Recently I was out to celebrate the milestone thirtieth birthday of one of my dearest girlfriends. As we dug into our appetizer of deep-fried pickles, I asked what she wanted her thirtieth year to look like.
Did she have special goals?
Did she want thirty to look much different than twenty-nine, or had it been a very good year?
She went on to tell us about her hopes and dreams, both personally and professionally. She said she started year thirty feeling steady and quite ready for the years to come.
Then she turned the question to me.
“What about when you turned thirty? What were your goals that year?”
Tears formed in my eyes with an undeniable sting as my heart remembered thirty long before my brain could process or my lips could form words.
“Oh… I just… I don’t think I can say. It’s just too sad.” My voice cracked a little.
My friends gave me kind smiles as the next person took the conversation baton.
But I stayed stuck in that moment of reflection, my memory instantly teleported to December 2015, three months after losing my son.
What was thirty like? What were my goals for that year?
Survive. Persevere. Do everything in my power to not allow myself to be swallowed by the darkness that billowed like black smoke around my soul.
When I turned thirty my heart was still pulsing with pain, the wound fresh and the threat of infection very real. I felt disgust toward a world that takes babies.
A feeling of disgust toward a world that prevents babies from going home and instead, lets their bodies grow cold and stiff under the fluorescent hospital lights in the same room where they were born.
When I turned thirty all I wanted was to push forward, to find purpose and healing. I wanted, more than anything, to feel the light again.
It has been a little over two years since my thirtieth birthday and I am very much in a different place.
The Lord has given my pain purpose, a unique platform from which to share my story and allow others to share theirs.
I am in a different place, a good place. And I am the living testimony that darkness can be defeated.
I want you to know this today. I want you to know that I have been where you are, desperately gripping onto hope as each finger slipped under the weight of my own grief.
And I want you to know that the darkness did not win.
I hung onto the hope of heaven and light and all things bright and beautiful with my last thread of strength.
And eventually, over time, that tiny, vulnerable thread grew into a rope, strong and substantial, and capable of lifting me over the edge back to a place of safety.
Friend, my prayer for you today is that you cling to your own thread of hope, however small and inconsequential, and reach for goodness and light.
My prayer is that you press on with tenacity and grit.
My prayer is that you make it back to a place of safe footing and be able to turn back and shout words of victory right back into the face of the darkness that taunted you.
My prayer for you is that you allow your pain to make you better, stronger, and more empathetic to a world desperately hanging on to their own tiny threads as they dangle feebly over a precipice of despair.
May you be their testimony of light.
Photo credit: KevinCarden via Lightstock
Sarah Rieke is a wife and mother who has walked the impossible road of infant loss twice. The existence of her two sweet babies, Evie and Charlie, are the heartbeat behind Sarah’s desire to extend genuine compassion, empathy, and emotional support to mothers who have experienced loss.