I Never Sleep in September

September 17, 2015


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It has been eighteen years since our twin daughters were born silently into this world.

Seventeen years since I rocked and sang to our newborn son as he left this earth.

It has been almost nine years since I sang “Amazing Grace” at my mother’s funeral.

Tomorrow, we will sing at my husband’s grandmother’s funeral.

And, I am wide awake. It happens every September, the awakening in the wee hours. I can feel the September winds blowing in, filled with intoxicating memories that swirl around me, pulling me to that place of remembering moments I ache to experience once more and moments I never want to revisit.

It is a phenomenon how facing the next loss in this life, for we will have more losses than the loss of our children, opens up the old wounds, taking us back to the tender places we carry under the scabs of time and necessity. Loss surrounds us in various forms throughout every season of our lives. And, when fresh loss washes over us, all the goodbyes that have gone before join the haunting melody.

It happened in the oncology office more than a decade of Septembers ago:

“I acted strong, nodding to the doctor, smiling at my mother. I felt the room start to spin, as I struggled to steady myself. I thought, ‘If I could just get to the bathroom before anyone notices.’ I barely made it inside the door, when I collapsed against the wall, my body shaking with the sobs of a helpless little girl…not the strong woman of faith who had been carried more than once through the sea of grief by her loving Savior. But, a little girl…whose mother was filled with a hideous disease that would steal her health, her body, her mind, and her life…but couldn’t kill her spirit. The sea of grief swirled around me, taking me captive with swells of images from other times when death’s darkness stood mocking me…as he threatened to steal the ones I love. I resisted crying ‘NO’ from the depths of my soul as the memories washed over me, ‘I’m sorry there are no heartbeats…they’re gone’…’a condition known as Potter’s Syndrome’…’incompatible with life’…and, now…’cancer…it’s not good…very bad.’ I cried out to God, begging him to spare her…to spare all of us. The sorrow had it’s way with me in that oncology office bathroom. Then I wiped my tears and walked out, stunned to face a life that held that ugly word.”

Once the wound opened up with the bad news of her diagnosis, every moment that stole someone I loved flashed before me, like punches to the gut. It’s always there. This side of heaven, amidst the healing and hope and daily measures of grace we’re allotted to survive the day, it’s there thinly veiled within our psyche, carried forever in the scars on our hearts. The moments that changed our lives forever. And fresh losses always bring the memories of life’s joys and sorrows…a tapestry woven together…mourning and dancing…singing and weeping.

I never sleep in September, anymore. It’s the season my body chooses to remember the days my mother slipped from this earth. Days of suffering and struggle…days of victory and hope. And, as the September winds swirl, they bring with them all of the missing and remembering: our sweet babies, my mother, grandparents, my dear friend, Dinah…and now our Grandma Jean. Part of early, raw grief can include interrupted sleep patterns. But, I find it interesting that my body chooses to walk through this sleepless ritual annually, in remembrance of my treasures in heaven. And, equally intriguing that the opening of a fresh wound beckons the reopening of old ones.

I used to sometimes resent and misunderstand when someone would mention a previous loss they had endured when reaching out to enter into my fresh pain after the loss of our babies. Now, as years pass and goodbyes accumulate with increasing numbers, I understand. That person isn’t trying to make it about them, or steal your moment to grieve. They’re simply lost for an interlude in their own September winds, old wounds opening, as they remember. Because we are all called to walk through the valley of the shadow of death in one form or another during our stay here on this beautifully broken planet. And goodbyes sometimes ring out together, tumbling over one another in a melancholy chorus.

For the rest of the time I walk this earth, something…someone will be missing. Several someones. Eventually that is true for all of us, and I know that. We will all lose someone we love. I also know that there is comfort in the arms of our heavenly Father…that one day, we will see them again. One day, I’ll laugh with my mother and hold my babies, sip lemonade with Dinah, and reminisce on the beauty of redemption and forgiveness with Grandma Jean. I know, until that day, His grace is sufficient and He will carry me…I know all of that. But, right now…I’m just aching with missing…swept into the memories of a September wind.


  • 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: www.sufficientgraceministries.org.

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