Light at the end of the tunnel.
It’s an interesting phrase, cliche, concept, and reality.
I remember spending months and years wondering why every light I would see would end up being a train to pummel me rather than the end of the tunnel.
Just when I would glimpse hope or joy, my life would come crashing to a halt again.
The pain and the sorrow, the tears and the utter devastation.
I kept thinking, I can never survive this again. If it happens again, it will kill me.
The thick shadow of death’s valley was my home for ages.
And to be honest, I can not put my finger on the time when I felt like I was suddenly out in the light again.
Out of the tunnel.
There was not a time where I saw the light at the end of the tunnel, and suddenly realized that it wasn’t another train.
There hasn’t been a moment where I finally notice the darkness is dissipating and I’m almost out of the shadowy tunnel.
But here I am.
I turn around, and I look back, to see that the tunnel is behind me.
That particular dark journey of thick shadows and tunnel vision is over.
Although I did not know it was coming, or perhaps it was simply that I was afraid to hope against hope and chose the path of denial…
I can tell you now, there was light at the end of the tunnel.
I know because I’m there now.
To be real, frank, & honest, I haven’t come very far out of the tunnel.
It’s not like I’ve journeyed away.
I still stick my toes in there and dance around the opening.
Sometimes I do it on purpose.
Other times, I simply look up to realize I tripped and somehow ended up inside the tunnel again.
But I stay close to the open edge now – I don’t want to get sucked back into the deep darkness.
If a train is coming, I want to be out in the open so I have a chance to jump out of the way.
So here I sit on October 15th.
It’s Pregnancy & Infant Loss Awareness Day.
And I specifically purposed not to buy balloons this year.
I don’t know why.
Maybe it’s because the tunnel feels too close right now.
Maybe it’s just because I want to feel like I’m making decisions I want to make,
rather than just continuing with a tradition because, well, it’s tradition.
I didn’t used to believe I would ever come out on the other side. I didn’t know how it would ever be possible to “move on.” I disagreed that I would ever reach a light at the end of the tunnel. I clenched my teeth and sighed to myself when someone would tell me, “there’s always hope.” Honestly, a lot of cliches (true or not) made me want to smack something or someone.
But here I am.
There really was light at the end of the tunnel.
There really was hope.
I have full confidence now that if God did not want us to have another biological child after Gabriel that He would have had a different perfectly wonderful plan for our family. But in all honesty, I did not have that confidence at the time. Everything looked bleak from my perspective back then. So while I know now that God would have been faithful, no matter how black life looked from my unfaithful perspective, I understand from experience that you can not see rainbows when the storm is thick & raging so you can’t even see six inches in front of your face.
But today I am wearing my unwieldy necklace with thirteen metal nametags.
Simeon loves the jingle jangle it makes when he plays with it.
Evangeline likes to find her nametag and read it to me.
The big boys like to read the babies’ names, and ask me their order.
These kids know our family is bigger than it seems.
Life is not what I imagined it would be.
(Me with my dreams of three in diapers.)
But life is good.
Crying used to be a form of daily exercise for me. It was that exhausting.
I would bawl my eyes out in the shower each night because I knew it would limit anyone knowing how broken I was.
I used to think I would be drowning forever, that the nightmare would never end.
I know that I’m not longer held in the throes of deep, dark, ugly grief.
But how in the world did I survive that nightmare through to this other side, called “someday”?!
Grief is horrible. It is caused by horrible things, and it in turn can cause horrible things.
I didn’t know that, in time, it could also cause something beautiful.
I didn’t realize that “beauty from ashes” would look this way.
Grief was exhausting. Not just the crying parts.
But the mourning.
The ache and pain and physical manifestation of internal, emotional, spiritual devastation is horrible.
Just surviving hurt.
The life of being a mama to four little kids, and the underlying pain I have in my physical body on a daily basis still make me exhausted and I still deal with daily pain.
But it’s different. Lesser, somehow.
Mommy-exhaustion from my four miracles is less exhausting than grief.
Grief was a full-time job.
And that’s no exaggeration.
I spent years just enduring.
Ask anyone who has dealt with chronic suffering of any type.
Enduring isn’t for the faint of heart.
I don’t know how people do it without Christ’s strength.
I was telling another loss-mama just this week how encouraging it is, not only to be on the other side of the dark tunnel,
but to be able to better see purpose in my grief.
And not just for myself.
It is good to know that God has woven beauty out of the ashes for my own family.
But it is even more amazing to see how God allows me to share that beauty with others.
Romans 12:15 and 2 Corinthians 1:4 sum it up pretty spot-on for me.
I love to be that other woman who pulls you through the muck, because I used to be there too.
I love that God urges me to send books and make jewelry for other women whose babies have died.
I love that He lets me burden-bear for grieving women around the world.
So for PAIL Remembrance Day today, I want you to know…
I have been there. I get it. Me too. It sucks.
But I also want to gently tell you that while I don’t know God’s plans for my future, or for yours, I do know with confidence that He will be faithful.
He delights in bringing joy and peace to His saints. He rejoices over us with singing.
He is our keeper. He is the shade at our right hands. He doesn’t slumber or sleep.
He knows the beginning from the end, even when all we can see is one moment of dark, tearful despair when it feels like everything might as well be over.
The story isn’t done yet.
I’m praying in whatever chapter is next, His pinions reach you in a tangible peace.
Sometimes when I think about my babies in heaven, it knocks the wind out of me.
How much I love them.
How terribly I miss them.
How often I wish others knew about them or acknowledged them.
How happy I am in life now, even though the tunnel of grief is still visible and touchable.
Yep, even that.
There are times when it hits me so much harder than I feel like it should.
But I’m a mommy.
And those are my sweet babies.
So maybe it’s just that my brain doesn’t realize fully that it should hit me hard.
Being bowled over by the mixture of love & grief isn’t out of the ordinary.
You know how moms start talking about their kids? They go off on a dozen rabbit trails, and sometimes you glaze over and think about how you can’t pay attention to another single tangent about this woman’s kids?
I feel like that at the moment.
I feel like I got started talking about my babies, and went on a few tangents and a bunch of rabbit trails, and I just realized that your eyes look glazed over.
I am their mommy. They are my babies. You will never know how much I love them, how deeply I miss them, how proud I am to be their mommy, how thankful I am that God gave me these babies.
Covenant Hope, you made me a mommy first. You were the first other soul ever to inhabit my body. I never got to hear your heart beat, but I felt you living inside of me. You are something super special. You are the big sister that Gabriel forever talks about. You, in the palm of my hand, with your precious limbs and that perfect little umbilical cord and the deep blue where your eyes were forming ~ I think of you and the one short evening I got to spend with you outside my womb. You are the one (of my thirteen!) that I have taken camping. Those were horribly painful memories for such a long time, but I love that those memories now make me smile. Your daddy and I got to take you camping.
Glory Hesed, you made Gabriel a big brother first. You would have been just eighteen months apart, and I often imagine the level of crazy you would have added to our home. It makes your mommy smile. I remember the days when I walked around with you underneath my skin.
Promise Anastasis, you are my summer rosebud. Your life gave me hope. I love that I can now look ahead to the resurrection, when I will see you again. I remember holding you. I remember the world caving in around me. I think it was when I said goodbye to you that I found myself in the tunnel-that-had-no-end.
Peace Nikonos, there is so much I remember about being pregnant with you. I remember every detail of delivering you into my hands, too. It has been seven years since you were knit inside me, snuggling in my womb. You came on an airplane with us to the East Coast. You are one of the few babies who had a chance to hear the voices of your paternal grandparents and even great-grandparents. Besides Gabriel, yours was the first heart we got to both see and hear beating. The immense comfort and delight of that was indescribable. I remember thinking you were a strong fighter, and that’s how I think of you. Fast and strong. Maybe that’s one of the reasons I never once even considered that you weren’t my son.
Mercy Kyrie, a little one who came along with me for a jump into the deep end of immunology treatments. I was surprised to learn you were growing inside me, and overjoyed. We spent an entire holiday season with you in my womb, and the joy and peace and hope you brought to my soul were deliciously addicting. Your grandpapa brought me a bouquet of flowers one day when we had good news about your health. Christmas that year suddenly felt redeemed. I think of you when it snows.
Victory Athanasius, you make me speechless. I remember when we named you, it specifically stands out to me for some reason. And saying goodbye to you. I remember the day keenly. So does your daddy. Again, you specifically stand out to us. The seventh child to inhabit my body, I love to think of you as a dancing victor.
Hosanna Praise. My son. I remember when your grandpapa called and confirmed you were a boy. It knit you more deeply into my heart than I could ever tell you. There’s something about a mommy and her boy. I remember carrying you in my belly. I remember taking you to Mexico. I remember seeing you on ultrasound and loving to watch your heartbeat. Your ultrasound photos might be my favorites (shh! don’t tell the others!). I named you Hosanna as soon as I found out God was knitting you. I didn’t know the number of your days, but I knew you would forever be my Hosanna. And although God’s plan is different than mine would have been if I had been the author (and everyone is thankful that Mommy isn’t, by the way!), I am thankful He heard our cries to save you. I’m thankful He is your Savior and your Lord. When I think of my sons, you are always there in the corner of my mind.
Heritage Peniel, you are the sweet little girl who made Evangeline a big sister. You and I shared blissful joys, baby. I saw you numerous times on ultrasound. I loved every piece of you. I still do. No bigger than my thumb, you were the most beautiful little thing. Holding you in my hands broke my heart, but at the same time, it was one of the best days of my life. That’s weird to admit. It was a horrible day. But oh! I’m so thankful I got to hold you. And kiss you. I miss having you running around in your big sister’s wake, wearing her old clothes, sleeping together in a pink and grey room full of flowers. Even though you are my January sweetheart, when I close my eyes, I envision you with peonies and lacy bonnets. There isn’t a doubt in Mommy’s mind that you would have been the quiet little freckle who could never quite keep up with the firecrackers.
Fidelis Se’arah, my wee faithful babe. Another little May blossom. Plucked too soon. Blooming fragrantly in heaven. You took my breath away. I still catch my breath when I think of you. You remind me that there is Someone who is faithful in all things, all times, all ways. You were the darling who pushed me to the end of a rope, and who gave me the courage to fall.
October 15th, 2016
with much mommy love for my nine xxx