I’m So Sorry

Did you know that there are approximately 200 month-long observances to raise awareness, or to celebrate or commemorate an event?  200!! That’s an average of 16.7 things that should penetrate deep into your consciousness every month.  They range from the obscure (I’m talking about you, National Correct Posture Month, in May.) to the prominent (Black History Month in February or Breast Cancer Awareness Month in Pinktober).  Coincidentally, our minds must be more alert in October; this month takes the blue ribbon with 30+ reasons to be aware. Even if you were to dedicate one day in the month to each cause, you would still neglect a few.  It seems as if there is a new day or month of awareness every time you open social media.  Have you ever wondered why?  Why are there so many of This-or-That Awareness Month?  Why do we seem so concerned with others’ awareness?  Why do we feel the need to capture a closed mind and open it up to a world it might not have otherwise known?

Frankly, I think it is because we need burden bearers.  When we are walking the valley of the shadow of death; swimming in an ocean of poor life choices; trudging through a desert parched by depression; fighting just to get to the mountain of physical wellness, much less climb it; when we are struggling in life, we need those willing to lift up our arms, or hold our hands, or even just offer an encouraging pat on the back.  Unfortunately, burden-bearing does not describe our society well. Or is it humanity in general, across space and time?  Maybe that’s why Paul had to instruct Christians to bear one another’s burdens (Galatians 6:2).  One would think that the bearing and sharing of burdens would be natural among Christ followers.  However, typically we are not as likely to be the Simons bearing the cross of Christ as we are the Peters watching from afar.   Don’t Peter’s clothes fit us all a little more comfortably? Hence the need to try and swallow the world in a cloak that’s far too big for its shoulders along with a responsibility to match it in size.  We (myself included) are more than willing to prepare a meal, send a card, as long as it keeps us on the sidelines without having to get down in the filthy mess of it all.

Among the many in the month of October is Pregnancy and Infant Loss Awareness. Honestly I knew nothing of its existence in any official capacity until I found myself cleaning up the devastation in the wake of my own storm.  Now I share it openly. Why? Partially because I need for others to understand without judgment when I still cry–sometimes uncontrollably–almost three years later.  I need for them to accept that one child doesn’t replace another. I need for them to know that my Angel Baby still frequents my dreams. I need their compassion when they see me holding my beautiful baby boy with love bursting from every seam of my heart and tears still trailing from my eyes.  I need for them to know that while they see my three babies together, in my mind’s eye I still see four, and I often wonder how different our family dynamic would be with a 2 ½ year old princess in the mix. I yearn for understanding, for acceptance, for knowledge, or even simply for…awareness.

It was a long, long time into the grief process before I grasped the magnitude of the fact that I was already wrapped in the awareness of the only One that matters.  When no one else understands my sorrow, He does.  He prescribed the medicine that heals a woman’s sorrow in childbirth (John 16:21).  When that medicine is withheld for whatever reason, He understands that the sorrow remains.  When no one else knows my inward battle for contentment, He does.  He Himself matched the barren womb to a fire, a land bereft of water, even the very grave–four things that never say “Enough” (Proverbs 30:15-16). {**Please note that I am in no way comparing my journey with that of a woman struggling with infertility.  When I saw the ultrasound screen the night after Thea was born, it was completely void of life–life that had filled it only hours before.  I have often read the word “barren” from that perspective–void of life–since her loss.  If infertility is your struggle, while I can’t say that I understand it fully, I know that there is extreme pain–even grief–associated with it, and I hurt for you.  And, more importantly, God knows, too.**}

However, the most affirming experience occurred last fall.  During our Bible time one morning, I was working with Eli on his Bible Bowl questions.  Since he needed my attention, I had Eden busy writing a card. She chose to make one for a recently widowed member of our congregation.  I told her it was a fantastic idea and busied myself with Eli, Paul, and the Corinthians. Very soon, I heard her little voice. “Mama? How do you spell ‘grieve’?”  I answered absent-mindedly, still absorbed in Bible Bowl. The word kept knocking on the door of my mind, though, and once I allowed it inside, I realized what strange diction this was for a five year old.  Curious, I peeked over her shoulder and read the words: “Dear Mrs. Friend, I am so sorry that you have to grieve.” I gave her a little squeeze, tears spilling down my cheeks. “What is it, Mama? Is it bad?”  She thought that there was something wrong with what she’d written. “Oh no!” I reassured her. “I think your words are perfect.”

Several months prior to this event, I’d begun to wonder if at times there wasn’t something in Eden’s words with special meaning.  (It sounds crazy, I know, but if I could share all the times that one small, seemingly out-of-place line from her lips spoke exactly the words that my heart needed to hear in that moment, you might be almost as convinced as I am.)  So many times, those words were, in the most realistic sense, a gift from God.  Because of that, any time she said something that particularly caught my attention, I turned it over and over again in my mind.  I did the same with her written message. I was continually astounded by its simple perfection. “These,” I thought, “are the perfect words for someone who is grieving.  No attempts to explain grief away, no empty cliches. Just simple and perfect.”  It took several more days, however, for me to realize that they were also (once again) the perfect words for me.

About a week later, I heard Eli’s frantic voice tearing up our basement stairs.  My heart froze as I threw the door open to meet him, preparing myself for what he was about to report.  “Mommy, I can’t find Cluck! I counted the chickens and there were only nine of them. I can’t find Cluck!  Do you think he’s dead? I know he’s dead!”   It took several minutes for me to calm him enough to process through his words.  Eventually, I convinced him that Cluck was probably just in the coop and hadn’t come out with the other chickens yet.  Still spooked, Eden accompanied him as he finished feeding the chickens and gathering the eggs. It didn’t take long before they both returned, screaming in sheer panic.  “I was right, Mommy! He is dead!  And I saw him!”  They were both sobbing uncontrollably.  I gathered them both in my arms, and we all sat right where we were, at the top of the basement stairs.

I felt tears stinging my face as I soothed.  And I thought, “Really, Jamie?! You’re going to cry over a chicken?!”  And then I heard myself whisper, “I’m so sorry.”  Suddenly, Eden’s words came flooding back to me. I wasn’t crying over the chicken, I was crying over my Little Chicks, Eli and Eden.  You see, that word “dead” strikes a discordant toll in our home.  Yes, it was just a chicken, but death has touched the lives of those poor babies in ways that it hadn’t mine at their same age.  They understood it in ways that most children don’t because thankfully, most children don’t have to.  As I watched them mourn a silly chicken, my tears mingled with theirs because I was so sorry that they had to grieve.

It struck me that my Jesus loves me far more perfectly than I love my babies.  My mind raced to a familiar story of our Lord, who witnessed the grief of His dear friends Mary and Martha over the loss of their brother, Lazarus.  Jesus knew the Grand Finale, and He even knew that this separation was ultimately for their good and the Father’s glory…yet He wept. Surely he wasn’t weeping over Lazarus.  Yes, Lazarus was His friend whom He dearly loved, but He knew that Lazarus would soon awaken and walk among them again. As He watched them mourn their brother, His tears mingled with theirs because He was so sorry that they had to grieve.

All the pieces began to fit together perfectly–Eden’s words of condolence, the chicken, the story of Lazarus.  In that moment, Jesus said to me, “Jamie, I’m so sorry that you’ve had to grieve. For these two years you’ve been grieving so hard.  And it has broken My heart for you.  Death was never intended to be part of this story, and it hurts me to see you broken by it.  I’m just so sorry.” I looked again at Eli and Eden gathered there in my arms. In the same way, I felt as if I had been gathered into the arms of our loving Lord as He soothed my grieving heart.

Dear one, if you are grieving; if you are yearning for understanding, acceptance, knowledge, awareness, know that you have it already.  From the One that matters most.  Run to Him and let Him dry your tears.  He is so sorry that you have to grieve.

One Reply to “I’m So Sorry”

  1. I love this. I will be using Edens line. It is so appropriate. People never know what to say. That. Is what you should say.

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