I woke this morning to a scene of quiet serenity outside. It snowed here last night so the ground is covered in white and the soft hush that accompanies snowstorms is present. It’s beautiful. I’ve always loved snowstorms. Aiden loved snowstorms. I begin to think about how excited he would be right now and how he should be here, and the beauty I’m enjoying is quickly blanketed in sorrow. Why my child? Why us? Why can’t he be looking out at the snow with me right now? God, I miss him. The coexistence of love and pain, joy and anger, laughter and tears, hope and hopelessness and beauty and sorrow is part of me now and for the foreseeable future.
Aiden. It’s the time of the year that defines his last weeks here with us- snow storms, school closings, fevers and colds. Just life. Unremarkable. Why is this snowstorm making me ache so badly? The last big snowstorm he played in is one of my last vivid memories of him. Laughing, playing with his best friend, telling me how they built 2 forts in preparation for a big snowball fight with the other boys his age. He and G “tricked them” and purposely built the opposing fort flimsy so it would fall over easily. I laughed with him about their strategy. He was so excited and his eyes looked even more big and beautiful when he wore a hat and his cheeks were all red from the cold. Off he went for the battle, sufficiently warmed up.
That was 2 winters ago.
WHAT A NEW YEAR EVOKES
A new year brings a whole different kind of reflection. It’s not about resolute goals, plans, prosperity, structure and gym routines. Those things barely register on any scale of importance anymore. I’m not an unstructured, undisciplined mess or anything, but in the light of what I face everyday, my earthly plans and material desires have been brought into crystal clear perspective. They are temporal, somewhat meaningless. I know there is only one plan for my life that’s in play and the author of it knows me and loves me more than I can imagine, and I am beginning to trust that again. If I were to make a resolution, I think it would be to continue trusting in that even on the many days its nearly impossible to.
New years are now about time measurement, not time management. The first full year my son failed to walk this earth just ended. That is an agony only a Mother of loss can understand. It holds significance, the first full year. 2015 was the last year he lived and now 2016 is gone. It’s utterly unimaginable that his vibrant, meaningful life continues to cease to exist. He’s not coming back. He is done here. The end of one year and the beginning of the next merely punctuates that our child is not coming home.
Another year means that the last time I laid eyes on him, the last time I kissed his face or heard his voice gets further and further away from where I am now. The time from our last embrace is even farther away. The idea that the clarity of that may fade or the feel of the softness of his cheek against my lips may vanish from me someday is unbearable. He could not be any more present in my mind or my heart, the painful longing just as sharp, yet his life becomes more a part of the past with every passing day. I don’t want to feel time this way, but I do and I know mothers like me do as well. Time does not heal the missing and longing for a child taken too soon. Time heals a lot of things, but not this.
A DIFFERENT SET OF HOPES
A new year brings a measuring of the time from and the time until. The more time that goes on, the further we are from the last time we saw them and the more we long for the eternal reunion that our faith promises. It is that promise of eternity with Christ and our loved ones that makes our faith central and paramount to our lives now. I never understood what it was to have hope until now. Oh how that hope is an anchor for my soul and my life. The thin veil that now separates us, temporary.
This hope we have as an anchor of the soul, a hope both sure and steadfast and one which enters within the veil. Hebrews 6:19.
I know I’m looking at another year of a soccer-less fall, of birthdays, holidays, death days, summer days and milestones his friends will pass without him, my forever 12-year-old boy. All of that only emphasizes my need for a fierce and enduring reliance on Christ. Traumatic child loss is an enduring and daily loss which needs an enduring savior. Thank goodness I have one. If I were to make resolutions, one would be to hang onto Christ with a desperate and enduring grip.
The weight and uneasiness of a new year, and what seems like endless time without him, is too heavy to allow a joyous expectation of an upcoming year. I’m sure that will be hard for some “normal” people to understand, but I just need to make it through by continuing to put one foot in front of the other. That’s it. Find bits of joy and gratefulness in small things. Maybe enter life a bit more fully than I did last year. I don’t know?
I have to face things that I haven’t been able to face. Things like going through his back pack that has sat in his closet undisturbed. Imagining his hands zipping it up for the last time. What will be in there? What did he bring home from school that day? Pieces of his life from his last day here will be in that back pack. I need to collect his ashes from the funeral home. How on earth does a mother reach out her arms to grasp and take home the remains of her precious child? I don’t know, but I know I cannot do it alone or of my own strength. I don’t think I will ever be ready for that. If I were to make a resolution it would be to understand more fully what it means to ‘walk in the grace of God’ and to make that happen in my life. I hear the phrase, but what does that mean to me now, for this year?
Grace is fundamentally a word about God: his un-coerced initiative and pervasive, extravagant demonstrations of care and favor. Michael Horton writes “In grace, God gives nothing less than Himself. Grace, then, is not a third thing or substance mediating between God and sinners, but is Jesus Christ in redeeming action.
Grace is the love of God shown to the unlovely; the peace of God-given to the restless; the unmerited favor of God.
“Grace is love that cares and stoops and rescues.”(John Stott)
-Justin Holcomb, What is Grace?
Peace, favor, care, rescue. Yes, it’s grace I need for another year.
“A thorn in the flesh was given to me, a messenger of Satan to torment me so I would not exalt myself. Concerning this, I pleaded with the Lord three times to take it away from me. But He said to me, ‘My grace is sufficient for you, for power is perfected in weakness’” (2 Corinthians 12:7-9).
A Grace-filled New Year to you too.
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