Death is swallowed up in victory.
O death, where is your victory?
O death, where is your sting?
Today is the first day of the autumn season. A year ago, I sat in a hospital, swallowing back tears, repeating to myself the lines from that famous psalm, “Even though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I will fear no evil, for You are with me.” It was the closest I could get to praying in that moment. I couldn’t keep from crying and a kind nurse sat beside me on the edge of the bed. He brought me tissues and a glass of water, told me it was okay to be scared. He told me how beautiful my little girl was, how lucky I was to have her. He told me that he’d never been able to have children but, later in life, he’d married a woman with two sons and become a dad for the first time. I don’t remember his name and I probably wouldn’t recognize him if I saw him again but I’ve never forgotten his kindness.
The next morning, I held my son for the first and last time. Sixteen weeks old and so amazingly perfect.
A year has passed and while the rawness of pain and grief has dulled, I still think about that little baby every day. This past year has been hard and good and heartbreaking and joyous. Peter and I have held tight to one another and I’m so thankful that we have each other to share all of this life. I’m so thankful for our Pearl and all the life and laughter she brings to us. On my darkest days last autumn, I knew I still had to get out of bed, still had to make breakfast because of her, for her and for my husband. That no matter how broken I felt, my life was still needed and valuable.
I struggled to pray in those early months. We sing a song sometimes at church with a chorus that declares, “How I love You, how I love You, You have not forsaken me” and those words seemed to choke me when we sang it in worship last fall. I could not get them out. I felt that God had forsaken me. I felt like God was not who I thought He was. After a life time of Sunday school answers regarding the goodness and love of Christ, I was painfully confronted with the reality of “Where is God in our pain? Does He still love me”
Pearl has a children’s Bible that sums up the arrival of sin in our world as the moment that people began to question, “Does God love me?” Satan planted this doubt in the minds of Adam and Eve and it has dwelt there ever since. Reading to her one night recently, this struck me as the fundamental fear that took hold of my life last autumn. Does God still love me, even when He allowed this horrible thing to happen to us?
There are a lot of answers to these questions and the scope is greater than I can delve into here. For many months I longed for a large and dramatic reply from the Lord. I wanted to hear His voice, feel His hand. I’ve had those moments before; I had a couple of them in the months following my first miscarriage in 2014. But this time that moment never came.
Instead, people showed up. Friends brought soup. They sent texts and Facebook messages. Friends on the other side of the world made time for phone calls and checked in with me. When the days stretched out in emptiness, others made time for me, often people I didn’t know well. A neighbourhood mom I didn’t know well yet hugged me as I cried at the park. Some of these people are Christians, some are not, but in each one the love of Christ was steadily revealed to me.
There was no miraculous moment where things got better. There isn’t with grief. It is a slow and steady climb that I will still be on years from now. I will always wonder about that lost little one. I will always miss and grieve over what could have been. There is so much I don’t understand about how God works and His purposes. Yet I do believe, with all my soul, that He was with us every step. I believe He used the people around me – which included doctors and nurses and a trained psychologist because those are necessary too sometimes – and He walked those dark days with us. I believe God grieved with Peter and I for our son and I believe that we will be reunited one day beyond this world. What that will look like, I have no idea, but I know that death is not the end.
In early January of this year, walking with Pearl on a grey, cloudy day, I felt at peace for the first time in a long time. The sadness didn’t vanish but it was the moment when I knew I would be okay, that life would continue, that joy and celebration were still a part of that. And life does continue. It was not long after that I discovered I was pregnant again.
I won’t lie: getting pregnant again so soon has made this year much easier. It doesn’t extinguish the sadness but it has made the milestones gentler and it has turned 2017 into a year of hope. I hope to share more of what this pregnancy has been like but today I am almost 38 weeks pregnant and filled with joy at the thought of meeting this new person any day now. My due date is Thanksgiving weekend and it feels very fitting.
Today, one year later, I remember and I grieve for what has been lost. I’ll be thinking of that little one as I wait to meet this new little one currently kicking around in my belly. I am learning to praise God in all things and as the season turns once more, I keep working to turn to Him, to trust Him in all matters. Death has no victory here.