We live 90 minutes from our church. No, it's not because we couldn't find something suitable within our own zip code. We just never looked because when we found out we were moving "home" for 2-3 years, it seemed obvious that we would re-join the church I grew up in. It has morphed over the years into a place where I personally feel love and support, lead by a man who leads by example. Love everyone. The end. Everyone. No caveats. He conducted the memorial service for Shepherd and he has preached to my heart more times than I even care to count.
One Sunday, he preached about loss. I think there may have been more to it, but I remember one very specific story (he likes to tell stories...I think it's how he keeps us awake...or determines who he's lost along the way). While chatting with a stranger one day, an elderly woman was asked how many children she had. She answered, but was also flooded with emotion as she silently remembered the one she lost. Yes, I nodded...that's exactly how it happens. One moment you are fine...playing peek a boo with your toddler...placing eggs in the grocery cart...writing a check...and the next moment, you are decidedly not fine. The not fines get further apart, but they never completely disappear. Not fine is like a tornado...lands with little warning and leaves a path of grief a mile wide. And then you re-build and somehow, life picks back up where it left off and there is only a tiny reminder of the destruction. One tiny not fine scar overlapping thousands of fine that make up the heart of a survivor.
When I found out I was pregnant with Shep, I was vacationing at my sister's house for the week. I calmly carried the test into the bathroom, followed the directions, waited 1 endless minute, and then screamed for my sister as 1 pink line turned to 2. She hugged me and said, "Welcome to the club, sis!" The Mom Club. And oh what a club that is turning out to be! But with Shep, I joined another club...Moms of Angel Babies. And what a club that is, too. Last week, we opened our arms to another mom. It's a terrible initiation and in any other circumstance, would be considered torture. We don't meet. We hardly ever talk. And by someone outside of the club, we can be hard to spot. But we know each other by touch, by the devastation that is always there, just under the skin. Over time, we get better at controlling it, at not leaking sadness. But sometimes it's too much and a question, a comment, an event can bring it all to the surface.
I hugged that mama and daddy tonight. I leaked grief all over them. I leaned on the grandparents and maybe, for a moment, they leaned on me. I gave them the only words of hope I had...that they will survive. And that people....hundreds of people...were praying them through it. But I didn't promise that it would get better. I didn't mention God's healing love or how if he brings 'ya to it, he will bring 'ya through it. Because, to be very honest, as we approach Shep's 5th "birth" day in a few months, I still don't know how God fits into all of this. As someone who was raised in a church that taught that everything is God's plan...the good, the bad, the tragically sad...it's hard to find a place for the death of a child. It's impossible for me to wrap my mind around a master plan that involves the shocking passing of a newborn. What good can possibly come from that? Was Shep pulled from me so that I could stand beside this mama tonight and tell her that someday she isn't going to have to remind herself to breathe? Or to be a friendly face, a representative of The Club? To remind them they are not alone? When I tell our story, oddly, it isn't the ones who stand in shock and instantly express their sympathy that make me feel better. It's the moms who hug me and say, "I hope our babies are playing together up there. We will get to hold them again." that bring me the deepest comfort. They know my tears because they've cried them, too. We have sobbed a damn ocean. And I simply cannot accept a God that puts that into His master plan. So, I'm changing my view on God, but I don't have any answers yet. I just know that it will take sleep to heal tonight's not fine and it will take a canyon of prayers and a hurricane of tears to heal this brokenhearted and devastated family. Please pray for them. Please send them love. It will be a long time before they are fine again.