I woke up with a start and reached for my phone.
Flopping back on the pillow I rolled over and tried to get comfortable but my chest felt tight and my mind was fully alert.
Memories I wanted to forget flooded in and I winced, closing my eyes tight to black out the image of my baby on a hospital bed. Gritty, unsettling details played on the screen of my mind. Black and white words on a page, our surgeon’s face smiling kindly at me and my son’s still body.
My ears strained for sounds through the halls as I got up to get a drink. I wanted to go to their doors and peek inside like I do sometimes, just to listen to their breathing and make sure everyone was ok, but I shook it off, feeling silly.
We’d been home from the hospital with our son for three weeks. The crisis was past and the prognosis was great.
But my heart was staggering to hold the weight of reality.
What had just happened?
For over a month we had lived under the shock of our son’s sudden diagnoses, surgery and recovery. We had gone from one crisis and milestone to the next, pushing forward toward healing.
We kept going because we had to.
There was no time to sit back and process.
No time to take in the what ifs.
There was too much to do to allow the fear to creep in.
But now, with quietness all around me and the comfort of my own bed beneath me I felt my heart race.
All the fears and the what ifs came crashing in around me.
I had almost lost my son.
How had life made a turn so quickly?
How had I lost the innocence I lived with before?
I wanted so badly to just keep going. To pick up where we had left off and continue on as if it had never happened.
But I couldn’t.
Because I had changed.
As much as I wanted to be able to go on and forget, I couldn’t shake the brokenness that I felt inside.
My friend’s kind eyes and gentle words came back to me. She had been sitting there on my couch, staring straight at me on just the right day.
“And how are you?” She had asked, after I gave my usual glowing report of Karter’s latest accomplishments and the goals he was meeting.
The laundry I was folding knotted in my hands and I felt the tears rush in. It was just one of those days…and she knew this story oh so well.
It had only been a few short years since I’d been at her bedside as she fought against the unexpected.
It’s ok to take some time to grieve.
It felt strange.
We were all fine!
We were so grateful and humbled at the goodness we had experienced.
I felt like all I could rightly feel was gratitude and joy.
I had my baby here at home with me, sleeping peacefully in his crib.
The future looked bright.
I thought of 7 year old Jack and his mom; of tiny little Aden, both of whom were still where we had last seen them, and wouldn’t be going home anytime soon. Their scenarios were so much worse than our own.
How could I grieve when I had so much to be thankful for?
I felt let down.
I felt scared and hurt.
I felt like I had lost something precious to me.
Sometimes I had to avert my eyes from my son’s somber gaze, or from his teary cries.
I felt like I was going to break if I let myself take in the possibility that he might be remembering too.
I didn’t want to go out and see anyone. I didn’t know how long I could continue to hold it together and paste on a smile that was fitting for the ‘God is so good’ conversation. It wasn’t that I didn’t believe it. It was just that there was so much more depth than just a bandaid smile to that statement.
I avoided the videos on my phone of the days and weeks before all this happened. I didn’t want to see the subtle changes.
The lack of speech, the cautious movements, the melancholy depth in his gaze.
Gradually, we could see him coming back to us…but I missed my little boy.
I missed the little boy who waved a hockey stick in his right arm with confidence and strength.
I missed the babbling chatter that he had just begun, pointing at the world around him with eager curiosity.
I missed the clear baby gaze that used to be so innocent and pure, looking at me with absolute trust.
I missed being enough; feeling brave and strong.
This one child, I had grown inside of me and tried so hard to protect the way I could never protect my daughters.
I was going to keep him safe.
He wasn’t going to know what it was like to feel scared, hurt and alone.
Yet here we were.
Slowly over the next weeks I tried to take it in and to take time to feel.
I still am.
To feel the pain, the fear, the loss.
To let myself adjust to the unexpected life has brought us.
I feel like my mind has room for very little these days, but I’m realizing that’s ok.
We have had little people in and out of our home again the past few weekends as relief foster care placements and I am so grateful to be able to offer love to them despite the inadequacy I feel.
It feels good to feel that heart-tug when their little hands reach for my neck.
It feels good to remind myself of who I am and to know that even when I am not enough, God promises to fill in the gaps.
“My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness. Therefore I will boast all the more gladly about my weaknesses, so that Christ’s power may rest on me. 10 That is why, for Christ’s sake, I delight in weaknesses, in insults, in hardships,in persecutions, in difficulties. For when I am weak, then I am strong.” 2 Corinthians 12:9-10
It feels so foreign and yet I can see it shimmering through. When I fall into bed exhausted at the end of the day, yet I close my eyes and see her sweet little face tucked into my daughter’s bed. Safe for one more night.
I feel it in the little boy arms that sling around my neck as he somersaults over the couch back into my lap, shy in his request for some affection.
I feel I have so little to offer these little people God has set in my home for a few days, yet somehow it’s obvious they can feel His love, His acceptance, His grace shining through the chaos and busyness of so many little people in one house.
Karter continues to make progress, though it comes more slowly now.
His happiness and slowly returning confidence is like a healing balm to my soul.
I cannot get enough of his smile,
the little shrieks and sounds he’s just started making again.
We went camping last weekend and he absolutely loved it.
To watch him toddle around taking it all in was so fortifying to my limping heart. Swimming, exploring, boating, stomping on bugs, eating beside the campfire and falling asleep exhausted at the end of the day curled up in his sleeping bag next to me.
I needed it too.
The fresh air, chilled lake water, smoky campfire flavour and dirty faces of the ones I love most around me were so far away from the fear and pain.
It felt good to take one more step forward, away from the darkness.
Bouncing over the lake with my girls as we tubed beneath the bright, hot sun I felt more free and happy than I have in months. We laughed and shrieked over the waves, again and again and again.
Just now my eyes land on a piece of mail.
“Never Give Up Hope!”
It can feel so elusive but it’s always right there within grasp when we believe in a God who is so much bigger than this broken, faded world.
If this is you right now,
limping along grasping for threads or feeling disillusioned with the world,
take these words as my prayer for you and hide them deep within your heart.
May the God of hope fill you with all joy and peace in believing, so that by the power of the Holy Spirit you may abound in hope.