I’ve had the privilege of keeping my grandson this week.
It’s the first time he’s been away from his mom and dad since he was born early and stayed in NICU for over two months.
So it’s no wonder the first night he was here and sleeping in a different room with light coming through the windows from the moon and casting strange shadows his sleepy eyes told his little brain there was something to fear.
What started as a whimper grew to a full on desperate cry and I could tell it wasn’t just restless sleep-he was startled and afraid.
So I picked him up, held him close to my chest, nestled his head under my chin and whispered, “It’s alright. You’re not alone. I love you.” I rubbed his back, calmed him down and he was able to drift off to sleep once again sure he was safe.
When Dominic ran ahead to Heaven, I felt like I’d been picked up from the world I knew and understood and thrust into one where everything was unfamiliar, frightening and potentially dangerous.
There were strange shadows everywhere.
I not only whimpered, I cried out in desperation for some solace, some confirmation that I was seen, heard and loved.
As my perfect, faithful, loving Father, God reminded my heart He was there in the dark when the shadows threatened to undo me.
One of my favorite verses is found in Zephaniah and is a picture of God gathering His people in His arms, comforting them with His love and singing peace and joy over their souls.
For the Lord your God is living among you. He is a mighty savior. He will take delight in you with gladness. With his love, he will calm all your fears. He will rejoice over you with joyful songs. ~ Zephaniah 3:17 NLT
When I listen I can hear Him sing over me.
When I am still, He covers me with His grace.
When I lean into His arms and rest my head on His chest, I am filled with strength and peace.
I try to share this post a couple of times each year because it discusses a question many bereaved parents desperately want to answer: Did God take my child?
These are my thoughts-ones I believe are backed by Scripture and align with what I know personally about God’s character.
They are the result of many months of wrestling. I offer them in hopes they will help another heart.
This is a question that comes up all the time in bereaved parents’ groups: Did God take my child?
Trust me, I’ve asked it myself.
How you answer this question can mean the difference between giving up or going on, between turning away or trusting.
So this is MY answer. The one I’ve worked out through study, prayer and many, many tears. You may disagree. That’s just fine. I only offer it because it might be helpful to some struggling and sorrowful soul.
I know many of us bereaved moms and dads edit ourselves on a daily basis. While others post freely on social media platforms, we write and delete post after post because we feel like if we put it ALL out there other folks will think less of us.
Or worse-they might think less of the child we miss.
Why oh why would we want to continue to share that same tired old photo some people might ask.
Well, because it’s all we have. We don’t have the luxury of another birthday, Christmas or happy family gathering to snap new pictures of our growing, thriving child.
We wish we did. Believe me, we wish we did.
I know many who read this blog belong to closed online bereavement groups.
That’s a beautiful thing- a place where we can share our pain with others who understand it in a judgement-free zone.
There are all kinds of ways child loss plays with your head.
One of the most common and often repeated questions among bereaved parents (especially those who have lost their only child , all their children or a child before or at birth) is this: Am I still a mama (or daddy)?
Short answer: YES. Absolutely!
The fact that your child has taken up residence in Heaven and is no longer here to hold and love and parent on earth changes NOTHING about your status.
Being an almost mother isn’t a thing. You have seven children, whether they made it here or not doesn’t take away from the fact they existed. They were yours, and they were loved fully if only for those small moments.
You are a mother, Grace. I am so, so sorry you were never able to hold your babies, but you are, and always will be, a mother.
Brittainy C. Cherry, Disgrace
For the uninitiated, it may well seem that the lack of a physical presence changes how a parent’s heart feels or thinks about a child.
But it doesn’t.
Sure it’s more complicated-in fact I’m not certain that six years has been time enough for me to figure it out-but I am still Dominic’s mother. He is not an only child, but even if he were, I’d still be a mother.
I know that for those in our “club” who had only a few minutes or hours with a precious child it can seem even more difficult to convey to others that our daughter or our son is very, very real and important to us.
When there are few witnesses to the beautiful life and light of a tiny baby, it can almost seem like a dream.
But it’s not.
So for every single parent who has wondered if you are “still” a parent-please accept this affirmation: You ARE a parent. Your child matters. Your relationship is ongoing regardless of your child’s address.
Because I have absolutelyNO IDEAif anyone is aware of the passage of time in Heaven or if birthdays are even a thing there.
So instead of celebrating another year with my third born, I’m celebrating the years I had with him-too few as far as my heart’s concerned.
I am oh, so thankful for the time I had.
But my heart cries, “More! More!”
I’m no good at this “birthday in absentia” thing. This is the sixth time May 28th has rolled around without Dominic here to eat cake, open presents or break his usually strict dieting rules and gobble down pasta.
A couple of years I’ve purchased a cake in secret at a local bakery for a child that shares Dom’s birthday.
Most years I’ve quietly remembered the events leading to his birth including what now feels like a prescient experience: my obstetrician’s nurse came into the room as I was waiting for a C-section delivery and whispered, “Dr. H is here, but his daughter completed suicide yesterday”. *
When they brought Dom close to my head so I could kiss him before they whisked him away and sewed me up, tears streamed down my face. I really had NO CLUE, but I realized (in a tiny way) that this man was here ushering life into the world as his own heart was breaking for a life that was no more.
All I could say was, “Thank you! I am so, so sorry.”
And I meant it.
Now I know what it cost him to be there. What it cost him to see a family made larger at the moment his (earthly) family had been made smaller.
This year we are at my oldest son’s home savoring the first precious moments holding our grandson. Born too early, his story could have ended badly.
It didn’t and for that I am thankful.
Ryker’s original due date was May 27th-one day before Dominic’s birthday.
It’s fitting that we have a new life to celebrate even as we celebrate missing Dom.
I’ll be honest, I don’t know how to merge these two lives, these opposite feelings, this joy and sorrow meeting in my heart.
I vacillate between overwhelming sadness and overwhelming gratitude that my grandson’s story is beautiful, remarkable, nearly miraculous.
So today I will try to honor Dominic-who he was, who he still is (even more so and perfectly in Heaven!) and the precious gift of another generation to love, nurture and cherish.
I’ll try to lay aside the awful knowledge I carry in my heart that any day things can change. What you never think can happen DOES happen.
I’ll celebrate love.
Because love lives forever.
*Dominic was killed instantly in a single vehicle motorcycle accident April 12, 2014.