The Man in Black and the Girl in Pink and Blue

September 22, 2014

pail ribbon

Johnny Cash was known as The Man in Black. He chose to wear black to stand with those struggling with pain and oppression in this world.

The broken ones.

When my mother died, I watched Walk the Line again and again. Because, that’s what I do, beyond going to the Bible and sitting at the feet of Jesus in prayer…when things are too much…when I need to escape…I bury myself in a book or a movie. During the fall of 2006, it was Walk the Line.

When we were getting ready for her funeral, I looked in the mirror, shrugged, and said, “You look like you’re going to a funeral.”

Quoting Johnny’s line, I mumbled to myself: “Maybe I am. Maybe I am.”

When life gets a little too much, some movie quoting is good therapy. It helps you keep standing, when your knees want to buckle under the weight of the grief. Some hurts are too much to fully feel.

I have spent the last decade, standing with the broken, myself. For eight years after losing our twin daughters Faith and Grace (born still at 26 1/2 weeks due to twin to twin transfusion syndrome) and our son, Thomas (died six hours after birth due to Potter’s Syndrome), I didn’t speak their names except to a select few. I didn’t put up pictures. I didn’t want to make anyone uncomfortable. For the last decade, I have spoken of them more openly. We are now living in a time, ripe for change. A time when mothers and fathers are breaking the silence and taboo surrounding the subject of baby loss. For the last decade, I’ve been finding my own voice. Speaking the truth. Standing with you…

Because every life matters.
Because all life and all grief is worth acknowledging.
And, most of all, so that others know that their babies are worth mentioning. That they are not alone. And, that there is hope for healing to happen amidst the broken.

There’s been a most interesting part of the reaction of others to being bolder and speaking aloud what no one wants to know…that sometimes babies die. In my desire to speak, to stand with those who are grieving, to offer hope and comfort from one who has received great healing herself after walking in the wilderness…some…not many…but some have chosen to misunderstand the speaking.

Speaking about loss, remembering a loved one…even one with a brief life…is not wallowing in grief and hopelessness. I promise you, I am a woman full of hope, who thoroughly adores life in the land of the living, and sees beauty in everything around me. Not a wallower…an overcomer. Remembering is part of loving. Part of healing. Part of being set free…free to feel all that passes through your heart. It takes courage to feel like that.

The missing remains. Even with healing. A memory crosses through your mind, and it may be bitter…or it may be sweet…the remembering. I choose to view it as a gift. The tears are cleansing. The memory and longing…while full of ache from time to time…remind me of the preciousness of love and life and the ones I’m missing. We humans were created to long for heaven. Longing is part of this existence.

A lady recently messaged me that a few people have told her they think I’ve “lost my mind” because I choose to spend my life serving grieving families, honoring babies with brief lives, because I speak of loss. She likely missed the part where I talk about the hope and the gifts we glean, even in sorrow.

Perhaps she and the handful of people she describes are right. In the spirit of the great grace rebel, Johnny Cash, I could imagine the conversation going this way.

Lady with the voice of condemnation: “Some people think you’ve lost your mind.”
Me, with my best Johnny Cash swagger: “Maybe I have. Maybe I have.”

Although, I must say….I’ve never felt more “who I’m supposed to be” than in recent years. And, the voice I’ve been given to speak has never felt more real and true and right.

You see, as long as there are mothers and fathers and siblings and grandparents aching and grieving for the loss of sweet babies and children, I will wear pink and blue. And, I will say every life matters. Whether some want to hear it or not. I will walk alongside mothers saying goodbye to their babies, help to dress the little ones in outfits worthy of their beauty, take the pictures that capture a lifetime of love in mere moments. I will hold them in my arms….the babies with fleeting breath, the ones born still, the mothers with heaving sorrow pouring from their souls, and the fathers desperate to fix the broken. I will see them and not look away from the pain. And, I will speak of grace and hope when the time comes, and the raw grief passes.

Until things are brighter, I will be the woman in pink and blue, standing with you.

*Next month (October) is Pregnancy and Infant Loss Awareness Month. Sufficient Grace Ministries is hosting a very special Evening of Remembrance on October 11, 2014 to honor babies with brief lives. Even if you are not local to Northwest Ohio, we will gladly light a candle to honor your baby’s memory. You can fill out the registration form here, even if you are not able to attend in person. Candles will be photographed and added to the Sufficient Grace Ministries Facebook page after the event. I will be speaking at the event and will have copies of the book, Sufficient Grace (now available for pre-order) to sign…would love to hug you in person, if you’re able to join us. Hotels are nearby for those traveling. This amazing event is FREE!


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    Kelly Gerken

    Kelly Gerken is the president and founder of Sufficient Grace Ministries, an organization providing perinatal hospice services, bereavement support and Dreams of You memory-making materials to families facing the loss of a baby through miscarriage, stillbirth, infant death and the death of a young child. Kelly has walked through the loss of three of her five children, and now reaches out to walk with other grieving families as an SGM perinatal loss support doula and SGM Remembrance Photographer. She is a creator and facilitator of training for birth professionals on compassionate care for bereaved parents facing perinatal loss. Her memoir, Sufficient Grace, was published in 2014. You can read more about Kelly's journey of grace, hope and healing and the outreaches of SGM, order resources or find her book here:

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