I remember the first couple of weeks and months after saying goodbye to my precious Jonah at 30 weeks gestation due to a heart condition as extremely difficult and filled with so many ups and downs, I felt like a marionette doll living someone else’s life, because there’s no way that much sadness could be…
Photo credit: BJ McCartney
I’ve always been a sunny disposition, things-will-get better person. As long as I can remember I’ve had the perspective that everything will turn out alright, which was the case in my faith perspective as well – ‘I can do all things through Christ’ was on the tip of my mind along with the ‘For I know the plans I have for you’ verses. I was young enough to be enthusiastic about everything and naive enough to keep things at that level – the world hadn’t caught up to me yet.
Growing up and experiencing the changes life has in store have a way of shifting a person’s perspective, but nothing shifted my relationship in faith like losing Luke at sixteen weeks – our first real dream together, stolen in an instant. It took us several months to go back to church let alone sit through an entire sermon. I couldn’t pay enough attention to the message to absorb anything that was said, so I looked around at the congregation while I processed things and regretted it, every time. Among the couples and families was one who always sat to my left on the other side of the sanctuary – younger, newer parents with a little one easily under a year. It broke me down, watching them hold and occupy their little guy while we would never get to know our baby.
Fast forward another few months and saying goodbye to Jonah after a stillbirth – in addition to the fight for doctors who would treat him like a baby instead of something to be thrown away – and you can say my faith perspective is a little more complicated now.
Where I used to give thanks for blessings and ask for changes in people’s’ lives, I end up in a one-sided conversation that starts bitter and ends in anger. Before my Almost Fatherhood, I was talking and then I was listening in prayer. It was a rarity that I heard what I thought I would, but I felt I needed to hear whatever message was there. I’m not entirely sure that most people would call what I do now ‘praying’. I have so much anger coming from my heart – out of the pain of losing children, out of watching cancer take it’s toll on people I love, out of broken relationships and lost opportunities – that my prayer times are more like venting sessions. My experience and maturity tell me that this is the part of the relationship that takes work to maintain – where real life meets heart work – but I can’t say that I see the end of this tunnel yet.
I begin asking what choices I made that could have led us down this path and end up broken in knowing that none of it matters now. And then I listen – silence. I don’t know when I’ll hear it again or when I’ll make it back to talking instead of screaming, but I keep going back because the only thing I’ve ever wanted was for my children to stay with me. To feel them here around me. To dream about them like other parents do.
So I wait, and I try again because if an angry faith is all I can have right now, I’ll take it. As hard as it is to know my children are watching me struggle, I would never let them see me fail. Growth happens in the broken moments, and true resilience means getting up one more time than you were knocked down. Those are lessons I would do my best to live out for them no matter what circumstances, and they’re ones I’m dedicating myself to in their memory.