On Good Friday, someone opened the service with remarks about entering into other people’s grief and what could be learned from that practice. It made me think about all God has taught me through grieving. The many times when I have felt I am drowning in sorrow, and He has broken through my heart’s wailing so I could hear Him.
And I was comforted. So many times.
Recently grief has again begun to lap at my feet like I’m walking along the surf. A few rogue waves have hit me dead on and I have felt like I might not catch my breath. I know this stretch of beach, it is not an unfamiliar place after 28 years. I also know I need to keep walking, and if it gets too deep I need to tread water. God knows where I am, He’s coming.
The very first time God spoke to me about my grief was before I knew anything about the journey I would travel as Nani’s mom.
Back in the dark ages when I was in labor with my first beautiful daughter, Ashley, I practiced the lamaze method of childbirth. It was an incredibly hard labor (harder than any of yours, don’t even try to tell me your story). Full on, maximum strength pitocin inducement. For 2 days! These type of inductions are not done anymore. Why? Because they are considered barbaric!
One of the
tricks techniques of Lamaze was to have a focal point. A picture or object that you stared at to keep your mind off the fact that you now hated your husband, and if you ever saw your Lamaze instructor again you were going to hurt her bad while telling her to “breathe”.
My focal point was my (former) favorite flower, a purple iris. After 2 days of intense labor and “focusing” I was out of recovery and had a beautiful baby girl. That was really nice, because by the end I would have settled with birthing a monkey if it could just be over. My dear husband walked into my hospital room with a purple iris (just what I wanted!) and said in the sweetest voice, “it won’t be so bad next time”.
Yeah-He’s still alive only because I was too weak to lift my head at the time.
But there was to be a next time just 2 years later, and this time I determined I was not going to use a visual focal point. Instead I asked God to give me a scripture song. The song I just couldn’t get out of my head was from Ps. 126
“They that sow in tears shall reap in joy, they that goeth forth and weepeth, bearing precious seed, shall doubtless come again with rejoicing, bringing his sheaves with him”.
I remember telling the Lord I had been hoping for something a little bit happier than a song about sowing tears. Nonetheless, that song about weeping played over and over in my head my entire labor. It must have worked because my labor was so easy I no longer believed Lamaze to simply be a method to keep women from screaming like banshees during birth.
But somehow I knew the song was significant. There was a message there. Not one I could interpret at the time.
7 months later after many maybes, maybe nots, Frank and I followed a neurologist down a long hall late one night to hear what would be our first in a series of diagnoses. Tests showed Nani had brain damage on the left side, a severe seizure disorder, but no clear cause or prognosis. At the time they weren’t sure whether she would walk or how long she would live. The doctors said it might be degenerative and get worse, they just didn’t know.
Mind numbing grief hit. Hard.
I sat in Nani’s hospital room trying to face it. Trying to wrap my mind around it and what it meant for our lives. Every time I would start to try to embrace this horror, God would clear my mind and I would hear “Be still and know that I am God.” And a great illogical peace would settle over me.
A week later we went home and I was so tired of the aching grief. I wanted my pre-diagnosis life back. I wanted to be back in the peer group of parents with neuro typical developing children. I wanted my next big decision regarding my children to be half day or whole day kindergarten.
My constant question and prayer was “Will we ever be happy again? Don’t leave us here in this grief.” And I would remember my labor song. I knew even though I could not imagine it then, we would know joy again, and laughter. But even more I knew He was and had been paying attention. This diagnosis didn’t surprise Him. He had answered my heart’s cry even before I called.
The first of many times.