“He was despised and forsaken of men, A man of sorrows and acquainted with grief; And like one from whom men hide their face He was despised, and we did not esteem Him.” Is. 53:3 (NASB)
Grief is a strange emotion. There is no timeline. It ebbs and flows with its own course to be experienced through a lifetime. Twenty-six years ago today I lost a daughter, Erin. She was stillborn at the end of an entire nine months. Nine months twenty-six years ago; it seems like a lifetime. While Jesus has granted me a great deal of healing through His grace (See ‘Amazing Grace’ Sept. 2009), I find that some years are more difficult than others.
Do people ever look beyond my smiling lips to see my eyes subduing the sudden pain in my heart? Do they recognize the loss so intimate, the stillborn child, unknown to all but me? Nine months spent fruitlessly waiting to fill empty arms that would never be filled with that particular life. Her life unlived amid dreams never to be fulfilled, laughter never to be shared, and the birthdays never to be celebrated, but mourned over year after year: that is my truth. A life unidentified to anyone else, but never forgotten by me, her movements felt by no one else save me. Although twenty-six years have passed, the heartache can still be so sharp, the memories so fresh, it’s as though the delivery day took place just yesterday. These are my memories:
Unforgettable, the silence of that delivery room; tears of anguish flowing unchecked accompanied by the low moaning of the young mother. The only other sounds: a quietly weeping nurse as she wiped clean the still, un-breathing baby of what should have been life-giving blood and the clanking of instruments. A young father stood silently, overwhelmed and withdrawn from the unthinkable horror of the moment. Precious, fine baby hair was snipped and footprints taken from the unmoving infant for later recollection of parents destroyed by grief.
The memorial service was centered on the tiny coffin with words spoken that are no longer remembered. Her mother unable to contain the grief, wailing her tears, yet ashamed of the emotions she couldn’t control. A father so shut down, he was unable to mourn, trying, but unable, to comfort his wife. He would later run from his grief into his job and be swallowed by it.
Months afterward, at home, two toddlers confused by not understanding a mother who alternated between sobbing bitterly and fiercely hugging them. For a time, hope seemed impossible and what does normal life look like after burying a baby? Oddly enough, the sun still rises in the morning and the demands of children continue in spite of the agony of loss. Life does go on.
As I read what I have written, I realize that the recollections are written it in third person, probably to maintain the distance that it took years to achieve. Now when I look back, I don’t know how I got through that time in my life. I was twenty-three years old. My life was forever altered by that event. How can one prepare for such a cataclysm? However, that event started me on a search for purpose. I had to find a love that would not die, a reality that could move me beyond the brokenness to find healing and hope.
Jesus Christ was, and is, the only unchanging, perfect love that I could find. He, too, was a man of sorrows acquainted with grief and He understood my pain. That the Father in heaven comforted me in my pain, I have no doubt. The Holy Spirit’s power activated in my life is the only explanation for the ability to come to terms with such a harrowing loss. That love started a healing process that I will never understand.
For whatever reason, this year the memory of the delivery day and what followed was sharper than it has been for a very long time, hence this blog. I will always miss Erin and I will always wonder who she would have become. But I have undeniable, assured hope that I will see her again. My arms will be filled with that particular life that I carried for nine months. And my heart will finally be whole once more.