heaven

Breathe: A Short Story

BREATHE

The sea called her, the waves whispered her name.

“Come to us,” the water murmured, enchantment rich in its voice.

She stood there, poised, uncertain, ready to spring but held back by some unconscious pull.

It would be so simple to start walking forward and to keep going until she had no choice but to surrender. One step, one little step. She closed her eyes, concentrating on her feet, willing them to move. They remained stubbornly where they were, refusing her, disobeying her.

A wild, half-strangled sob escaped her. Is this what her grief had brought her to? Divided, torn, her heart burning within her yet also empty and hollow with loss. She longed to see him again, to hold his tiny, downy body in her hand, to again have the physical connection to her baby for which her body grieved.

He was only a breath away… An undrawn, suffocated breath away… A water-filled breath away… He was nearly in reach.

Sobs poured out of her now, choking her. She collapsed onto her knees, gasping and sobbing, clutching at the sand with desperate, shaking hands.

A voice, in her head, “I will never leave you, nor will I forsake you.”

“But you did,” she cried out, unheeding of any other people who might also be on the beach with her. “You did, you let him die!”

“I never left you. Even in your time of sorrow and disaster I was there with you.”

“But he died, he died! Don’t you understand? If you were there how could you let that happen? If you loved me at all, how could you do this?”

“Not even death can separate you from my love.”

“Not even death. You say that like death is nothing. How can you not care?”

“I died for you while you did not know me. I destroyed the power of the grave to steal forever. The sting of death has gone, and you can grieve with hope.”

At these words the woman’s sobs began to subside, though tears still ran down her cheeks, marking her face with the sorrow she carried within her. She thought of a bereavement card she and her husband had been given, in which someone had written, “We cry with you over the loss of your precious son. We pray continually that God will prove his faithfulness to you and that you will know what it means to grieve with hope in your heart.”

“With hope in my heart,” she whispered, remembering how that comment had struck her as a little insensitive, for at the time she was too deep in the well of grief to easily think of her son in heaven, too hurt to think of God without resentment.

“Look up,” said the quiet, clear voice.

She looked up and saw arching in the sky above her a vivid, glorious rainbow. As she gazed at it, peace began to trickle into her heart. She remembered, yes, even in the midst of the trauma of stillbirth, she had not been alone. She remembered the overwhelming sense that it had been a sacred, holy time. She remembered the joy that had overtaken her at the sight of her still, beautiful baby. She remembered being grateful that he was being spared suffering, pain and physical trauma. Grateful that he had gone from the safety of her womb to the wonder of heaven.

Faithful. That is what the rainbow was reminding her: God was faithful and he had not left her and he would not leave her. He would keep his promises.

Cruel, cruel trick of grief; Its relentless pull had made her forget the faithfulness of her father.

Contemplating the rainbow and all it symbolized for her, she let its beauty revive hope in her again. She let it remind her that she had something worth waiting for, even if it was going to be many decades.

Taking a deep, reviving breath, she turned and walked away from the murmuring, whispering water.

Short and Precious

In a world where people seem to be always searching for ways to prolong their lives, I have been learning to find preciousness in the very short lives of my children.

This November, I had the privilege to practice, yet again, the art of having hope and joy in adverse circumstances.

I found out I was pregnant on October 16th. I felt good, confident that this pregnancy would work. As per my normal approach, we told family soon, as well as several friends who I knew would support me and my husband in prayer. I anticipated needing support, because being pregnant after miscarriage, let alone stillbirth, is a complicated, scary thing.

On November 2nd we chose a name, Ariel Joy. Lion of God; Joy

November 4th, I went to hospital in an ambulance, experiencing heavy bleeding. My friend and pastor went with me. My husband, and later her husband too, met us at the hospital.

There were various tests and checks. The obstetrician’s eyes were flooded with compassion as he held my hand and confirmed that it was indeed a miscarriage. Ariel Joy had gone to live with her brothers, Jeremiah and Theodore John.

Among it all, I had unexplainable peace. To be truthful, I was very surprised to miscarry this baby. Things felt different this time, and I truly believed that I would be raising this child.

It has greatly helped me to already be sure that my first two children are safely and joyfully living in heaven. Ariel has joined my sons in their glorious home. She is not lost to me.

As I have said to one or two friends, “Ariel has moved from my womb into my heart.”

Ariel’s short life is precious to me and treasured by me. I look forward to the day when I get to hold her in my arms at last, to cradle her against me, to feel her warm breath on my neck.

Ariel’s life, like the lives of her brothers before her, is short and precious.

And God? He is good.

Six Months

This time last year I was about two or three weeks away from finding out I was pregnant.

Had things gone well, I would have had a two and a half month old baby boy (and I would probably be trying to nap right now instead of writing a blog). However, it has been just over six months since Theodore John was born still at 23 weeks and 6 days.

In the six months since then, my husband and I have held a funeral, grieved (in completely different ways), and known the agony of getting a grave plaque only a few days after the due date – and the day before Christmas.

We have borne as kindly and as graciously as possible the news of friends’ pregnancies and the births of new babies. We have learnt how to share our journey without dominating conversations with our sorrow. We have learnt how to not let that same grief overshadow our home, too. We have learnt how to find joy and laughter in everything that offers it. We have learnt how to pin our hopes and expectations on something bigger than ourselves.

Losing a child certainly is not something you recover from quickly or easily, especially when it seems like every second friend is getting pregnant or celebrating over a newborn baby. There are reminders everywhere. Television shows, Facebook, Pinterest. Going to the hospital, the cinema, the supermarket. Even my favourite clothing store has a new maternity section now, and the changes in my own body are a daily reminder, should I care to notice them.

Yesterday I held the newborn baby of some friends, a big solid boy. And as I held him there was no glimmer of self pity or jealousy or anger. I was just happy that this baby had arrived and was living, breathing and scrunching up his mouth and nose while he napped in my arms.

Six months on, I think my husband and I are doing well.

Slowly

I am very slowly writing a big long post of our story of having a miscarriage and then a stillbirth.

Slowly seems to be the way to do things.

I cannot rush the healing that I need after losing two pregnancies. I should not try to rush the grief. It is usually wise for me not to dive into something new when I still have a lot of processing to do.

So “slowly” seems to be my new internal speed, even if my external actions seem the same as usual, because I do not want to rush this sacred time.

I do not want to push on through the feelings too fast. I do not want to bury them or push them aside. I want to work through this thing slowly, to make sure it gets properly healed. I want to squeeze every bit of preciousness and kindness and love and learning from it. I want to miss my children fully and I also want to be fully content and pleased that they are in a safe place where they are happy.

And slowly the days will tick by until I am there with them. And then this slow journey of waiting and trusting and of being patient will be complete.

Together

Yesterday I was reminded of a beautiful conversation with a four year old girl. This little conversation happened a couple of days after Theodore was born.

To give it a bit of background: after the miscarriage which happened in 2012, I struggled to think of the baby as anything more than a miscarried pregnancy. After all, we had never even seen him. Though we had decided to call the baby Jeremiah, we never referred to him as such. Rather, I thought of him predominantly as “the miscarried baby”.

The four year old I had the conversation with knew about Jeremiah. All through my pregnancy with Theodore, each time she saw me she would pat my tummy and say, “The other baby died. But this one’s not dead.” It was really funny and actually refreshing to have things stated so plainly.

On this occasion, two days after Theodore’s birth, sitting in church (because being at home without a baby two days after giving birth is surreal and awful), this girl was sitting on my lap.

“The baby died.”

“Yes, that’s right, Theodore died.”

“The other baby died too.” (As she is patting my arm.)

“Yes, he did.”

“Now they are both in heaven together.”

Wow. I wish I could put into words how that last sentence made me feel. It was like comfort was poured into my heart and like my whole world lit up with the joy of thinking of them together.

Two brothers, together.

One of my midwives said to me that maybe part of Theodore’s purpose was to help me heal after the loss of Jeremiah, and I think that is true.

Since having Theodore, Jeremiah is no longer referred to as “the miscarried baby”. Now, he is always referred to by name.

And whenever I close my eyes and picture them, they are always together.