The other day Reid took Fred to Target to go shoe shopping. They were standing in the shoe department and another little boy was there with his mom. They were trying on shoes and suddenly the mom called out, “Charlie! Come here Charlie!” And right there in Target…the world stopped. Then, without skipping a beat, Freddo got a huge smile on his face and exclaimed, “Daddy his name is Charlie!!” We have a Charlie!”
“We have a Charlie.” A part of me was so happy to hear that Fred has not forgotten his sweet baby brother even in the smallest ways. The other part of me just wanted to cry. What does it mean exactly to have someone…someone so precious to us and such a part of us…and yet to not have that little someone with us every single day for the rest of our lives?
I guess that is the definition of grief. To love someone so much that the loving has impacted your life. To love someone so much that even when he is no longer here…you have him in some way. You have him in your thoughts, and your memories, and your story. I’m realizing that grief is not only having to live the rest of your life without the person you lost, but it is also living with someone. For some, grief means living without the mom who held you when you cried, who taught you how to make banana bread, and showed you what kindness looks like. People might not know that the mom you no longer have has taught you those things, but you still have a mom and you have her in that way. For others, grief means living without the husband who saw you through five decades of life. Who thought you were funny, and knew how to hold your hand at just the right times. People may not don’t know the sweetheart who made your days sweet…but you still have him in your heart and your mind in that way.
And for us, we have a very special baby boy who will always be part of our family. He will always “match us” from his dark hair to his classic Zeller cheeks. He will always bring tears to our eyes when we’re at the park and we hear someone yell, “Charlie!” to another little boy. And he will always be the first thing on our minds when we read and hear Jesus say, “I go and prepare a place.” On the very last of my numbered days…I know that my sweet Charlie will be on my mind in a very special way.
The reality is that just as we “have a Charlie”…Charlie has a Mommy. Charlie has a Daddy. Charlie has a big brother, and big sisters, and grandparents who all wanted to live life with him so very badly. And when you love someone you just can’t help but give a part of yourself away. A huge part of my heart is missing permanently. The part of my heart that left when Charlie died. Some days I feel so alone in my grief. I feel like no one around us understands what it is like to have to learn to live with half their heart missing. And they don’t probably.
But the longer we live, the more we will all have to live life without the people who made our lives, well, OUR lives. To those of you who have already experienced the loss of someone precious in your life…I am so very sorry. Grief is universal, and it happens to everyone at some point, but that does not lessen the pain. Grief is broken and painful and messy. It has changed me permanently, just as I’m sure it has changed you for the rest of your life. And sadly, more loss will be coming. To all of us. Maybe in a week. Maybe in ten years. But loss is coming.
And then finally, one day, the Father who was with us through the loss of every parent, and the Friend who was with us through the loss of every friend, will turn to us and say, “Welcome! We’ve been waiting. It is your turn to enter into the joy.”
And finally, there will be an end to grief.