let nothing be wasted

thoughts on grief and the goodness of God

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Mason’s Place

On a special New Years trip to Mammoth in 2013, Anthony took Mason out for a “planning meeting” over candy and hot chocolate. He talked with him about setting goals for the year.12.27.12-5a copy

He was 5 years old. And we couldn’t possibly imagine we were looking at our final months with him.

During their time together, Anthony encouraged him with goals that would challenge him, develop character, help him to mature, and ultimately, to know God more.

Little did he know at the time, Mason would know God in perfect and beautiful ways in less than 10 months.

His goals that day contained a variety of things. Many things encouraged and directed by Anthony, such as finishing his Awana book and learning to play an instrument. But some of them were solely dreams of Mason’s. Out of nowhere, Mason added to the list, “And fly in a plane to India.”

Um, where did that come from?

Anthony fought back a smile, added it to the list and said, “I really don’t know how we will achieve this goal, but I’ll write it down and see what the Lord has planned.”

Days after Mason’s sudden death, dear friends of ours, completely unaware of Mason’s goals, approached us with a dream to establish a home for orphans in India, in honor of Mason. Generous donations were given, contacts were made and trips were planned.

And Anthony remembered a special time with Mason in a coffee shop in Mammoth and a dream that seemed so far from the realm of possibilities. And we just looked at each other and tears filled our eyes and we marveled at a plan bigger than we could ever imagine. A dream that had been planted in some small way in the heart of a 5 year old long before we knew what the future could possibly hold.

16 months after our lives changed forever that Sunday morning, after much planning and numerous trips by key decision makers, Anthony boarded a plane to India. A country he has never visited, one that I deeply love, and one that was placed on Mason’s heart before he left this earth.

As Anthony walked through the gates of a large compound named in honor of our son and as he looked into the eyes of orphans who are being loved and cared for, he was humbled by all God has done. He took pictures and video and as I watched them, I was overwhelmed with so many emotions. Emotions felt so deeply there are not words to identify them. But the one emotion that bubbles to the surface, the one that overcomes that pain and heartache and reminders that Mason is gone…

… is Hope.

“Behold, I am doing a new thing; now it springs forth, do you not perceive it? I will make a way in the wilderness and rivers in the desert.” Is 43:19

God is doing something new. He has made a way for hope in a place that seemed too broken, too impossible. But as we have surrendered to God’s sovereignty, we have seen Him move in beautiful and amazing ways.

Mason’s Place is now home to these beautiful girls.

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It is located on more than 6 acres and includes a school with 170 students and a home for the elderly. There are plans for growth and expansion as well as improvement on some of the existing structures. (More information can be found here.)

(Every time I look at this picture now, my eye is drawn to the sassy girl in the top left… throwing down the “I love you” signs. Her spunk reminds me a bit of the boy her home is named for. And it makes me smile.)

In His goodness, God shows me over and over again what He is doing through our loss. On my darkest days and my most suffocating moments of ongoing pain, He brings me gifts. Glimpses of hope.

Meeting a new person and finding out they have been interceding for my family for the past 16 months. Seeing a nurse from CHLA who tells me about putting gifts from Mason’s birthday in the hands of patients and watching their parents cry grateful tears, so moved by Mason’s legacy. Emails about how Mason’s story has transformed the lives of people who never even met him. And now, seeing precious faces of children on the other side of the world, without parents, who are now not without hope.

When I pray over Mason’s Place, I am overwhelmed with awe. Awe at many things… the vision placed on the hearts of others, the generosity to make it a reality, those willing to give of their time and resources to travel and plan, the details of everything falling into place so quickly. I am in awe as I see these children living in a home established, not just in memory of my son, but in recognition of the Author of his short life and the plans He has that are greater than we can imagine.

I still deal with the shock of losing my child every day of my life. I wake up and realize all over again that this nightmare did indeed happen. I face the painful reality of only setting out 3 breakfast plates every morning. I see kids Mason’s age lose their first tooth and think about how the tooth fairy never came for Mason. The pain is still so, so raw. But yet,  I am still in awe that God has made so much beauty with such wretched pain.

I look at the faces of Mason’s Place and hear God’s reminders of hope and promises of redemption.1.23.16-4.jpg

I just finished reading through the book of Acts. More so than any other time I have read it, I really saw that it is not as much about the early church or the disciples or Paul or the spread of the gospel after the death and resurrection of Jesus. These are all key players and important stories, but they really point to the main character of the book. The Holy Spirit. The healing, the powerful testimonies and sermons, the peace and joy… these things do not point to the men God was using, they point to the God who was working through the willing hearts of his people.

And as I read Acts these last few weeks, I began to pray that God would descend upon Mason’s Place as He did upon those early Christians. We serve the same God, the same Holy Spirit. His power is real and His promises are still true. And so I pray…

That Mason’s Place is not about the children, the orphans, the staff, the school, the elderly home… that it is not about the boy who inspired the name and whose tragic story inspired a movement.

I pray that Mason’s Place becomes, always and forever, about a sovereign God who makes beauty from ashes. Who answers prayer. Who heals the broken hearted. Who puts the lonely in families. Who is powerful and just. Who is loving and merciful and full of compassion.

I pray that the Holy Spirit fills the hearts and the minds of these precious children. And He fills the hearts and minds of those whom He would call to partner with us… through praying, or serving, or giving. That what is done at Mason’s Place has a beautiful impact not only today, in this generation, but that leaders would arise from this home who would go out and share the hope of Jesus in a dark and hurting country.

I pray for more children in need to come and find a home here. For healing and hope and love to transform their lives and a vision and purpose to be put in their hearts to share this hope with others. I pray that out of Mason’s Place, God would bring world changers and He would use them as instruments in the story He is writing.

I pray that God does more than we can possibly imagine. That someday in eternity, when I see my little boy again, with his huge smile and his energetic bounce, he will be pointing and saying, “Look! Look what God did! Look who is here! And look, all that pain, all that heartache, all that deep grief that you felt for so many years without me, He has redeemed it. All of it! And mommy, all your tears… He is here to wipe it all away.”

9.10.14-12a.jpgI pray with confidence that we will see in eternity how God redeemed all of this pain for so, so much more.

Everyday, when it still hurts to breathe, I remind myself with this truth: “What is seen is temporary, what is unseen is eternal.” Eternal.

Eternity is my prayer for each of these kids.

hope

For Christmas two years ago, Mason asked for a matchbox car garage, a lego set with guns, and an American Girl doll.

(And yes, you better believe I would have bought my son a trendy, over-priced doll had I know it would be my last Christmas with him.)

It’s not that he actually loved dolls.

It was that he loved his sister. And she loved dolls. And she had just saved her money to buy her own American Girl doll and she absolutely loved everything about dolls at that moment.

So for Mason, having an American Girl doll was having something he could enjoy with his sister.

And legos were Bennett’s favorite thing. And Griffin was really getting into cars at the time and they played together, driving and racing cars, for hours (or as long as Griffin didn’t touch Mason’s special ones.)

Mason’s wish list was less reflective of what it was he wanted to play with. And really, more about who it was he wanted to play with.

(Not that I’m trying to misrepresent him as a selfless saint. But. He did sure love his siblings.)

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Christmas was brutal for me this year. What once brought me giddy happiness, now just makes my heart ache. I would sit in the quiet of night and look at the Christmas tree and see Mason’s ornaments through the years. I would see gifts under the tree that don’t have his name. And I wondered, what would have been on his wish list this year?

I made moose sugar cookies to honor the boy who isn’t sneaking cookie dough when I’m not looking. When we make our snowflakes and gingerbread houses, I picture Mason there, making gingerbread bombs and snowflake grenades. And out of all of us, he’d be the one most likely to help Griffin, sitting next to him, encouraging him with the profound patience I saw manifested absolutely nowhere except with his little brother.

This season, we did advent and tried to keep up with the traditions we established in happier days. And I do still enjoy these memories with my kids, but new memories are always missing someone. And that just isn’t easy. In fact, its unbearable.

I see the absence everywhere I look. I feel it every time I breathe.

I try to fake it for my kids. I would make Christmas cookies and ooh and ah over Christmas lights and decorate our tree and remember previous years memories.

But I also try to be honest. Because faking it through the sudden loss of a loved one doesn’t do anyone any favors. So along with our happy Christmas memories, there were also times of deep grief… sharing tears and acknowledging our pain.

Sometimes it’s the honesty and recognition of the darkness of our lives that makes the brightness of hope all the more necessary.

One night, when reading our advent, I heard this account of John the Baptist in a whole new way.

“Calling two of his disciples to him, John sent them to the Lord, saying, ‘Are you the one who is to come or shall we look for another?’” Luke 7:19

John was in prison. For speaking truth and prophesying hope. It may have been dark. It was probably dismal and oppressive. It was most certainly lonely.

And so he asks the question of Jesus, are you the one?

I can’t help but think that John already knew the answer to this question. He was filled with the Holy Spirit from birth. He was empowered, directly from a sovereign God, with prophetic messages about the Messiah. Not only was he there the day his cousin stepped into his ministry on this earth, preparing to die for our sins, but he baptized Jesus himself and heard the voice of the almighty God from heaven.

John already knew.

John’s life was devoted to preparing the world for the Savior. And what was once so clear when he could hear the voice of God and see the Holy Spirit descend from heaven, may have dimmed in the darkness of his prison cell.

And day after lonely day of enduring prison, maybe deep down, he knew Jesus was the Messiah. But maybe he didn’t necessarily feel it. Maybe he knew all the prophecy and he knew the power of the Holy Spirit and he knew the truth. But perhaps, he had grown weary in his chains. Perhaps what once felt so powerful standing in the Jordan River started to fade as he felt locked away and forgotten.

And maybe he was close enough to the God of the universe, maybe he knew his cousin well enough, to be honest with his emotions. Jesus accepted his honesty, his pain. “Are you the one?”

There was no end in sight to his imprisonment. No trial. No hope of release. And ultimately, it didn’t get any better for him. He was beheaded on the whim of a heinous woman and his head was paraded around a banquet hall. I mean, could this humiliating ending to a faithful life be worth it?

Are you the one?

This Christmas, I wasn’t really feeling it. I believe in the hope and in the Savior and the redemption of Christmas. With every part of my soul. But I wasn’t feeling it this year. Quite honestly, I was just ready for it to be over.

I would hear my favorite Christmas lyrics, “A thrill of hope… a weary world rejoices…”

And I would sigh.

Here’s the deal. I believe in the hope. I believe it is indeed a divine and holy night. Amazing really.

But I am just so, so weary. And I just didn’t really feel like rejoicing this year.

Because sometimes my own life feels dark and dismal. And the life-giving, exuberant emotions I have felt in response to absolute truth and powerful hope… can dim as grief wears on. The intensity of missing Mason doesn’t diminish over time. It increases. And that just makes this life so incredibly exhausting.

But because I know the Savior like I do, I know that he accepts my honesty. He doesn’t get angry when I say, “I’m not feeling it this year. It hurts. I’m sad. I’m so weary of this pain day after day after day. And really, will this all be redeemed? Really?”

We got boxing gloves for the boys for Christmas. There has been much laughter (and a few tears) as the boys pummel each other over and over. While I watch them and brush aside that nagging feeling that perhaps this was an unwise purchase and something is going to break, I can’t help but think about Mason. Shouldn’t he be here? Naughty laughter and rambunctious energy, in the middle of the melee? I try to picture him, to hear him. And then for some reason, all I see is images of him in the hospital instead. Final moments that I can’t erase.

Will this really be redeemed?

Sometimes, that’s my version of John’s question, Are you the one?

When I used to read Jesus’ response to John’s disciples, it often felt a little impersonal to me.

“And he answered them, ‘Go and tell John what you have seen and heard: the blind receive their sight, the lame walk, lepers are cleansed, and the deaf hear, the dead are raised up, the poor have good news preached to them.'” Luke 7:22

But now I see it different.

When Ella read Jesus’ response to John to our family that night, I no longer heard a generic, impersonal statement. He’s not saying, come on. You know better. Instead, I hear a longing in Jesus’ voice to encourage. And the compassion he has for the suffering. His understanding of John’s darkness.

I think he mourns that his cousin is in prison. And just maybe his heart hurts for the pain, the confusion, the grief, the injustice… the longing for hope.

The compassionate God I know welcomes the question. “Are you the one?

“It’s dark in here. It’s lonely. Will this really be redeemed?”

His answer wasn’t a resume of things he was doing. He was quoting prophecy from Isaiah. Prophecy that John would have known, prophecy that Jesus was fulfilling. Prophecy that defined everything about John’s own ministry. When Jesus stated this, I tend to think he was pointing John to other answers, more prophecies, more promises. More hope.

Because in that same reference to Isaiah, the prophecy he was assuring John he was fulfilling, John would be able to recall, “Be strong, do not fear; your God will come, he will come with vengeance; with divine retribution he will come to save you.” Isaiah 35:4

It was almost like he was speaking in code. Maybe in his answer Jesus is whispering:

You know the prophecy. Don’t forget truth. The Messiah will come to heal the sick, give sight to the blind, make the lame walk. Don’t forget what else it says. Don’t forget that there is so much more! I will redeem it all. I will redeem this fallen world. I will conquer death. I will bring hope!

It may be dark in your prison cell. And it may even get darker. But take heart, I will overcome the world!

Anthony took each kid out for a special time alone this past week. With each of them, he set goals for the New Year. And I admire that he always tells them to aim high. He encourages them that its better to try really hard and not obtain everything, than to just set things you can control and not really have to challenge yourself.

And so that makes me think of goals for myself. I’ve never really been someone who sets “resolutions.” (Probably something to do with that streak of rebellion I can’t quite suppress… the one that doesn’t like the idea of doing something just because you “should.”)

In many ways, I’m unable to look at the year as a whole. It truly takes everything in me to make it one more day. My new years resolution is: “Make it through January 1st.”

And then each day, one day at a time after that.

But each of those days, that I breathe in and out, I want the whispers of God to always bring me back to the promises of hope.

Not because of my circumstances, but in spite of them. Hope, not that my tears may ever cease on this earth, but because one glorious day they will all be wiped away by the same hands that hold Mason when I can’t.

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This year, I want my children to see and experience hope. Not because this life should be happy and perfect, but precisely because it isn’t.

“And the ransomed of the Lord shall return and come to Zion with singing; everlasting joy shall be upon their heads; they shall obtain gladness and joy, and sorrow and sighing shall flee away.” Isaiah 35:10

The answer Jesus gave to John also points to this promise in Isaiah. A promise sent to me as a prayer earlier last year by my sister. A promise I cling to and pray over my children constantly.

 “To proclaim the year of the Lord’s favor, and the day of vengeance of our God; to comfort all who mourn; to grant to those who mourn in Zion-to give them a beautiful headdress instead of ashes, the oil of gladness instead of mourning, the garment of praise instead of a faint spirit; that they may be called oaks of righteousness, the planting of the Lord, that he may be glorified.”  Isaiah 61:2-3

There is redemption. Redemption not just for our own sins, but redemption for all the pain in this world. Redemption for the death of a little boy. Redemption for all the tears cried. And all the pain felt.

Redemption for unmet expectations and for years of incomplete memories.

Redemption, not actually for our happiness and comfort, but ultimately, that he may be glorified.

This year, I want to know truth so deeply that when hints of it are whispered at me in the dark, those whispers shine brighter light and remembrance of a much bigger promise.

Hope.

without ceasing

on the wall in my kitchen (which doubles as our homeschool room) there is a progression of first day of school pictures. 5 years. back to when ella was in kindergarten, all the kids together, mason with moose ears, griffin as a baby… all kinds of memories.

the first day of school for us is about pictures, donuts, and making a new “all about me” book.

one of my favorite pages of mason’s “all about me” book last year was what he wanted to do when he grew up:

all about me(“give my son spankings” with a picture of him spanking his son)

even if i wanted to, i don’t possess enough imagination to make this stuff up. mason was a unique little bundle of sassiness and laughter.

the first day of school is also usually about hope and excitement and the anticipation of a new year.

the first day of school for me this year was not easy. yet another milestone day captured in photographs, missing a huge chunk of my heart.

i felt a lot like griffin.

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he wanted donuts.

i wanted mason.

we don’t always get what we want.

september was full of incredibly difficult moments. starting a whole new school year without mason is a debilitating kind of pain.

and then the start of a new soccer season… every time i drive past the park where mason practiced, i fight back tears. every saturday when we drive past the fields where mason would be playing his games, i can’t help but long for those crazy, overwhelming days when we’d have to juggle 3 games and figure out how to be in 3 places at once.

Mason

so… september was enough to knock me off my feet.

as was october.

and now november.

and really, every month and every day of this past year.

i aint gonna lie. grief is hard, hard stuff, people.

i really, really miss him.

on occasion, a friend will open up to me about her experience when mason died. as odd as it may sound, this is incredibly helpful to me. it helps me process. and it helps me feel much less alone. when a friend tells me that mason’s death caused her to collapse on her floor, or cry out in pain, or hide in the kitchen at church and cry for hours, it puts identity to my own shock. my own disbelief. because while mason’s death would obviously be horrific to me, hearing of how those dear to us suffered also helps me realize that the magnitude of the loss was big, and so painful, so wide-reaching it affected others too. i feel validated. i feel like my son mattered. i feel less alone.

one friend told me how for weeks, and even months after mason died, she would wake up and this pit would form in her stomach. this sickening feeling of dread that just wouldn’t go away. she felt like she could barely meet the needs of her family as she processed mason’s death constantly. in her words, “it was so unreal. i just couldn’t believe it and i felt physically ill.”

this is how i still feel.

every single day.

i generally wake up when it is still dark. (i haven’t slept well in a really long time). and every sunrise reminds me of the sunrise outside that hospital room when my son was dying. when i looked one direction, my son was receiving chest compressions… when i looked the other direction, the sun was rising through the clouds over los angeles. i relive that weekend, that sunday morning, every day of my life.

now, a year later, there are many times, each and every day, that i still feel the shock of losing mason. i feel for a moment that i can’t breathe and shock seizes my mind and i look around and think, “wait. is he really gone? did this really happen to me?” and the grief will crash over me all over again, and my breath will get stuck in my throat and my heart will physically hurt.

i think a very compelling effect in movies is when a scene is completely chaotic… a crash, a battle, an explosion… and after the initial intense noise, it is suddenly and completely silent. the character is watching the horror of everything around him, almost as though it’s in slow motion. it’s too much to see, too much to take in all at once. all the senses can’t absorb the horror and so the silence captures very well the shock of the whole thing.

i find this technique very powerful because it is much how i view the last year. most of the last year felt a little numb. overwhelming. i was watching what was going on, believing it to be real, but sometimes, unable to absorb it completely.

we were very fortunately surrounded by many gracious friends and family who created a safe bubble for us to grieve. there were fewer expectations, generous financial help with bills, family trips and experiences… some amazing people did all they could to protect any sense they could from being completely overtaken by grief. so in many ways, the scene of my life was a terrifying accident but it was completely silent.

but eventually, the sound does return. and its loud. and the senses are overwhelmed. and reality sinks in a little deeper.

and its scary and its painful and there is no escaping.

through this last year, as the pain hasn’t lessened and reality hasn’t gotten easier, and the loss of mason is still massive, i have learned to be in constant conversation with God.

i have read the verse in 2 thessalonians before, “pray without ceasing.” but i used to always wonder… practically, how does this happen?

but when life became overwhelming (which it has been, virtually every moment of every day), i began to pray constantly. when i am overwhelmed by making a decision or simply the thought of getting out of bed, i turn it over to God. when i can’t figure out my kids emotions or when i can’t think clearly through conversations, i pray one word, “help.”

how should i teach this math concept?

i don’t feel like i can leave the house.

give me grace for a day of meaningless conversations.

what can i possibly feed my family for dinner tonight?

i don’t have the energy for this.

should i let my child go to this playdate?

it would really mean a lot to this child to score a goal today.

how should i respond to this text?

help me understand my kids today.

i miss him. so, so much.

this discipline, born from desperation, has done more than help me to just get through the day. it has transformed my life.

feeling overwhelmed is nothing new. i dealt with trying to figure out life when everything was pretty fantastic, back before mason died. but it wasn’t until my own strength was completely stripped away that i truly understood the need to rely on Jesus every moment of every day.

one of my favorite stories of Jesus is his first miracle, when he turned water into wine. it represents and points to many beautiful things about God. but the reason i like it so much is because it shows how Jesus delights in us.

i love to use this miracle to remind my kids that Jesus cares about the “little” things in our lives. He cares about our celebrations. He cares about the things that are important to us. He cares if there is enough wine at our wedding and our opportunity to feed dolphins on our birthday. He delights in our soccer games and our days at the beach.

He delights in us. He delights in the celebrations of our life. He delights in all that is special to us.

and so, i have learned to go to him with everything. the hard and painful, the mundane and exhausting, and the happy and joyful.

this habit, this constant pleading with God, has done so much more than providing an outlet for what is overwhelming me. it has opened conversation. its not just me listing my woes and worries, the best part is that he answers.

i hear the whispers of the Almighty God all throughout the day.

“it’s not important.”

“your kids need rest.”

“i am with you.”

“math doesn’t matter right now. your kids need hot chocolate and a good book.”

“stop. delight in this moment.”

“i will fill you today. just breathe.”

“they don’t understand. just love them.”

“i’m here. i’m never leaving.”

“this sunrise is for you. a glimpse of my beauty.”

and i see His answers, i see Him providing in the little things in life. anthony texting that he’ll pick up dinner on the way home. a soccer goal. a friend offering to take my kids on a field trip the day i need it most.

and when i miss him so much it hurts and i long to hold him and hear him laugh, i hear Jesus say over and over, “he’s with me.”

and when the memories overwhelm me and the hospital images won’t go away, i hear him remind me, “what is seen is temporary, what is unseen is eternal.”

and when the sweet memories break my heart… like the expression on his face when he would shrug his shoulders or the way he would run or how he’d say my name… or when i can still see that little gleam his eyes would have when he was hiding something naughty from me, i hear God say, “i gave him to you for his six years because i knew you’d notice those things. i knew you would appreciate the unique way i created him. those memories, although at times unbearably painful, are my gift to you.”

the Lord’s presence has been a blanket of comfort, a security from the searing pain of grief. just as the coziness of a blanket is felt so much more distinctly on a cold winter day, so the Lord’s goodness has been so much more powerful in the face of pain.

the God i have known all my life has become more real to me this past year than I ever thought possible. and that is a sacred, beautiful gift.

“my ears had heard of you, but now my eyes have seen you.” job 42:5

so when i look at the future laid out before me… days upon days without mason, years of holidays and birthdays and new seasons of school and soccer, it feels daunting. losing mason is nothing that i will overcome. and while the pain doesn’t ease and the future feels lonely and scary, i know i will continue on, one day, one moment, one whispered prayer at a time.

because He will never leave me and He will never forsake me.

Mason

mason, i will always miss you.

dear mason,

i should be planning your birthday party about now. i should be hiding presents from your eager eyes, negotiating how many things we can cram into one day and how many friends can participate. i should be explaining why you can’t get grenades for birthday gifts and agreeing that you shouldn’t have to do schoolwork on your special day.

Mason

i should be making yet another target run for balloons or streamers or the candy you want hidden in your cake. and while i often get overwhelmed trying to balance answering all of your demands with more realistic plans, i do truly enjoy making you feel special.

so obviously, there is a lot of emotion with this week. i can’t help but think about 7 years ago, waking up to contractions in the middle of the night, it becoming pretty obvious it was time to have a baby, calling a friend to come over and stay with our sleeping kids… and driving to the hospital (not nearly fast enough for me) and anticipating how much our world was about to change.

and then, watching the heartbeat monitors not recovering from contractions and listening to the nurses and doctor come rushing into my room time after time. that emergency c-section was scary. everyone moved so fast, so urgently.

you, of course, were fine. screaming your lungs out, but that was probably because surgery is a frigidly cold place. but you were fine.

i mean, you never slept, but you were fine. you were tiny and precious and completely perfect. i held you in that hospital room, thankful for you and thankful that in spite of a scary delivery, everything worked out ok. and i rode in the elevator, holding you on my lap and carried you out of the hospital and my world changed forever with your spunk and spirit and laughter.

we took you home to your older siblings who loved you fiercely and embraced you and delighted in you and just couldn’t get enough of you.Mason

and i thought, or i guess hoped, that you’d always be fine. that you might cry and you might not sleep, but ultimately, you’d always just be safe and fine.

and then 6 years later, you woke up with a bad stomachache. and i still thought you’d be just fine. i mean, with 4 kids, we’ve had plenty of stomach flu in our house, and we all get through it and everyone ends up… fine.

and then i carried you into a hospital, still thinking everything was fine, but you know, just wanting to check and make sure. and they wheeled you down the hall for an ultrasound and discovered appendicitis. and then you had an emergency surgery and everything looked like it would be fine…

but then, it wasn’t.

and we transferred to another hospital… and you weren’t fine. and for a brief eternity, i had to wait in the hall while they did all kinds of things like central lines and intubation, and i listened to people run back and forth down the hall, rushing into your room. that PICU was scary. everyone moving so fast, so urgently. but still, i thought you’d be fine.

and then it seemed pretty obvious that daddy needed to get there quick and so we called a friend to come over and stay with our sleeping kids and daddy sped to the hospital as fast as he could, reading my texts begging him to “hurry.” and we couldn’t possibly anticipate how much our world was about to change.

one more hospital transfer, one last look in your eyes before the medical team took over and did everything they possibly could. everything.

but you weren’t fine.

you were gone.

and i laid in the hospital bed with you and hugged you for what could never be long enough, and i talked with amazing doctors who couldn’t figure out how this all happened. and your daddy and i looked at each other over and over again wondering, absorbing, crying… suffocating in disbelief.

and we walked out of that hospital without you. and i stood in an elevator, clutching your quilt (which you called a “kilt”) (those q’s… so hard to pronounce), the only item you asked to bring with you to the hospital. i hugged it tight to my chest. and i watched a woman get on the elevator and push a button and i couldn’t help but think, she has no idea how much my life has changed forever.

and i thought back to my first elevator ride with you. how did this happen? you were once so tiny, so little and helpless.

and daddy and i walked through the parking garage, trying to find a car that was parked in a hurry, and paid a parking attendant who had no idea we just watched our child take his last breath, and drove home in a daze. i’m getting text reminders about soccer pictures and people are driving past me living completely normal lives. and i have to go home and tell your siblings that the brother they loved fiercely, the brother with whom they spent every day of their childhood… laughing, arguing, joking… the brother they expected to come walking through the door with us, had died. and their life will change forever.

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but before all of this… long before my first contraction, before my first ultrasound, before i ever even knew about you… before your first stomach pain that saturday morning, before your ultrasound discovering appendicitis, before i ever knew about septic shock, God wrote your story out in a book.

you saw me before i was born.
every day of my life was recorded in your book.
every moment was laid out
before a single day had passed.” psalm 139:16

God knew you would call yourself “motorhome” and “moose.” he knew you would spend the first year of your life crying and not sleeping. he knew you’d have a mohawk, and love cars and legos and explosions, and he put a special sparkle in your eyes that will live on in my memory every day on this earth.
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he knew your entry into this world would feel traumatic and that your exit would feel premature and horrific. he knew how it would feel for me, but more importantly, he knew the truth. he knew the details of every day and the purpose in all of it. he knew that while i long to hold you longer and that while my first year without you is filled with more crying than sleeping, he would be calling you to heaven.

ultimately, i want what is best for you. no matter what, when the emotion and motherly desires are stripped away, the deepest part of me wants the very best for my kids.

and really, there is no better place for you. you are being held in the beautiful arms of Jesus, grasping the depth and beauty of an almighty God in ways i never could now, no matter how many days i spend on this fallen earth.

i see the parallels between your entry into this world and your exit from it. i see the juxtaposition of the joy and the heartache.

i long to see you again. i’m grateful for every sleepless moment i held you. and more importantly, i’m grateful for the arms that hold you now. the arms of a perfect Author who wrote a beautiful story.

so many things in this life are a mystery. and while i wish we were planning a birthday party and celebrating you, i’m thankful for the Author of your story, who gifted me with you for a time that wasn’t long enough, but was perfect nonetheless.

mason, you know what it is about your story that makes me the most grateful? that when the Author wrote out your 6 years and 18 days on this earth, he chose me to be your mommy.

He chose me.

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i wouldn’t trade in the crippling grief of the last year if it meant missing out on the laughter, the joy, the naughtiness, the sparkle… the memories, of the previous 6. you are a gift, mason. a beautiful gift. and while i never expected that your years in eternity would begin before mine, i just want you to know, someday i will be there with you. and we will celebrate together. and no matter how many years have passed before i join you, and no matter how many millions of years we spend together with Jesus, you will always be my little boy.

happy birthday, mason.

i love this girl

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