The other night I had a dream that I was pregnant with our fourth child. I was going for the ultrasound, and as soon as the wand thing hit my belly it was clear that we were having a boy. I was so excited. Two of each, plus we have a boy’s name picked out! As the ultrasound went on, however, it became clear that this little boy had some things wrong with him. He would live, but he would not be well. I woke up not knowing what to think of the dream.
One of my favourite blogs is Angie Smith’s blog. The blog started as the story of her daughter Audrey Caroline who lived only a few short hours when she was born this past April. From that great loss has come an amazing story of hope in the midst of pain. For some reason I am continually drawn back to her blog and the posts surrounding Audrey’s birth. I look at the pictures of her little baby daughter who lived for such a short time, and I see such beauty it makes me hurt. Tonight I watched, again, the slideshow of pictures from the day Audrey was born. (I watched it with the sound off, because I didn’t want to be weeping by the end of it. And even with the sound off, two-thirds of the way through I was welling up.)
Near the end of the slideshow, there is a picture of Angie and her husband holding little Audrey up near their faces, and when I saw the picture I thought to myself, “How could they love this little person who was going to die?” And by that I didn’t mean, “how could they love her at all“. Rather, I meant, “how could they survive? how could their hearts survive loving someone so much who was there for so short a time”. But the next thought in my mind was: we’re all here for so short a time. Every relationship we have we will lose. As soon as you take up the mantle of love, you get with it loss because some day (sooner or later) that relationship, that person you love, will be gone. Now that is not to discount the hope of heaven and eternity. Rather, it is the simple fact that we will all die. And we are all separated in the moment of death. (However, if we are to look at things with eternity in mind: it is in that ultimate moment of separation, in death, that our complete (re)union actually begins.)
I know I’ve been harping on this a lot lately, and quite frankly it scares me. It scares me because I wonder deep down if all of my musings about how there is never enough love, never enough time to satisfy us is just all bunk. I’m scared that if ever I lost someone that those statements would hold zero weight. And I guess I’m also scared because I’ve been thinking about this stuff so much that I worry God is trying to prepare me for my own death at a young age or the loss of one of my children. And, frankly, that fear sometimes keeps me up at night.
I read Angie’s blog and I wonder, “how is she going on living with a little — actually, probably quite a big — piece of her heart just torn apart?” And yet I’m sure that there is a great truth she now knows from living through this loss. Even if she doesn’t know she knows it. Even if she doesn’t “feel” it. She has given her heart over to love in the purest form. She has loved something that she could not keep. Now, we all love things that, in the end, we do not keep. But I think we often forget about the endings and the losses. And for a lot of us, the endings are far away; they happen when we have had a lot of time to love. But little Audrey did not have time. She was held and given up in a matter of hours. And to experience a lifetime of love in just a matter of hours (and to know that and to choose to do it), well… I can’t even imagine the devastation and intensity of emotions…
But. Maybe some of that great truth that now lives within Angie — that truth that is there because she was willing to love and lose in such an acute way — is about the fact that God can actually overcome the deep hurt within. And the deeper the hurt, the greater the healing. Somehow God’s love is so great that it can take and consume and transform the deepest hurt into pure love. Right now I’m out of words to articulate what my tear-filled eyes are trying to get out. I guess, I’m just saying that in spite of the loss of that dear little girl, when I look at the pictures and hear Angie’s words, I see love. Love so great that it hurts. And, yet, love that can live through the hurt.
And what has come of her living out this great sorrow on her blog is something truly astounding. She did a post on October 15th (National Day of Remembrance for Pregnancy and Infant Loss) encouraging women to write down their stories of loss so she could pray for each person. She got over 2,100 comments. Women sharing their stories. Sharing their losses, their humanity, so that in being known and being loved, we can go on. (My comment is in the early 300s.) And today she did a great post about fear. And it reminded me again that these things that seem to bind and paralyze me, that they can be overcome too. That they are overcome. I just need to be willing to risk. To risk the love. To risk the loss. To risk all of the strange dichotomies that life throws at me. And we need to know that God is there, that he’s listening, that he is redeeming all of this mess of life. And sometimes he manifests that redemption by showing us how others have made it through. Or, perhaps, these words (which Angie posted here) say it better:
“Jacob, where do you find the strength to carry on in life?”
“Life is often heavy only because we attempt to carry it,” said Jacob. “But I do find a strength in the ashes.”
“In the ashes?” asked Mr. Gold.
“Yes,” said Jacob, with a confirmation that seemed to have traveled a great distance.
“You see, Mr. Gold, each of us is alone. Each of us is in the great darkness of our ignorance. And, each of us is on a journey.
“In the process of our journey, we must bend to build a fire for light, and warmth, and food.
“But when our fingers tear at the ground, hoping to find the coals of another’s fire, what we often find is the ashes.
“And, in those ashes, which will not give us light or warmth, there may be sadness, but there is also testimony.
“Because these ashes tell is that somebody else has been in the night, somebody else has bent to build a fire, and somebody else has carried on.
“And that can be enough, sometimes.”
Sometimes life can stand still, but not in a good way. Sometimes our fears about ourselves, our family, our future, sometimes they make us want to stay in our houses and never leave. There is the illusion that we will lose nothing if we just sit tight, snuggly in ourselves. But there’s the dichotomy again: we lose more by not risking. And when we actually risk losing, that is when we will gain. When we share our fears and our failures with each other — the things that make us feel so isolated in ourselves — we discover that we are not alone. When we lose the things that we love, we discover how deep our love was. And when we are faced with that chasm — the chasm between the love held close in our hearts and the beloved who has gone far into the mystery — we get a glimpse of the love of God that bridges that chasm. And if just that glimpse is enough to sustain us, to make us see beauty in the hurt… well… I can’t even imagine what God’s love in its entirety is like. But, if we keep risking ourselves and putting our stories all together, I think we’ll see more of it.