October, 1998 and March, 1999
What a roller coaster ride. From one week's excitement about a new niece joining the family, to the next week's traumatic horror about her being stillborn less than a week before her due date. True, none of us can predict our deaths, or the deaths of others, but this was different.
Logically, I expect to bury my parents. I also expect that of the four children my parents had, at least one of us will be there to bury the others. That is logical, and one can at least intellectually prepare for it. But what of the stillborn? What logic prepares you for burying a child without turning you into a cynic? None that I know of. It is something we had to deal with and comfort each other in. Here's a small, small part of what happened when my niece was stillborn that October, and something that happened that continued the story.
As we had slowly started to accept the fact that we were not going to have another niece to join our family, we got a call, asking if I would say a few words at the gravesite. They wanted a small family gathering, and no more. I agreed without knowing what was coming.
I prepared a reading from 1st Corinthians 15, which a pastor had long ago told me was a good thing to do at a time like this, but I was still disturbed. I knew that to grieve, to help someone else grieve, you had to get them to think about or talk about the one who left. I had and have no doubt that she is in heaven, but how do we grieve her? This little girl gave us no memories before she passed, only ... unfulfilled dreams.
Dreams. People dream when sleeping. Some use the phrase 'asleep with the Lord' for people who are dead. It started coming to me. Was she asleep, dreaming what would have been in our eyes her life? Was she looking up at someone, while drinking, grabbing at a huge finger, looking into a set of eyes that she is learning belong to someone special called 'Mommy'? Is she being changed frequently, and cuddled and comforted and played with? Is someone called 'Daddy' throwing her up and catching her to her glee? Is she having tea parties with her older sister? Is she dreaming all this?
Is the amazing part of all these dreams yet to come? When we meet each other in heaven, will we have forgotten that she didn't live and remember her dreams as if we had been there all along? Will her mother remember looking into her eyes, and having her finger grabbed by a little hand? Will daddy remember tossing her and her laughter? Will she see the faces on her mother and father and sister and recognize them from her dreams? Is she dreaming what we will remember when we get there?
I can not say no. I can not say that this makes sense to me.
Well, yes I can. God, as I understand God is far more compassionate than I can fathom. This, sounds compassionate to that extreme. Yes, when I went over this at the gravesite, there were many tears, and hugs. Burying a child is something that I never want to go through again. It is awful to be at a children's cemetery. There are plastic cars, little toys, balloons, flowers and dolls on slabs of stone. The contrast is heartbreaking.
Yes, there is more. Only a few months later, I received an e mail from a friend. His boss's daughter had given birth very early. Very early. The little girl was under 2 pounds, and in trouble. He asked for prayer for her life. I tried to gently tell him that I wouldn't do that, because I would pray for God's will in the situation. (Yes, I am quite capable of showing my human side, which is not very humane.) He very predictably let me know how angry he was for me not supporting a desire for something, even if it was, in my eyes, not the most important thing.
God backed him up later the same evening when my 8-year-old son brought me a broken toy. "Daddy, can you please fix this?" It was easy to fix, it just needed a strong pair of hands and fingers to re-attach it. As I finished, and looked in his grateful and excited eyes, I got hit in the gut by a train at full speed. I didn't lecture my son on the relative un-importance of the toy, he had so many more. Nor did I lecture him on how much more important our relationship was than any toy. Nor did I lecture him on ... I didn't even want to lecture. I took one look in those eyes, saw his faith in my ability to fix a toy (hey, it was a Lego toy and he had seen my fix these things before) and all I wanted to do was to come through for my son. Ouch.
It took two days before I could go downstairs and sent off an e mail apologizing to my friend. By God's grace I sent that e mail off, and corrected our misunderstanding, shortly before the little girl passed away. I would not have been able to do it afterwards because of my self-centered shame.
Go ahead and ask God for what you want. Ask Him for what is important to you. Don't worry about it being right or wrong. Just be honest. If it's important to you, pray about it. He wants you to be honest.
God is a Father, looking at us children, and wanting so much more for us than we can possibly understand. We have no idea. Well, at least I have no idea.
P. S. The couple that asked me to speak at their daughter's graveside last October, learned last week that they are expecting, again. This child is due in early December, 1999. The doctors have decided to birth the baby on November 21st, 1999. Our prayers are with the family, as they will be on eggshells for the next several months.
October, 1999: Everything is going well and they expect that their son will be born healthy next month. They have reached the point where the doctors can take him early if need be. Thanks for all your prayers!
November 22, 1999: Well, their son was born earlier today. At 8 pounds and 15 ounces. About two hours after birth, the doctors put him on oxygen because he wasn't breathing well.
November 29, 1999: He has now spent his first week of life in the Intensive Care Unit, has had two seizures, and is still in critical condition. He still needs help breathing, and the doctors are unwilling to make a positive prognosis.
December 17, 1999: He comes home after spending his 1st 25 days at the hospital! He can finally swallow and breathe without throwing up!
I have learned to not trust any event as much as I trusted Michael's birth. I truly thought that once he was born, we could all relax and forget what happened to his sister over a year ago. How foolish of me! I had again violated the first commandment!