Wow. Today has been an emotional roller coaster for me. It started yesterday, actually. But the climax came this evening. And boy did it come.
I was looking at some photos. A close friend of ours, someone I’ve known since I was in high school, is a professional photographer. She has been a God-send and a huge blessing to our family. When Zoe was about 3 weeks old, she came over and did a session with us, at our home, for our whole family. She did it all for no cost, as a gift for us. And she gave us the digital images, too. The photos are amazing. Such a blessing!
When Zoe’s first birthday came around, we decided to have a big celebration, as a way to honor her life. A lot of people didn’t understand what it was about, but we really wanted to celebrate the time that we had with her and focus on the fact that she was here, not that she was gone. And, all things considered, it was an amazing, awesome experience. I would SO do it again! And no one who came left feeling awkward. Everyone who came has told me how much they appreciated it and what a blessing it was to them. (We’ve even heard good things from people who couldn’t make it!)
When we started talking to our friends about what we were planning, our photographer friend offered us another gift: she volunteered to take pictures for us. It took some time for her to get them to us, partly because of some work issues on her part and partly because of some emotional issues on our part. We were finally able to connect on it, though, and they’re ours now. (Thank you!)
It’s been a little while since she got them to me, but I didn’t get to them right away. I was so excited about looking at them, but I knew it would be bittersweet, so I put it off. I get tired of the emotional roller coaster, so I didn’t want to get on it. I finally did though.
Tonight, while my boys were outside playing and my hubby was at work (occassional second shift work), I put the cd in the drive on my laptop and sat down to look. With the boys looking in my office window, each telling me what the other was doing wrong, I started looking through the pictures from my daughter’s first birthday party. Wow.
First of all, I have to say thank you. Thank you to everyone who came. Thank you for all the cards and gifts. (Honestly, I was shocked. We just wanted to celebrate the time we had with our Zoe-girl; it never occurred to me that people would want to honor her by bringing gifts.) Thank you to all of the support you gave us (and are still giving us!). And thank you, Bea, for the pictures! They’re awesome! God has blessed us with the best, most supportive friends and family!
All of these “thank yous” represent the ‘up’ on that emotional roller coaster I was talking about earlier. Of course, what goes up must come down. The interesting thing, I’ve found, about grief, is that sometimes the ups and the downs are the same. It still always surprises me, though.
Tonight, I was looking at pictures. And I was going up and down at the same time, over and over again. Maybe that’s why grief is so exhausting. Even the things that give comfort and peace can rip your heart out and reduce you to tears.
Like this picture of a friend’s child, holding a butterfly in the palm of their hand, while the rest of us were in the garage, enjoying the birthday party for a deceased child, looking at the cute little butterfly decorations. I had no idea that was going on out in the front yard! I wish I would have been able to share that. But I’m so glad I have these pictures!
I was really struck, though, by the family pictures. Some of them were poses, but most were candids. I was overwhelmed, though, by the amount of loss they represent. My hubby and I have often discussed the number of bereaved families we know. There is so much loss in this Fallen place! That’s one of the reasons I’m here, doing what I’m doing. We don’t believe it’s coincidence. We believe that the Lord, in His infinite mercy, has given us the support system that He knew we would need. And we are so grateful.
I’m often amazed by the joy that exists in the circles we travel in. We have so many friends who have been through such horrible things, but they are still able to look at the world and believe that God is good. that He is loving. That He has not forsaken us. That’s grace, friends. That’s why were able to have a birthday party to celebrate the life of our daughter, ten months after she left this world. And that’s why so many of them came.
It’s also why looking at the pictures was such an emotional thing. Here’s what I was looking at: a couple who lost their son, laughing and playing with their rainbow daughter and our son – who is about the same age their son would have been. I saw a friend, having experienced several miscarriages, blowing bubbles with her rainbow son.
I saw a close friend, bereaved through miscarriage the same summer we went through it, laughing and playing with her rainbow son, around the same age as our Zoe-girl – and my younger son being allowed to enter into that moment with them. I saw my sons – and myself – enjoying quiet moments with my sleepy niece, born the same year as Zoe. I also saw my boys, just enjoying being kids. I saw a priceless shot…3 men, standing together, representing a friend, a family member, and a neighbor.
I saw our pastor, coming out to support us, and taking the time to invest in our boys. I saw myself – the way I look at my husband and father. I saw the way my husband’s friends and family look at him. It was, well…wow.
We had a lot of bubbles, along with pinwheels and butterflies. And our neighbor, Andrea Weibel (of Sweet Peace Cakes), gave us the most amazing cake. (Let’s just say: I am not a cake person, but I could get fat on Andrea’s cake! And the hand-sculpted butterflies were pretty enough to preserve.) It really was an amazing day, and I’m so glad that we did it.
It really got me thinking about birthdays, though. It just doesn’t seem fair. I’m thirty years old. I’ve had thirty more birthdays than Zoe. And there are so many other non-birthdays represented in those shots. I was looking at those families, including my own and so many of my friends, thinking about the faces that should be in them.
I was a little angry, to be honest. It’s really hard, at times, to think that God – our God, a good God – can look at our families, knowing what’s missing, and not fix it. Why doesn’t He fix it? I spent a lot of time talking to Him about it. I know, in my head, that He feels our pain. I know that He understands: He knew, from before the foundation of the world, that He was going to have to give up His Son – after having already lost the rest of us. I know that it isn’t personal: “The rain falls on the just and the unjust.” I also know that it’s VERY personal: He knows how many hairs are on our heads and He knows when a sparrow falls; there is no detail of our lives that He is not intimately involved in. So, why doesn’t He fix it?
Well, having just read the book of Job, I don’t dare to presume that I understand the mind of God. As a saint, though, being indwelt by the Holy Spirit, I have some guidance. I don’t think I’m completely clueless, though I’m sure I look like it, sometimes. I think, though, that it has a lot to do with the fact that all of this is really just temporary. Even though it feels, to us, like an interminably long time, it really isn’t. He wants to comfort us. He wants us to be whole. He has such a big plan, though. It just isn’t time yet. I wish I knew why. I would love to understand! But He doesn’t have to tell me. And if He doesn’t, it doesn’t change anything. I just have to trust more. Which, I think, is part of the point.
Someday, I’ll have a different kind of birthday. In a life where my Zoe-girl is already older than me. I’ll be born into forever, and this temporary stuff will seem so long ago. Even better, it’ll seem like just a moment. And I’ll have all of eternity to be whole, in perfect comfort and peace, with ALL of my children (Lord willin), and my sweet, sweet Jesus. And that’s the birthday I’m looking forward to.
On that note: Happy Forever Day, Grandpa Joel.