Please forgive the silence…this last post in the series weighed heavy and I felt I couldn’t move forward until I was finished with this part of the recent past. But each time I sat down to write, I found I couldn’t find the words…This is a continuation of a post started here. The story is ongoing and I have no clear ending to it. Then again, that’s the way all stories are…our souls are continually written by Great Author, each new chapter beginning where the last left off. The chapter that ends with the last days of life here on earth leads to the one that begins eternity. Part One
It is late, later than we intended to be up. We have a fire going in the fireplace, and scattered around us are boxes and bags, fields of colorful wrapping paper, bows blooming brightly against the living-room carpet. The lights on the tree are on, we are wrapping gifts just after midnight just like we do every year, despite the fact that each year we promise not to let this happen again. We share Christmas cookies and a warm drink, laugh about the fact that we always end up here: Frantically wrestling with scotch tape and ribbon in the hours before Christmas morning.
We don’t talk about it much just now, but this year is different.
This year, alongside the gifts for our own children, we have a box of beautifully wrapped gifts for the two babies who we are caring for. A sweet soul from our church family had called a few weeks ago, gotten together everything the boys will need for Christmas morning. It is beautiful to see the love of Christ alive and active, it is a blessing that the boys will not remember but one that will stay with the rest of us forever. We arrange them under the tree, pick up the scraps and empty shopping bags and rolls of tape. For just a moment, we stand leaning on each other and gaze into the room, the lights sending their soft glow out into early-morning darkness, the packages, the Christmas Cards that line the mantle. The room waits for joyful children, for bright sun shining down on Christmas morning.
I find I can’t talk much about the day before. The emotions are too raw, the pain too deep. It feels unreal, and yet it weighs heavy in my chest and when my mind brushes against it the crush of it knocks the wind out of me. Hubby understands and does not press me, he does everything he can to make things seem as normal as possible and when I pause too long over the gift wrap and tissue paper he just draws me close, holds me there a moment. I am fighting to find the balance where I can process the suffering that is going on with the babies’ mother, the reality of the situation with their father….while living and enjoying the beautiful days that I have been blessed with in my own home. I am struggling to let my children know just enough about what is happening without taking away from their joy. The sweetness of the babies, their innocence, Toddler’s bright smiles and Baby’s precious warmth…oh, it pierces me through when I think of what is happening in their lives. But there is so much joy, as well…the beauty of a powerful new love that has settled down on us, has filled our hearts and our home with a deep fullness that defies description. The hands that reach out, open-palm, open heart–to help them, to help us.
The morning dawns gray and overcast, rain still hanging over the valley. The children are sleeping still, and hubby makes coffee while I feed Baby a bottle. I have worried that Toddler, who has no Christmases logged yet in his memory, will not react well to the bustle of Christmas morning and I feel bad for being concerned that this will take away from the children’s morning. But this morning, Toddler sleeps in and we have more than enough time to open gifts, share Christmas cookies and the usual family time that has been tradition through the years. It is a beautiful, normal moment in the midst of everything, this little window of time…our three children have been amazing in their adjustment to having the babies here, and they share their time and their love with open abandon. Yet it feels like a gift that we are able to have this time together, and then a gift all over again when Toddler wakes and we can all help him learn to unwrap his gifts, laugh as he hides in the boxes and toddles about with bows stuck to his footed pajamas. The gifts are finally all opened, we are deeply touched by the time and thought put into the babies gifts…how blessed to see the love poured out be people who have never met them, and love them like family.
It is late in the day, and we are at Hubby’s parents house, surrounded by family. Toddler has been bounced and tickled and chased round the house by our children and cousins and uncles and aunts. He has fallen into a fitful sleep, after a day spent on the sensory overload that inevitably hits young children on holidays. Baby is being passed from lap to lap, and he is flashing his new smile generously at all the new faces. I reflect that in the time we have had him, he’s gone from newborn to this smiling baby, who holds his head up bobbing and wobbling, tiny forehead wrinkled with the effort, big bright eyes scanning the room for faces to smile at.
The call comes before dinner, the one I knew in the back of my mind all day must be coming.
That morning, just before noon, while we were opening packages, snuggling Baby and laughing at Toddler swimming in all the tissue paper and gift wrap, their father passed away.
I hold Hubby and we cry. The fact that this happened on Christmas day is bittersweet, we are told that his mother is taking some comfort in the fact that this day is the anniversary of the day he accepted Christ, and so it is fitting that he go home to Him on this of all days. I bury my face in Hubby’s shoulder and I can’t get the picture of that tiny apartment so full of medical equipment, of a wife and mother walking down this hard path she could neither change nor leave, of the darkness and sadness and the terrible strength that is found in simply getting through. I wonder if the Cathedral bells are chiming, wonder what they say to the grieving family this Christmas day.
The day is closing and the children as asleep, all five. Hubby and I sit quietly in the living room, the lights on the tree glow into room, the shapes of left-over boxes and paper and gift bags change the landscape of the room into something chaotic, the aftermath of a storm perhaps. Hubby holds Baby and I lean on him and we wonder but don’t speculate on what will happen next. Tomorrow will dawn and we will do our best to put the pieces back together, to help build something new out of the chaos that was left behind.
There would be dark days ahead, weeks when the future was so uncertain that the thought of it was too much. There would be a time when the babies’ mother seemed lost, when we all wished we could go back to not knowing how tragic life can be, how quickly things can change. Slowly, slowly the pieces are being put back together, the brokenness is being healed and the future, though hazy, is beginning to take shape. As a family, we have grown…we have learned, we have laughed and cried and had good days and bad days and we have, without a doubt, been blessed mightily through this. We have seen our church family become the hands and feet of God, and we have seen the babies’ mother adopted in to that family. What I didn’t know then is this: I have been given not only the gift of knowing and caring for these two babies, but also the gift of knowing their mother. We are taking things day by day the Grace of God abounds, it is enough.