This morning was one of those mornings when I just didn’t want to get out of bed. I had woken up during the night thinking I had heard Charlie crying. This is a very normal thing for a new mom, a week after labor, to wake up in the night and think. But then, as I lay there in the paralyzing darkness I remembered that my baby boy was not crying for me. I remembered why. And I didn’t want to get up in the morning. When I finally did fall back to sleep, I was awakened by Reid’s alarm. He happens to have Matt Redman’s “10,000 Reasons” as his alarm song. So, this morning we woke up to the words,
The sun comes up it’s a new day dawning, It’s time to sing Your song again.
Whatever may pass and whatever lies before me, Let me be singing when the evening comes.
You’re rich in love, and You’re slow to anger, Your name is great, and Your heart is kind
For all Your goodness I will keep on singing, Ten thousand reasons for my heart to find.
As I lay in bed I thought, “Another day…another long day. How will we make it through this day without our sweet baby boy? How will we find 10,000 reasons to keep on singing of God’s goodness? I can’t even breathe. How will I possibly sing?
And then I remembered something. I remembered one of 10,000 things.
One of the hardest and yet most beautiful parts of this new journey is learning how to grieve as I watch my children grieve. We had spent nine months talking to our little ones about a new baby coming, and three of those calling “Charlie” by name. Months spent praying for Charlie, buying him things, and loving on him each one of us in our own little way. One of the ways that Fred would show his love to Charlie was by talking about all the things he was going to give his baby brother some day. You know, precious things that little boys really like…like rocks, and old shoes, and trains and things.
The day after Charlie was born just so happened to be our sweet Freddo’s third birthday. Yep, forever and always. I wouldn’t have planned it this way. Of course, I wouldn’t have planned so many things…but Fred’s birthday coming the day after Charlie’s was yet another reminder that there are going to be countless opportunities to surrender to the story God has chosen for our life.
So, we decided that we really wanted to celebrate Fred on his special day and decided to go ice skating. As we were heading out the door I overheard Freddo say, “Daddy, these shoes don’t fit anymore…we’re going to have to give them to Charlie.” The world stopped. I just couldn’t breathe. We had already told Fred several times that Charlie was in heaven now and would not be coming to live with us after all…but to have to tell him again on his birthday was just so very heart breaking. Nine months is just a really long time to plan on giving your shoes to somebody. We had to explain to Freddo once again why Charlie’s sweet feet would never wear those cute gray soccer shoes.
And our precious Fred just started crying. Big crocodile tears pouring down his trademark cheeks. All we could do was join him and have a good cry. And that’s what I am learning about grief through my precious three year old’s eyes…sometimes you just need to cry. We adults can make things so complicated with our questions, and books, and support groups, and endless “Whys?” All of those are good and probably very necessary. But what I’ve noticed is that when my kids are sad about having to say goodbye to Charlie…they cry. And then, when they’re done, they get back up and keep right on living. I am so thankful for Fred and those tears rolling down his cheeks…Fred reminds me to cry.
And then there’s our darling Emma Leigh. For a five-year-old Emma has been so very amazing. Em’s and I went on a special mommy-daughter date last week to read some books on Heaven. We found one we really liked written by Ann Graham Lotz called, “Heaven, God’s Promise for Me.” I sobbed through most of it and then Emma and I had a great talk about everything we had read in the book and the amazing pictures we had seen. It is just so good to talk about Heaven with a five-year-old.
When we got back to the car, Emma said to me, “Mommy, do you like how I comforted you?” “Yes,” Emma I said through fresh tears, “Yes, I did.” And then she said, “I liked how you comforted me too, Mommy.” And that’s how it goes. We comfort each other, one long day at a time. I don’t want my five year old to have something so deep and painful to cry about. I don’t want my five year old to have to comfort me.
Or do I? Do I want her to be the kind of person who knows how to love people when they are hurting? Do I want her to know that even mommy and daddy have broken hearts and live in a broken world and that sometimes, there are some things so sad in life that they are actually worth crying about for a very, very long time? Do I want her to know that we can have genuine joy about Charlie’s being in Heaven with Jesus, and yet also be sad for us that we are all still stuck here on earth? Do I want her to know that the life of an unborn baby is so incredibly and eternally precious that we are utterly devastated to have to say goodbye to someone we never even fully got to meet?
Yes. Yes. Yes, to everything. And that is what I’m learning from my sweet first born baby. I’m learning that for Emma to become the person the Lord wants her to be, I have to let her five-year-old heart drink this cup of suffering all the way down to the last drop…just like I have to drink mine. Emma reminds me that it is ok to be comforted and to let God use her to comfort me. Emma reminds me that it is ok to let God use the comfort He is giving her and giving through her to shape her into the deep, thoughtful, compassionate person God is fashioning her to be.
But Emma also reminds me of another important part of grieving. The morning after we buried baby Charlie, Emma asked if we could go to the cemetery (which she unknowingly calls “the sanctuary”). She told me she had gone through our card drawer and picked out a greeting card for Charlie. When I saw the card she had picked out I couldn’t help but smiling. Emma had chosen a graduation card. It pictured a young cartoon graduate, dressed in a blue cap and gown, flying through the sky, and said, “You’re Graduating!” and “Congratulations!” on the inside. Only a five-year-old with such a tender heart and child-like faith could pick out such an inappropriately appropriate card for our sweet baby. Emma reminds me that somehow, by the grace of God, there are still going to be things in life that bring a smile to my face.
So, Congratulations my sweet baby boy. I love you and miss you so much I ache. But today I will also celebrate your graduation to one amazing Place.
I am so thankful for all four of my kids, and all that they teach me about grieving with real tears and genuine joy.
For all His goodness I will keep on singing. 9,999 reasons for my heart to find…
click here to listen to 10,000 Reasons…it’s a good one.