This is the age old question I’ve asked myself for months and months. Recently, I had to find an answer to that when my niece was born.
I had to figure out how to put my heavy heart aside. The one that still longs to see my dear son open his eyes, the one that longs to hold him in my arms for “just one more moment”, the one that sometimes hopes this is all a terrible dream that one day I’ll wake up from… I had to put aside this heart that I carry with me wherever I go; this heart that affects every day of my life through feelings, experiences, actions….
I had to learn to set it all aside.
So I could say “hello”.
In grief, especially the grief over an infant child, you carry around an insurmountable load of weight. You carry an immensely heavy burden- each and every moment of every day. And so often, you get so very tired. But you don’t want to let go, you don’t want to set this heavy burden down because you feel like carrying all this weight is part of carrying your child. And if you set it down, it’s like setting them down, leaving them behind. And it feels wrong, so wrong. Moving forward without them- you just can’t.
But in some moments, I feel it is necessary. Especially moments where we need say “hello”.
“Hello” to this new niece. “Hello” to her beautiful round face, squinty sapphire eyes, squirmy little body, teeny little toes. “Hello” sweet little girl with a heartbeat so strong. “Hello” little fingers with grip so tight, they grab my heart and remind me why “hello” is so important. “Hello”.
I wasn’t ready to say “goodbye” to my Philip. I didn’t think I was ready to say “hello” to my Kenli-niece. But it’s a Divine thing when you lean into the One who holds your heart and soon learn that he can hold the weight of “goodbye”, so that I can walk over and say “hello”.
His hand holds my heart, and my son, as I set it aside for a while, so that I can say “hello”.
I’m not saying it was easy. It was, in fact, one of the more difficult things I’ve had to do. I didn’t want to, either. What I wanted was to avoid this completely. Live in my grief bubble and ignore all the hard and pain that surrounded this “hello”. But what I want and what I need are two very different things, sometimes.
My heart wanted to be selfish, but I needed to be selfless. My heart wanted anger, when what I needed was to be tender. My heart wanted jealousy, while what I needed was to love. My heart wanted weighted pain, while what I needed was to let go and see joy.
I needed to learn to say “hello” again… Though I’d barely said “goodbye”.
I watched her tiny fingers move, I saw her lips that so mimicked both my Philip’s and my oldest daughter’s lips. I saw her beet red skin- sign of blood pumping forcefully through her body, coursing through her veins and through her strong little heart. I saw her tight grip round fingers, her strength- even in infancy. I saw her deep blue eyes- squinting searching to find a dimmer place to open them in. I saw those eyes close, and her breaths still continue- evenly timed breaths “in” and “out”. I saw her truly live.
She slept… and awoke here.
Philip slept….and awoke in heaven.
I said “hello” to her…
and “goodbye” to him.
I saw life again, in a place that I’d previously seen death before. I saw good from somewhere that had turned bad in my last experience. I saw hope again. Hope that babies do live. Hope that survival is possible. Hope that “hello” can come even when I wasn’t ready to say “goodbye”.
And I just kept thinking “Hope finds a way.”
1 Corinthians 13:4-8 says “Love is patient & kind. Love is not jealous, or boastful, or proud, or rude. love does not demand its own way, is not irritable, and it keeps no record of being wronged. It does not rejoice about injustice but instead rejoices when the truth wins out. Love never gives up, never loses faith, is always hopeful, and endures through every circumstance.”
What if I tried to love like this?
Love like God?
What if, out of love for my son, I tried to love as described here? Loved through patience. Loved in kindness. Love through selflessness. Love in a way that lets go of bitterness or ‘fairness’, and instead, forgives. Love that celebrates “hello’s” even when my heart has endured a premature (to me) “goodbye”. Love that keeps going when I want to quit. Love that keeps believing when it would be easy not to. Love that still hopes- even in this. Love that keeps going, keeps believing, keeps on keeping on.
What if I tried to love like that?
What if I remembered that love is always hopeful – and if the One who created love can tell us there is always hope in love, then I must find a way to do the same. And through this, hope can find a way, and I can find a way…
Even in the moments where I have to say “hello” before I was ready to say “goodbye”.