I wouldn’t call it “understanding.” Perhaps acceptance would be a better word for the place I find myself in now. I have learned many important lessons over the past weeks, but still I wonder if ultimately my understanding will be gained at a time long from now when I am dwelling in the Lord’s presence. For now, my understanding of why I went through this sits on the shelf of my many unanswered questions, waiting for the time of answer all our souls are seeking – when justice finally reigns in all the earth. For now, my heart is comforted by the fact that my baby boy loved his mommy and the Lord in His mercy allowed me to see that.
I would give anything to be able to have felt the last couple of weeks of pregnancy right now. I would be massive, with puffy ankles and a sore back, but I would be glowing with the sober understanding that an eternal soul was about to enter our family. My freezer would be full of dinners. I would be washing tiny onesies and hats. My house would be sparkling from floor to ceiling in my eagerness to provide a clean nest for my baby bird. Nana would be meeting weekly with me as we prepared for a home birth. I would be dreaming about the birth itself, and what Joshua’s face would look like when he finally emerged. Would he be a good nurser or more interested in sleeping? What would his cry sound like? Would he have a whole head of hair like his sisters? After his arrival, how many hours Pete and I would spend pouring over his tiny wrinkled face, trying to figure out who he most resembled. And how many moments over the next 18 months and beyond of his life would we laugh with amazement at the personality we saw emerging? I can picture his chubby fist clutching my hair each time I would get up in the dark hours to change and feed him. He would spend what would seem like 24 hours a day in my arms, and I would probably cry and feel overwhelmed. But at the end of the day, I would be so grateful for his precious little life, heaven visiting me on earth. It’s not that he’s gone that it hurts so much, it’s the thousands upon thousands of stolen moments that I will never have.
So what am I to do with this awful ache as I close out this painful chapter of my life? Nothing I can say will bring my baby back, and even my desire to memorialize his birthday seems paltry in comparison to how permanent his death is. Hopelessness is a temptation in these dark moments of wanting so desperately something that cannot be. But I must go on. I have six other children to love and raise in the fear of the Lord. They must not see me give in to the enemy’s desire to defeat me. They must see an example of strength and faith, even when it’s the last thing I can imagine myself exhibiting. They need to see their mama full of tearful faith, facing pain with openness and trust in the Lord, even if I cry all day sometimes. Yeshua promised us struggle and hardship in this life. But He also told us in John 16:33 to take heart because He has overcome the world. Not will overcome it – but already has. What a comfort this assurance is to my soul. In spite of the questions and the longing, I keep the perspective that every injustice that is done to the weak, the poor, the orphan, the widow, the persecuted, the unjustly accused, and the helpless on a moment-to-moment basis every single day in this world will be righted by Yeshua’s work alone. One day there won’t be any more questions. Once again, in God’s complete mercy, He has been teaching me how to strengthen myself in Him alone. I cannot do anything in my own strength. It’s here at my weakest and most vulnerable place that He is carrying me along. When I of myself have not the strength to take another step, to drag myself out of the bed in the morning and serve my family in every way He has called me to, He is there holding my hands as they work. He has an infinite amount of overcoming faith that is my inheritance. All I need to do is ask for it. In the words of one of our beloved pastors, my pockets are empty but I have everything I need by faith, therefore I possess everything I need.
Today, I’m letting myself weep and grieve, though I hold tightly to the promise of joy coming to me when my time for morning is here. The other day I saw a design made by a jeweler and my heart leaped because it so poignantly expressed the sense I’ve had lately. It was pendant made of a tiny little nest crafted of silver wire. In the nest were several howlite beads, which are blue and look like tiny bird eggs. Nestled in next to the blue beads was a white pearl bead. Hovering over the nest was a tiny silver mama sparrow. The designer stated that she had created the piece from her own story of miscarriage. The blue beads represent living children while the white pearl represents a baby gone too soon. Something about the beauty of the mama sparrow hovering over her baby birds ministered profoundly to me. I see Joshua as one of my little sparrows, right there in the nest with my other babies. He safely rested under my heart for four months and even though he has flown away, he is still my baby bird and I love him. And in the mama sparrow I see myself, compassionately watching over my babies even as I myself find refuge under my heavenly Papa’s wings. For my part, I’m walking forward from this graveyard to live in the fullness of the strength of hope and faith. The Lord has not abandoned me yet, so how can I have anything but a deep, abiding joy even in my sorrow? I have found great comfort in the song written by Civilla Martin over 100 years ago. “His eye is on the sparrow, and I know He watches me.”
We memorialized the day by releasing balloons. I felt a great release in my heart with this small memento of closure. It seems as though a brick weight has lifted off my chest. Today was the day I was able to take my first deep breath since all this transpired. Thank You, Jesus.
A side note – releasing balloons can be a beautiful way to remember something or someone, but please use well-tied biodegradable latex only, and cut off any strings before letting balloons fly to help keep our furry and feathered friends safe.