I might of mentioned before but my church is doing its annual Lenten 'Daniel Fast' which is basically a vegan diet with no sugars or enriched grains. For me coping with being bummed out means eating my weight in chocolate so that's exactly what I did. I ate five hundred chocolate Reese's eggs and then I apologized to Jesus on facebook for breaking the fast.
One of the things I keep thinking, in mourning with these friends who have lost their baby, is that I could never do it. Do grief as well as they have been. This baby was born with a fatal disease and yet they celebrated each day with her. Just like the sappy country songs say to do, to live each day as if it's your last, they did this with their little girl. Only it hasn't been sappy. It's been the most startlingly beautiful thing I've ever seen.
I was talking with a friend today, who was also at the funeral, and we were talking about how three days later we're still a little bummed. (Nine chocolate eggs is my current count it's taken to write this post, for example.) This friend remarked how she was a bit surprised when she burst out crying during a meeting for no reason and I nod and am secretly glad I have a solo office. With a door, that closes.
Then she told me about how when she was younger there had been a child in her church that had drowned and the child was the same age as her son. This young mom was wrecked with the grief of the situation and an older woman explained to her that the family had grace for that situation and when those of us on the outside are looking in on it we can't comprehend what it's like because we are outside of the grace bubble.
This immediately made sense to me because I have seen and experienced a deeper level of grace in the births and subsequent NICU visits of my two children.
When Kaiya was born we had to go to the NICU for a high fever to be monitored and while it was a slightly jarring experience we quickly realized how blessed we were that she was mostly healthy. Especially when the baby across from her was brought in as his tiny face all covered in various tubes. Even more startling was his mother who was an absolute mess and sobbing almost uncontrollably. I held on tightly to Kaiya whose bright little face was flush with color. I remember hearing the words "fluid in the lungs" and when I looked at the baby who looked slightly blue my heart lurched inside of me like it was trying to escape the tiny room we were trapped in with all this potential grief waiting to be unsprung at any moment. That little baby's face was completely covered in tubes, one of which was larger than his thigh, and I remember thinking "Fluid in the lungs! I could never!"
Fast forward about three and a half years to when we are having CJ and the part where they normally bring the baby to the mom was a bit different. This time there was a strange hustle and bustle in the room and I looked over at my husband's worried face and realized the nurse had called over the doctor. Then I heard the words. Fluid in the lungs. I could never... There was my own son, with the same large tubes covering his tiny face that I had seen on that other boy. But there was grace. There was a strength that had not been there before when it had been Kaiya with a fever. In many ways, it had been helpful to have gone through the process of having been up there before and knowing the routine of the NICU. We settled in to that strange routine a lot more easily the second time, which was good because we were there for not just three days but a little over two weeks.
There are unspeakable things going on all around us. But not all of them are things we are meant to bear up, and certainly never alone. When it is our turn to go through a hard thing, there will be grace. He does not mean for us to walk to paths of others but to simply walk ours, in faith. And when the grief strikes a bubble beside us it is good to mourn with those who mourn. To take in the sadness, indulge a bit in handfuls of chocolate, and do our best to not be overwhelmed with a circumstance that in our limitedness we simply can't fully comprehend. To turn our "I could nevers" into, "I can and will when I have tos."
|CJ in the NICU in 2009, all covered in tubes from 'fluid in his lungs'|