Saturday, June 6, 2015

I Can Only Imagine



Today my twin sister was going to be here hanging out for a summer visit.
But instead, last night she flew back to Michigan. Her plane was delayed because of lightning, so she missed her connection. She didn't make it to a hotel in Chicago until 2 am. Oh, and we very kindly shared the stomach flu we all had with her for her travels.
This morning she is at a funeral, which is why she went back early. Her friend's daughter, who would have been 10 months old a couple days ago...went down for a nap and, as her obituary read: "woke up in heaven."

Of course, I haven't been able to get this family out of my head since I heard the news. I've been praying for them every time I wake up in the middle of the night. I've been trying to imagine what my sister appropriately called: "the unimaginable."

Yesterday, driving up to my parents' house to visit with my sister for a few more hours before she left, the song: "I can only imagine" came on the radio, and I tuned out the chaos of 3 boys in the back, so I could listen. And cry.
I have always loved that song, it's picture of heaven. It's reminder that there is so much more than what we see. That this earth is only such a small part of reality. I've always sung that song thinking about myself and how it will feel to see Jesus face to face someday, but this time I saw the face of baby H. And it seems like it would be hard to picture a baby in heaven, but what I realized as I sang is that it is even easier to picture a baby there than anyone else.

On the beach earlier in the day, I asked my sister to tell me more about the sweet baby in the picture I saw. Wanting to remember someone I never met. She said "she didn't have much hair. And she was very happy. Like Greystoke."
Which, I think is what I already knew.

I've been seeing her in him since then. He's just 3 months older.

Babies are creatures of worship. They are the closest glimpse of heaven we get here on earth. The way the laughter flows from somewhere deep inside of him. The way he breaks into dance every time he hears a song, even a bird song, or the song in his heart. The way he needs my love...unashamedly, desperately, openly.

He is beautiful, and she was beautiful. And she is most beautiful now.
"Surrounded by your glory, what will my heart feel? Will I dance for you, Jesus, or in awe of You be still?"
She was probably just starting to pull to a stand here on earth. She might have just started babbling "Mama....Dada."
"Will I stand in Your presence, or to my knees will I fall?
Will I sing Hallelujah? Will I be able to speak at all?"

She went to sleep, tired from putting blocks on top of each other, or rolling a ball, and practicing her crawl. She dreamed sweet and simple baby dreams and she woke to the most incredible dream of all.
I don't know why her human experience was so short. She will miss so many aspects of this life, but she will not miss out on anything.

But here. Here there is still pain. There is still waking up in Michigan summer, and finally the sun is out because it is June, but you can't feel its warmth just yet because your sunshine is gone. There are years piling up on years, and at least all the light around you lights you up again, but nothing will ever be quite as shiny without her here.
Last night I lay in bed watching Greystoke breathe. I put my hand on his tummy to feel him breathe. I didn't feel anxious watching him. Anxiety assumes some sort of control, and I know I have none. He breathes in and out because God keeps him breathing in and out. The Lord gives. The Lord takes away.

Being a nurse and working with special needs' children, I have seen the things that can happen. A normal 8 year old girl who got the flu and now has to be led by the hand, shaking her head, and doesn't speak. A boy, surrounded by his 3 big brothers who now help his mom...who fell in the pool when he was 2 years old. Now he is 13 years old. He sits in a wheelchair and smiles at all the nurses. Developmentally he is probably about a year old.
I've heard stories about babies who pull to a stand, fall backward and bump their heads and then get up like everything is normal and the next day they are in the ICU.
I know that life is fragile, and in my head I am not afraid of it. Because I know there is more to the story.

But I have also often thought that one of the hardest things about having more children is that there is just one more chance to be mortally wounded. Each child dangles like an appendage, intricately linked to my heart. Vitally linked. Motherhood is glorious. Motherhood is dangerous.

Last night it took me a long time to fall asleep, and I slept fitfully. I am sure it was at least partially linked to caffeine intake, and probably also related to knowing that my sister was out there still traveling and sick and grieving in the middle of the night. But mostly I slept fitfully because I was praying for the family of the sweet little girl who left a gaping, mortally wounding hole in a mother's heart, a father's heart, the heart of her grandparents and aunts and uncles.

I was praying that God would use this tragedy to draw them closer to Him. That He would fill up that gaping hole that will always produce the dull ache of loss in this world so that inside, even though it hurts, there would be a glimpse of warmth...of hope.

Greystoke stirred and I rolled him to me, and I felt the milk flowing out of the side that he wasn't nursing, warm liquid that felt like the tears that also dripped onto my pillow. I held him close and did not resent the interruption.

The Dude woke up twice last night, crying hysterically over his new 4 year old fear...scorpions. I have never seen a scorpion and I don't know where he even heard about them, but he is obsessed with them right now.
He and Greystoke were up at the crack of dawn ready to face the day. Our summer has been a lot of fun so far. But I struggled this morning to reconcile the chaos of my days with the kind of day my sister's friend is facing. The kind of day that will stand still for eternity. And yet, the rest of the world will keep moving.

On the way home from Walmart, it came on again: "I can only imagine, when that day comes, and I find myself standing in the Sun."

Someday they will feel that warmth again. The way the Sun should really feel. The shiny way.

Until then, I pray that every whisper of loss and pain drive them deeper into the arms of Jesus.

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