In 9 days, if not before, we’ll welcome our daughter into the world. One year ago as of last Sunday, we had to let our son leave it. The parallels astound a person if you really let yourself think about it. New life, just beginning. New life, just ending. For so long after Bennie returned to heaven, the feeling of fear was overwhelming. Perhaps more so than any other emotion. The fear of grief. The fear of how we would survive after he no longer could. The fear of returning to the world without him. The fear of seeing the faces of people who didn’t know what to say or what to do. The fear of moving through time and further away from his life. The fear of LIVING. It was strong and often pushed against our attempts to survive. Then, just 3 months later, we were blessed with this new life. This little person who perhaps would help us find our way. But, new fears joined those surrounding her brother. Would she be OK? Could it happen again? Would we survive if it did? How does a person give up control so totally and completely and trust in a higher power, a faith larger than the life of you or your children? Because in reality, there were many times when we were holding Bennie in our arms that we both said, “Why can’t it be me? Why can’t we be the ones to leave this life and let him live his? Who decided that was the path we would be on? Why have we been chosen to be on it? Why, out of all the people who have healthy, happy babies did we have a child who was “not compatible with life”? These are big, all encompassing kinds of questions that can never be answered. As with all grief, there is nothing simple about it. It is layered and hard and heavy and lasts forever. So, in facing the process of grief and joy all at once, some things have pushed through. One is this idea of fear…and how really it is perhaps more a sense of awe. Because in facing the death of a child and the birth of a child, there is a sense of the awesomeness of the universe. My husband laughs at me because sometimes I sit and put my hands on my stomach and feel our daughter kick and say, “It’s just so CRAZY to me that there is a PERSON growing in there. A living, breathing PERSON who formed from cells that decided to make a brain and a heart and arms and legs…that is ASTOUNDING to me.” Now, I get the medical side of it (at least as much as I ever will). I understand the idea of DNA and chromosomes and genetics. That’s all well and good. But you can’t tell me, if you’ve ever witnessed someone being born OR someone dying that there isn’t more to it than science. Because, whatever your belief system, there is a MAGIC about it that can’t be explained. The magic of birth is obvious…there is suddenly a new person that exists in the world. A tiny, amazing person who in their newness reminds us all of the fragility of life and the gift of that life that has been given to them and us. The magic of death, really, is very similar. The reminder that we are not in control. That the universe is bigger than we can ever understand. That life is fragile and each moment precious. It’s so interesting to me to think about those two pieces walking together through my life over the last 9 months. In some ways, they make sense together. Now, I would never say I am glad to have to find them on the same path. I would never wish for anyone to have to try to wrap their brain or their heart around the things we’ve had to this year. But as we move toward the potential for new life, the fear lingers, the lack of control worries, the unknown sometimes terrifies…but the magic of all of it, the understanding that it is not ours to decide, the knowing that we and she have some extra help from above…that often wins. Not always, but often. I’ll take that.
The verse above has been on my mind a lot as the days become fewer. Fearfully and wonderfully made. Yes. No matter the length of life, we are that. We are perfect because of our imperfections. We are hopeful because we know that hope is sometimes not easily found. We are grateful for each day because we have suffered a loss that reminds us that we can’t take them for granted. We are peace-filled because we know that our peace is dependent on the power of our grief, which really comes only because we have loved so deeply. I know that anxiety will carry it’s way with me next week. It has a place there. But I also know that we’ll have many travelling companions. Benton. Paul. Autumn. Jayce. Caleb. Josie. Aurora. Asher. August. Aubrey. A crowd of angels, all of whom left too soon. What better way to arrive in the world than surrounded, on both sides, by so much love? What a gift that is. What a gift these families have given us for sharing their stories and their children and their loss. That is not about fear. That is about strength. Powerful, soul filling strength that can see us through. It is wonderful, and my soul knows it well.