A few months ago, I got an email from a girl named Sara. As I read her words, I was struck by the incredible similarities between our stories. She was pregnant with a little boy (Elliot) who had kidneys that were nonfunctioning, lack of lung development, in a breech position, no amniotic fluid…you get the picture. Oh, and also, we had the EXACT same due date. I wrote her back, and what started as a few words back and forth turned into a source of strength for both of us. We were not alone! We talked on the phone, and after we hung up, I cried tears of gratitude for this sweet angel that God had brought into my life. She sent me her picture, and I decided that we were kindred spirits.
Yesterday, Sara gave birth to her beautiful (and I mean BEAUTIFUL!) son Elliot. I woke up with knots in my stomach, but faith in what God might be up to. I had to leave the house for a few hours, but before I left, I checked my email and there was an update from her aunts. It said that he had been born screaming and crying….hmmm…with no lungs? Yes. God was up to something here…
I talked to God as I got in my car, as I ran my errands, as I did what mommies do. All the while, I kept thinking, “What a perfect day for a miracle.”
On my way home, I got a phone call from Todd. He sounded serious. I thought maybe someone had called to update me on Sara and Elliot.
“Angie, I wanted to let you know that Dr. Trabue’s office just called. They got the results from Audrey’s blood test. “
Her diagnosis. I felt like I couldn’t catch my breath. Since early January, we have speculated about syndromes and genetic issues. We have wondered what this moment would tell us about her and about why she was, as Ellie calls it in prayer, “taken.”
“What did it say?”
“It said nothing, honey. Nothing was wrong. There is no diagnosis. Everything was normal.”
I started to cry. Softly at first, and then deeply. Eventually it turned into a form of anger that I haven’t felt for a long time…I guess I was due for a good shouting match with God.
Todd felt terrible.
“I thought it would make you feel better, hon. Why are you crying?”
“I want a reason.” I couldn’t see the road through the tears. I don’t know why, but I needed a diagnosis. I am the kind of person that wants to understand EXACTLY what is happening. I can deal with just about anything as long as it can be googled. I pulled into my driveway and called Audra. I still had a few more tears left in me.
After I had gotten myself together a little, I went inside and went straight to the computer to see if Sara’s aunts had written. They had.
Elliot passed away at 9:05 a.m., about an hour after he was born.
I got that far into the email and I slammed my computer shut. I just felt like the wind had whipped through and knocked me down, deep down into a place I don’t want to be. A place where the answers are fewer than the questions. A place where God is hidden, just slightly, by the shadows of this broken life. It is an easy place to get comfortable, because all of your hurts are justified and the tears give way to doubt while all the while you meant to just pick yourself right back up.
“You could have let him live! WHY? What was wrong with my baby???What do you have to gain from all of this loss????” I literally screamed at the sky while I cried over my own hurt, and the hurt of a sister who I have never met. He never backs down, though, and I am grateful for that love. It is the love of a Father who Himself is well-acquainted with sorrow. It is the love of a Father Who has lost His Son. He understands the ranting and the door-slamming. The emptiness that wraps around me when I think of my sweet Audrey. He knows.
And He only has one request.
Bring it right to me, Angie.
Every time the anger roars in your heart. Bring it to Me.
Every time you feel like nobody hears you. Bring it to Me.
When you think it isn’t fair. When you think it isn’t true. When you can’t think at all.
Bring it to My feet, and I will make an altar from your suffering.
Yesterday, after I felt like I couldn’t take any more of the storm, Abby came into the kitchen with a drawing she had made for Audrey (they do this several times a day…I think it’s just part of how they are processing). I looked at it for a few moments and then told her how amazing I thought it was. She had drawn Audrey under a rainbow, standing by a sign that said “Come see the clowns!” I’m not sure what the significance of that is, except that Abby did confirm that there are “only clowns in heaven sometimes.” That actually made me feel better, because I think clowns are kind of creepy.
Abby smiled at me expectantly. I wasn’t sure what she was looking for.
“I want to give it to her, mommy. I want to put it in her basket.”
They call her “casket” a “basket,” and we don’t correct them, because frankly, I like the idea of a basket better anyway.
“OK.” Now what do I say? How am I going to explain this to a 5 year old?
She looked at me, waiting.
“So..should we put it in the mailbox, mommy? Will the man come and get it?”
She wanted to understand the details of our new situation, and the truth at that moment was that I did too.
“Well, Abby, the great thing about heaven is that Audrey can see all of the things that we are doing down here. AND, she can see what you made for her! She can just look right into our house and see it.” I waited to see how this felt to her.
Without a word, she spoke life back into my tired bones.
She took the edges of the drawing delicately and lifted it high above her head, closer to her baby sister. She had her head tipped back, looking upward, and after a few seconds, she closed her eyes and a smile made it’s way across her face.
“She liked it, didn’t she?” I asked her quietly.
She nodded, still glowing, and ran off to play.
I don’t know where you are tonight, or what hurts you are holding up to God, but I will promise you this. If you can just trust Him enough to bring it to Him, He will rejoice in your masterpiece. And if you need to scream a little, know that you have a God who can take that too, as long as your face is tilted (even slightly) toward Him.
Please allow my sweet friend Sara and her son Elliot to make their way into your prayers tonight…ever-present Counselor, we have to trust You more that we can explain You sometimes.
You are good, Lord.
You are good.