This weekend, Reid went sky diving. It’s been on his Bucket List for a long time, but I decided to give him that as a birthday present this year.
Come Friday, I was really regretting that decision. I realized Friday morning that it was probably going to take more courage for me to let him go…than it would have taken to just jump out of that perfectly good airplane myself. I began to panic just thinking about suddenly having to walk through this deep valley that has become our lives, without my most favorite part of it…him. I even thought about locking him in the bathroom.
But the things that take courage…real, trembling courage, are always the moments when we risk losing what we love most. And the reality is…I actually risk losing Reid every single time he runs to the store to buy milk. Whether jumping out of a plane at 8,000 feet, or making a quick trip to the market…I simply cannot keep those I love alive for one millisecond past what God has ordained for them.
So, Reid jumped.
And I held my breath, and waited to find out God’s will.
But the reason I had wanted him to go in the first place…was because grief is such a free fall.
And somewhere between Reid’s experience of actually jumping, and my experience of letting him go…I want to share why.
I know that every single one of you will someday be forced into the free fall of grief. If you live long enough, one of the few things you are promised is to lose someone you love. And I’m here to tell you…the depths of emotions you feel in grief will absolutely shock you. When that happens, I don’t want you to feel as crazy and alone as I felt. So, I want to be real, and honest, and name just a few.
One of the very first emotions I felt on the night Charlie died, was fear. Fear of losing my faith. Fear of losing my mind. Fear of losing my hope. Fear of losing more of the people I love most. When death happens, you suddenly realize how fast it is, how universal it is, and how real it is. One heartbeat, and someone you love is gone forever.
And the moment Reid jumped out of that plane…the free fall of fear began. Will the parachute actually open? Will I just end up a broken, and bleeding heap on the ground? Will this downward spiral ever stop? I’ve had those very same thoughts hundreds of times since January 28th, 2013. Grief initiates fear.
The night we found out baby Charlie had died I felt instantly disoriented. One moment, my beautiful, happy life was speeding merrily along, and with just four words…life was changed forever. The moment the doctor said, “I’m sorry. He’s gone,” I felt myself spiraling into confusion.
Confusion about who God is. Did God actually just let my baby die? Confusion about my body. Am I still pregnant? For weeks after Charlie died I woke up every morning still thinking I was pregnant. And every single morning I had to remind myself that my baby had already come, and our sweet boy was never coming through the front door of our home. Confusion about my purpose in life. I was just pregnant! I was planning on having a baby for the next year. I was planning on having a son named Charlie for forever. And suddenly, all of it was gone. Suddenly he was gone. And my life, as I had known it, left with him.
I felt so confused. And I felt spiritually, emotionally, and physically disoriented. So much so, that I actually began to play a little game with myself that I picked up from Katniss Everdeen. Like Katniss, who suddenly found herself in unfamiliar territory, and wearing a bracelet that said, “Mentally disoriented,” I started to list all of the things that I actually did know to be true.
To be honest, the list was pretty short. My name is Misty Zeller. I am a child of God. I am married to Reid. I am the mommy of four kids. I kept telling myself what was true, even the things that my life did not in any way reflect. I had just had a BABY, a real, full-term baby, and yet no one at Target had a clue why my belly was jiggly and my heart was broken.
Then our next little one died…and I had to start my list all over again. I am still Misty Zeller. I am still a child of God. I am still a mommy of five…even though almost half of the little ones I have carried and loved, no longer live with us in our home. It is so incredibly confusing and disorienting losing someone you love. One minute, they are with you and all is well, and the very next moment, you are spiraling to earth in a dizzying free fall. You were just sitting safely in a plane, and you are suddenly spiraling headfirst to the ground. Grief initiates confusion.
I literally felt nauseous for weeks after Charlie’s death. I couldn’t breath. I felt physically sick some days, and always so miserably heartsick. My arms ached with a longing to hold him there. My ears and heart actually hurt when I would hear the cries of other newborns. And my eyes couldn’t even look at another baby without brimming with tears.
Interestingly enough, sky diving actually made Reid feel sick too. Reid is NOT a fearful person. I’m afraid of everything. Plane crashes. Lizards. Death. Another Great Depression. You name it, and I’ve probably been afraid of it. But Reid is miraculously unafraid of so very much. I don’t even think he was all that nervous about jumping out of a perfectly sound airplane and falling to the ground. But he did get sick. Really sick. There’s something so jolting about suddenly careening 8,000 feet through the air. And I was amazed to see how everyone who jumped during our little Operation Skyfall was sick for even days after.
And so too with grief. I finally have days where I feel kind of physically normal…but I doubt I will ever have a day where my heart does not hurt. Grief initiates the greatest heartsickness the heart could ever know.
But there is one final thing that I’ve learned from Reid’s sky diving adventure…
It comes with an incredible view.
And so does grief.
I would so rather have Charlie in my arms. I would rather still be pregnant with his sweet little sibling. And I would happily trade every single thing I have seen of the Lord and His great love through grief… just to have them with me here and now. I would rather be learning about the Lord and His love through my little ones in my arms. But I wasn’t given that choice. I have only been given the choice to take in this view from the free fall He has initiated.
But it is indeed, a spectacular view.
And I am convinced that there are some things that you can only see when you are in the deepest depths that you have ever known. Things you can only see…when He carries You.
Things about the Lord’s sovereignty and love. I have had moments, in even this dark valley, when I have felt deeply loved by the very God who has allowed us to suffer.
Things about eternity and the real Home waiting for us. We long for the lasting city, and the Home that grief has forced us to anticipate…like never before.
Things about God’s sustaining power. We know now, that we are so fragile we can no longer do anything but latch ourselves to Him…and careen downward. This has always been true, but we know it now.
And sometimes, through all of the tears, and heartache, and disorientation, and fear, I really do see the most incredible view of the world below.
And of the One who has never let us go. The One who will carry us all the way Home, and someday set us gently on the golden ground.
Until then, we free fall.