The communion of saints

This past weekend, I was surrounded by fellow sojourners–fellow sufferers. All of us gathered in a setting intoxicated with beauty. Yet, into this setting we all came with our pain, perplexities, and limps. Each couple was there because we had all lost children to the death of the body. Some had wounds more fresh than others, and in others scars had begun to form. We all wept. We all questioned. We all dared to hope in the promises of God. We prayed. We mourned. We laughed. We ate. We listened to the gospel of Jesus.

And the Kingdom of God was in our midst.

I have heard it said from AA participants that the AA setting is a real depiction of what the body of Christ should be. I know and understand the depth of this characterization. This weekend I was with the church of Jesus–followers of the way, those who hope in the full redemption of God. This weekend, we did what the early church community did together. We prayed, we ate, we talked, and we heard the teachings of Jesus and His apostles from the Scriptures. I can’t imagine anything more or less we could have done to receive the Kingdom this weekend.

And to think, as we, by God’s grace, received the Kingdom together, a cloud of witnesses was surrounding us. Our children are not dead. Our God is not the God of the dead but of the living. Our children, my Jude, who I long for in this life, is indeed fully alive. He is with God, under God’s reign, as fully in the embrace of God as I am. He, too, has received the Kingdom. In faith, I am hopeful that Jude, and the other children I have come to know this weekend, somehow, some way, knew of the gathering this weekend, and were not far from the love of their parents. I can not say this in absolute certainly, but with the mind of faith I can certainly hope this was the case. I can believe. I am thankful for the communion of the saints.

Thanks be to God for these special people who came into my life this weeked. As we said good-bye, I wept internally. I miss the church. We all promised to stay in touch, and I pray we do. In our sojourning, I pray we stay deeply connected.

I am thankful for the communion of saints.

Dietrich Bonhoeffer says it perfectly

“There is nothing that can replace the absence of someone dear to us, and one should not even attempt to do so. One must simply hold out and endure it. At first that sounds very hard, but at the same time it is also a great comfort. For to the extent the emptiness truly remains unfilled one remains connected to the other person through it. It is wrong to say that God fills the emptiness. God in no way fills it but much more leaves it precisely unfilled and thus helps us preserve — even in pain — the authentic relationship. Further more, the more beautiful and full the remembrances, the more difficult the separation. But gratitude transforms the torment of memory into silent joy. One bears what was lovely in the past not as a thorn but as a precious gift deep within, a hidden treasure of which one can always be certain.”

Christmas at Jude’s place

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This was our view today from “Jude’s place”, as our boys call it. We now know that visiting a grave is not only a part of our everyday lives, but it’s now a normal part of our holidays and celebrations. It’s how we feel we can include our youngest boy in the special moments when he is missed so tangibly. We love this spot. And our boys love it too. They like to touch his name on the marker, and then run around being boys, enjoying the nearby lake, gathering sticks and leaves, making this a place of family memories. How grateful we are to know that the baby’s birth we celebrated today is the reason we will see our son again.

-Shannon

15 months and an absence at Christmas

Christmas is filled with so many wonderful memories for us. It’s a magical time in which no other part of the year can really compare. What is it about a big tree and twinkling lights that does a heart so good? And while our still fairly new -15 months – path of grief is one we travel daily, we are wondering how we can incorporate our Jude into our Christmas life.

There are actually many reasons we can come up with to boycott the festivities. “The most wonderful time of the year” is a sentiment that no longer holds the same meaning as it once did for our untouched hearts. But now we have to decide what choice to make. Do we allow our grief and missing of Jude to destroy what was once so precious to us – and thus destroy it for our boys too? Or are there choices we can make that will satisfy the hunger I have to be a mommy to Jude as well as my other boys? We came up with a couple of ideas for this second Christmas without Jude here.

I have to admit that dragging down the boxes of Christmas decorations was more a chore than a delight this year. But one of the most enjoyable things I’ve done is to buy a little tree and decorations for Jude’s marker.

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After putting it up, it made me so happy to know that this was how we could include him in our celebrations. I was able to “do” something for him, which is really the hardest thing I deal with on a daily basis in my grief for him. And we were able to do this as a family, so the boys also delighted in being able to bring Jude’s place a piece of the merriment that they have at home. It really felt so good to this Momma’s heart.

Another piece that we’ve incorporated is adding a stocking for Jude on our family mantle. As stockings have really come to represent the members of the family more than a container for treats, we knew that our mantle would not be complete without Jude included.

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While these little acts don’t take away the longing for our boy, or the grief that is now a part of us, it does help to know that we can let this be a testament to how much he is a part of us. Always.

– Shannon

Thoughts from a grieving Mama

After a year of living without my sweet Jude, I still find it difficult to find the words to communicate what I’m now living with. I find great comfort in hearing the hearts and stories of those who have also lost infants, and being able to relate to the feelings and emotions that they put into words for me. Sean does this for me often. He has acted as the spokesman, for the most part, for our family for the past year when it comes to communicating how we are living without our third son. His words ring strong and pure, and they help to put something tangible in my seeming inability to do likewise.

And it’s not that I don’t know how I feel – sometimes I sense the murmurings of my mind and heart are too full to contain within me. But I haven’t been able to write it down. The English language always seems too small, too inadequate, to express the complex and gargantuan feelings I have about the loss of my son, and how I am learning to live with this ache, this grief, this massive hole in my heart. But the desire to write it down is returning, and in so doing, I hope to organize my thoughts in such a way that I might be able to look back one day and see the hand of God in ways that I can’t today.

One of the biggest things I have learned this year is that it is possible to have joy in the midst of grief. Those first few weeks after Jude went to heaven, I couldn’t fathom how I was ever going to smile again, laugh again, enjoy life again. I felt so guilty when I looked in the eyes of my two beautiful living boys, and I only saw that Jude was not there. It was gut-wrenchingly painful. And there are many moments where I still struggle with that. But now, I have discovered that I can enjoy my boys, my husband, a hike, a joke, even in the midst of grief. These good, joyful things don’t necessarily take away my ache, but they also aren’t prevented because of it either. Joy and grief coexist. And I am becoming both comfortable and grateful for that. Because it is in the ache that I most often feel the closest to my sweet Jude. The ache seems all I have left.

“Though He slay me, yet will I trust Him.” -Job 13:15a