Six months ago today, Steven and I were spending Sam’s last few moments on earth reading and talking to him. We were curled up together on a hospital bed–all three of us–holding one another, trying to savor the last moments til heaven. And then his heart was still. And then we were two on earth, one in heaven. I wept so profoundly, no sound came. It felt like my heart was slowly tearing in half. Six months ago today, I went into labor, ushering my son into the world breech and backwards–death first, birth second.
The darkness began on December 4, 2009, the day we learned our baby would die before he lived. We saw him on ultrasound. He was so still. He was so sick. My poor boy. I felt like I was in a nightmare and couldn’t wake up. Every morning began another vigil for movement, as we knew Sam could pass at any time. I felt battle-fatigued and weary. Yet, even during this time, Steven and I had joy over our little boy. His life was good just because it happened.
While I carried Sam, we took pictures of my tummy. Even at nine weeks, when all I was doing was gaining padding. But those were the days when Sam was alive, and I have pictures. We went to movies, and felt him kick during the loud parts. We listened to music, and he had his favorite songs. I ate berries, and imagined Sam enjoying them with me. We went for walks, knowing Sam was walking with us. During such a dark and heavy time, we felt joy over this pregnancy. That’s a miracle worth noting!
Yet laughter came with such effort. So, on Friday, August 13, 2010, when a giggle turned into a belly laugh, I noted yet another miracle. It came so easily, and it stayed till tears were running down my cheeks and my abs were sore and I was begging for Steven to stop being funny. Laughter has returned for me. Somehow, having lost my firstborn son, God has made what Satan deemed a tragedy into a life in which belly laughs come effortlessly. This is a miracle worth marking on the calendar.
Jesus’ promise of peace has echoed in my heart through this journey, and it is stamped there with permanency. Rich Mullins sings, In this world you will have trouble, but I leave you my peace that where I am there you may also be (based on John 16:33, 14:27). Trouble is inevitable as we live in this broken world. Avoiding trouble is a futile effort, but there is this peace which surpasses all understanding. It is a peace that comes not despite but because of tragedy. It came through my pregnancy with Sam. It came through his death. It came through my grief. A miracle. As I interact with other mothers who grieve the loss of their babies, I hear the Lord tell me to wish them peace. It’s all I have to offer.
My good friend, Sarah, told me the meaning of the Hebrew word Shalom (peace) letter by letter. Here’s the illustration she sent:
This is the peace Jesus left with us, as we navigate this troublesome world. It is a peace that destroys the authority attached to chaos. This is what is permanently stamped in my heart as a believer. The authority that Satan had over the chaos of my son’s death has been destroyed, as the heavy temple curtain was ripped from top to bottom, from God to man, when Jesus was crucified. Satan doesn’t get to have this. He doesn’t get to make this a tragedy. My tears are offered only to God, who has given me joy when joy seemed impossible, who has given me laughter when I thought it might never return.
The return of my laughter does not mark the end of my grief. Grief lasts as long as the world is broken and my arms remain empty of Sam. But there is something better than even the removal of all trouble. There is wholeness. In this world I have trouble, but I take heart for Christ has overcome. The authority that was formerly attached to chaos has been destroyed. Christ left us His peace.
Today, as I grieve the loss we experienced six moths ago, I rejoice simultaneously. Samuel Evan happened, and I got to carry him! I marvel at this new peace, as it marries mourning and joy, and makes them Good. I marvel at how it has been given to me to offer to others. I marvel at the wholeness I have tasted, am tasting, will taste as God moves. Peace.