Remembering, joyfully

Today is October 15th, the day of Pregnancy and Infant Loss remembrance and awareness. In past years, I have been nearly overwhelmed by anticipating this and preparing for it. It’s one of the few times where I felt normal for speaking about the babies that were born directly from my womb to the glories of heaven, one of the few days where I don’t find myself blushing when talking about the little babies the size of a fingernail who I have cradled in my hand, one of the few Hallmark holiday type moments that I take delight in embracing. I love to speak about my babies, to remember aloud the beautiful little children that God created with Steven & me, to imagine what their resurrected bodies look like, to wonder what the hosts of heaven sound like with my seven little saints uniting their voices with all the saints victorious. I love to light candles and let balloons go up into the sky. I love to wear jewelry with their names on them, and look at the arrows in a leather quiver that also bear their names. As weird as it sounds, I love to think about the sorrow and the grief ~ it’s one of the few things I have done in my motherhood of these seven children. And I love to think about reuniting with them in heaven ~ it’s the only thing I have in my motherhood of these seven children that I get to look forward to. The mystery of heaven, the glory of heaven, the purity of heaven… some of my children are experiencing that right now, and I can only begin to wrap my brains around that.

Nancy Guthrie, one of my favorite authors, describes this at length (quoted from The One Year Book of Hope, pp 161-174):

Heaven. It is our fondest desire, and yet it is such a mystery, isn’t it? We lack the clarity or vocabulary to understand or describe heaven. The magnificence and marvels of heaven are beyond the capacity of our language and intellect. And really, anything less wouldn’t be heaven, would it?

“No eye has seen, no ear has heard, and no mind has imagined what God has prepared for those who love him.” ~ 1 Corinthians 2:9

If only we could long for heaven and long for Christ as we long for our son.
Suddenly I was longing for heaven and it seemed so real. And yet, if I was honest, it was not Jesus I was longing to see and enjoy most of all; it was Hope. But I didn’t want to admit it. not to myself, and certainly not to anybody else. It seemed to me a sad commentary on the inferior state of my love for Christ.
Should you feel guilty about wanting to see someone you love in heaven? I don’t think so. It is a desire God uses to awaken us to Himself. When someone we love is there, heaven becomes more real and our longing more vivid. It is a sacred longing. The fact that we long for them more than we long for Jesus reflects our current human limitations of taking in the beauty and magnificence of Jesus. In heaven, we will see Him in His fullness, and we will not have to choose  between focusing on the people we love and loving Jesus with our whole heart. We’ll be swept up with the chorus of heaven singing, “The Lamb is worthy” (Revelation 5:12). And together with those we love, we will look to Jesus.

The grace is, for me, a difficult place. Sometimes people have tried to comfort me be reminding me that Hope and Gabe are not in that grave — that they are in heaven. I know what they are saying — but my children’s bodies are in that grave and I loved their bodies! Bodies must mater to God because He will use the seed of our earthly bodies to make for us bodies fit for heaven. Out bodies will be remade for glorified minds that understand the mysteries of the universe and purified hearts that are free of bitterness and resentment, selfishness and suspicion. We will see each other as God intended us to be all along, before sin had its way in our hearts and bodies.

There is one place where heaven is always talked about — in the pages of a hymnal. Have you ever noticed how most old hymns end with a heaven verse — one that celebrates Christ’s coming return or what it will be like to cross death’s shores? O that with yonder sacred throng, we at His feet may fall, we’ll join the everlasting song, and crown Him Lord of all… Far, far away, not only could I see that “younger sacred throng,” I could see a familiar face in the midst of the throng! Someone I love is there, worshiping Jesus! I am closest to them when I do what they are doing and love Whom they are loving — when I fall at the feet of Jesus. They are at the feet of Jesus, singing praises to the Lamb who is worthy! But we don’t have to wait until heaven to join the everlasting song. We can join in here and now.

Grieve with us, share our sorrow, but don’t feel sorry for us. We are enormously blessed. A piece of us resides in heaven. Her absence leaves a hole in our hearts, but we are comforted to know we will one day see her again.

“He will remove all of their sorrows, and there will be no more death or sorrow or crying or pain. For the old world and its evils are gone forever.” ~ Revelation 21:3-4

This life is not all there is, and neither is it the best there is.
The undercurrent of all Scripture — even the passages that give directions for how to live our lives on this earth — is preparation for and longing for heaven. To set your sights on heaven is to choose to anchor your thoughts and your heart’s desires beyond the ordinary things of earth. It is to choose to value what is valued in heaven, to be concerned with the concerns of heaven, and to enjoy what is delightful in heaven.

Longing for heaven is not a form of escapism. It is extreme realism.
Every hunger we have has been placed there by God. All are God-given, and he is not surprised when we try to satisfy these desires. Neither is He disappointed when we discover that we are  never satisfied. Discovering that we cannot satisfy our longings in the here and now forces us to reckon with the fact that we will never be satisfied in this life.

It is the separation that hurts. In heaven there will be no more separation. there will be nothing that separates us from each other or from God ever again. No more sorrow. No more crying. No more pain. No more curse. No more death. “No more” encapsulates some of  heaven’s sweetest gifts.

In a couple of weeks, it will (God willing) have been three years since my last miscarriage. Three years ago, my son Hosanna was snuggling in my womb, and we were praying with trepidation that God would save him. His very name, Hosanna, means “save, lord!” The realization that it has been nearly three years since death has been in our home is utterly astounding to me, extremely humbling.
I am in a transitional phase of life right now. Letting go. It isn’t easy. It is both good and difficult.
Remembering some of what Mrs. Guthrie said regarding letting go and moving forward (pp 409-414) brings bittersweet tears to my eyes. Back when I first read these words, I didn’t know if I would ever get to the other side. But now I can say that I know from experience that she is right. I’m there. Thanks be to God.

She wrote to her daughter in heaven, I don’t want it to be another year; it just takes me further away from you. I want so desperately to feel close to you, to be able to hear you in my mind even if all I ever got to hear from you was a cry. I want to feel your skin and stroke your cheek. I want to wake up and find you here. But you are so far away and becoming even more distant in my memory, and it is so painful. I don’t know how to let you go and hold on to you at the same time. How can I stay close to you if I don’t stay sad? Sometimes I want to scream because I feel so torn. Forgive me for going on with life without you… it just keeps moving farther and farther away.

Some days I wonder if the letting go will ever stop… I had to let go of her physical body, my dreams for her… her things… her room… my hopes for Matt to have a sibling…
The truth is, eventually, we will let go of everything in this life. Life is a constant barrage of having things and people we love ripped away from us. Every ripping away takes a piece of us with it, leaving us raw and stinging with pain.

Do you find yourself resentful that people no longer ask about your loss or struggle? Are you frustrated that they seem to have moved on and forgotten? Don’t be afraid they’ll forget. Don’t be afraid they’ll think you’re fine when you are still hurting deeply. It takes a conscious choice to turn conversations away from my pain, to stop trying to make sure everyone understands my hurt and has considered my feelings. but it is a step toward normalization, and a step closer to Christ.

There is a tyranny in grief. We realize at some point that we have to figure out how to keep on living, how to incorporate the loss into our lives. We want to feel normal again, to feel joy again. But the energy and emotion of grief keep us feeling close to the one we love or connected to what we’ve lost. Letting go of our grief feels like letting go of the one we love, leaving him or her behind and moving on. The very idea of it is unbearable.
We can make the painful choice to let it go — not all at once, but a little every day. We begin to find that we have the choice of whether or  not we will let ourselves sink to that place of unbearable pain when the flashes of memories and reminders of loss pierce our hearts. And we can begin to make that hard choice. We can begin to let go of our grief so we can grab hold of life and those who are living. but I think the only way we can do that is by telling ourselves the truth — that if we choose to let go of the pain, or at least let it become manageable, it does not mean we love the one we’ve lost any less. And it doesn’t mean that person’s life was any less significant or meaningful, or that we will forget.

When you love something or someone, the process of letting go is a painful one that takes some time, and it need not be rushed. Nor should it be avoided altogether. We feel the pain, mourn the loss, shed our tears, and with time we can begin to let go of the grief that has had such a hold on us. Perhaps it’s not so much that we let go of our grief, but more that we give our grief permission to lessen its grip on us.

Psalm 13
How long, O Lord? Will You forget me forever?
    How long will You hide Your face from me?
How long must I take counsel in my soul
    and have sorrow in my heart all the day?
How long shall my enemy be exalted over me?

Consider and answer me, O Lord my God;
    light up my eyes, lest I sleep the sleep of death,
lest my enemy say, “I have prevailed over him,”
    lest my foes rejoice because I am shaken.

But I have trusted in Your steadfast love;
    my heart shall rejoice in Your salvation.
I will sing to the Lord,
    because He has dealt bountifully with me.

My Father has not forgotten me. We have trusted in Him, and our hearts rejoice in Him. We do sing to Him, because in all things (even in the grief), He has dealt so bountifully with us. We are so thankful.
Thank you for remembering our children, for knowing that we have ten children. Thank you for living with us through the storm. And thank you, too, for being with us in the peace that has followed the sorrow.

P1160350 P1160348

The Thorn
by Martha Snell Nicholson

I stood a mendicant of God before His royal throne
And begged him for one priceless gift, which I could call my own.
I took the gift from out His hand, but as I would depart
I cried, “But Lord this is a thorn and it has pierced my heart.
This is a strange, a hurtful gift, which Thou hast given me.”
He said, “My child, I give good gifts and gave My best to thee.”
I took it home and though at first the cruel thorn hurt sore,
As long years passed I learned at last to love it more and more.
I learned He never gives a thorn without this added grace,
He takes the thorn to pin aside the veil which hides His face.

7 Replies to “Remembering, joyfully”

  1. Beautifully said, Melissa.
    I had been reminded somewhere else yesterday about the Pregnancy and Infant Loss day and immediately thought of you. I’m surprised it’s been almost 3 years because it doesn’t seem like it’s been that long at all.
    Moving on and letting go are two things that I’m still learning how to do. I’m so glad that you are on the other side now! Praise be to the Lord for His healing and for the Joy that awaits us in Heaven! (Sometimes, I forget that I have a sibling waiting in Heaven)

  2. Thanks for sharing this aspect of your family’s life. Not even quite sure how I stumbled upon your blog…I think it was from another link in an email a friend sent.

    Anyhow, I’m a single lady (29) with several chronic health conditions which make childbearing medically very dangerous. I rarely share the grief and sense of loss I feel inside with friends because, since I’m single, they often feel I “shouldn’t be concerned about it…you have to have a husband first…”. Unfortunately, that’s not the way all women are wired and it DOES hurt, though I’m single. Sigh.

    But I submit my desires to my Father and find that my pain leads me closer to Him. Out of necessity, I cling to Him. Out of His grace, He holds my breaking heart.

    What you said and shared from Nancy Guthrie about the tyranny and pain of grief is SO TRUE and can be generalized to the loss of not only a baby but nearly any loss of life. I’ve lost loved ones and I believe my parents, though professing faith, are not saved because their lives do not testify to their faith. The grief of these losses has been choking. I have gone through the process of letting go but feeling SO GUILTY at each step because I was “moving on with life”. Yet I never had anyone else put this into words, and I felt alone in this sense of guilt for letting go.

    I am relieved to know that, through the process, I am actually not alone. I’m relieved to know that this is natural, normal, and to hear a reminder that God remembers my form and how I’m made; that He allows the process of grief and healing to happen without raking us over the coals of judgment for how it plays out. As long as we are moving TOWARDS HIM, we’re on the right path.

    One thing I’ve learned through all of this is that we were never made for the consequences of sin – death. We were never created originally to have to deal with that. So the process of moving on won’t be pretty, easy, or “one size fits all”.

    I guess in some ways, your hesitancy to feel free about discussing your heavenly babies is akin to my hesitancy to feel free about discussing the pain of “health-forced infertility” (really not sure what to call it), so I understand that in my own way. I hope that, in a constructive manner that blesses others and shows them more of Christ, we can continue to find ways to express these aspects of our lives. Your family has done a beautiful job of just that, and I commend you.

    Thanks again for sharing. Hugs.

    Sarah Bosse

  3. Just beautiful….Love Nancy Guthrie…What perfect words…I could have written them myself…So hard to let go without – letting feeling as though I let go of them…So hard to move forward – without feeling further and further from them…
    Love seeing their names in the sand…Love you and miss you dearly x

  4. Pretty sure you were the one who gave me the sunset pictures, Bonnie. 🙂 I added Hosanna’s name myself later after he joined his siblings beyond the skies. But yeah. Beautiful words and well put by Mrs. Guthrie. I’m so thankful for how God has used her words to minister to me through the years.
    Love to you, B!

  5. Sarah, this snippet into your life, your heart, your grief… it blessed me so truly! Thank you for so sweetly, genuinely, humbly sharing yourself. I took the opportunity to glance around your blog in return, and saw so many reasons there to praise the Lord, as well as seek His continued grace to be poured upon you.
    I have some things I want to share with you, so I will try to figure out how to send you an email. 🙂
    Grace and peace, my sister in Christ, and joy everlasting be yours.

  6. Would you mind sharing where you got the necklace that has all of your children’s names stamped on the disks?

  7. Yes, Leslie: I made it. 🙂 I know there are lots of similar things available on places like Etsy.

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