To Make A Wretch His Treasure- December 18, 2016
These words have echoed in my mind since we sang them in church recently. I am that wretch. I feel tired and wretched and so aware of what I have and what I lack at this point in the year. 2016, brimming with hope and happiness this time last year, has brought some heartbreak that I could not have imagined. Thanksgiving weekend my first sibling/ foster brother Daniel wound up in the hospital with pneumonia. A day later we were talking options and decided to intubate him. Two days later, he was gone. TWO DAYS LATER...he was GONE. It still seems surreal to write this. Call me naive, but I could never have imagined that he would go that quickly. I'm used to our foster siblings being in the hospital for weeks at a stretch and making a full recovery. Despite Daniel's condition, I sort of thought we would have more notice before he went. I fully knew that 31 was 30 years longer than he was expected to live. Since his life had always been marked by miracle, I just was not prepared. Add on top of this the emotions of talking about options and being the one to sign off on those options and you find the current version of myself on December 18th.
I still can't believe he's gone. Christmas is fast approaching and I don't know how to take the nuances of one less person at our house this week. I suppose, in reality, it won't be one less person because we will inevitably invite more people than last year, but there will be a very real hole in my heart...
Brokenness- January 14, 2017
Five days from now it will be Daniel's 32nd birthday, a birthday he will never reach. That sentence shouldn't stun me, but it does...continually.
Every time I hear his name or speak it myself, I feel an aching in my throat and nose, tears burning the back of my eyes.
I don't know why it surprises me. He was never meant to live longer than a year. The fact that he lived 31 years was entirely a miracle, but it shook me to my core.
Perhaps it is that I have learned in my 30's to grieve things properly and in their time. Perhaps I am acutely aware of the utter normalcy that the loss of life is. Perhaps it was the weight of the responsibilities surrounding his death: putting him on life support, taking him off, and witnessing his passing. All I know is that he is gone and that it hurts.
3 months later, it hurts.
So, this Thursday, I will celebrate and I will grieve. I will recognize my pain as part of the process and it will hurt and I will once again give it to God.
I will see hope in the fullness of life around me- in the comfort of friends who have walked with me in my pain and sorrow and in the laughter of nieces and nephews. I will find love in the company of brothers and sisters who are still here with me and who I have grown to like as much as I love them. I will find joy in the reminder that Daniel is experiencing life like he never knew before. He is surrounded by perfect love and wants for nothing.
And, I will remember that this is part of the journey; that to feel is one of the greatest privileges of life, therefore, it should not be tossed aside. I will remember that I am human and in need of grace constantly.
A year later- Oct. 15, 2017
Today I went back to the hospital where Daniel passed away. It was an unexpected visit initiated by my sister's frantic texting. My foster sister was in the hospital. She is actually doing fine, but as I drove to the same hospital that we said goodbye to Daniel, my thoughts surprised me: Not again...not this close to losing him...I can't handle losing another sibling so soon. Notice how much of this was about me? Not her suffering, not her pain, but mine.
I was struck on Friday (as I visited Daniel's gravesite) by the thought that my sadness that day had everything to do with my grief and loss and nothing to do with his gain. He is only experiencing joy and peace, mobility and freedom. It's so strange to feel the dichotomy of joy for him and sadness for me. I'm aware once again what a gift it is to feel everything in the midst of loss.
And I pondered how his life itself was a gift to me. He was so limited in his body and mind and so simple and authentic in his feelings. If a room was tense or someone was angry or sad around him, he'd cry. If it was joyful, he'd laugh and giggle. The truly precious moments were when he broke tension with a laugh. You couldn't keep a straight face over a Daniel giggle. It was loud and then quiet; exuberant, then secretive, almost like a private joke.
I was given the gift from a young age of not taking everything so seriously and delighting in simple sounds, smells, and feelings like Daniel did. I think this privilege I feel can probably be summed up in a few lines that are on his headstone: "Your life was the miracle that God let us witness".
My church has been preaching on gratitude lately and something that one of the pastors said has been resonating with me this last week. She recently walked through a difficult time in her life and some of the observations she made speak powerfully to what God has been teaching me this year:
"We attach His goodness to pleasant outcomes. We attach His goodness with things working out in our favour. God is not good because we have a pain-free life. We are not blessed because things are working well for us. See, God is good because whatever we walk through, God comes near. He lavishes grace upon us. He sustains us. He strengthens us. He grows us. He enlarges our heart. That is why God is good."