Experts claim that the body keeps score as it relates to trauma. And I’m inclined to believe it. Because there is no other way to explain what this week does to me.
Its almost uncanny how my subconscious self nudges me towards an awareness of the impending anniversary. For days I sense a smoldering sense of unease. My soul downcast. My mood slightly dark. I never can put my finger on what is causing my angst until I note the calendar and it hits me. Last week of June.
Every year since I laid him in the arms of Jesus, this has been the pattern. His birthday’s arrival opens a floodgate of memories demanding agency in my mind. And I remember the day. All of it.
I recall the lump lodged in my throat as I woodenly walked the hall of the hospital towards my room. I remember steadying my breath, willing myself to stay calm. I picture the nurse handing me a crisp hospital gown and gently directing me to the bathroom to change. Her blond ponytail framed the sorrow and fear in her eyes. I remember the way the cool tile felt against my feet in the bathroom as I pressed my head against the door in defeat.
As a mother I knew I should be delivering a new life. But this delivery would end in death. Was I betraying my own child by the mere act of delivering him?
I recall feeling as if I were in a trance as I eased into the bed. Time was moving too fast yet achingly slow. I closed my eyes and turned my head in a futile attempt not to feel the prick of the needle in my skin. And I surrendered to what is to come.
As if I hadn’t surrendered a hundred times since the diagnosis.
I can hear the pert click of my doctor’s heels on the floor. I see her reassuring smile and compassionate hug that did little to mask her unease. I remember steeling myself for the physical pain. Welcoming it almost. All the while drowning in the emotional pain I’d been living with while carrying a child who would die upon arrival.
I remember my sister and husband’s desperate attempts to cheer me. And themselves. Can you believe we laughed? We did. Many times.
As time wore on, and the waiting became too much, I remember crawling into my own mind. I desperately tried to hide within myself until the dreaded event passed. I remember utter desperation and nonsensically deciding I was finished, tossing aside the bedsheets and demanding to leave the hospital rather than stay and deliver this child to die. Then collapsing in tears of defeat as my family soothed me.
Then suddenly he was here.
The nurse gently wiped a tear from her eye as she handed me my son. Jonathan Daniel Haveman. The one we loved and grieved in equal measure for months before he was born. The one who, just three hours after birth, was made whole and complete and healed before His Creator.
I remember his face. I remember peace that passed all understanding spread from my head to my soul. This was my beloved son.
He was so tiny. So beautiful. So wonderfully made.
Joy, pride, grief, relief, agony, love, awe. How can someone feel so many emotions in one moment?
I remember family and friends tentatively peeking in then rushing to my side to meet this little one. He had caused us all so much grief yet brought us closer than we could ever imagine. I can still picture the looks of love, wonder and sadness on each of their faces as they humbly held the tiny child. It was a holy moment. And I cherish the ones who shared it with us.
My grandmother exclaimed in surprise, “Well he’s cute!” And I laughed. Because we all wondered if that would ever be said of my son. And only grandma would have the guts to acknowledge it. Oh how I loved hearing her say it.
I remember wanting to stop time. Just one more minute with him. Please.
But time betrayed me.
I remember walking away. Leaving him behind in the arms of the undertaker and falling into a well of grief I wished would swallow me whole. But I didn’t have that luxury. My daughter needed me.
I remember feeling love so deep and true from my friends and family that it literally sustained me in the months and even years to come. They prayed for us and walked with us and ensured we were never ever alone in our grief.
I remember my husband. My rock. My best friend. The one person on earth who ached as much as I did for the son we never brought home. The one who defended me and protected me all the while leading his little family through this tragedy with dignity, grace and utter selflessness. He gave far more than he received from me.
This is the week I remember. And though it pains me, it is well with my soul.
Maybe God designed this subconscious system to ensure we remember. Because remembering ushers in healing. Remembering offers new perspective and acknowledges how far we have come. And remembering continues the work of restoration.
And after you have suffered a little while, the God of all grace, who has called you to his eternal glory in Christ, will himself restore, confirm, strengthen, and establish you. 1 Peter 5:10
Every year I see anew how through the pain, the Lord never left my side. He was there all along whispering strength into my heart and comfort into my soul. He sent His children as His hands and feet to care for me physically and emotionally. He is still using this pain in my life to draw me until Himself. And I hope I never forget it.