I’ve only told one person about this before now, but I had a dream that we had lost Jonah two months to the day before he was born. I woke up around 3am panicked and heart broken. We already knew about his defects and that we were headed into Trisomy 13, though it hadn’t been confirmed by the test yet. I only told one person because I felt the more I talked about it, the more likely it was to come true, and we still had so much to fight for that I couldn’t waste time thinking about how things may or may not end up. Allowing that dream – and ultimately his death, now – to take over when life is at its hardest would take away from the process. We knew we would only have so much time with him and every day counted. I wanted to focus on the kicks I could now feel; keeping our heads clear and our hearts full.
Almost a full five months after that dream I’ve found that when I’m having a decent day and I find Jonah it’s like my heart sings – another moment with my son that I never expected. The other days… there’s no way to explain it to someone who hasn’t experienced this. The depths of a parent’s love know no bounds, but the depths of despair a parent feels who has lost their child envelopes you entirely. Good days and bad days ebb and flow like the tide, and the emotions along with it. Some days I feel guilty because I’m having a good day or feel ‘normal’ again and the moment I realize it I instantly feel like I’m forgetting him. My bad days do the same thing – guilt because I know Jonah wouldn’t want to see me live life this way. I do my best to live up to who I want to have been if he were with us right now but sometimes I’m just not strong enough. I’m broken and a piece has been taken away, never fully able to get put back together.
It’s in these times that I’m learning there are two kinds of people, and you see it easier when you put a puzzle together. People who love them will keep one and put it together time and again when they miss a piece because they love the challenge of getting it done, revealing the picture one strangely shaped piece at a time. People who don’t tend to throw them out – donate them or recycle them or throw them away because they’re no longer complete. I’ve always been a throw-it-out person. Puzzles are the worst for me – I like to see my options and know where things go, and puzzles throw in all of the uncertainty that disrupts my order. This place I’m at, where I’m learning to reconcile losing my son – my greatest accomplishment – with what life is now, is the hardest thing I’ve ever been through. This isn’t a puzzle I can send out and replace with a new one, nor is it something I’d want to. Fighting through the mud brings us to the mountain top, and I just have to trust the process.
While Cassy and I were at the beach last weekend for her birthday, we saw two parents playing with their little child, just barely walking. I had spent the entire day just working to keep the emotions of having so many families around us just under the surface, but I couldn’t stop watching these three. In a beach full of people who were letting their kids play in the ocean or sand by themselves while the adults did what adults do, these parents were dancing with their child on the sand. One was recording a video of this little one wobbling around, experiencing the beach for what had to be the first time. They went out and put the baby’s feet in the water and ran back, taking in the whole experience. It hurt me so deeply to not get to be that parent, that family. Cassy walked up and we chatted about them, and I tried to hold back but the waterworks started… I couldn’t not-feel this. What she said next is something I’ll never forget. “Maybe”, she started, “they were where we are now.” I can’t tell you how badly I want that to be the case – that this family had experienced a cut so deep that their love for this child grew just as much on the other side, and that was why they were dancing together. It gave me hope in a week where I felt alone.
Trusting the process – and God’s plan – is the hardest when we don’t feel like it. One day we will be that family. We’ll go to the beach and build sand castles or head to the mountains to learn about the forest. We’ll jump in puddles and dance in the rain, because that’s what life is about. Until then I’m doing my best to put one foot in front of the other every single day, trusting that the best is yet to come and knowing that my love for Jonah is stronger than my pain after losing him.
Embrace what today will bring, know you are capable, and hold on to that puzzle – this life isn’t meant to be thrown away.