Today is February 1st.
Today I wonder what the next 27 days will hold.
Today represents so much loss and yet, I look around and see so much life on a day when I am forced to remember death.
Five years has brought about so much healing and so many sweet experiences of God’s goodness. And yet, the last couple of days have delivered moments when I am taken back with the speed of light to February 2005. For example, last night as Benny lay sleeping in his crib, uncharacteristically on his back, I stared at his face, muscles relaxed, and I saw her. The same width between their eyes, the same thin little lips, gifts from their daddy. I see Anna in Ben. I thought, “What does five year old Anna look like?” One part of me can imagine her so clearly and yet, the other part of me cannot. I know her so well, and yet, I do not know her at all. There is a throbbing, relentless ache in my heart for this reality.
This past weekend my mom shared with me more about her own grief experience and her memories of February 2005. She had come to Kentucky to be a part of my last baby shower and was getting ready to leave when she leaned over, kissed my bulging belly and said, “I am going to be holding you before you know it, baby girl.” It was just three weeks until my due date. At the time of that precious exchange, none of us had a clue that all our dreams would be shattered within 24 hours.
I had never once recalled that tender moment until yesterday when my mom said, “I cherish the night I left you, it is among the sweetest memories of my life.” And as she said it, I was presented with the memory, like someone handed me a snapshot, and all of a sudden I couldn’t catch my next breath. As if someone had punched me in the stomach, I was taken hostage by shock and then reduced to a puddle of tears…how precious and how painful a memory.
The next day my sister came for lunch and she pulled out from her sweater her “Anna necklace,” the silver cross I had given her as a gift for throwing my baby shower. “Well tomorrow is February 1st and I am wearing this starting today to remembr my neice .” And with that I was reminded that I am not forgotten, she is not forgotten. Anna Rose Katherine Kelty left a dent in more hearts than ours alone.
This morning I was looking for a black and white photo to put in a new picture frame. I opened my top dresser drawer to find a still moment with Anna, her fingers loosely wrapped around my own, staring up at me. “Perfect,” I thought as I carried it downstairs to put in the frame. Then I realized the picture would have to be trimmed to fit the square opening. I picked up a pair of scissors and cut a thin line off each side. As I looked down at the shreds of photo to be thrown away, I sank to the floor when I realized what I was about to discard so thoughtlessly, was fragments of my precious girl. I took a deep breath and tried to recover but my best efforts were thwarted and I ran upstairs to find a good hiding place.
I kneeled, sobbing beside my bed, pulled out a couple of sacred Anna mementos, and then I heard John yelling triumphantly from his room, “Mommy!” I quickly sucked back the flood and turned to smile as John John appeared before me proclaiming, “Look what I found under my bed… Anna’s blankey!” After that I came downstairs to send an email to my friend Alicia who has also endured the loss of twin baby boys. I just needed to connect with someone who gets it without having to explain and she emailed back immediately with “So how strange is it that I literally woke up thinking of you this morning.” And then I looked at my in-box and saw an email from Julie with “February” in the message line. What proceeded was a letter all about Anna, her thoughts and prayers for me today…this month.
Jesus Christ is a present redeemer in my darkest hours. He is alive, He is dwelling in my heart and in my home and there is no doubt in my mind that today, February 1st, He prompted several of his children to tend to my grief by a hidden blanket, morning thoughts and an email.
Sometimes grief comes so unexpectedly. Like a thief, it steals your next breath and robs you of sanity. It leaves you instead with a desperateness for that which you cannot have and the momentary, irrational thought that maybe there’s a loop hole, a way to beat death. It happens so quickly that it bypasses intelligence and common sense and leads you to feel certain that there must be, there has to be, a way to fix it. It’s a sudden, crazy gust of wishful thinking. Then rational thought invades and reminds me that desperation is tricking me once again and that death is in fact, a permanent, no solutions, kind of loss. With this awful reality, depression rears its ugly head, and then fear joins in. I am left with a sense that this horrific feeling will remain forever. For me, it is in this moment of deep sorrow over the sad reality of the depths of death that the knock begins at the door of my heart…the knock of hope.
That earlier moment of desperation that leaves me feeling stupid, actually testifies to the secret embedded deep in one’s heart, that it cannot and will not be this way forever. In fact, a day will come when all this cursed world stole from me in death, will be renewed in a way far greater than my dreams could dare to dream. Hope whispers this truth again and again in my most desperate moments and then in a supernatural way that defies logic and reality, depression gives way to joy.
I remember vividly during the first year after our loss saying over and over, “I just want it to be five years from now.” Well here we are, five years later and not only surviving but thriving after a hit I thought would leave benched forever…not so. Yes, for us February belongs to Anna and therefore a certain undeniable sadness, but our life is saturated by the presence and goodness of God. There is John and there is Ben. There is marriage and there is the sweetness of knowing I belong to a God who has a plan to restore, to bless, to sustain, to comfort and heal every day along this crazy life.
Unfortunately, the past few years and even months have introduced me to new parents who have been shattered by the loss of a baby. I ache for each one and pray that as you sit, cry and whisper, “I wish we were five years from now” that my few words will give you hope that a new day is coming. I pray you have the courage to think upon your loved one lost knowing they are soaring in the heavens, and I believe, are praying and waiting for you, holding the hand of your savior. Oh what a day that will be! I pray the God you may possibly even hate right now, or feel abandoned or confused by, will present himself to you in supernatural ways as the present, comforter and that he will whisper truth to your feeble and fragile heart, a truth that will usher you into a greater freedom than you have ever known. Let today be a day when you allow yourself take one more step and cry one more batch of tears simply to make it through another day, and that will be a success. You made it. This current pain won’t last forever, it will become a livable reality at some point. New life and new joys will be born and restore your hope and faith that light can and will come again. But for now, on the bitter days at best, simply know you are not alone. Somehow the God that allowed our tragedies, is the God who saves and his tender “I’m Sorry” and gentle touch is there behind the thin curtain, the dividing wall between our world and theirs.
As I enter the gates of February I want to thank each of who have played such a precious and essential role in our grief journey. I imagine this blog will be followed by many more this month as I ride the wave wherever it may take me.
Anna, I am pondering you today, but I am living to, an answer to your prayers for me I am sure. I am loving you more and more and more each hour I am awakened to the truth that a part of me exists in eternity and is fully alive. Pray for me… life is full of hard stuff and I want to be able to trust with unwavering determination in the Jesus you love completely without question or accusation. What it must be like to look into his eyes and have all your questions answered without him ever speaking a word, simply because his eyes of loving kindness solve all of life’s mysteries. I am so glad you know him as I long too. Pray for us sweet girl and my friends in grief….
Blowing kisses your way~