Thankful for the Tears

Rowan’s front teeth are working their way through his gums.

He is in pain. There has not been much sleep. My arms are rarely without him as they seem to be the only place able to provide even the smallest comfort.

There have been teethers and Tylenol and tears…lots of tears.

And I can’t tell you how many times I stopped today and whispered, “Thank you for these tears.”

The last time I had a child who was cutting teeth, I was not alerted to it by a change in her temperament, appetite, or sleep pattern.

There was no excessive drool, groggy mornings, weird bowel moments, or endless whimpers.

I only knew because the nurse who was cleaning out her mouth to prevent infection told me.

I didn’t do the normal mom thing and automatically stick my finger in a drooly, pink, pouty bottom-lipped mouth to feel around.

I sanitized, put gloves on, opened the pale, still mouth of my baby girl, and felt the tops of her two bottom teeth beginning to break her dry gums.

It is so difficult to see Rowan restless, crying, unhappy and in pain while he teethes.

It is nothing compared to seeing Sylvia on life support, lying in a bed, motionless, voiceless, completely unaware she was even getting teeth.

How did I get here?

How did I get to a point in my life where I rejoice in the physical suffering of my child simply because it means he is here?

Grief and perspective are not mutually exclusive. The loss of a loved one will always evoke some sort of shift in one’s life focus. Some fight against the shift and some embrace it.

As I try every day to do the latter, I actively pray for moments that are heavy with sadness to also bear the fruit of gratefulness.

Today I spent a lot of time angry that something as trivial as teething has become so emotional for me, angry that most parents will never have more than the stereotypical “teething is rough” experience, angry that I never got to see Sylvia’s smile with those two little teeth who were fighting so hard along with the rest of her body.

But I’m also thankful.

I’m thankful for Rowan’s tears.

I’m thankful I get to stay up late and hold him.

I am thankful it is the love of my arms, and not record-setting amounts of sedative, that comfort his pain.

I am thankful I can hear his cry and that his eyes can meet mine when I tell him it is going to be okay.

I get to tell him it’s going to be okay.

I am thankful that some day soon, he will flash me the smile that God copied and pasted from the joy of his big sister in heaven, and I will get a glimpse of what I lost.

I am thankful for the tears.

Advertisements

A Blurred Focus

There is always rain.

Day after day, hour after hour. Always rain.

Something happens when your child goes to heaven before you; a cloud is cast over your entire world and its darkness seeps into every crevasse of your existence.

It’s a heavy cloud, dense with the intricacy of grief, of the unnatural journey that is life without your child. It constantly drains because it is never without substance. Some days it’s a sprinkle and others a storm.

But there is always rain.

On one of my personal rainier days as of late, it happened to be raining outside as well. I sat in my car, in the parking lot of my church, while I waited to pick up my daughter from preschool.

A Canadian goose landed on the roof of the church, right on the point. Having been sitting in the parking lot for quite some time, I was easily amused by this.

I lifted my phone to take a picture and as I attempted to capture the moment through the glass of my windshield freckled with raindrops, my camera was having trouble focusing and my pictures kept turning out like this:

Annoyed, I just stared out the window.

Everything was gray. Everything was soaked. And it wasn’t much helping my mood.

I did what people do in 2018. I turned back to my phone to distract me from my despair, to find its contents only amplified it.

My therapist often puts me on “scroll bans,” meaning he discourages me from scrolling through and emerging myself in social media. Want to talk about triggers? Give me five minutes actually looking through Facebook, at all the pregnancy announcements, the heart kids doing well, the heart kids not doing well, the complaints about trivial things. Give me just five minutes. I will be all PTSD and it will take a significant amount of time to get me back to functioning status.

However, on this day, I ignored Therapist’s voice in my head. I scrolled.

And the rainy day turned into a Dark Day.

Dark Days.

These are the days I can’t catch my breath.

These are the days my heart can’t catch up to my reality.

These are the days my senses are consumed with flashbacks, regrets, and what if? vortexes.

These are the days dinner isn’t always made.

These are the days my best friend realizes are happening just by the length of time it takes me to text back and the terse content of my messages.

These are the days Evan knows he may have to do bedtime alone.

These are the days I hide in my car while I cry so Lilly doesn’t witness how wholly and violently the cloud has overtaken me.

These are the days P!nk’s “What About Us?” plays over and over in my head as I wonder why Sylvia? Why her? What about all of the moments I will never get? Where have You been? Do You not see me on my knees? Did You ever?

These are the days I scream at Him.

As the cloud’s density poured over me, my tears began to fall. My breathing hastened. My throat swelled. My stomach ached. My hands shook.

I had a million things to say to Him. And I was ready to belt them out.

I did what I do every time I let Him have it.

I looked up.

Except this time I wasn’t in my bathroom.

I wasn’t in my barn.

I wasn’t even parked in the bleakness of the garage or the side of the road.

I was in the parking lot of my church.

When I looked up, it wasn’t a ceiling or wall I saw.

It was the cross.

It was the answer to every question with which I was ready to challenge Him.

Because on the Dark Days, when I wonder where He is, where He has been…I can always, always meet Him at the cross.

Because on the Dark Days, when the rain and the fog and the pain and the guilt hinder my vision and blur my focus, I know the cross is still there, beyond the cloud.

I stared at it, overcome by how such a simplistic piece can hold such significant meaning.

Tears fell from my eyes and as I buried my face in my hands, all at once broken and whole, my phone dropped to the floor. I began wiping my face and as my vision cleared, I picked up my phone to set it on the seat.

I looked down and, somehow, in the fury of my emotions, my photo app was opened, and on my screen was this:

While attempting to take pictures earlier, I hadn’t realized that my camera had captured one picture that focused not on the drops of rain, but on the cross.

The cross never moves.

“In this world you will have trouble…

There is always rain. But because of the cross, the rain won’t always be.

…but take heart! I have overcome the world.” John 16:33

There is always the cross. And the cross, and all that it means, all that it promises, is eternal.

So while I am here, the rain will still fall. It’s impossible for it not to. My daughter has gone before me and I will miss her forever. I will long for her forever. I will grieve forever. There will be days it is difficult to see the cross beyond the rain.

But it will always be there, regardless of the rain this world puts between us.

And because the cross is beyond the rain, there is a life beyond forever.

So I wait in the rain, to see the Son, to see my daughter.

“He will wipe every tear from their eyes.” Revelation 21:4