You would think that the worst days of grief would be the first ones. But there is just so much shock and raw pain during that time, that in some ways it hurts even more as the shock waves begins to subside. There’s been so many moments lately where I’ve been struck by the reality that this is a permanent pain. Fred has started asking a lot more questions about his baby brother lately. He talks about Charlie all the time. And every time we go to Trader Joes, Fred picks out a special lollipop for Charlie. At first I thought it was just a really smart way to acquire an extra lollipop. But he never eats it. He just saves Charlie’s lolly for him…day after day.
It’s just so hard to look into those beautiful, big brown eyes on the face that looks so much like baby Charlie’s and to tell him again and again, “I am so very sorry, Freddo, but Charlie is not coming to play.” “He is not coming to eat that lollipop you picked out for him today.” Or ever. Never. Ever. This is one of a million permanent pains.
I am now permanently broken in certain ways. My arms will always be empty. My heart will always ache for the baby boy that God did not let us keep. I will always wish that God had chosen to write this story a different way. I will always weep when I look at the one day of pictures I have from my baby boy’s entire life. I will always feel a catch in my breath when I hear someone say his precious name.
But my heart is also permanently changed. Changed in a few very precious ways. And one of the big ones is my view on dying. Suddenly, I am no longer afraid to die. I, who have always been afraid to die. It’s amazing how death changes dying.
I have always wanted to go to Heaven someday. But I wanted it to be on some very distant day, when nothing else was going on in my life. But when exactly would that be? There will always be something, or someone, or some moment that makes earth feel like a special place that’s somewhat hard to leave. And that is probably what has most changed.
Suddenly, something I want very badly…is on the other side of life.
Please hear me…I do not want to take my life. I just finally get it, in a real and tangible way, that LIFE goes on past the breaths we breathe. I get it now that someone very special and very much alive is waiting for me on the Heaven side of eternity. You don’t really get this until someone you love even more than you love yourself…leaves your life. Knowing my baby Charlie is there already actually makes me long for that day…just like I long for other days.
The other day I was talking to my friend Jenn about my longing to be with Charlie and she said, “But there are so many good things yet to come in this life…seeing Emma walk down the aisle on her wedding day, watching Freddo graduate, seeing Sophie come to Christ, and you don’t want to miss all of those good things.” She was crying as she said it. She’s a great friend. But even as she said it, I thought to myself…I really DO want to be at those things, but even my thoughts about those things have changed. Because now I know in my heart, and not just my head, that there is also joy waiting after the grave. That someone is waiting. The moment of finally meeting my baby boy is waiting for me on the other side. And I am permanently changed.
I want so much to be at those special moments of life, but I know now that they’re not everything. That life does not hold EVERY joy. Some joys, are actually waiting on just the other side. I realize now that some really special things are actually waiting for me on both sides of my life, and as a major dreamer and planner, this reality is a huge paradigm shift for me. I now long for those joys with three of my kids and my joy in finally meeting Charlie equally. It will be my first time seeing Emma wearing white and holding a bouquet. It will be my first time seeing Fred wearing a cap and gown ready and waiting to venture out into life. But…Heaven will be my first time seeing Charlie. It will be my first moment truly seeing my baby boy. And it got me dreaming…What will that be like? What I will say? What will he look like? And as I dreamed of that day, there was such joy knowing that THIS WILL BE HAPPENING. I. Can’t. Wait.
But I have to. And until the day God choses for me to meet my baby boy face to face…I have to take it by faith that there is joy as well on this side of the grave. It probably feels crazy to read that since most of us spend most of our lives longing for these days, and, let’s be honest, clinging to them in a lot of ways. I know. I was just like that. And I think God knows our hearts and understands our longing for this world and it’s joys…since we’ve never been to the Place He’s preparing on the other side.
But God knows my heart in this new longing for Heaven as well. He knows, even better than I, that someone I love deeply is now in that Place. There has been a permanent heart shift, and this is one of many ways that I can see how deeply my sweet Charlie’s life has impacted mine. He has shown me that not just Jesus, and not just Heaven, and not just Eternity are waiting on the other side of the grave, but so too are some of my favorite and most special memories. Memories with the people I love most. Memories with one little person in particular. Memories yet to be made.
Longing to meet Charlie doesn’t lessen the highest joy of seeing Jesus on the other side…but it does heighten my awareness of how real this Place is going to be. Of how good it will be to finally be Home. To finally greet people with “hello,” and never have to say “goodbye.” To finally be free of the sickness and sorrow and suffering and pain that mark each one of our lives. To finally be. And to just keep right on being…for all eternity.
Thank you my sweet boy for teaching me that this world is not the only place that holds joy. I knew it was true, because I believed in the One who is waiting with you in Heaven, but now I feel it in new and deeper ways. Some day I will see you both face to face. Your life has taught me to be on a countdown to eternity. Your life has taught me more deeply that what Paul said really is true, that for believers in Jesus, “To die is gain.” It will be gain to see His beautiful face. It will be gain to meet you baby in that precious place. It will be gain to finally take in by sight…all this that I had to take by faith. And so, I wait for life with you. I wait for gain.
I love you baby, Mommy.