How Do You Breathe?

It was the question I asked the bereaved mother that came to my son’s funeral.

It was the question a mother asked me as we stood by her granddaughter’s casket, surrounded by family and flowers.

And it is the right question.

Because when the breath leaves the body of your child, and you look down at the shell that used to be the home of a vibrant, living soul, you simply can. not. breathe.

What should be an autonomic, automatic, don’t-even-think-about-it bodily function escapes you.

When your lungs finally scream for oxygen, your body takes over, against your will.

And even more than two years later, it’s where I still live-between the conscious world of aching loss that drains me of the will to go on and the unconcious biology of a body still functioning without my permission.

I live in a no-man’s-land with one foot in the HERE AND NOW and one foot in FOREVER.

But there are no bright flags to mark its borders, no crossing guards to give warning to the people I mingle with every day that they are over there- outside my world of hurt-and I am stuck in here.

And so they wave from across the way, cheerful and unburdened by the weight of sorrow I drag around.  They give me odd looks now and then, vaguely unsettled by my inability to plunge unrestrained into their fun.

Memory escapes them-what happened? how long has it been? shouldn’t she be over that by now?

They can’t understand, and I’m thankful for that.

“How do you breathe?”

Only the ones who share the secret knowledge know the answer to that question.

You learn to will your heart to keep beating and your lungs to keep filling because there are others who depend on you and who need you to stay.

You can’t hold your breath forever, even if you want to.  

You lean harder on the hope you have in Christ.

You recite verses and hymns and fill your mind with the promises of Jesus.

And you beg the Spirit of God to fill you to fullness with His breath, His life and His hope.

I pray that God, the source of hope, will fill you completely with joy and peace because you trust in him. Then you will overflow with confident hope through the power of the Holy Spirit.

Romans 15:13 NLT

 

 

 

Author: Melanie

I am a shepherd, wife and mother of four amazing children, three that walk the earth with me and one who lives with Jesus. This is a record of my grief journey and a look into the life I didn't choose. If you are interested in joining a community of bereaved parents leaning on the promises of God in Christ, please like the public Facebook page, "Heartache and Hope: Life After Losing a Child" and join the conversation.

6 thoughts on “How Do You Breathe?”

  1. So well said . . . “And even more than two years later, it’s where I still live-between the conscious world of aching loss that drains me of the will to go on and the unconcious biology of a body still functioning without my permission.

    I live in a no-man’s-land with one foot in the HERE AND NOW and one foot in FOREVER.”

    In June of 1993, I found myself sitting in a movie theatre in Long Island New York with a friend and colleague almost a year to the day, after my son was stillborn. We were on a business trip that overlapped the day of Cole’s birth and there I sat in that dark theater watching Sleepless in Seattle. I remember choking back sobs as Tom Hanks recited the words of his character, Sam Baldwin, following the death of his wife explaining how he planned to move forward with his son, Jonah, to a radio psychologist Jonah had called in the middle of the night. . . “Well, I’m gonna get out of bed every morning… breathe in and out all day long. Then, after a while I won’t have to remind myself to get out of bed every morning and breathe in and out… and, then after a while, I won’t have to think about how I had it great and perfect for a while.” Every muscle in my body was locked in tension as I fought to keep my anguish from rolling down my face and exploding from my aching throat.

    Today, I think more of my body weight is balanced on the side of FOREVER than in the HERE AND NOW. I have three children on that side of the unbreachable chasm as opposed to one husband and one child on this side – the HERE AND NOW. Yet, they need me. Were that not the case . . . well, I have serious doubt in the strength of my will to survive. I can hear the whispers, “She died of a broken heart” to describe what would surely amount to little more than suicide by neglect.

    There are men and women who have proven to be far stronger than I can ever imagine myself to be. They have lost all and continued to live productive – even inspiring lives. I hold no illusions regarding my own ability to do the same.

    I trust my Savior far more for my eternal future than for my daily life. I know He will not abandon me in the HERE AND NOW, but the lack of will, the apathy regarding any kind of a bright future is a burden beyond my strength to withstand. I am not nearly as confident as Paul, as the “. . .” clearly attests to when he said in Phillipians 1:20-21, “I . . . hope that I will in no way be ashamed, but will have complete boldness, so that now as always Christ will be exalted in my body, whether by life or by death. For to me, to live is Christ, and to die is gain.”

    To die (not by my own hand) is gain.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. It might be almost impossible to believe but I had never actually watched “Sleepless in Seattle” until a bit over a year after Dom’s death. I was in the comfort and seclusion of my own bedroom so was free to give voice to my anguish when Tom Hanks said those lines. It was the only time I have ever dreamt of Dom since his death and it was not a beautiful dream of comfort and reassurance. It was so awful that I’m not sure I ever want another one. And, yes, it is my husband and children that keep me here. I do not envision a victorious life this side of eternity. My heart hurts with yours and yearns for the day when our feet can be firmly planted in one plane.

      Liked by 1 person

      1. It’s been three and a half years since my son committed suicide and there’s days that I still have to tell myself to breathe. And that I have other children and grandchildren. Thank you.

        Liked by 1 person

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