In the early days of April in 2011 I sat in my home and I resonated with the Psalmist: my pillow was drenched with tears, my eye wasted away with grief, I cried out to God for help, and I thought “How long, O Lord, must I be separated from my son whom I love and is now with you?”
I thought about the milestones ahead of me, the first month without him, the first holidays without him, his first birthday, and the seemingly dark five or ten year anniversary that would one day come and I could not even imagine that span of time without my son, Haddon. We had just buried him. How could an entire decade pass by when I had this son who is truly a part of me now absent and with the Lord? How unfathomable this seemed to me.
By God’s unbelievable mercy and grace, we have arrived at this beautiful milestone of ten years. His birthday was March 31, 2011, and we sit here, in our living room, full of hope as we deeply miss Haddon in 2021. I couldn’t have dreamed what that would have looked like when I held my baby, taking his last breath right before me as my husband, Ernie, washed over him with the words “The Lord bless you and keep you; the Lord make his face shine on you and be gracious to you; the Lord turn his face toward you and give you peace.”
Ten years. I didn’t know a mother could cry so many tears during quiet car rides, moments of folding laundry, rocking my children to sleep, laying in my own room or singing in church when taken suddenly by the grief of my loss. Ten years of bending down towards his headstone to feel the engraved words “Jesus lives and so shall I, when he returns with him I’ll rise.”
Ten years of telling my children the story of their brother’s birth and death, someone who is part of them is actually with Jesus. How foundational this has been for their learning of the reality of death and their hope of heaven. Some of their memories will be fumbling around the cemetery as preschoolers trying to find Haddon’s name as we look for the shiny headstone that their grandfather has taken such good care of when he comes to visit alone. How often they’ve announced to a cashier or a kind person in the park that “we actually have one more brother with Jesus.” I understand their longing to introduce the brother that is not here but is very much alive, and I’m grateful they share that longing with me.
How is God faithful in the loss of a Child?
I think it’s important to express how God is faithful in our grief. It’s possible to hold a newborn who is passing away and feel like something is being stolen from you and God could be seen as a thief. It’s possible to walk through an unimaginable darkness and find God to be not so powerful after all, and trade him for something else that will help us make sense of our pain.
But God has not just given us something we can see. Rather, he has shown us what he has done. He has called us to hold our experiences up next to his word for examination, not our hearts and what we or others want to tell us. Our lens cannot be our circumstance, but his word.
We can have some good and noble, even godly dreams. Motherhood was my dream, it was a joyful prayer of my heart. God even let me experience time with Haddon in the womb and for a short time in my arms. But his plan for Haddon’s life was 2 days, not a good old age. My dream for motherhood was broken, it was gone.
God doesn’t promise us our dreams. He promises us hope. His hope. His entire word speaks of his hope, but I think the sweetest condensed version is in Romans 8:32
He who did not spare his own Son but gave him up for us all, how will he not also with him graciously give us all things?
If God’s ultimate act of love, the horrific death of his Son, to make you a son or daughter has been accomplished and set in stone, how is our grief not something he will also bring you through? If his love for his people went as far as to pour out all his anger for sin on his own Son, how is his love not here for you in your sorrow?
We can lose many, many dreams. A home, a child, a job, our health. But these things are subject to change, so to hold on to them as a solid hope or something owed to us is like trying to hold water in your hands. The hope of the gospel is that he hands us the firm stone of Jesus Christ in our hands, and that is not subject to change and can be held firm. This is bigger than our dreams.
To have Jesus Christ is to have everything. My arms have ached for Haddon for these ten years but they have not been void of hope. Hopelessness is separation from God, and I have been brought near to the throne of grace, with no merit of my own doing. This is how we grieve but not as those without hope.
To Those Who Are In The Early Days
To the reader whose loss is still fresh and the grief is deep; if you are in Christ, these will be some of your hardest but sweetest memories with your Savior, if you will be in his word. Even while you weep, you will see in a new way the story of how he has always been faithful to his people, and how he promises to be faithful in the future. You will read of the new heavens and the new earth with a fresh longing for no more tears, death or sorrow.
To the mothers who have just buried their child and are barely making it one day at a time, I remember these days too. Your singing of your Savior rising from the grave to conquer death will never be the same, it’s been ten years and my eyes still brim with tears every time I sing.
“And I heard a loud voice from the throne saying, “Behold, the dwelling place of God is with man. He will dwell with them, and they will be his people, and God himself will be with them as their God. He will wipe away every tear from their eyes, and death shall be no more, neither shall there be mourning, nor crying, nor pain anymore, for the former things have passed away.”