A year ago we unexpectedly lost our baby at twenty-two weeks. Today we remember his birthday and look back on how God has been with us through it all.
Today is one year since our son James was born at twenty-two weeks. One year since he went to be with the Lord. One year since we were given an identity for which we never would have asked– parents who have lost a child.
As I have been thinking about this day approaching, I have been trying to wrap my mind around my thoughts, around his story and my feelings. But honestly? My mind is a confusing mess.
You see, as I sit here tapping away on the keyboard early this morning, I have a baby sleeping on my chest. A little Josiah, instead of a one-year old James. It can be a confusing place to be–grieving the loss of one child while caring for another precious life.
Baby Josiah with the bear a dear friend made from pajamas we bought for James.
You worry that your busyness in caring for your living children somehow takes away from grieving the loss of the child no longer in your arms. (It doesn’t). You worry that people will forget the little life that mattered so much as they ooh and ahh over a new baby’s tiny fingers and toes or his sweet button nose or the noises he makes while he sleeps. (They won’t). You worry that your family will “go back to normal”– your children will forget, significant days will go unnoticed, the memories of the months you had with your baby will grow increasingly more faded.
But one thing I am learning is that there is no returning to the way things were. This is our story now. James’ short life has indelibly impacted all of our lives. He could never be forgotten.
My six-year-old son is fierce in his commitment to making sure that James’ life is not overlooked. Every mother knows that strangers in grocery stores enjoy asking personal questions about your family size. How many children do you have? Are they all yours? When are you having another one? And so on. You know the drill.
There are times when it is easier to give these strangers the number of children they can see. We have four kids. After all, it can be a little awkward to stand in front of the meat counter and tell someone you just met about how your baby died unexpectedly. They don’t know what to say and you just want to get on with your shopping before a child starts tantruming or you start crying.
A child, though, has little consideration for social cues, no desire for pretense in an effort to prevent others from feeling uncomfortable. And so my son always answers that we have another son and that he is in heaven.
He never neglects to make certain others remember his brother.
It can be counter-intuitive to admit that good can come from loss. But it is true– the hardest parts of your story are the ones being used to work out good in your life.
This year we have learned that the things we fear the most really are powerless to devastate us when our hope is in God.
We miss James all the time. I never want to take away from that. But I want to know for myself, I want my children to know, and I want you to know that in the midst of sorrow there is always hope in a faithful God who is all-powerful and able to use all things to cause us to know His love more deeply.
The things we have been given this year may not all be tangible, but that does not make them any less real.
I can more confidently say that God’s goodness and sovereignty are far from being mutually exclusive. They work together to bring true comfort to a believer.
I can see the beginnings of fruit in my children– learning that this life is not all there is, and growing hearts with greater capacity for empathy and love.
And I can be all the more grateful for the beauty of marriage and the gift of not weathering the storms alone. We had some of our hardest moments this year, but now on his first birthday and in a two days on our ninth anniversary, our marriage is stronger for the grief and pain we faced together.
So today I ask you to remember our precious son with us. His life was much anticipated and is greatly missed. We may never know if little James Henry would look like his mom or dad, if he would be reserved like Jack or bold like Molly, or the sound of his voice or color of his eyes, but we do know that the length of a person’s life does not determine how much he is loved. A baby is precious from day one.
Today I also ask you to take a moment to rejoice in hope. To remember that no matter what you are facing, no matter how deep the sorrow seems, or how powerless you are to affect any change, your story does not end here. The story of all those who hope in Christ is interwoven with sorrow and joy, pain and love, moments of doubt and promises clung to, resulting in a tapestry of a life beautified by God’s redeeming and sustaining grace.