I feel it. Creeping up on me with stealth I can no longer fight–those tears I’ve managed to push aside with each thought of my little one, now eight years gone. I find myself lingering in front of the photography projects I’ve challenged myself to complete, sprinkling his sweet baby face throughout my house in ways I’ve resisted because they lacked perfection and the ability to represent all he is to our family. I see the blown-up canvas of my youngest from almost a year ago, a tiny newborn surrounded by her three adoring older siblings. The photo fills the wall in a spectacular display of love. But my heart falls because I don’t just see the four beautiful children before me. I see the one who’s missing, the story left untold. The questions, no matter how I’ve battled them before, churn mercilessly of what might have been and how that picture may appear if Ty were here, leading the way at almost nine-years-old.
At last they come as I write, the tears I’ve stayed for so long. The dam breaks and I feel it all—the questions I’ve survived and yet still struggle to answer for my children. I feel the weight of their grief as they talk about their angel brother, cycling through the unfairness of his absence. I mourn the innocence that death has taken from them, their ages only three, five, and seven. I admire the awe-inspiring connection to the brother they’ve never met here on earth, and I crave their words about him, eager to keep him so alive in our home. However, I also stand hesitant, watching the tears in my daughter’s eyes as she flips through Ty’s baby pictures, or as I hold my two young boys whose brows pull together with their lips turned down, asking why he had to die. My heart weighs heavily to see them struggle with questions beyond my own scope of understanding.
So I breathe deeply, eyes closed with a prayer to God and a reaching hand towards my son. I pray to know what to say to these young souls in my care, and how to comfort and teach them about the grief I’m still figuring out for myself. The thoughts come, guiding my perspective:
What if Grief, with all its sadness and anger and confusion—were not portrayed as the enemy, an entity to run from. What if it were treated as a welcomed guest? Invited. Even respected. Powerful beyond all measure, Grief is a collision of emotions that fuel a storm within us. Like lightening and thunder, the unexpected effects can be frightening. Yet if you listen to the falling rain, you might also find a trance-like beauty. Why, you might ask, should we invite a guest that causes such emotional havoc? Where, you might wonder, could one find beauty in heartbreak?
I promise it’s there, showering us in new friendships from those who deeply understand our pain—the reaching hand of strangers who offer a light of hope. They stand before us, experienced with weathered-but-growing hearts as they, too, continue healing. It’s there, in efforts from those who can’t quite grasp our reality but try anyway, each act of kindness and service emulating the goodness in the world. That beauty is there, embedded in our new perspective, altering our vision. We will never be the same, but yes, there is beauty in that. It’s not so much in understanding “why it happened”, but in figuring out “what now?” Like the aftermath of a hurricane, you can focus on the destruction and why God would allow nature to take this course; or you can pause to look around… and see the connection between strangers who mold devastation and hope with each helping hand.
To my kids who naturally question life in the way we all do when we’re hurt, I often reply in honesty, “I don’t know.” But I can teach them that sometimes it’s OK not to focus on “why”. It will always be there, spiraling questions that often lead nowhere pleasant. Instead, perhaps I will suggest that we adjust our lens—not to ignore the questions, but to also survey the beauty. Next time I will answer my children with, “I don’t know… but I’m sure glad we got those five months.” Then, even if it brings tears to our eyes, I will smile and tell them all over again about their beautiful brother, Ty, and all the love we’ve felt on our journey.
Take action. Make the choice, and look through your lens with a purpose. Perhaps you will see that hope and healing can be found, even in the midst of tragedy.
*Note: This post was written almost a year prior to publishing it on my website.