I’ve heard throughout this process, both losing our child last year and Jonah this year, that things will never go back to how they were; that we’ll need to find a new normal. They’re right, of course. Going through daily life is almost like nothing has changed when everything has. My morning and work routines are the same. Our family operates the same way we used to with all the animals we have and the way we go about our evening. We still have an empty nursery, prepared but unused. But while we live our lives and go through our day, evidence and triggers are everywhere – sunshine breaking through on a cloudy day. Fathers pulling their sons behind them on a bike ride. The desire to turn this into something positive, baring my heart to help people. The teddy bear we received from his grandma when we lost Jonah and buttons with #TeamJonah on them from his grandpa. These things are powerful and encouraging most days, because while my son was stillborn he was still born. The love we were shown throughout his birth and the things we experienced with him can’t be explained in any other way than provision, in my opinion… but something’s still missing. The connection I had to Jonah was so strong, but so many of the things we got with him were things we missed out on with our first. We found out when we went to hear its heartbeat that there wasn’t one. No movements, no shifting.
This was the loss that begun a spiral for me. Swimming upstream, trying to grasp for air while I was being pulled under. Other things happening in my life contributed, but for the first time in my life this perennially sunny person was depressed and I lost myself. I found myself looking for things that expressed how I felt when I couldn’t get it out, and came across this – a cover by two members of Pentatonix (LOVE them, by the way) and Rozzi Crane of “Stay with me” by Sam Smith. It isn’t about grief or loss. This is a song about heartache and loneliness; about two people who know that the person they are with isn’t right for them but can’t walk away. The anguish they sing with still sits with me today, sounding exactly how I felt in the weeks after we lost our child. The chorus still resonates with me – ‘stay with me, cause you’re all I need. No, this ain’t love – it’s clear to see. But darling stay with me’. This song has been a trigger for me ever since. I hear it and I go back to that place, finding out at the doctor’s office. Green and grey tiled floors, teal accent wall to the front of us and white on the sides. Just like when I found out about granny, I could describe the whole room including the absolutely broken look on my wife’s face. I’d spend the next several months trying to get back to feeling like myself but coming back to this song, crying out for this to not be what was happening in our lives. I’d want to take a step forward but couldn’t feel my feet. Paralysis of the heart kept me from moving. I listen to the song as I write this and I remember how helpless I felt, knowing there wasn’t anything I could do to bring our child back and wanting to help Cassy deal with the aftermath, physically and emotionally. It took getting to a place where I was ok with who I was while I was dealing with this pain to finally be ready to learn how to live without.
After all of this – losing our first child and now Jonah – that was the key. Understanding that it’s ok for the circumstances of my life to set me back, and resolving myself to having a new starting place. Accepting that who I felt I was then and who I feel I am today may be different but are very much the same person going through a growth process, and letting go of the image of who I thought I was became the first step in moving forward. The lesson I’ve missed for so long wasn’t about staying true to who I was, it was about allowing room for growth. Jonah coming and being called Home too soon gave me the chance to take inventory of where I place value in my life, and has given me the freedom to be ok with whatever that means as we move forward. In his short life and ultimately in his death, Jonah has taught me so many lessons about the man I thought I was and is leading me to be the man he’d be proud to have as a father, and it’s all about perspective. Loved and lost, but still able to touch hearts and change lives. Because when it comes down to it Jonah may have been stillborn, but he was still born.
The power such a small person has had in all of this – in almost six (!!!) weeks since his birth – is incredible. Thank you, son, for opening my heart back up. And thank you, Father, for never letting me get too far from your hands. I love you Jonah. We walk in your honor this weekend and pray that your life continues to help mend hearts.