So many times I’ve sat down to start writing, only to realize that I really had nothing worthwhile to say anyway. And perhaps this will be another one of those times. But then again, maybe it won’t. The past month or so has been tough. In all reality, every day is tough, but it’s something I think we’ve become used to. More difficult than the norm may now be a better way to describe our harder days. My cousin lost his father unexpectedly about a week before Easter. It rocked the family. But especially my precious cousin. And it brought all of those feelings back. The pain, the confusion, the heart break. I began to relive those moments so many times throughout my days, remembering what it was like to be in his shoes. To have the rug pulled out from under you, to fall to your knees and not know how to get back up again. The feeling of not knowing how to exist in a world that your daddy is no longer a part of. Wondering how the world can continue to spin after losing such an amazing man. There are so many things that have happened over the course of the last year and 11 months that I so badly wish my dad had been able to be a part of. I still wish I’d had him to hold my hand through the months of grieving our precious baby. We found strength that we never imagined we could ever have… truly a gift from God, but also wish we’d had his strength to surround us as well.
The pain didn’t stop there. Because in remembering the days after my dad’s death, I was then brought to the days when we received Ethan’s diagnosis. I began reliving those memories as well, things that I hadn’t thought of since they happened. I remember the fear in my mom’s eyes when we were in the midst of what we thought was a miscarriage, just days after my dad died. I remember lying in the hospital bed so angry at God for the way my world was beginning to spin off its axis. I remember the pastor that came in to pray with us and the awful bitter feelings I felt at everyone around me, and the difficulty I had moving myself into an attitude of prayer in those moments. I remember telling my family, in the hospital, that I had resigned to the fact that I had likely miscarried our baby… that I was just waiting for confirmation of my fears. I remember the ultrasound technician turning the monitor around and showing me our little one wiggling around on the screen… and the pure relief and indescribable gratitude I felt in the moment. I remember the months of sudden kicks, jerks, and wiggles in my belly, usually after a good meal. Everything has been so real these past few weeks, so many memories flooding back, so fresh and raw.
I held April’s newborn baby a few weeks ago… the first I’ve held since Ethan was born. Had it been anyone else’s baby, I don’t know that I could have done it. That was huge for me. It was heart-wrenching but so sweet. It brought me back to those short hours when we were able to hold Ethan, and listen to the beautiful noises he made, the short sporadic breaths he’d take. I’d like to share a video with you… the only video I have of him. But it’s so special… probably the most precious thing I have left, because it shows his life. Sharing this with you is lowering a very private veil, I can probably count on one hand the number of people who have viewed it. It’s private, it’s personal, but it’s also such a testimony to God’s grace. This beautiful, perfect little boy… he was here, he was real, and he was amazing! I watch this video and think about the doctor telling us that our baby was “incompatible with life”. Psh! That’s insanity! Truly… this amazing angel, from the moment they knew of his condition was termed “incompatible”. Look at him, look at his beautiful face. Listen to the music that escapes his lips. Tell me one thing about that remarkable soul that is not compatible with life! He exudes life, and it’s meaning! He wasn’t meant to stay here, I understand that. But he was made so perfectly for the purpose God intended him for. And my gosh he was one of the greatest blessings our family has ever received! And this was his life. Sweet, peaceful, beautiful… serene… from the moment he came in to it, until his very last breath.
I still don’t really know where I’m headed with all of this. I was talking to my sister yesterday about how certain things in people’s lives literally change everything about who they are as a person. Be it addiction, loss, recovery, trauma… they don’t always have to permanently change you for the worse, they can also make changes for the better with determination and faith. Losing my dad, and then losing Ethan, either of which on their own would change a person forever… have changed me in more ways that I ever thought possible. I’d like to think that most of me has changed for the better, but I do believe there are some parts of me that are so deeply scarred that I fear they will never blossom into something beautiful. I imagine it is like that for anyone who has suffered a loss, more specifically of a child, a sibling, or a parent at a young age. It’s almost like it alters your DNA. Life will never be the same. Not to say it will always be bad, or painful, but it will never be as carefree or untainted as it once was. You carry the past with you every day, it impacts so many of your decisions and the way you see the world around you. Your glasses are no longer rose-colored.
The Danny Gokey song “Tell Your Heart to Beat Again” talks about closing the door on yesterday, saying goodbye to the past, and telling your heart to beat again. So many pieces of that song I wish so badly I could heed, it’s so encouraging and uplifting. I know our story isn’t over yet, but something like this is not one I’ll ever be able to leave in my past. Nor do I want to! I want to carry my dad and Ethan with me every minute of every day, regardless of the pain that accompanies it.
I sometimes daydream of what life would be like with our little guy here with us. We went to Florida for spring break and as I watched the kids splash around in the pool, I wondering what it would be like to have our red-headed little Ethan in the mix. The kids talk about him often, which breaks my heart but lifts it up at the same time. I never want this family to forget what an impact he’s had on who and where we are, or how special he was and will always be to us. I miss him terribly. Every day. I wish I could carry him in to drop the kids off at school, or have him toddle beside me, holding my hand as we go. So many things I wish I could have with him. I’d do it all over again, just for those few precious hours with him in our arms. Though I live with his loss every day, I also live remembering the joy that I felt with him in my arms. I will carry that joy with me until I see him again. <3
If you see someone who’s suffered a loss, show them grace, show them patience, show them love. They are dealing with a myriad of emotions and likely will for a long time, on and off the rest of their lives. Try to understand that sometimes we just don’t know how to interact with the world around us because we are so lost in our grief. We may be awkward. We may be quiet. Or we may seem completely carefree and happy. But it’s always there, just below the surface. A constant reminder that we are not who we once were. But we’re OK.