One of the most difficult parts of the Rainbow in the infant loss community is the fear that the Sun will eventually overpower the Rain. Truthfully, even though I call Chet my Rainbow, he is not. He is my bright Sonshine. But the most brilliant light, when combined with the most threatening storm, produces the most vibrant rainbows. This truth punched me hard in the gut as I reflected over Chet’s first year. I felt like the entire Grief/Joy Coaster was summarized with this one line: Rainbows only exist when Sunshine and Rain co-exist. True, there is no Beauty without the blinding light, but the Rainbow can’t materialize unless that light shines through Rain that is still falling.
I haven’t spoken as often of Thea since Chet was born. I don’t ever want to be perceived as ungrateful. There’s not been a single day since December 25, 2017 that I haven’t poured out Thanksgiving for our Joy Boy. Nor do I want to set up permanent residence in the rain; a sojourn is sufficient. Not to mention, there are some who are ready for me to move along, I know. Many who love me assume that I’ve changed my address for good to the sunny side. Unfortunately, that’s just not the way it works. So, I feel guilty if I speak of her; I feel guilty if I don’t. It’s another paradox tornado that I often find myself swept up in.
Throughout our time somewhere over the rainbow in the past two years, God has mingled precious gifts within the constant drizzle. He has reassured me time and again that even if every other person forgets (which I know is an exaggeration), He remembers. Isn’t it interesting that in placing that bow in the clouds, He said that it was in order that He might remember? I don’t think that’s a “bring to remembrance” in that He is prone to forgetting; I think it’s a remembrance that instead says, “I’m mindful.” I will be mindful of the covenant and act accordingly. I believe that in much the same way, He is reminding us that He is still mindful of our loss. He still knows and understands the hurt. Maybe the Rainbow after a loss isn’t as much a description of the New Joy as it is a small, constant reminder that He is still mindful of the storm. That’s what I’ve chosen to share in the next several blog posts, as a reminder to anyone that might need it (most often myself), that He is mindful in the tiniest details.
The following is a post that I wrote for Chet’s first birthday that I decided to table in order to take a different path. I’m glad, now, that I did, although I struggled with the decision at the time. We received the first gift quite literally the minute Chet was born.
Chet is ONE! While my mind knows it’s real, my heart balks in disbelief that our beautiful Joy Boy, our tangible evidence of God’s steadfast love, is ONE. The time has passed so quickly–too quickly–every minute of it. I remember thinking with Eli and Eden that the minutes ticked by eternally, but the years disappeared instantly. It’s been different this time. Every minute is fleeting, and I find myself chasing along behind them, frantically gathering them up in my arms in an attempt to stash them away (or hoard them…) in my treasure box of memories. But they are hevel–that vapor of vanity from Ecclesiastes–and they dissipate the moment I cling. 365 days. 8,760 hours. What I wouldn’t give to buy them all back again–all the minutes, even the hard ones. 525,600 minutes at exactly 1:18 a.m. And I would redeem every one.
When we were awaiting his arrival, I quietly hoped for the 18th as yet one more reassurance that this new life was an answer to my prayer for beauty from our pain. The 18th is Thea’s birthday. The day arrived, and late in the afternoon, I began contracting. My heart smiled as I imagined God answering this unspoken prayer of mine. (My deepest prayers were for a smooth delivery and a healthy baby. I would never have dared ask for something as trivial as a date. I just thought an extra nod from God would be cool.) We contacted my parents and asked them to pick the kids up, just in case. However, after a couple of hours, the contractions subsided. No baby. The 18th wasn’t his day.
A similar experience on the 25th convinced us that we should at least have everything examined. We got to the hospital by 10:30 and at 1:18 on the 26th he was in my arms. Well, there’s nothing super special about the 26th. He missed the 25th by an hour. At least that’s a multiple of 5. (Did you know that I’m weird about numbers?) Oh, well. He’ll make it special.
At 2 in the morning I sent birth announcement texts to family and closest friends. I still remember chuckling at my repeated mistake: “Chet Austin has arrived! Born on 1/18…” 1/18?! But this is AUGUST! How does anyone mistake August for January? Silly me, he was born at 1:18, not on it. 1/18 is Thea’s birthday… And I will never forget the moment that followed as the realization washed over my sleep-deprived, just-brought-a-life-into-the-world consciousness…CHET WAS BORN ON THEA’S BIRTHDAY!!! Cue the tears.
What are the odds? I’ll tell you. Of the 1,440 minutes in a single 24 hour day, only two of them are exactly 1:18. That takes the odds to a 1 in 720 chance that his birth would occur precisely at that time. It provides two 60-second windows and no more. A mere 120 seconds, but not all in one stretch. Coincidence? Perhaps. I prefer to call it Providence.
On Thea’s shelf, we have a box of keepsakes to remember her and the imprint that her tiny princess feet made on our hearts. When we open the box, the first thing we see lying on top is the month of January from the 2016 magnetic calendar that was on our refrigerator that year. The only marking is a penciled circle around the 18th. I cry every time I see it. At the top it reads “To New Beginnings”, and what a new beginning it was.
That little pencil mark on that small calendar is difficult for our family. On her day, we try to honor the impact that she made on our lives. There are lots of tears as we pull her box down from the shelf and talk about her. There are also knowing smiles as we send her birthday balloons every year with notes from each of us. We try to make it more about the celebration than the loss. But celebrating a loss still feels backward. We smile in spite of it, but for the most part our celebration is filled with the dull ache (and often stabbing pain) of missing someone of greatest significance.
1-18 is not an easy day for our family, ever. But in giving us Chet, in ever so many ways, God redeemed our 1-18 with a new 1:18. In Ephesians 5:16 in the King James Version, Paul used the phrase “redeeming the time”. Figuratively speaking, the Greek for our English word redeem means “to rescue from loss,” and that is exactly what He did. He redeemed our time. While others might have looked into our lives and seen the passage of time, the gift of a new baby and thought, “No more reason to grieve”; He says, I see the life and the years that you still mourn. They are important to you, and you are important to Me.” Praise God, our Great Redeemer, who cares enough about our pain to rescue us from loss, even in the minute details (to be read as the measurement of time… because this detail to me was anything but tiny).. Of course, His tender gift doesn’t completely erase the pain. But it reminds us again and again that He sees, He knows, and most importantly He cares.
Paul’s words, however fitting in this chapter of our story, were actually not spoken of God. They were instructions to his readers. In the English Standard Version, verses 15-16 read, “Look carefully then how you walk, not as unwise but as wise, making the best use of the time, because the days are evil.” He redeemed the darkness of our 1-18 with the “light” (Chet’s new favorite word) of 1:18. May I ever remember to redeem it again for Him by making the best use of every minute.
This year, I want to redeem the time by turning my eyes more to the little things, the little rainbows given to remind us that He is mindful.